It’s hard for me to believe it, but More Than Just Great Dancing® is coming up on its 12th anniversary! We brought on our first group of charter members in 2011 after a year of deep planning to establish the roots of the organization and fine-tune its mission to help studio owners succeed in business and in life.
Sometimes prospective members will ask me, “What is really like being a part of the MTJGD community? Sometimes it seems like there is a ‘secret sauce’ to what happens within the group, and it is a mystery to the rest of us!”
Well friends, I’m here to remove the mystery and reveal exactly what life is like within More Than Just Great Dancing® … here we go!
Monthly themes. Each month within membership we have a monthly theme for coaching and resources, like marketing, enrollment, social media, or finance. At the top of the month, I lead a group coaching call highlighting the theme, notable trends, and recommended best practices, and then we give our members free downloadable resources to implement at their studio, such as Canva templates, Google sheet templates, and stock photos.
Specialized trainings. Our MTJGD Certified Coaches lead frequent educational webinars and offer one-on-one coaching calls. Some trainings are held on a regular basis (like our current Financial Fridays) and others are held as pop-up style events. Like with our group coaching calls, all additional webinars are recorded for our members to watch on replay as needed. And to layer on even more education and relationship-building, our executive members are invited to additional sessions with me, as well as industry guest speakers.
Forums. We have private online groups for each level of membership (community and executive) and they both stay extremely active each day. I’m proud to say that everything posted is supportive and solution-oriented, making this an invaluable resource for members who like to share, ask for help, and receive advice. It feels almost as amazing as networking in person!
Preferred partners. Our many vendor relationships provide members with discounted products and services, including everything from software and flooring to bookkeeping and costumes. I can’t say enough positive things about how we support each other’s missions. This is why I so strongly believe our ecosystem needs each and every one of us making our unique contribution to the industry!
Live events. And of course, one of the absolute best parts about membership is attending our live events: this season the events are Studio Owner University®, February 6-8 in Orlando, and Member Rally, July 25-26 in Las Vegas: back-to-back with Dance Teacher Web! These events are like breathing in rare air—you take a deep breath and you know you’ve found your people. <3
So, there you have it. This is what it’s like to do life together in our MTJGD community. We aren’t just here as your colleagues; we are your number-one resource for encouragement, friendship, education, and ultimately, the success principles to ensure you can live the life you desire.
If you are FIRED UP and interested in applying to join us, just click here to fill out our form or book a call with Mary, our general manager! I hope to see you SOON on a webinar, in the forum, or at a live event!
This is my first Christmas without my dad. All around the world keeps turning, and we keep turning with it … and yet I still have these moments where I stop and think, “How does life keep going even after such a loss?” I have learned that the answer lies in love. And in memories and stories, and yes, laughter.
If you have been through a tough loss this year, please accept my sympathy and condolences. I am understanding that every step of this journey has a new lesson to learn; a new perspective to see.
At Thanksgiving, we found comfort in making my dad’s famous chip dip and remembering the times he did goofy things, like sticking cranberries to his forehead or starting a food fight. (And there was the time he was in charge of cooking the turkey but never put the oven on!) This Christmas break I will be remembering my dad by going through old, old photo albums and I’m sure there will be some impersonating his occasionally-Grinchy comments with my sisters.
I understand now that these days will continue to be hard, but I can also see that they will also bring us joy—even if we are crying and laughing at the same time. I guess that is the thing about loss, isn’t it? It is layers of emotions and also the gratitude for the good times, the lessons, the unconditional love, and the promise that we’ll see each other again in Heaven.
Even as the world keeps turning and life keeps going, I am reminded that it’s OK to stop—take a breath and a pause, too. Because of that, I’m going to be taking a month off from work to spend with family. For as proud as my dad was of my studio and accomplishments, I think he would be even more proud of me for taking time to truly be present with family and to reflect on God’s grace over the most beautiful, and difficult, moments of the last year.
Thank you for being on this journey with me, friends. Wishing you a beautiful new year!
Each July at More Than Just Great Dancing® we host a live event for our community called Member Rally. It is two full days of learning and personal growth: we cover everything from leadership expertise to creative customer service solutions to culture-building camaraderie. In short, our members truly “rally” together—for themselves and for their studios—before the start of a new season.
Over and over again, I have heard members say this is not just an event for education, but a true investment into their small business ownership so they can build success in their personal life. It is not just about what they do in daily operations, but what they do to live the life they want. And this is exactly why we do what we do at MTJGD!
Now, here’s the best part about Member Rally 2023: not only are we producing the high-level content our members have come to expect, we are partnering with Steve Sirico and Angela D’Valda and Dance Teacher Web! YES, you read that right …
Two complementary events, with leadership arms linked, at the same venue, with many of the same vendors, both designed to bring you powerful, life-giving content to have an incredible year of business, leadership, and dance education. This is truly The Power of Collaboration—which is our theme for that week. MTJGD’s Member Rally will take place July 25-26 and Dance Teacher Web will take place July 27-30, held at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas.
I wholeheartedly believe that the way forward in the dance industry is to work together. I like to think that the entire ecosystem in dance benefits when we see one another’s strengths and lift each other up. And how great is it for us to model this lesson for our staff and students? When you offer mutual goodness, there is mutual benefit.
You could say that Steve and I are competitors, sure—or you could say that we are colleagues, which is how I prefer to think of the synergy between us as leaders and our respective businesses. We each have something unique and valuable to offer dance studio owners, directors, managers, and teachers. And we are committed to walking the walk of what collaboration and partnership look like in the industry! In fact, not only are we partnering our businesses this summer, but Steve and I will each be speaking at each other’s event. 🙂
If you aren’t already a member of More Than Just Great Dancing®, you might be wondering how you could get involved and be a part of this dual-event collaboration … and that is the easiest part! Learn about the benefits of membership here and join our community by applying through this link. As a member you’ll gain access to Studio Owner University® in Orlando, Feb. 6-8, 2023, FREE access to Member Rally in Las Vegas, and discounted access to Dance Teacher Web!
My encouragement is to make 2023 your year of education AND collaboration. Level up your learning and walk the walk with us as a member of MTJGD!
To your success!
There is an African proverb that says “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.”
This couldn’t be more true in the business world, where teamwork and collaboration give us the strength to continually stretch ourselves with new ideas, adaptations, solutions, and innovations. Coaching and mentorship, too, play a huge role in “going far” because we need both education and support to reach our goals. It is impossible for me to imagine a future of entrepreneurship that doesn’t rely upon leaders, peers, clients, and family members who make big dreams possible.
Recently, at church, I heard a story that amplified this message for me in a profound way. I heard about how a Belgian horse, by itself, can pull 4,000 pounds of weight (that’s two tons!). Two Belgian horses can multiply that haul four times over, pulling 16,000 pounds. That’s two horses doing four times the work of one. WOW.
And it gets better.
If the two Belgian horses live in the same stall for at least two months, together they can pull 32,000 pounds. That’s eight times the capability of a single horse—all because they had the opportunity to bond and connect. These Belgian horses are a prime example of going “far together” instead of “fast alone.”
Now, what’s really cool is to see this play out in people, too. Perhaps not literally pulling tons of weight, but figuratively so!
Within More Than Just Great Dancing®, for example, when our members get involved in our coaching calls, webinars, Facebook forum, and live events, I watch them transform their businesses exponentially. Sometimes that exponential change is with enrollment growth or leadership development or daily operations; other times it’s finding the sweet spot of balancing work life and home life. Sometimes it is all of the above.
I see this with other coaching clients and friends in the industry too. The lesson is clear: you can do a lot on your own, but once you find a friend or accountability partner or mentorship group, you can do so much more. There is energy and then there is synergy. What we are talking about here is synergy!
It is immensely encouraging, I think, to witness these examples of how to go far—and then experience it for yourself. There is something uniquely special about pushing past the norm and not just reaching expectations, but exceeding them in an exponential way.
Here’s to sharing the load, working together, and going further!
You always hear me say, “Dance makes great kids.” And it’s true!
But as I have learned from my sons, youth sports make great kids too. It’s not that I didn’t know this before, it’s just that these days it is more and more clear to me how essential kids’ activities are. They all have a common denominator; they all help transform lives for the better.
I have watched my boys grow up through amazing local programs through the YMCA, Boys and Girls Club, Performance Elite Gymnastics, RUSH soccer, and now through the Logan Ranger athletic program, where Sam is a football player.
Just as I see children grow up in dance and become kind, conscientious human beings because of the time they’ve spent in our community at MDU, I see the same thing happening in each of my sons as they participate in sports and music. I love watching them discover their gifts and talents and hone their skills through the lessons in their chosen activities.
So, here is a huge thank you to our family’s teachers and coaches, for teaching those lessons and being the influence our kids need outside of family! Specifically to the Logan coaches, thank you for teaching so much more than the sport of football.
When I see Sam in a football game, I don’t just see the athleticism (although that’s there too!). I see a Logan Ranger family, I see confidence being built, I see adult mentors and student leaders, I see rigorous physical activity, I see perseverance and respect, I see teamwork and high expectations, and perhaps the thing that makes my heart swell extra-big: I see Northside pride!
As the halfway point of Sam’s senior year approaches, I’m thankful for the lifetime of local coaches who have helped us raise a great kid. Mitch and I met at Logan and have so many great memories of our time there—it’s no wonder I am emotional watching our son wrap up his high school career on the same grounds where my own dreams in life began to take shape.
In this gratitude-filled month of November, I am so grateful to the teachers and coaches who have poured into my family over the years at Logan, and especially now to those who are playing a pivotal role in Sam’s life. It’s such a cool experience to see him soar because of the village that has supported his education and goals. And it’s even better that I can see this from the perspective of a mom and as a teacher to others. It reminds me just how special and important it is to be a coach. <3
Proud to be #55’s mom,
A couple of years ago, as the pandemic settled into all our lives, I opened an uplifting email in my (very full!) inbox. It was from my friend Terri Mangiaratti, fellow studio owner, who was reaching out to other women leaders in dance to form a powerhouse collaboration group.
Terri’s idea was to create an inspirational community that would offer support to each other and the industry at large. Not only would the group have a positive impact on each other’s lives and businesses during a seriously challenging time in history, we would continue that impact into the future—and share it as far and wide as possible in the dance world.
Today, there are eight Vision Sisters who hail from different parts of the U.S. and Canada, all of us with decades of experience and a unique perspective in dance and business. Our areas of expertise range from business development to classroom curricula and from life balance to financial freedom (and loads of topics in between!) The Vision Sisters are Teri Mangiaratti, Mandy Yip, Tricia Gomez, Julie Kay Stallcup, Pam Simpson, Patty Neal, Stacey Morgan, Sandi Duncan, Melissa Hoffman, and me. 🙂
On a national and international level in the dance industry, most business owners are men yet most studio owners are women. So, here we are: giving women leaders a stronger voice. We are elevating the female perspective, providing motivation and discussion points, and most importantly, collaborating together—not competing. The Vision Sisters are leaders of leaders; we want to lift up other women in business and make the dance world a healthier community.
Now, we are gearing up for our second in-person meeting this December—a gathering that will include a virtual roundtable discussion on the dance industry, business practices, and finding life balance. And the best part? You are invited to the roundtable!
I hope you’ll consider joining us for a morning of inspiration, motivation, and conversation on Sunday, December 4th. We would love to hear which topics you are most interested in discussing! You can click here to read more about the Vision Sisters and submit a topic or click here to get your ticket and join us for the virtual roundtable morning.
Not only can you expect to hear our thoughts and advice regarding the state of the industry, you can expect to participate in the discussion, sharing your views and values and your outlook of the future of dance.
Women supporting women. What’s not to love?
