You’re never so good that you don’t mess up every now and then!
While perfection is a wonderful goal to aim at, helping us aim higher, it is “addictively” unattainable (an important point to keep clear at all times lest you drive yourself mad pursuing something you’ll never have).
However, even though you’ll never be perfect, with practice, you might get pretty damn close (like my ability to put off writing for this blog, I’m getting better but thankfully I haven’t perfected it). This applies to everything from dance, to languages to professional air-hockey.
So, even if you consider yourself “hot shit”, YOU’RE GOING TO MESS UP SOONER OR LATER!!! How you deal with those little mishaps will play a pretty big role in how you approach your activities in the future.
Make a mistake… You suck… Quit!
When I used to teach salsa in Cali, I had one student in particular whom I had to “talk down from the ledge” of quitting salsa on more than a few occasions.
He had some major confidence issues but he was a dedicated student and learned well. His main problems stemmed from his lack of confidence; he was afraid to try new things on the dance floor (especially anything to do with body-movement) and whenever he made a mistake or a dance didn’t go well for him he would pretty much decide to NEVER dance again. On more than one occasion I got text messages from him at 2 or 3am announcing his resignation from the world of salsa, all due to a bad dance. I’m pretty sure I spent about 15% of our time together trying to convince him to get back out dancing and that everyone makes mistakes now and then.
For him, every mistake was a screaming symbol of his incompetence (which he wasn’t) and those beliefs really held him back. It was especially hard to see him like that because I could see both how much he wanted to improve and how much he was sabotaging himself.
Suffice is to say, this is not a good mentality to have when dancing. If everyone gave up when they made a mistake we’d have some pretty empty dance-floors!
Learning to laugh at yourself!
I remember one particularly eventful night of dancing in Cali. I was out with a big group of people and we decided to go somewhere different. The place had a huge dance floor, full of people. Near the end of the night the floor started to thin out and I invited my friend Francy out for a dance.
Francy is a professional dancer and she was one of the few people I could dance LA style salsa with in Cali so we used to have a ball together whenever we got to dance. Now for those who don’t know, typical “social” Cali-style dancing is a pretty simple affair, lots of sabor (hopefully) but simple. So when two people start dancing something a little more involved than Cali style, the people nearby tend to notice. Especially when one of those people is white enough for everyone to safely assume that he’s not Colombian.
We were tearing it up. We had loads of space and the night was coming to an end so we pulled out all the stops. At one point I noticed that we had garnered the attention of quite a number of the people sitting at tables around the dance-floor. For some reason that really got my adrenaline flowing so I may have started throwing caution to the wind. I could hear the music nearing it’s final few beats so I decided to finish it all off with a dip. I thought it would look great as Francy (as a pro) was all about the show and would have struck a great pose at the end.
I heard the final beats, lead her into a cross body lead with turn and as she was turning realized that there were still a couple of beats left in the song… it threw me completely and what happened next involved various flailing arms and legs and a sudden drop in altitude accompanied by a loud “Rrrrrrriiiiiiiiiiiip”!
As soon as I came to my senses I realized I was lying on top of Francy, sprawled out on the dance-floor with a decent crowd of people looking at us. I looked at her and she looked at me… and we both burst into laughter!
Seriously, in the milliseconds I had to process everything, I decided that it would be far better to take what had happened in my stride and laugh it off together with one of my good friends, than to run off the floor crying and moaning about how awful a dancer I am.
We dusted ourselves off and skipped off the dance-floor together… at which point I realized that I had ripped a gigantic hole in the seat of my jeans when I did my belly flop. Oh well, at least it was the end of the night! (additional lesson to be learned: always wear dark solid color underwear when dancing… pink hearts on a white background tend to be a little to0 visible in the event of ripped pants!!!)
Laugh it off
At the end of the day, laughing off our mishaps really is the best way to deal with them.
I’m notorious for obsessing over my shortcomings but I always make sure I don’t let that bad attitude get the best of me. If I did I certainly wouldn’t be dancing salsa or doing much else for that matter.
So, the next time you make a mistake (which if you’re anything like me should be pretty soon) be it missing the beat in the music, forgetting a combination or doing a bellyflop on top of your partner, remember you have two options:
1. Give up right there and then because you’ve made a mistake and no one who has ever become great at salsa ever made any mistakes
2. Laugh it off and get back to doing what you love
Keep dancing folks