How competitive ballroom dancing prepared me for building a website

On the surface, these two activities have absolutely nothing in common.
However, I recently had the revelation that my practice in one has helped me enormously in staying sane while doing the other.

Neither can ever be perfect, mastered, or finished. The learning is not in the final destination, but the journey and the process. If you approach either by looking for a perfect finished product, you may as well be chasing the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

I have danced in some way or another since early childhood. I do not feel myself fully when I am not dancing regularly. I took up competitive ballroom dancing in my late 20’s. I was what many would consider ridiculously old when I started, but I got the hang of it pretty quickly and had a successful career (by Aussie standards at any rate). My partner and I retired from competition and the end of 2019, so we could give more time and focus on other aspects of life. The lifestyle can be pretty intense and all-consuming, and after about 14 years, the cycle felt complete.

From the outside looking in, I would have appeared to be pretty competitive – I was learning at a studio that was full of very focused and driven dancers. For me, though, it was always more about striving for mastery, precision, and putting forward my best work. A win always felt empty if I felt like I had “danced like rubbish.” Obviously, that is an entirely subjective self-evaluation, and the further I get from it, the gentler I am with that perception and judgement. At the time, I was always pretty harsh with myself.

If there was a competition looming later in the week, there was a very common phrase that would be bandied around the studio, almost as a replacement for “how are you today?”. People would often greet you casually with a “Ready for the comp this weekend?”. My usual response depended on who was asking, and how important the comp was. But it usually consisted of a hearty laugh and a “NO! Of course not!” or “Augh! Ready as we’ll ever be I guess”.

I never felt “ready.” There was always something to work on, improve, refine. Even if things felt great in the studio, there are always so many other variables on comp day. Dancing is not just a physical sport. There is also the creative, artistic element to it. Even the “best couples in the world” are always working on technique, refining, exploring, and creating. It doesn’t end.

Frankly, it can be a head fuck. Wanting to do your best, but also knowing that perfection doesn’t exist. The fear and anxiety of presenting your blood sweat and tears in the form of a performance, for deliberate evaluation and criticism and comparison by others. Saying “here I am,” leaving everything on the floor. Then do your very best not to let your spirit get crushed if your efforts are found lacking. The days you did your absolute best, and the results don’t come, can be so disheartening. There would not be a single champion, who has not had to work through that disappointment, and get back up and re-motivate themselves. The more practiced you are at it, the faster you recover, the stronger you become, and the easier it gets.

How has any of this had anything to do with my website or my business? Headspace wise – everything!

Wanting the website to be perfect, finished, ready, mastered, complete before it goes live. I faffed around for MONTHS with a nearly complete site, thinking up excuses as to why “not yet” before I let it loose. The panic once it was live and I realised something important wasn’t right, and I couldn’t fix it straight away. There was an immense fear of putting myself out there to be judged and found to be crazy, or inadequate, or just plain awful. I am used to being subjected to some very harsh criticism, but man alive, it’s tough. It may be a different piece of my heart and soul on the table, but the vulnerability is much the same.

The only way out is through.

The only way to become a better competitive dancer was to compete. The only way to get better in any area of business is to do more of it. At the moment, I am still trying to refine my messaging. Get clear on what I have stored in my head that is going to be able to help other people. Then work out how to communicate that effectively. For example, I would love to be able to blog as well as if this was my 500th article. Equally, though, I would be mortified if my 500th article was only as good as one of my first attempts. So this one will get proofread, I’ll close my eyes and hit the publish button, wish it luck and then try to forget all about it!

It is ok to want everything to be perfect. It’s not ok to let analysis paralysis get the better of you and prevent you from doing anything or moving forward. The growth is in the discomfort, right there on the edge of your comfort zone.

There is no perfect finished business, website, blog, vlog, social media post, video…the list goes on. They are all continually evolving, becoming, just like we are. Just have to remember to breathe and enjoy the journey.

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