I really hope you’ll join us!
Until recently, I thought of “accountability” as a process defined like this:
Assigning responsibility for a task, project, or problem
Making sure people follow through on milestones and goals
Teaching people how to own up to a mistake or a missed goal
These are pretty traditional definitions, and they’re not wrong. But as a leader, accountability through the lens of these explanations always felt like I was focusing on people’s deficits and deciding things for them. It seemed that in order to hold someone accountable, I had to point out what they should do, what they might miss if they weren’t careful, or what wasn’t good enough.
As I was listening to a podcast one day, I heard it said that the truest definition of the word accountability is actually right there in the word: account for your ability.
This stopped me in my tracks! Could I reframe accountability to focus on people’s abilities instead of shortcomings? Could I give them clearer ownership based on their strengths? Absolutely yes!
What I could do was take those definitions of accountability and alter them slightly:
- Ask who has the ability to take on a task or project
- Find out what they need in order to take full control of reaching goals
- Compliment them on their problem-solving skills following a mistake
With a slightly different focus, accountability takes on a positive connotation. Instead of being concerned about what someone cannot do or what they missed, I can hold them accountable for their abilities. I can provide them the tools they need to follow through. And I can encourage their efforts to prevent or resolve problems.
I’ve realized that the more I do this, the more confident my team is. Being held accountable no longer conjures worries that something (or someone) isn’t good enough. Rather it frees them to say, “This is what I am able to contribute” or “Here’s how I worked toward this goal” or “I fixed this issue before it snowballed into something worse.” The difference may seem slight, but it’s actually huge!
I encourage you to try out this mindset shift, too. Call your people up. Ask them what they are capable of. Cheer them on as they lean into their strengths and abilities. Make “accountability” count for more than just obligation—give your team members a limitless ceiling and see what they can accomplish. 🙂
To your ability and theirs!
You’ve heard me talk before about how at any given moment, two opposite things can be true. In this fall season, it is clearer to me than ever that this is not only a common feeling, it is also a skill. In fact, it is a skill that can be intentionally developed.
It’s called cognitive flexibility.
In the same way that we train our dancers to gain flexibility in their muscles, we can gain flexibility in our thinking—and actually become quite good at it. It takes some habit-building, but when you put your mind to the task, it’s pretty freeing!
In this month of September, for example, I am physically back on my feet after the devastating loss of my dad in July. I am feeling more like myself … and I still really, really miss him.
Also, I am excited that my kids are back to school (three of the five, since two have flown the nest!) and at the same time, I wish summer wasn’t over. And I am loving that our studio is back into the swing of fall dance classes—a thrilling time of year that, no matter how long I’ve done this, still wears me out!
Yet with all of these opposite feelings and activities, none of them are competing for my attention. They all exist together. Because over time, I have developed the cognitive flexibility to hold space for both. How? Just by practicing! It’s all about taking a moment—taking a breath—to acknowledge that two opposites can both be true at any given time. It’s giving yourself room to say that it’s OK for emotions to mix and match. They’re not socks!
In our lives as small business owners, there are a great deal of experiences that require cognitive flexibility. Congratulating one student while having a hard conversation with another. Reaching an enrollment goal while watching expenses go up. Celebrating an employee’s milestone year while watching another one go live out a new dream.
Only by acknowledging each feeling—and its competing companion—can we develop more agile thinking. And I believe it is this flexibility that keeps us positive; that ultimately, we are never stuck in one challenge or valley or tough season of life because there is always an “and.”
If that’s not empowering, I don’t know what is. <3
So, here’s to your cognitive flexibility! May it be one of your biggest gains of the season.
At this point, you’ve probably heard me shouting from the rooftops about our newly launched professional development hub, Studio Training Solutions™. After more than two years in the making, it is BEYOND exciting to see this resource come to life! I’m so proud of how our team has curated the STS™ content, from free downloads, educational and inspirational articles, and video e-courses to vendor support and a marketplace of products and services.
But did you also know we’re offering FREE weekly lessons delivered straight to your inbox?
Yes! This is the objective behind our Weekly Training Solutions emails—to bring you proven tactics that will help you and your business. This is not just another email in the queue! Each week, we’re delivering quality content to help you create a stronger, healthier studio. Each message has a bite-sized business lesson with practical solutions—ideas you can implement immediately or tuck away into a folder for the right time.
Already, our subscribers have learned insights on the “curse of knowledge,” helping them close the knowledge gap with clients and establish confident connections. We’ve also discussed common traps of social media planning and how to solve content-creation problems before they start. And, knowing that hiring and training are top-of-mind for studio owners, we’ve offered tips for building bench strength with your team of employees.
There may be specific topics you want more of and we’d love to hear about them! You are welcome to send our STS™ team feedback or suggestions by clicking here.
Listen—believe me when I say this—I know that email inboxes can get noisy these days! I have had to whittle down my email subscriptions to only the ones that offer the most value and inspiration. This is what made me look at Weekly Training Solutions differently, to ensure it had intention and purpose.
I hope you feel encouraged to take one step further in your professional development. Head on over to Studio Training Solutions™ to check things out and see how we can help you develop your best dance season yet!
And if you’re ready for a smart start to each week, click here to sign up for Weekly Training Solutions. It’s easy, practical, energizing, and FREE.
To your success,
As small business owners, we often feel like flexibility is just a footnote in the story of our lives. We allow our career responsibilities to dictate the calendar, prioritizing and accommodating everyone within our studios … but not ourselves.
Well, I’m here today to remind you to pump the brakes on this mindset!
It may be back-to-school season, but that doesn’t mean you lack choices when it comes to finding balance and flexibility in your work life. It’s possible to find harmony! You do have to be intentional though—intentional about taking time off and not filling it with more studio to-do lists.
Several weeks ago I had the opportunity to take a day off. Instead of defaulting to work, I chose to take my niece, Lucian, to Chicago. We visited my daughter, Isabella (who was performing with The Kate Jablonski Statement), met up with friends from home, enjoyed an ice cream outing, went to the American Girl and LEGO stores, and enjoyed breakfast together the next morning.
It was only one day, but it was enough to completely refresh and recalibrate my mind. It lifted me out of the busy-ness and into the pure joy it is to spend quality time with a little girl like Lucian. I was able to distance myself from work and use that space to fully focus on family and fun.
Being totally candid, I would normally see an empty day on my schedule and think, “Finally! Time to tackle email or dream up some new ideas!” And for all of us leaders, on occasion there is benefit to doing that. But—and this is key—we also have to remember that open time equals flexibility, not just an automatic day at your desk.
Entrepreneurs make big sacrifices. We give up the ability to leave the office at a predictable 5:00pm. We have no guarantees of weekends off, or the receipt of the same paycheck each month. But what we “lose” in sacrifice we “gain” in flexibility. We are the top decision-makers and as such, we get to decide when to take a breather.
So as much as there’s benefit to a day of new ideas at work, of open-ended thinking, dreaming, and brainstorming, there’s also a benefit to doing something spontaneous and beautiful with your family—or for your health and wellness (or all of the above!). It’s worth it to be intentional about this time. This is part of the reward of business ownership.
I encourage you to find time during the next two weeks (and I know they’re busy) for a flexible day. A day of rest or fun or relaxation or family … whatever feels right. You won’t regret it and you won’t feel guilty. This can be part of your lifestyle as an entrepreneur. It just takes intention.
Take a break. Develop your flexibility. Gain your reward.
This post is a bit different from the ones before it—partly because it is more personal, and partly because today I am forever changed. Just a few weeks ago, I unexpectedly lost my dad.
He was Paul Averill, a father, husband, grandpa, uncle, and son. He was also a loved friend to others, an honorable Navy veteran, a builder with an exceptional work ethic, and the provider and protector of his family. Though his words were sometimes sparse, his actions were big—and throughout my life, I learned more from him than I ever realized.
I always felt my dad was a bit legendary; that he was quietly generous and ready to help anyone at a moment’s notice, and that he provided for us kids no matter the circumstances. But, after learning even more about him from co-workers, friends, and family these past many days, I am in awe of all the different lives he lived.
There are many things my dad taught me, and I see those lessons now in brighter colors. He taught me that family comes first—and family is not only your blood relatives, but your community. He found family in his band mates and work friends; his fellow bar regulars and neighbors. He didn’t talk a lot about his faith, but he often showed me how deep and high and wide God’s grace is; that He covers you at all times—even when you don’t expect it.
These are all lessons that throughout the years, whether consciously or not, I have implemented in my own life. They make me proud to be his daughter. They allow me to appreciate how much he loved being a giver, and how I want to do the same.
And so while I know it would be impossible, to sum up all I’ve learned from my dad, I wanted to share the gratitude I have for his life. For his impact on me and all whom he met. As I discover more about my dad’s history, there will be new lessons to add … new connections to marvel at; new understandings to hold close to my heart. Even today a friend reached out, saying she was at an open house and the man selling the house has so many stories he could share about my Dad. I can’t wait to track that man down and learn more.
If you have been through a profound loss, I’m sure you know exactly what I mean when I say it’s difficult, yet healing, to share what I’ve learned. Words can’t quite capture the feelings, but they are the next best thing.
And so I dedicate this post to my dad and to the knowledge and wisdom and love he passed along to me. I intend to keep paying it forward, to continue making him proud. I know he is watching still, just from a higher view. <3
Love you, Dad.
IT’S TIME! Today, Tuesday, July 19th, is the launch day for Studio Training Solutions™!
This is a day that’s been YEARS in the making! Studio Training Solutions™ is the culmination of a dream come true—a dream I had to build a hub of resources and connections to link arms and strengthen the dance industry.
No matter where you live or what you teach, all of us studio owners have a united goal. We all strive to share our love of dance with the next generation. But to do our jobs well, we need more than big hearts. We need tools and education and events and vendors—right at our fingertips!
This is what Studio Training Solutions™ is all about. I wanted to create a place where there is something for every studio owner, on every step of his or her business journey. Whether you are a veteran in the business or a new entrepreneur, with a small enrollment or large one, in a rural location or urban one, we have resources that fits your needs. For example:
- Take this quiz to determine where you are in the studio ownership journey, and receive free downloadable worksheets as well as e-course recommendations.
- Find featured vendors to connect with and learn about events to level up your education.
- Search our marketplace to build your toolbox of studio resources.
- Read INSight Magazine™ articles and find inspiration for making improvements to your business.
- Sign up for my business master class, Studio Foundations, which will be held LIVE on Zoom September 27-29 or through our self-paced online platform
AND don’t forget to follow us on social media! Use these QR codes to find us on Facebook and Instagram—and be sure to tell your friends. 🙂
I believe that all studio owners are continually searching for ways to improve themselves, their staff, and their students, and now Studio Training Solutions™ is here to provide TRAINING and SOLUTIONS to make it happen! I can’t wait for you to see all there is to offer!
As I’ve been back to school working towards my PhD, there are moments in my studies that cause me to stop in my tracks. These mind-blowing “whoa” moments happen when a concept really hits home. I’ll be reading a scientific study, theory, or case study and suddenly I’ll recognize myself (or my businesses or my fellow studio owners) and think AHA! This totally makes sense!
Recently, one of these concepts had to do with executive functioning, otherwise known as the way humans manage their thinking—the way we plan, focus attention, control impulses, and more. The concept was about the way people grow as strategic leaders. We can learn to deliberately work from the “high ground” using our executive functioning, or we can work more reactively from the “low ground.”
