Reflecting on 20 Years of MDU

Twenty. It’s a number that I’ve been thinking about a lot ….

It’s the age I was when I started working on starting my own studio, Misty’s Dance Unlimited.  Twenty is roughly half the age I am now. And, now it’s the number of years I’ve been in business.

Two decades as a dance studio owner. In some ways it’s a lifetime; in other ways it seems like the blink of an eye.

As I reflect back on these past twenty years in business, I’ve been thinking, “What do I wish I had known all those years ago?” This is the advice I would give to myself as a young studio owner:

  1. Remember that it’s not all about the dancing. Yes, do well with the dancing because that’s the focus of your services. But, also make your focus about the things that lastthe confidence that’s being built, the friendships that are being made, the perseverance that’s being developed. Those are the things a student can carry within themselves for life.
  2. Give more than expected. Folks will remember how you made them feel when you went the extra mile for a family in need, or you helped that staff member graduate from college.
  3. Give without expecting to receive. It’s worth doing nice things just to be kind; to put that positivity out in the world. Give when it feels like the right thing to do, not because you’ll get something in return.
  4. Not everyone can, or will want to, go the distance with you. Not students, not parents, not teachers …. not everyone is in it for the long haul, and that’s okay. Some will leave, others you will outgrow. The students, parents, and staff you start with will not necessarily be the team you end up with, and that’s okay. Cherish people while you have them in your life and bless them when they go.
  5. Go to the game. When you have kids someday, get a sub and go to your child’s game. One day, your students will leave or graduate and you will be just one part of their school memories, but to your child, you will have been the world. Go the the game.
  6. Wait 24 hours to respond to angry people, and then respond with love and grace.  You can only control you. In many ways we train people how to treat us, so know when to stop responding. Learn the difference between being deferential and being a doormat.
  7. Make room for as many people as possible at the “table of dance”. The best dance classes you’ll ever teach will be for the for kids who will likely never become dancers.  Dance is for everybody and every BODY.  
  8. Don’t get caught in the rat race of trends. Remember the “platinum” trophies that everyone wants to win in the moment are actually made of plastic. Spend the best of your time and energy on things that have lasting value, not plastic value.
  9. Stand up for your beliefs. Be true to yourself. You are the owner of a privately owned business. You have a vision and you are allowed to stand up for that vision. You are in a unique position to build a life of meaning and impact if you follow your heart.
  10. Be willing to be misunderstood. People will question your decisions and your motivations. Leadership can be lonely, so build a network of people around you who truly know you and believe in youthose people might be your family members, your church, your friends, your peers in small business. Find like-minded eagles and fly with them!

Twenty years of joy. Twenty years of tears and laughter. Twenty years of learning. Twenty years of work I absolutely love.  

If you’re reading this, chances are you are doing the work you love too. I hope you will reflect back on your own journey—celebrate the milestones, learn from the past, and enjoy the days as they turn into months and years.  

There is no better feeling than living life the way you dance—full out!