Here are the textbook definitions:
The High Ground
A pattern of mental activity invoked when you make decisions based on long-term viability: gaining awareness by mentalizing about others and yourself
The Low Ground
A pattern of mental activity invoked when you make decisions based on expedience and immediate problem solving: giving people (including yourself) what they want
(Source: Jeffrey Schwartz, Josie Thomson, Art Kleiner, and Wise Advocate Enterprises)
What stood out to me in this information was that it was such a clear explanation of two ways to operate the mind: deliberate, thoughtful, planned work and quick, emotionally-driven, need-based work. And not all work can fall neatly into one category! Sometimes it’s necessary to use our low ground thinking. But as our leadership grows and strengthens, it becomes even more important to use our high ground thinking—and we can appreciate just how effective it is at accomplishing our goals.
So, here’s some food for thought: are you working from the high ground or the low ground of your mind? How can you work more from the high ground? In what ways are you deliberately, proactively planning ahead, making thoughtful decisions, and stretching your cognitive flexibility?
I encourage you to talk through this concept with your leadership team, too—even if that team consists of just one or two other people at your studio. Some roles in your business need to have quick functioning from the whirlwind of the low ground. Some of your people might need guidance about how to use their high ground thinking more often. No matter what, progress can be made by simply paying attention to what kind of thinking is at play!
To your growth as a leader!
Preparing for a new dance season always carries a bit of magic. After the recital dust (I mean, glitter!) settles, you find yourself jumping at all the possibilities that await a new school year. It doesn’t take long for things to get busy all over again: you start gearing up for fall enrollment, summer camps, continuing education, onboarding new hires, and everything else that seems to fill up your calendar overnight.
The busyness of business never stops, so consider this post a call for a pause! Take a few deep breaths. Sit still for a few extra minutes. Use this time for some important reflection before jumping back into the hustle and bustle. Let me share with you how it worked for me …
Although I’ve been SO excited to ramp up the preparations for our 25th anniversary season, I had to stop myself the other day and do this very exercise. I needed to take a pause, look back, and appreciate just how special the past few months have been. Though I love moving forward to the next thing and the next and the next, I had to remember to count my blessings before charging ahead over the next entrepreneurial hurdle!
For example, in May we celebrated our 24th recital and it was the first time I wasn’t there (though I did make it to all the rehearsals!). Miss Shayna, our General Manager whose dedication and love for MDU is off the charts, led ALL of our shows while I was in Massachusetts celebrating my daughter’s graduation from the CLI Conservatory. I knew that everything with the performances was in good hands, and I was able to fully support Isabella and this incredible achievement in her life. Talk about a WOW moment as a business owner!
Then a few weeks later, I was inducted into the Ranger Hall of Fame at my alma mater, Logan High School—the same school two of my kids attend now, and that my grandpa, grandma, mom, sisters, mentor, and husband all attended too (Mitch and I met at Logan!). To say I was proud would be an understatement, and I can only hope that being honored by the school will inspire a kid who is like I was; a kid who sees encouragement and inspiration from the people and stories on the wall of honorees.
These were BIG moments for me, and I had to take the time to let them soak in. I needed to not be in such a hurry to blast off into the orbit of next season, and instead pause to appreciate where I’d been and celebrate with the people I love. What an energizing difference it makes to reflect on the good life has taken you!
I hope you will do the same. Resist the urge to move so quickly that you forget to embrace the blessings heaped upon you. Use your reflections as motivation for the new dance season ahead, for all you want to accomplish. This gratitude is fuel!
As you ramp up for this summer and beyond, I encourage you to take more frequent pauses like these. Take a break from the busyness, catch your breath, and lean into the good so you are ready for more. 🙂
This past dance season has been a gift to all studio owners—one unlike any other. With its incredible highs (and even with its challenges) this year has really shown us what we’re made of. Each year since 2020, I’ve seen remarkable changes in the dance world. Changes that I think were meant to happen so that we could become stronger, more educated, and more connected.
What’s amazing about this season in particular is something I’ve seen industry-wide. Studios, vendors, and events have been coming together to ensure our students could have incredible experiences, even as unexpected challenges popped up. Think about the supply chain issues, for example. The dance world is no exception to the same issues that struck grocery stores and car lots. Yet we’ve continued to ride over those bumps and figure out the rest. I’ve never seen some of our costume manufacturers working so hard to accommodate in-stock orders, make up for last-minute delays, or find a better solution!
I’ve written before about how the dance industry is an ecosystem. And the more I think about it, the more I can see how necessary it is for each of us to support the other. It’s not just nice to have that support, or to provide it. It is fundamental to our ability to thrive. That’s how real ecosystems work.
And thrive we will … with a gracious attitude and a passion for dance, studio owners will keep moving forward. Vendors will keep problem solving and innovating better products. Events will keep trailblazing and stepping up their game.
When I think about where we have all been, I can’t help but appreciate how great it is to be standing in the light that previously, we could only see through a long, uncertain tunnel. How great is it that we have costume suppliers who are willing to go the extra mile when a product isn’t going to make it on time? How cool is it that we have conventions and competitions who have not just returned to business, but improved it? How fantastic is it that we have vendors with all kinds of expertise—software, curricula, flooring, you name it—who are coming up with new ideas for us to implement in our studios? Pretty fantastic, I say!
I believe with all my heart that our collective positivity and gratitude will provide a productive direction for the industry as a whole. We need each other! Dance studios need vendors and events. Vendors and events need dance studios. I mean, look at what we’ve already accomplished in the past few years, all for the good of our students. Together, we can do so much.
So, who in the industry could use some gratitude from you? Who rocked your socks this season, even if the ride got bumpy? Be sure to tell them. Reach out and say thank you. Remember, the same grace we give today is the same we might have to borrow tomorrow.
I’m not sure when I got the idea that I wouldn’t be good at it … “it” being Quantitative Analysis, also known as statistics. This was a class I had to take last semester for my Ph.D. program. A class that, when I thought about having to take it, gave me a pit in my stomach.
You see, I do business math every day—but there aren’t many X’s and Y’s or slopes. I joked about it before taking the class, but inside I was fretting. Would I be able to do it? Even the textbook title—Statistics for People Who (Think They) Hate Statistics—seemed to know how I felt.
Then I began thinking, where in the world did I pick up the idea that I wouldn’t do well in a subject like statistics? More importantly, why did I accept this belief? Did something happen in my early school years? Did someone imply that artists couldn’t also be good with numbers? As a young girl, was I slighted in math class? Perhaps the magazines I grew up reading featured women toting more lipstick than calculators in their backpacks?
So, I asked myself these questions and then thought, “I want to see if I can do this!” Maybe, just maybe, I’ll actually like it. With enough time and attention, surely I could figure it out … much like I figured out business, even with no experience. And much like I figured out dance, even if I didn’t always pick up the steps as fast as other kids.
I reminded myself that those limiting beliefs were just that—limiting. And I could choose to take the limits off. It was up to me.
And wouldn’t you know? I did it! I finished the first school year of my Ph.D. program with a 4.0 GPA, including my grade from Quantitative Analysis. There were a few moments where I thought I might lose my mind, but God never left me. All the while, I had encouragement!
Parents, teachers, coaches, media: Let’s start telling our girls and artists and athletes that they can learn hard subjects—any subjects—if they are curious, interested, and put in the hard work. Let’s not allow them to put off college or testing or trade school or grad school wondering if they can do it. Let’s not allow them to wait twenty years before they decide they can go for it. They can do it.
There are no limits to what you can believe. There are no limits to what you can try. This is a lesson we can learn at any age; at any point in our lifelong education.
So, to the young girl, young woman, new mom, empty nester, or retiree reading this … guess what? Whatever “it” is, you can do it too. We’ve got this!
Back in high school, I took almost every art class offered. Drawing, painting, sculpture—if it fit my schedule, I had to take it. Art became a hobby of mine and, it turned out, I actually had a knack for it. The piece pictured here is one that hangs in my house today; I think I was 16 when I drew it. It’s something I’m pretty proud of!
While dance—and eventually teaching and entrepreneurship—became my passion, drawing remained my secret skill. It’s come in handy while coming up with ideas for logos and advertisements and new programs, plus the very act of getting out my pen and paper still soothes my soul on a hard day. In fact, even when I’m in a meeting or at a conference, I still prefer a blank notebook over one with lines—that way, I can draw out my thoughts instead of writing complete sentences.
It’s always in the background, this little side skill. And I’m going to guess that, like me, you probably have a super skill in your pocket too!
A couple years ago, I asked some of our More Than Just Great Dancing® members what super secret skills they had. My mind was blown—no kidding! Here’s a sampling of the answers I got: figure skating, baking and decorating cookies, sewing wedding dresses, working on cars, Olympic-level karate training, gardening and growing fruits and vegetables, building computers, interior designing, and professional singing.
OK, so these skills may not be so secret anymore, but WOW! I was so impressed by these studio owners and the talents they honed in their youth (and for some of them, skills they continue to use in their side businesses). How cool is it to know this about other people’s gifts?
I share this with you for two reasons: first, because I think it’s noteworthy to remind ourselves that we exist beyond the dance studio owner’s life. While our life’s work in the dance industry is one of our top-most priorities, it’s these unique skills that keep us humble, creative, quick-thinking, versatile, and appreciative. And second, because I think it’s worth celebrating these skills in others. Just ask your spouse, friends, employees, or students—people light up when they talk about their “past lives,” their special talents, or their new pursuits.
In fact, I encourage you to bring this up at your next staff meeting or student leadership gathering. Ask people to share something they’ve studied or learned that others may not know about … this could even be a skill that would potentially benefit the studio! Perhaps the young employee who loves sewing could help with minor costume alterations, or the student who is talented with software could assist with editing music.
You just never know what gifts lie inside someone until you ask. And, don’t forget to start with yourself. 🙂
Being a studio owner requires many skills—vision-casting, discernment, financial know-how, relationship-building, risk management—the list goes on. But one skill stands out to me as an underestimated asset:
I believe that true, deliberate, active listening is often overlooked as a business advantage. I’ll admit there were times in my early days as a studio owner that I probably was not a good listener. I just wanted to get things done!
But now, after decades of experience, I understand how important it is to really hear people—especially people I trust. When I coach studio owners, I advise them to be active listeners. I ask them to focus on what they’re hearing from others; to absorb the feedback and questions … and respond with intention where appropriate. Too often leaders find themselves juggling a variety of projects and responsibilities and as a result of being so busy, they tune out. Folks, if this is you, like it has been me at times, it’s time to tune back in!
Listen to your clients. While the adage, “The customer is always right,” may be outdated, I do believe the customer always has something valuable to tell us—even when it is hard to hear. As a studio owner, you provide a service—products too—and the goal is to deliver on your promises. You are solving problems and meeting needs. But you can’t do any of those things without understanding the parents and students you serve
Listen to your employees. There’s a lot to be said about employees earning respect in the workplace. But they also must be given respect, and an important way to do that is to listen. If an employee has a suggestion or wants to contribute an idea, encourage them to speak up. (Have you ever noticed the word “encouragement” contains the word “courage”?) You may not be able to act on every employee’s idea, but the very act of listening shows you care.
Listen to the industry. I’ve said it before and I think it bears repeating: the dance industry is an ecosystem. It’s full of interdependent relationships between studio owners, teachers, vendors, parents, and students. If your finger is on the pulse of the industry, you’re more apt to make good decisions for your business.
Listen to your instincts. Sometimes what we need most is to remember to trust ourselves. In the busyness of life you might forget to listen to your gut—but instincts are there for a reason! Stay true to yourself, but don’t shut off the alarm bells if you hear them ringing. If you feel more confident in your instincts, your confidence in leadership will grow too.
I hope you will keep developing all your entrepreneurial skills so that you can succeed at your highest level! Just keep listening along the way.
I’ve noticed that when I’m coaching other studio owners, I’m often reminding them that confidence comes from all the pieces of their life. I’ll tell them, “Don’t forget… you always have permission to feel confident. You have permission to be proud of the things you accomplish in life, in and out of the studio.”
It’s good—great even—if your confidence comes from your role as a leader. But sometimes you need to borrow a little confidence from yourself as a parent, or pat yourself on the back for achieving that new fitness goal. Sometimes you have to remind yourself that you are a whole person, with a lot to be proud of, separate from your business.
So, if confidence is the sum of many parts in life, what’s something that gives you confidence right now? What’s something you’re proud of—outside your studio?
I’ll share a few of mine:
I’m proud that I just finished another class in my PhD program—with a grade of 97.5%! I worked hard for that grade and it’s given me confidence as I begin the next class on my list.
I’m also proud to be reinvesting again in our local business community. We’re working on building a new commercial property—one that, when finished, will house a veterinary office as well as additional rental space. It’s a huge confidence boost to know that there will be more business owners creating more jobs that make a difference in our community.
Another thing I’m proud of these days? That my kids are growing into their independence. My middle son, Sam, actually took over some of the grocery shopping recently. And hey—it’s no small feat to have your teenage child take an interest in stocking the fridge! I love feeling confident that my kids are learning to be self-sufficient.
Think about where you need permission to feel confident. Look at all the parts of your life and give yourself a high five for the things you’re most proud of these days, whether it’s as small as building a new habit or as big as building a new business. It’s just like we tell our dancers: every step matters, so be proud of your efforts. Don’t shy away from celebrating milestones and goals!
Look for these proud moments—these confidence-builders—more often. Make it a point to check in with yourself once a day, or even once a week, and ask what you’re proud of at that time. Wear that confidence in your smile and your posture. You’ve earned it!
“It is not the strongest of the species that will survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”
I’m convinced that this quote from Charles Darwin could have been written about business. Survival is about innovation and pivots and leadership. And surviving leads to thriving!
We know that businesses have had to adapt to change—a lot—in the past two years. But if you think about it, businesses have always been responding to change. Some are more reluctant than others; think about the companies that adapted to change too slowly (or not at all) and didn’t survive. Blockbuster. Borders. Toys R Us. And then there are the ones who move surely and quickly, embracing change and becoming even more successful. Netflix, Apple, and Etsy come to mind.
The successful, thriving businesses are the ones who have welcomed a concept called “change capacity.” In essence, these organizations—big or small—have normalized change. In fact they’ve not just normalized it, they’ve encouraged it.
This is something I believe dance studio owners have to do too. We have to decide that change is inevitable and that we will embrace it with open arms. We have to agree that change is OK and can even be fun. Or maybe you can think of it this way: We have to invite it over for dinner and make friends with it!
So, how do you increase your change capacity? You can do a few things to shift your mindset:
- Choose to view change as a growth opportunity
- Research businesses and leaders who have proven successful at change
- Build a team of people who enjoy innovating and thinking on their feet
- Reward employees for their creativity, effort, and new ideas
- Decide to get excited about changes your business makes
- Become a role model of accepting and adapting to change
We know that change isn’t easy. But healthy things grow and growing things change… and that goes for the dance industry too!
The next time you’re faced with a challenge and feel reluctant to adapt to a new system, protocol, team member, or policy, remember: thriving doesn’t come from ease or intelligence. It comes from an eagerness to grow, invent, and achieve. Your studio will succeed because of change, not in spite of it.
As the U.S. approaches its two-year anniversary of the pandemic, in the face of much loss there is still much to be grateful for—especially the knowledge and tools we’ve gained for navigating this new season of life. Life isn’t the same of course, but we are beginning to see more touches of normalcy as the world moves forward into a new chapter. And yet there are still lingering effects… businesses may be more freely open, but they are not necessarily recovered.
The other day I almost cried when I saw a report from my studio that we reached 79.5% of our pre-pandemic enrollment. It’s a HUGE improvement from the 68% of last year and 50% of the year before! I’m thankful and determined at the same time—we’ve climbed such an enormous mountain already, but there are more on the other side.
And I know we’re not alone. So many small businesses—especially those that work with families and children—are still in recovery-mode, and many largely on their own, managing employee absences, inflation, backlogged supply chains, and more. But you know what we do? We carry on.
We carry on for the people employed by our companies; the people who rely on their work to make a living—and a meaningful life.
We carry on for the kids; the most impressionable of our population and the ones whose mental health needs are most critical.
We carry on because what we do isn’t just a job; it’s a calling. It’s worth all of the challenges in order to scale the next mountain… and the next after that.
As you scroll your phone or laptop today, I encourage you to skip the easy button of big box online shopping and post some love to your local business owners. I guarantee that the folks who live and work in your community could use the support. Share a post, give them a five-star review or recommendation, refer a friend, or make a purchase.
I’m guessing Amazon won’t miss that extra order, but you’d probably miss your favorite local spot if it’s not there next year. Restaurants, boutiques, flower shops, bookstores, salons… they all make your community a great place, so show them some appreciation. <3
“Shop small” is a wonderful sentiment that gets a lot of hype at the holidays, but really it’s an all-year-long practice. It’s an investment we make every day in our communities. We shop small to celebrate, discover, educate, entertain, comfort, and share. We shop small to be present in our communities.
As business owners, we know firsthand the economic effects of post-pandemic life. And we are also consumers who can help shift the storyline, by supporting those just like us.
Keep carrying on strong, friends. We’ve got this! <3
Whether you’ve been in business for one year or for decades, you are in the process of building a legacy—leaving the mark of your mission. This may be part of the reason you became an entrepreneur, because your impact would be that much greater, compounded exponentially by your studio.
But legacies aren’t just made from businesses. They’re made from family.
Last month, my son Mason bought my dad’s house. It was the house where I lived too, in the upstairs apartment during college.
It’s where I wrote my studio’s business plan, at the dining table upstairs.
I bonded with my dad there, helping him build the downstairs kitchen cabinets (among other projects!).
I lived there when I became a first-generation college graduate.
It’s where I received the studio’s first registration, left for me on the back porch. 🙂
I became Miss La Cross while living there.
I had my first pets in that house.
It’s where I brought home a ‘53 Buick Special, purchased with my first entrepreneurial earnings.
And… this is pretty special… Mitch proposed to me in that house. <3
During that chapter in my life, it was more than just a place to put my head at night. It was truly a home—a safe place to land—in that pivotal, busy season where changes were happening right and left. It became a place of wonderful, important memories.
Now it’s a Northside legacy! It’s the house where Mason is launching his independent, young adult life. As I stood in the kitchen a few weeks ago, paintbrush in hand, I felt so much pride for him (and of course, so much nostalgia for the house). My heart was full.
Much like the studio is part of my legacy, this house is too. It’s the place where I began building big dreams. And I hope Mason will do the same.
So, my encouragement to you today is this: Remember that, every day, you are adding onto these legacies in your life. You may not even realize it’s happening! I didn’t know that my dad’s house would become my home too, and then eventually my son’s. But now it’s pretty cool to see how all of our decisions and directions influenced each other.
Inside that house recently, I felt awash in memories, gratitude, and pride. Now I can’t wait to see how Mason builds on the legacy from here.
I hope you’ll take the time to think about the legacies you’ve been a part of, and the ones that are a work in progress for you now. It’s life-affirming to realize your impact—and even more so to see the impact of those you’ve linked arms with. For me, I feel this as God’s work. Every step (even every pivot turn!) is meaningful because it’s part of the bigger ripple effect.
A friend of mine recently reached out to share some encouragement and at the end of his message he wrote, “Remember, peace of mind is a discipline.”
I felt that sentence deep in my soul because yes, it can be easy to forget that peace of mind comes not solely from outward influences, but from an inner commitment. It is a daily practice of choices (and gratitude) that drives a positive mindset and a sense of calm, no matter the circumstances.
Let’s face it, life will continue to be full of new challenges! There is no doubt about that. And as entrepreneurs, we continue to face challenges that haven’t been faced before. Every day we are forging new paths forward, paving the way for those who will follow our legacy. If we lose our sense of discipline—of the choices we have—we won’t live into our fullest, God-given potential.
JOY, then, comes from choosing to stoke the embers of what we love in our work and in life. We can DECIDE at any time to live in joy by paying attention to what is still right and good in the world.
I know you might first think that sounds naïve, but hear me out: Living in joy means you’ve built a HABIT of finding the beauty in each and every day, whether the day itself is light or dark or the gray in between. It doesn’t mean you live with your head in the clouds, but it does mean that you choose to raise your chin for a broader, better view.
For me, this looks like a balance of understanding the world’s news AND staying tuned in to the things I can actually control. It looks like being involved in tough business conversations and decisions while ALSO appreciating the everyday miracle of doing work I’m passionate about. Sometimes, it’s staring fear in the face and saying, “I see you, but I won’t BE you.”
If you lean into joy, you experience more of it. It’s the “Tetris effect,” a term coined by psychologists who conducted a study using the legendary game of fitting tiles together. After the study’s participants spent hours and hours playing Tetris, it’s all they could see: They saw it in sidewalks and cars and office buildings; their gaming experience patterned everything. The same thing happens to all of us with any given thought-pattern—our minds stay connected there long after the initial thinking takes place.
It’s this concept that continues to shape the way we walk through life. If you choose to ruminate on constant 24-hour news, your worldview veers toward alarm and fear. If you choose to focus on your service and contribution to the betterment of young lives, your big picture lines up with perseverance, satisfaction, joy and yes, peace of mind. I think it’s necessary to be informed, but the impact of that information must be complementary to the rest of my life—not at the center of it.
As you continue to face the challenges of business and personal life, I hope you’ll remember this: Joy is yours to keep; yours to nurture. It can be shared but it cannot be stolen. You can choose to experience it whenever you want. Tap into it often and ALLOW it to color your day. And if you’re reading this thinking, “But how can I do this?” then I recommend writing down all the things in your life that bring you joy—family, friends, faith, dance, travel, food, sleep, books, activity… anything! Let this list remind you of the big and small pieces of life that bring a smile to your face and fill your heart. If you know them and name them, you’ll see them in more places—and seek them out more often.
My friend’s email, the one I mentioned earlier, closed with an excerpt of Paul’s letter of gratitude to the Philippians. Paul wrote, “Finally, friends, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such a thing.”
That is my wish for you, friends. I hope you will lean into the good and the joyful. I hope you will make it a habit, so that your peace of mind grows. And no matter what happens each day, I hope you can find that peace, cherish it, and infuse it into your relationships. We are all better for it. <3
As an avid reader, I often come across quotes that speak to my passion for leadership (and yes, I LOVE a good personal development book!). Recently a friend shared a passage from Brené Brown’s new book Atlas of the Heart, where she defines and discusses human emotions.
In one section she writes about “epistemic emotion—an emotion critical to knowledge acquisition and learning.” Brown refers to an article from Fast Company, in which Mary Slaughter and David Rock with the NeuroLeadership Institute write, “To be effective, learning needs to be effortful… The same way you feel a muscle ‘burn’ when it’s being strengthened, the brain needs to feel some discomfort when it’s learning.” Epistemic emotions, it seems, are a mix of feeling wonder, curiosity, confusion, and interest—all fueled by effort.
First, I was struck by the idea that we NEED emotions to acquire knowledge and learn new things. I had never thought about it quite like that. Then, the word “effortful” stood out to me. “Effortful learning”—what a perfect way to describe continuing education and personal development! That’s exactly what happens when I’m attending a workshop or conference, or when I’m on a coaching call with one of my mentors.
It’s also exactly what I see from attendees at our More Than Just Great Dancing® events. Sometimes people tell me it feels like their brain is on fire, and while of course that couldn’t be literally true (thank goodness!) I understand the sentiment. When you’re learning, sometimes you feel confused by a concept or stumped by an activity or curious about the next step, and your brain literally feels like it hurts from thinking! But you keep plowing ahead. You’re trying to connect dots that don’t quite connect—yet. And now I know those hurdles are actually NECESSARY to the learning process.
This idea fits from a dance point of view too. Think about when you have students who give it their all, in and out of the classroom. They are the ones who make progress, even if they don’t have as much natural facility as their peers. These hard working dancers are willing to push through the mental discomfort; they’re usually the ones who aren’t afraid to fail and try again. They might get confused or a little lost, but with effort they find their way. Perseverance changes the outcome. The learning sticks!
How many times have you been in an uncomfortable learning experience but ultimately found reward in the process—and eventually, the outcome? Think about your schooling, dance training, professional development: All places in life you’ve probably had that “brain on fire” feeling!
Think about it this way: If you’re too comfortable—if you’re not challenged enough or in the right ways—you simply don’t grow, whether it’s your mind or your muscles or both. Effort makes the difference between monotonous “learning” (in one ear and out the other) and true engagement in the topic at hand.
As I’m preparing for this year’s Studio Owner University® I can’t stop thinking about how cool it is that our thinking and emotions are tied so intrinsically together like this. In every facet of life, when we put in the effort, we get stronger. When the effort is a bit uncomfortable, that means it’s working! I think every entrepreneur—and especially every studio owner—knows this feeling well.
So, my encouragement to you is this: FIND situations where effortful learning will be required. Take a dance class for yourself. Sign up for that continuing education course. Volunteer with that organization you believe in. Step out of your norm and appreciate what an incredible miracle it is to gain new knowledge. 🙂
And if I’m going to see you at SOU (or if you’re attending virtually) be ready to pour rocket fuel on your brainpower! Remember this quote from Atlas of the Heart: “Comfortable learning environments rarely lead to deep learning.” Be prepared to do some hard work so you can stand confidently in every facet of your business.
Go for deep learning, friends. It’s what we were made for!
Did you know that January is National Mentoring Month? That’s right—although mentorship is an all-year-long activity, this month is one of awareness, encouragement, and celebration!
I’ve written before about the many mentors in my life, like Deak Swanson, a local business leader, who made it possible for me to open the doors to Misty’s Dance Unlimited nearly 24 years ago, and Dave Liniger, of RE/MAX, who took me under his leadership wing after we met in a mastermind group eight years ago. It’s relationships like these that have boosted my confidence as a business owner, fueled ideas and sparked new ones, and allowed me to glean wisdom from people who have been in my shoes. Mentorship has also been key to the way I’ve learned to edit ideas! Because you KNOW I want to do it all—and sometimes I need that extra nudge of patience or advice to pump the brakes. 🙂
BEING a mentor, too, is a life-changing experience. Whether it’s been with dance students or business owners, sitting in the mentor seat for more than two decades has shown me that guiding someone else is a powerful responsibility—one that can’t be replicated in any other way. There is a unique influence that comes with being a mentor: you’re a friend and confidant; part sounding board and part adviser. How great is it to have a role like that in someone ELSE’S life? Pretty darn great!
What I’ve learned over the years is how valuable it is to be BOTH a mentee and a mentor. You get to grow from the lessons of those who’ve “been there” and you get to share your own lessons with those who are rising up. Personally, there’s never been a time in my life where I didn’t benefit from each of those perspectives.
Mentorship, I believe, is the true definition of personal development, and in the small business community, it’s more important than ever. People need relationships to thrive; we all desire to know people who help us reach higher and accomplish more. And because mentorship is one-on-one, it’s a way to know someone at a deeper level—usually over a long period of time. It’s an opportunity to link arms across generations and skills and industries.
Sometimes I think there is a misconception that being a mentor, or having one, is a huge investment of time—and who has all that extra time!? But I have had mentors who I talk to once a once a month, sometimes even less frequently. It’s truly the quality of the time, not the quantity, that counts. Let me put it a different way: Seek out a mentor (or become one) even if the available time you have is limited!
And how do you do just that? I say start at your studio; offer to be a mentor to your goal-getting employees or graduating seniors. Then, look out into your community: is there a business you admire from afar? Reach out to that leader and ask to meet for coffee. Think about who you know from the chamber of commerce, rotary club, arts council, or nonprofit board—perhaps someone there has walked a similar path to the one you’re on now and would be an amazing guide.
There’s a quote from John C. Maxwell, the famous author and speaker known for his leadership, where he says, “One of the greatest values of mentors is the ability to see ahead what others cannot see and to help them navigate a course to their destination.”
I love this because he so clearly paints a picture of the mentorship relationship, of having someone by your side to offer direction. The course and the destination still belong to the mentee, but the learning curve can be shortened—or at least better understood!
It is my hope that if you’re reading this, you’re realizing how meaningful it is to cultivate mentor relationships. I urge you to find a mentor if you don’t have one already. Be a mentor to someone who needs a boost. Lean in to your gifts as a leader and a learner. Let’s all be a part of the positive relationship-building that can change the world. <3
At the beginning of the year, I set a goal to take four trips just for fun. No work. And…. I did it!
I traveled to Florida in the spring, drove Route 66 in the summer, visited my mentor’s Colorado ranch in the summer, and visited a different part of Florida earlier this month.
For me, these trips were a VERY big deal. I used to travel almost 100 days per year to speak and teach at events; traveling just for fun was rare! Then I realized how restorative it was to get away—how it energized my soul to take a real tried-and-true break, even if it was only for a few days. Whether with family or friends (or by myself), I underestimated the value of this non-work time in my life. Not only that, I noticed that merely anticipating each trip helped fuel me during the longer, harder work days. Having these dates on the calendar—a literal countdown to follow—gave me something extra-special to look forward to.
I’m sharing this with you because it is a reflection of my “12/31 scorecard.” On the last day of the year, I am eager to see how my goals measured up. Did I surpass some of them? Come up short? Were there eye-opening outcomes that I didn’t expect? This year in particular was not just about business goals, it was about personal ones.
As studio owners, we have ALL been uniquely tested during the last year (well, nearly two years now!). And while navigating pandemic decisions is no longer new news, I think we can agree that the effects continue to be a part of our lives. No matter what country you’re in, what size studio you have, or what your personal experiences have been, the ups and downs have probably kept you on your toes, just like they have for me.
It’s no surprise then that our personal lives need intentional attention. Goal-setting attention. I’m talking about the many aspects of your life beyond your career: faith, family, friends, health, enrichment, education, and yes…. fun! What a joy it is to discover (or rediscover) how meaningful it is, deep in your soul, when you meet the needs of your WHOLE life.
Maybe you don’t normally set goals around things that aren’t directly related to the studio, business, or leadership. But I’m here to tell you that it MATTERS. Sometimes having a goal is the only way to hold yourself accountable to something you’ve “wished” could happen, or that you’ll do “some day.” The waiting will never end unless you take the reins!
With your business life, you’ve probably heard of making S.M.A.R.T. goals (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound). I’ve learned that this methodology can be applied to just about anywhere in your life, and it’s been key for my personal goal-setting this past year. If I hadn’t set that goal of traveling for fun, I guarantee it would not have happened! It worked because I was clear—to myself.
I love measuring up on goals, but I always need to remind myself that the 12/31 scorecard isn’t about winning and losing. It’s about winning and CHANGE. Change for the better. I hope that reminder is helpful for you too. Reflecting back on twelve months of your business and life, the 12/31 scorecard shows where you rocked it AND where you need to grow. I’m proud to say that although I still have plenty of areas in which to grow, I rocked it with my commitment to intentional time off. 🙂
So, how about you? What does your 12/31 scorecard look like? Not just with entrepreneurship, but with all the areas of your personal life. Did you rock it—or is it time for change? What kind of goals do you have in mind for 2022?
Your answers hold the key to your priorities in the new year. With intention and attention, you can meet—or exceed—any goal, professional or personal. My encouragement is to plant those seeds of growth now…and make sure you include some fun. <3
Keep it up, my friends. Your goals await!
Happy New Year!
At my studio, we’re trying something new this year when it comes to communications with parents: personalized progress reports for every student. Yes, that means HUNDREDS of families will receive a customized evaluation through a new system we’ve adopted. It’s called VAL™. And it has the potential to change everything about how we see the dancers’ progress!
We’ve always offered parent-teacher conference opportunities and open lines of communication. But until now, we’ve never brought detailed, individualized student evaluations directly to each family. It required bandwidth our team didn’t have. What changed my mind was the EASE in which my staff can use VAL™. What’s more, the setup looks clean and professional with our Misty’s Dance Unlimited logo and custom rubric.
Jennifer Tell, who co-owns VAL™ with her husband Jason (and is a studio owner herself) said that the idea came when her now-teenage daughter was in gymnastics many years ago. Jennifer knew her little girl was one of many at the large gym, and she was pleasantly surprised when her daughter received a personal progress report. She says she felt reassured that her child was seen—and that the coach was invested in her growth. It made Jennifer think that there had to be a way to systemize and simplify the process for other businesses, like her own dance studio.
That was one of the first things that appealed to me about VAL™—the system makes it super-easy for teachers to input their feedback; for them, it’s just like filling out a Google form. It’s equally easy for the evaluations to be approved (or edited) by the studio owner or director. I also loved that we could create our very own rubric using the template from VAL™ as a starting point.
I asked Jennifer how her studio sets up the rubric, knowing that like many studios, we would have different needs for different ages and levels of evaluations.
“I recommend evaluating on character qualities and citizenship,” Jennifer says. She explained that at her studio, they use criteria in their rubric like following directions, being a helpful friend, taking turns, adhering to the dress code, and more. These things “show the parents that the teacher knows their child and recognizes their strengths and growth areas. Then, for competitive or more serious dancers, skill comes into play. We’ve learned that those evaluations eliminate surprises when it’s time for auditions or class placement.”
Well, I LOVED hearing this! It’s exactly what I’d hoped we could accomplish. We didn’t want our younger and less experienced dancers to feel discouraged by being evaluated. Instead, we want to remind them that when it comes to the benefits of dance class, it’s not all about the steps. At the same time, we want to support the skills-related goals of our more experienced kids and give them an opportunity to use more specific feedback.
Here’s the coolest part: Because we’re implementing these progress reports, I know our communications with parents will be better than ever. Like Jennifer’s experience with her daughter at gymnastics, I have felt more connected to my kids’ teachers and coaches anytime I receive personal updates about school or activities. It’s meaningful in a way that every parent desires. <3
If you’re not already offering student evaluations, this is the season to do it! More than ever, our dance families want to feel involved. They want to understand their child’s strengths and help them with the areas that need improvement. They want to KNOW that dance is having the positive impact we’ve promised.
I encourage you to reach out to Jennifer with any questions or if you want to try VAL™ for free. Just by signing up you get the chance to test out the system for yourself at no cost and no obligation. How great is that!?
Here’s to awesome communications and encouragement for our kids!
When I was a young dancer, I LOVED getting my hands on a new magazine. You can probably imagine that I loved Dance Magazine, but in high school I also had a subscription to Car and Driver! I can distinctly remember how my heart would skip a beat when the newest issue was finally available. I lived for the feel of the glossy pages, the incredible photography—and of course, the anticipation of what would be covered in that month’s articles and advertisements.
As I grew up and became more entrenched in the business side of dance, I had the same feelings about other publications, like SUCCESS, Entrepreneur, and Forbes. Magazines became part of my personal development, and I read them on repeat!
Now, it’s like living a dream come true to be the actual PUBLISHER of a magazine. INSight™ started out as a small publication for members of More Than Just Great Dancing!®. Today, it’s readership includes studio owners ALL over the world! Published twice a year, INSight™ is the ONLY magazine written exclusively for studio owners. From dance journalists to our MTJGD™ Certified Coaches, our contributors know the business of dance.
INSight™ offers a deep dive into topics like leadership, sales, budgeting, managing employees, vision-casting, and more. It also explores thought-provoking, important topics that relate to the evolution and sustainability of the industry, such as inclusion, safety, and yes, profitability.
We’re fortunate that INSight™ is backed by incredible vendors who want to see studio owners succeed. I’ve had advertisers tell me that they appreciate having the opportunity not just to BE in the magazine, but to support our overall goal to deliver inspiration and education. That’s what I call a strong ecosystem!
And here’s another thing: INSight™ goes BEYOND the surface, giving you real tools to put into action immediately! For instance, in our recent Build Up issue (still available HERE), MTJGD™ Certified Coach Crystal Carfagno wrote about how to analyze tuition for maximum benefit to your business. The article includes spreadsheets with examples so that studio owners can begin the thought-process right away. No excuses!
Here’s just a SMALL sampling of topics that will be featured in our upcoming issue, Be Empowered:
- Using client feedback to make meaningful change
- Embracing diversity in the studio
- Coaching employees when they make a mistake
- Preparing a budget for profitable performances
- How to get your return on investment with direct mail
- Building long-lasting relationships with vendors
- Letting go of entrepreneurial guilt
My encouragement for you is to find even just ONE article that could help you (and your people) become more confident and prepared. If you invest in yourself by reading INSight™, I believe you’ll reap the rewards all season long.
I have this picture in my mind—maybe it actually happens in real life—that there are studio owners out there who open an issue of INSight™ and immediately feel their shoulders relax. Right away, they feel understood. They sense the community and camaraderie within our pages. They feel a certainty that their studios CAN and WILL thrive. And they feel empowered to make changes to better themselves and their business.
I hope that YOU are one of those studio owners! If you haven’t already pre-ordered your copy of INSight™, you can do so by clicking right here. It also makes a great holiday gift for your studio owner friends! 😉
We all know that studio ownership isn’t easy—but we also know that the work you put into it will multiply, rippling over to your family, staff, and students. And when you know there is a resource out there that is produced and supported by people who want to see you succeed at that work… well, that’s pretty darn special. INSight™ is truly MORE than just a magazine. It’s a community, workbook, and coach all rolled into one resource.
It just might be the thing that empowers you to live your best year yet in 2022.
Like many of you, I heard the news about Afghanistan and immediately began wondering how I could help the refugees fleeing their home country. What must they be feeling? What were their top needs? I couldn’t help but think how overwhelming it must be to start over in a completely new place, especially for women with children in tow.
It turned out just days later, my home state of Wisconsin welcomed thousands of refugees who were brought to Fort McCoy. Thanks to my mother-in-law Karen (a volunteering wonder!) I was able to spend time with some of the women from Afghanistan. It was a profound and beautiful experience—and one that I keep returning to.
When I visited to volunteer, the morning was filled with teaching English words by making crayon drawings for a small group of girls. We drew “dog” “cat” “car” “man” “woman” etc. There were a lot of smiles and nods—and a few questioning looks at my drawings! The afternoon was spent practicing English introductions with about a dozen or so women. We progressed through learning and practicing the basics, such as “Hi, my name is…” and “How are you?” and “Where are you from?”
But then we got to “What do you do?” and I did a double-take when the first woman replied, “Doctor.”
I don’t know why I wasn’t expecting that answer, but there’s something about teaching the basics of a new language that can make you forget they already have FULL mastery of a wholly different world. In my mind, I had been teaching literacy, but that couldn’t have been further from the truth. I wasn’t teaching literacy, I was teaching a second language. There’s a HUGE difference!
So I paused the lesson to ask the women one by one what their jobs were in Afghanistan. Those gathered in the circle spoke up and I heard the following answers:
- IT specialist
- Executive director of a nonprofit
- Boxing coach
- Public policy student working toward her PhD
And those are just the ones I remember!
These were beautiful, intelligent women who just wanted to be able to use their time at Fort McCoy productively. They wanted to prepare themselves to resettle.
The two women with the strongest language skills requested books; leadership content by Brené Brown and Simon Sinek. I was reminded again. These women are Just. Like. Me.
I kept thinking how naïve it was to not know this already and yet, it just hadn’t crossed my mind. The camaraderie and commonalities we shared—as women, as professionals, as caregivers, as mothers—were all reminders to me of how alike we are; how much we all desire to belong and to love our families and to succeed at what we put our minds to. The difference, of course, is that I got to go home after our lesson and they didn’t. THAT was the heart-crushing reality that swept over me when I left.
Our Afghan guests still have BIG practical needs, like having warm clothing and shoes. I mean, let’s be real… none of us in Wisconsin are wearing sandals and thin shirts this time of year. But our Afghan guests are.
The good news is, it’s not too late (or too hard) to help. You can donate time, talent, or treasure to help create a way FORWARD for an Afghan woman or child through the Catholic Charities of La Crosse or through similar charity groups in your community.
This is a time for all of us to remember: We’re not so different from our neighbors around the world! We all strive to do the best we can for ourselves and our families. We all want to build a home life that we love and careers we are proud of. And when one of us needs a hand, let’s be quick to help. We never know when we might be the one who needs help next.
In psychology, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is well-known and respected for its theory of how humans are motivated. Maslow puts needs such as air, water, food, shelter, and sleep at the foundation of the hierarchy. A no-brainer, really!
And I bet it won’t surprise you that the next foundational step is SAFETY. Once those first basic needs are met, humans want to feel personally, physically, and emotionally safe. Feeling safe then allows us to progress up the hierarchy to discover and embrace things like love, strength, confidence, a sense of belonging, and achievement.
I bring this up because safety has been on my mind a lot lately—and not because of the pandemic. At Youth Protection Advocates in Dance (YPAD), safety education is something we work on everyday. We’ve certified over 2,000 dance educators and studio owners over the past four years. Interest in YPAD education and certification is growing rapidly from dance vendors as well.
ANY industry with services for children needs to have safety top-of-mind and the reason is twofold: First and foremost, meeting basic safety needs is an imperative. Then, with safety established, we can cultivate an environment where our students can be courageous; where they can be themselves; where they will be supported and prepared for the “real world” that awaits them in college or the workforce.
In short, if we want our kids to FEEL safe and achieve anything they put their minds to, we must OFFER them a safe environment in which to grow.
Fortunately, YPAD presents studio owners, teachers, and other dance professionals with a multifaceted approach to a variety of safety-related aspects of the dance industry. And it’s important to note that YPAD is designed to EDUCATE, not regulate. We want to empower professionals in the dance industry to take charge of their future success, and that future success starts with a safe foundation for our students—just like Maslow’s hierarchy reveals.
So, in what ways can you get proactive with YPAD training? Here’s the scope of our coursework, which is evidence-based and research-driven. The information is presented by our panel of trauma-informed experts, including doctors, counselors, psychiatrists, and dance professionals:
- Injury prevention and response
- Abuse awareness, prevention, and response
- Risk management and safety procedures
- Social media and media safety
- Developmentally appropriate artistry
- Body image, nutrition, and disordered eating
- Bullying and conflict resolution
What we’re striving to do at YPAD is show the science and research behind the importance of a safe environment. We want to open up meaningful conversations about what dance studios and dance events look like when they put student safety first. To me, what that looks like is freedom to do our best work—because the foundation of safety has been built, our students can flourish.
If you haven’t already done so, friends, I encourage you to join us for a YPAD training and see for yourself how this coursework can benefit you and the students you serve. You can start with a free online course or dive right in with certification. And it’s not too late to get in on our live event which takes place November 15-17 on Zoom! All of YPAD’s trainings can be done self-paced and online if you can’t attend live virtually.
Here’s one more encouragement I want to share for today: Even if you’re not quite ready to take part in a YPAD certification, remember that we’re here for you. Visit our FAQs or send us your questions—now is the time to join us in helping to make the WHOLE industry stronger for generations of dancers!
One time I was out biking with my son and we were NOT having an easy time. The trail we were following seemed, well, not well-kept or otherwise clear to follow. We were getting tangled in branches and weeds, bumping along as best we could, but it seemed inevitable that we could get lost or hurt (or both). Both of us were getting pretty frustrated until we realized that the ACTUAL bike path we thought we were on was about FOUR FEET to the left.
You read that right. We were not even ON the path to begin with!
Of course it was a huge relief when we were back on the right trail and had confidence that we were headed in the right direction. Later that day at home, it dawned on me how parallel this was to what we do to ourselves at work: We slog along down a certain road, struggling, looking for direction, pulling ourselves out of the weeds, investing time and energy, and then … sometimes … we’re not even on the right path!
It made me think of all the times I’ve had to stop myself and ask, “Am I spending my time solving the BEST problem right now?” Because if I’m not, I know I need to change course. I need to find the path—often just a few feet away—that will get me where I want to go. I need to spend my time using my highest, best thinking and problem-solving skills. And so do you.
As a business owner, YOU are leading the way. You can work hard here or there or somewhere in between. You can devote time to this project or that one; put energy into this strategy or that one. But if you work hard down the wrong path, you are wasting precious resources. Friends, don’t scratch yourself up in unnecessary weeds!
The work I had been doing on the wrong bike path wasn’t doing me any good. I worked harder, but all I was doing was hustling the wrong way. If I hadn’t stopped and raised my own awareness, moving over to the RIGHT path, I would’ve kept going the way-of-no-results.
If you find yourself digging into your work and the results you’re after aren’t happening, take a better look at your surroundings. Reassess the situation. Ask yourself, “Am I still on the right path? Am I in the right weeds?” The grind is necessary, yes, but it only has value IF you are headed in the right direction.
So, how do you make sure you’re headed in the right direction? You check in with your vision. You reflect on your calling as a leader. You look at the big-picture work; your why for your company. You should be solving problems and tackling projects that reach for the fulfillment of those intentions. If what you’re working on doesn’t answer those outcomes loud and clear, it’s time to shift over. Get on the clearer path.
Remember that you chose this career of entrepreneurship. You sought work that had meaning beyond yourself. You wanted to do great things for your team, your students, and your community. Now, you are responsible for staying on track. And you can do it just by checking in with where you ARE spending your time and energy and where you COULD spend it.
Don’t get stuck doing work that’s not serving your goals or your higher purpose. Look to your side. Maybe the smarter path is just a few feet away. 🙂
One of my FAVORITE things about partnering with industry vendors is learning about the ways they serve others—beyond the obvious.
Revolution Dancewear, for example, recently became a Legacy Partner with us here at More Than Just Great Dancing!® and I’ve been thrilled to learn about how they are doing good in the dance world. One of the first things I learned about the operations behind Revolution is that the company directly supports studio owners with a grant program. How AWESOME is that!?
“Our heart has always been with studios,” explains Taylor Hiller, Revolution’s Brand Manager. “Our dedication to studio owners and their businesses inspired us” to directly give back to the dance community. Known as The Studio Essentials Grant Program, the initiative funds grants of $500 to $5,000 for studios to use toward things like student scholarships, curricula, facility improvements, or teacher education.
“As a result of last year’s program, we awarded $30,000 in grants to 21 studios across 14 states,” says Taylor. One recipient was Lejeune Dance Company, whose director, Meredith Caruso, sought funds to award student scholarships for children of fallen soldiers. “Our committee was shown the direct ways that these funds would help,” Taylor shares. “Now Lejeune Dance Company is offering three scholarships to injured service members and Purple Heart recipients, their dependents, and Gold Star family members.” The scholarships will cover the costs of a one-hour class, including costumes and dancewear, for a full year. (You can read more about this incredible story here!)
Learning about this program made me think of all the studio owners and managers I know who have been through tough times lately—from hurricanes to wildfires and everything in between—as well as those who are continually looking for ways to lift up their communities with dance. Revolution is taking grant applications through October 31, 2021 so I encourage you to apply if you are one of those people!
When I was digging in to understand all the innovative things Revolution is doing to serve and support studios, there was another initiative that stood out to me; one that was a bit more subtle but no less powerful: Revolution recently began partnering with Rhythm Works Integrative Dance to produce sensory-friendly dancewear.
Now, you and I both know how important this topic has become in the studio classroom: For our students to learn effectively, they need to be comfortable in their bodies AND in their clothing. And, of course, different children have different needs when it comes to defining what “comfortable” means. The phrase sensory friendly is so much more than a buzzword.
“Every piece of our Studio Essentials dancewear collection is wear-tested on individuals with different body types and varying sensory sensitivities,” Taylor says. Studio owners are “now able to shop by the five pillars of sensory-friendly dancewear.” Those five pillars are: Comfy & Cozy, Compression, Easy On & Off, Fidget Friendly, and Lower Body Stretch.
It may seem like a small thing for a dancewear and costume company to offer garments that support students of all learning styles and abilities, but it’s truly a BIG thing. I know that the amount of research and development alone could not have been a small effort. And here they are now, with products that go beyond mere fulfillment and serve a larger purpose in a child’s life.
Hats off to Revolution for their service to studio owners and students beyond costumes! If we ALL follow that bigger purpose for ourselves—if we all reach beyond the obvious to serve and support our mission—the dance industry itself will be all the better. <3
Remember during the Tokyo Olympics, when there was a pretty big firestorm surrounding athletes’ mental health? Gymnast Simone Biles decided to step back from the team competition and it quickly became a buzzy talking point. That a world-renowned gymnast on the grandest stage there is would say, out loud, that she was prioritizing her mental health = HUGE deal. Personally, I couldn’t help but admire her strength and courage. And I couldn’t help but see a very clear parallel line in the dance world.
It’s a GOOD thing when our students can stand up for themselves and say, hey, I need a breather, or I need to reevaluate my class load, or change up my commitments. It’s an EVEN BETTER thing when they can do that and feel supported at the same time.
Now, I’m not saying we shouldn’t hold students accountable for commitments. After all, as parents and teachers we are the grown-ups who are experienced and trained to guide them in life skill building. But I DO think kids should feel empowered to speak up, as Simone Biles did, if they do not feel like themselves, and especially if they need to seek medical help. Just as we would want to heal a broken bone or mend a sprained ligament, we would want to encourage therapy or counseling or rest time for our students who need support for their mental and emotional well-being.
More and more, I coach studio owners to recognize and support the mental wellness of their students. It is a delicate balance—we are not doctors, after all—but we CAN create environments that help our kids express themselves; places that can be a safe spot for coping with today’s pressures and uncertainties. As an extra layer of training and support, I often find myself recommending the training at Youth Protection Advocates in Dance®, particularly the YPAD certification course.
There’s a “part two” to my admiration of Simone Biles and the connection I see to dance. This relates to her decision to remain on the floor during the team gymnastics competition. Rather than retreat to her room, she cheered on her teammates—and her positivity was contagious! She led with a smile and she built up the confidence in her fellow gymnasts. She stood on the side, but she took her role there seriously. You could see that the team felt her support, and that her support was genuine.
This is a lesson that’s not new in dance, but now there’s a new context we can see around it. Even when a student feels down, they can still be an amazing teammate. Even when they can’t perform as they normally would, they can still lift up those around them. What an incredible example of what we are always telling our dancers: You are a part of the team no matter what. Your presence makes a difference. Dance should not be a series of solos; it’s a group effort. You need each other to be at your best.
And, as in the Olympics, “best” can’t truly be measured by the color of a medal—or a medal at all. It can only be measured by what’s in the effort, and what’s in the heart. From my perspective, this message will stick with us a long time—especially if we continue to pay attention to our dancers’ well-being in our studios.
I hope we will all remember the Tokyo Olympics for its spotlight on mental health, for the courage of Simone Biles. She didn’t know it at the moment, but she inspired more than just a generation of future gymnasts! She inspired teachers, coaches, and students from all walks of life.
She is a champion for how she trained in the first place. Then, she became a champion standing up for herself, and by default, others. And, she showed what it looks like to be a champion for her team. This wasn’t the first time in her career she used her voice to stand up for and to protect herself and others, and she has my ongoing admiration.
I’ve said it before and I’ll proudly say it again: The dance industry TRULY has a special kind of ecosystem. Where else do you see so much support among suppliers or business owners sharing ideas at conferences or studios offering unique services in the community, even during the roller coaster of a global pandemic? When I see the amazing things other companies are doing, I sometimes find myself literally cheering out loud in front of the computer!
One of those companies is A Wish Come True, which is a Legacy Partner here at More Than Just Great Dancing®. I remember first hearing about how, in the spring of 2020, they had switched their manufacturing line from costumes to masks. Then, they kept DONATING all of the newly-made masks to area hospitals. The result? Hospitals had a fresh supply of masks for their patrons even when other supplies were low, and Wish designers and sewers stayed employed performing essential work.
Renée Stojek, A Wish Come True’s Marketing Director of 18 years, says that this effort was an extension of a key tenet within the business: giving back to the community. Beyond those heroic mask-making efforts of 2020, the company has a long-standing charitable giving campaign called “A Wish for Better.” Renée says the campaign is simply reflective of how they work at Wish—yes, they take pride in creating excellent costumes and offering top-notch customer service AND they take pride in prioritizing the interests of the community, via their employees.
“Our culture isn’t top-down,” Renée explains. “It’s employee-led. We want them to bring their personal culture into the work culture.” By that, Renée says, she means that the company wants to support and bring awareness to causes that are meaningful to its people. For example, one year, an intern named Devon suggested that A Wish for Better hold a pet supply drive. Devon volunteered at the Humane Society and could see first-hand a great need for things like food, blankets, toys, and treats. The pet supply drive was a huge success—and led to other successful fundraisers, such as food drives, coat drives, and Toys for Tots, where toys are collected and given to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
A Wish for Better came from a heart-space. “Giving back in an individualized, personal, family-oriented way is special,” Renée shares, noting that A Wish Come True is a family-run company. “It’s very organic.” The process for employees to share or nominate a cause is informal, allowing ideas to come from anyone, anytime.
That heart-space couldn’t be more clear than it is now with an upcoming event that A Wish for Better is planning for 2022. This one—a Light the Night event—will honor the memory of former Wish Design Director Besty Skaroff, who recently passed away from acute leukemia. Light the Night events are held to support survivors, recognize battles lost, and raise funds for leukemia and lymphoma research.
Renée really got me thinking about how work culture and giving back are so intertwined—and how important it is that we tap into our employees for ideas and suggestions when it comes to lifting up the community and raising awareness around big causes. How much MORE can we all do, if we listen to each other and place value on each other’s interests?
And that is where I think we circle back to the strength of our industry’s ecosystem. We ALL have this potential to do greater, bigger, more impactful things when we feel heard and supported.
So, I want to leave you with a few philosophical questions: Where are you finding opportunities to connect with your employees and the causes that are meaningful to them? In what charitable ways will your organization grow its positive influence in the community BECAUSE of those connections? Where will YOU wish for better?
Remember: there’s ACTION behind every wish, to make it come true. 🙂
Yes, you read that right: Off. The. Grind!
Back in July I took some intentional time OFF from the hustle and grind of daily life. It was a bucket list trip: I drove Route 66 with my youngest son, Benji—and we had the time of our lives!
You see, when I was little, my dad was an over-the-road (long-haul) truck driver, which I thought was the COOLEST thing ever. I would sit in the back of the cab with my stuffed animals and dream of seeing the world from the road. I even got to go on a few trips, which was the best! In my child-heart, there was nothing better than hanging out with my dad on a long drive. And I loved paying it forward with Ben … same experience, but from the driver’s seat. <3
So from Chicago to Los Angeles, in a rented Ford Mustang, over eight states and the course of an entire week, Ben and I traversed the country. We visited the Route 66 Museum, saw a restored gas station, ate at the Cozy Dog (where corn dogs were invented), poked around Pink Elephant Antiques (an old high school turned antique store), saw the St. Louis Arch, and stayed the night at the famous Boots Hotel, just like Clark Gable did.
And that was just the first day!
By the mid-point of the trip, we had also seen Mickey Mantle’s childhood home, had ice cream at the Dairy King (not to be confused with the Dairy Queen, as this is older and apparently superior!), visited the Cadillac Ranch, and ate dinner at the Big Texan Steak Ranch, where we did NOT attempt the 72-ounce steak-eating challenge.
In New Mexico, with Ben’s encouragement, I also faced some fears, including jumping off a small cliff into an 81-foot deep blue hole and swimming in non-pool water—you know, the kind with fish in it! I bravely paddled around the lake water convinced I would die from either touching a fish or ingesting algae, but at least I would die making Benji proud.
As we headed west, we ate green chiles and chorizo, shopped for turquoise, and almost ran out of gas in the middle of nowhere. We made new friends at a random sushi place when one of the diners I had scoped out was closed. We visited the Continental Divide, explored the Petrified Forest National Park, and stayed at both the El Rancho Hotel and the Supai Motel. I had plenty of opportunities to try out my rusty Spanish, so now Ben knows how to tell me to hurry up in two languages. Ha!
I’m telling you all of this because if you haven’t planned some time for yourself “off the grind” this year, DO IT. Make the plans. Jump in the water. Eat the chiles.
Whether you get away with your family or a friend, or if you go by yourself, whether it’s one day or one week, you NEED it. Your soul needs to be fulfilled with more than the daily hustle of work. If you’re like me, you love your work—it fuels your spirit—and it can be tough to pull yourself away from the tasks and responsibilities that always feel important. But what’s also important is YOUR well-being. Your family, your relationships, and your own heart need attention. I want you to look back on the time you spent away from work and say, “That was the BEST. I needed that!”
For me, I had to remind myself that I can always work another day and do another load of laundry, but I’ll never get a second chance to have these years with my kids. Carving out this purposeful, planned time to rest and play was special for both of us, to a degree that’s hard to put into words. I hope someday Benji will look back and remember this time as one of the best vacations ever.
2,400 miles on the road,
53 hours of driving in the car,
20+ roadside cafes and gas station snacks,
6 vintage motels,
1 week of truly priceless memories with my boy
It’s something I’ll never forget. Here’s to MORE intentional time off the grind, for all of us.
The dance studio industry is in a unique position these days, poised to take advantage of a huge resurgence that’s expected in service businesses, in particular youth activities and the arts. But I think we will only be able to maximize that benefit if we work together—AND make thoughtful steps forward for our studios. Let me explain…
As we continue to climb out of the pandemic, there is this HUGE opportunity for our industry ecosystem to strengthen; to become more buoyant and sustainable. For the past year and a half we’ve had to unite in order to recover and rise up against challenge after challenge. Now, we have the chance to STAY united—to CHOOSE this way—and continue building our community to be smarter, safer, and healthier than ever before.
And hey—pause for a second here with me—isn’t that what so many parents are looking for right now, too? Smarter, safer, healthier options for activities that have a positive impact on their child’s well-being! (If that’s not dance class, I don’t know what is!)
This united front of studios doesn’t mean we will all run our businesses the same way. In fact, I believe it’s all the better that we celebrate our differences with the beauty of offering dance in every corner of the world—from big studios to small ones, competitive to recreational, urban to rural. But even with our differences we can agree that upholding high standards is a must!
That’s where my idea comes into play.
It’s something I’ve been dreaming of for years and it’s called Studio Training Solutions™. This is a hub of resources and connections for studio owners to embrace best business and educational practices, search for professional learning opportunities, and find support. It’s a website full of courses, trainings, webinars, downloads, and much more—all curated specifically with dance studio leaders in mind. It’s a place for studio owners to further their skills in business and optimize their studio’s future. We’ll have free content and upgrades too. There’ll also be opportunities for coaching and a directory of live events, as well as the chance to learn more about vendors who want to support your mission.
Our dance ecosystem is ready for its rebound, but I believe it can only happen if we all work to stay united; if we choose to use our interdependence to raise our collective potential. Each studio, supplier, manufacturer, service, product, and event relies on the others to make their impact possible. And Studio Training Solutions™ is meant to facilitate this cooperative effort possible for everyone.
As studio owners, we all have a common love and a common goal: Dance brought us into this business and made us who we are; it’s the fire that stays burning deep in our souls. And we all strive to help our staff, students, and communities become stronger and healthier. The ART created our passion, and now the BUSINESS helps us grow it. As a united community that believes in a smarter, safer, healthier future, we have the opportunity to truly flourish—together!
Studio Training Solutions™ has lived only in my mind and heart for so long but it’s journey has been timely! Now I can’t wait for it to go live for YOU. The public launch happens in October, but early access is available to those on our mailing list, which you can join by clicking HERE. I have so much gratitude for the team who has worked hard to breathe life into this vision. We are ready to see the entire dance studio community build their businesses and their confidence with this resource.
I hope to see you enjoying the benefits of Studio Training Solutions™ this fall—and I hope when you do, you’ll share feedback with us on what you love most and in what areas we can offer more! The launch can’t happen soon enough. We’re counting down the days!
Fellow business owners and friends, like many of you I recently received the news that a longtime pillar in our dance community closed its doors. At Misty’s Dance Unlimited, we had the privilege of doing business with Curtain Call for more than two decades—nearly half of its existence—and I was saddened to hear that it was time for them to close this chapter, after 50 years serving the industry. What a gift they gave the dance world!
I’ve had the privilege of meeting Curtain Call’s CEO, Tighe King, on several occasions in my career, and each time he welcomed my contributions to the conversation about the industry. Curtain Call was even an early sponsor for More Than Just Great Dancing®, in its fledgling first year, and maintained a strong connection with us for a decade. A few years ago, I was invited to tour the Curtain Call factory, where I met designers and relationship managers, and secured the company’s commitment to becoming a YPAD Certified supplier. It’s one of my favorite CC memories, seeing the passion and excitement “behind the scenes” there.
It occurred to me the other day that Curtain Call’s legacy will go beyond sponsorships and beautiful costumes and trade shows. It will be about joy in the work and about excellent relationships in customer service. It will be about doing the right thing. I know that even now, in the aftermath of the hardest decision a business owner could make, their integrity will lead them through the process of winding down operations.
I want Curtain Call to know that we’ll remember so many wonderful things about their company—from the customer support we personally received from our representative, Terri Gustafson, to the costumes my own kids wore onstage throughout their dance experiences. (I can also recall more than one occasion where MDU needed last-minute costumes and Terri came through time and time again!)
At our very first Studio Owner University® event, my daughter Isabella (a pre-teen at the time) modeled Curtain Call costumes for our attendees, even putting on an impromptu performance between sessions. I remember how delighted she was to be showing off what she could do, in costumes she felt confident wearing. She lit up with excitement when Curtain Call asked for her feedback about this fabric, or that color or clasp or accessory. SOU was a success that year for many reasons, and Curtain Call’s presence was one of them. What I didn’t know then was how deeply our connection would grow throughout the next decade.
This moment for the industry, to me, feels a little like when a longtime dance student graduates: It is emotional and bittersweet, with a bit of unknown mixed in. Although I imagine the folks at Curtain Call never wanted to close their operations, I CAN imagine that they want to do so with the same care and responsibility with which they did business in the first place. And I can imagine that the other costume manufacturers in the industry want to be there for the studios and studio owners who need them.
Curtain Call’s final bow is a reminder to us all that there is both longevity and fragility in our industry, and that strengthening our ecosystem remains more important than ever. Dance studios depend on suppliers, software, events, and more—and those businesses depend on us. When one facet of the industry thrives, we can all flourish. Everyone’s potential goes up! But first we must recognize that interdependence as we ride the waves of post-pandemic recovery.
To Tighe King and those who were employed by Curtain Call, I applaud the 50-year legacy you built—may we all strive for 50 years in our own businesses! It is a privilege to have worked with your people and products for so many of those years. From our hearts to yours, THANK YOU for everything.
It was about 24 years ago that a man named Deak Swanson handed me the keys to my first business lease. (I wrote about that journey and my gratitude for Deak here in this previous post about paying it forward!) That gesture had a tremendous impact on me and I always promised him I would pay forward to OTHER entrepreneurs the belief he had in MY dream.
A couple months ago I had another opportunity to do just that. I handed a set of keys over to Carolyn Colleen, who will be opening a franchise of Acton Academy this fall! She will be making a home for her business in our upstairs classrooms during the day.
How awesome is that!?
923 12th Ave. So., Onalaska, Wisconsin = SCHOOL by day, DANCE by night. 🙂
Both Carolyn and Acton Academy are building up kids by introducing effective methods of learning; encouraging young minds to ask questions and explore ideas so they are equipped to be dynamic leaders and team players. Their mission complements ours perfectly.
Partnering with entrepreneurs like Carolyn is like having ANOTHER dream come true: Getting to play a role in a small business owner’s journey to success is a privilege I will never take for granted. I see it when the studio owners I coach reach milestones in their careers, like conquering debt, expanding locations, spending valuable time with family, or raising up strong leaders. I see it when the students we’ve taught at MDU return as adults who are following their passions, blazing their own trails.
In some ways, it’s not an easy time to start a new business. But in MANY other ways, it’s an incredible time! Entrepreneurs are the lifeblood of our economy and having more organizations doing more good in our ecosystem is NECESSARY. Especially, I believe, when those organizations have to do with serving and shaping the young minds of the future. If our kids need anything right now, it’s more opportunity to share, learn, grow, and build up their confidence in the world.
My challenge to you is this: If you are a fellow small business owner, what can you do to lift up someone next to you? How can you support another entrepreneur who is planning great things for your community? Instead of seeing other business owners as competitors for local families’ attention, why not see them as a friend? I think we all have a higher potential when we work together and develop these symbiotic relationships, perhaps even more now than we would have experienced two or three or ten years ago! It is up to ALL of us to reach out beyond ourselves, beyond our own work, to see how we can make the small business world the best it can be.
Handing the keys over to Carolyn made me excited for her, of course, but it also made me reflect upon that day when Deak gave the keys to me. What poignant moment in an entrepreneur’s life, to be handed the literal AND symbolic object of opening up a new door!
Carolyn, welcome to the neighborhood! You are an AMAZING entrepreneur doing AMAZING things for our kids!
The Oxford Dictionary defines “pastime” as “an activity that someone does regularly for enjoyment rather than work; a hobby.” I think for most of us, it’s safe to say that our pastime once was dancing! We showed up to classes each week, eager and excited, feeling the pure joy that dance brought into our lives.
But do you have a favorite pastime now?
Maybe you are laughing as you read this. Maybe you can’t believe that I even dared to ask. If all you can think of for an answer is WORK, then 1) you aren’t alone and 2) it’s time to do some soul-searching!
Business owners are often so intertwined with work that there’s no room for a hobby. Work and family get juggled in seemingly infinite loops without much room for anything else. But here’s the thing: It’s also really GOOD for you to develop interests outside of work. Having a pastime supports your emotional health, relieves stress, adds to your purpose, and brings you joy—no strings attached.
More and more I have come to realize how much of a positive impact I feel from devoting time to a hobby. Recently I decided to spend time writing a children’s book and finally I’m seeing that dream come true! The book became a pastime rather than work; it was more of a passion project than anything else. It became something that relaxed my mind and that I looked forward to spending time on.
Now Stellarina: Stella’s First Dance Class is an actual, bona fide book, complete with illustrations by my niece, Olivia. (It’s a story based on my family’s Golden Retriever, Stella, going to dancing school.) Perhaps the best part is that through the book’s proceeds, we’ll be able to donate to local animal shelters. One day I think my pastime will be running a dog rescue—but until that day comes, my contribution will be through Stellarina books. <3
So here’s what I want you to do—right now—if you don’t have a favorite pastime (yet). Grab a pen and some scratch paper and write down the answer to these three questions. Don’t think too hard; just write anything that comes to mind:
- What have you always wanted to try?
- What do you love to do for fun?
- What activities or games or toys did you love as a child?
OK, now I want you to look for similarities and connections in your answers. What did you write down that excites you? What makes you smile?
Maybe you want to take up a new activity, like painting or martial arts, or you want to go big with something you already do, like running a marathon. Maybe you want to get involved in volunteering with a local organization or a group like the Rotary Club. Maybe you want to write a book!
The idea is to discover (or re-discover) something that brings you joy and that you feel MOTIVATED to go after. Then once you have the idea, you must make the time. That’s right: MAKE. Even if it’s minimal at first, go carve out some actual time on your calendar to nourish this interest. It’s one thing to dream, but it’s another thing to act on that dream!
It’s easy to downplay pastimes and hobbies as unimportant. Work and family naturally take up much of our focus. But remember that you are a WHOLE person; someone who is worthy of whole health: mind, body, and soul. I believe that if you feed your interests, you feed your soul too. There is so much in you that deserves to be poured into! I hope you’ll allow the ideas to flow and then go for it. Make a pastime one of your priorities.
Tell me: What will you be pursuing next? I want to know!
You may have noticed that in the past year we have ramped up production of our publication, INSight™ Magazine including The Recovery Edition (summer 2020) and Start Strong (winter 2020-21). I thought it might be fun to answer a few frequently asked questions here about INSight™ as we gear up yet again for a new issue. Our Build Up edition is slated to publish this July and it has what YOU need written all over it!
Where did INSight™ Magazine come from?
Several years ago, I created INSight™ as a small, annual magazine within More Than Just Great Dancing® membership. It was designed to highlight member success stories and provide actionable how-to articles as well as inspiration to our affiliated studios. I knew that one day I wanted to grow the publication for a wider audience, and just as our production team began to brainstorm our path forward, the pandemic hit. It became clear to me last spring that I needed to put my foot on the gas and expand our readership to the entire dance industry so that we could reach more studios, directors, and managers with important information to help us survive (and even thrive!) through the pandemic. We ALL needed to come together for recovery and inspiration! And so a wider variety of content and coaching was planned so we could reach MORE leaders and offer MORE advice, MORE support, and MORE motivation.
What makes INSight™ unique?
There are many awesome publications for dance teachers and business people, but with INSight™ we wanted to speak specifically to studio owners and their leadership teams. We wanted to be a business magazine with a big heart; the kind of publication that could give you excellent advice on finances or productivity, but also inspire you to be your best self and serve your own well-being as well as your staff and students. Not only that, we wanted the publication to pull double-duty, serving up relevant articles AND practical tools, like worksheets and activities, that would allow studio owners to put their new ideas to use right away. I’ve always been interested in coaching others to find SOLUTIONS not just to identify problems, and together with our contributing writers, INSight™ has made that level of mentorship a reality.
Is INSight™ a subscription?
Not yet! 🙂 Right now, INSight™ is published in individual editions, which can be purchased and read via digital flipbook or as a traditional print magazine. (Check out the FREE digital Start Strong edition here and then CLICK HERE for our pre-sale info for the Build Up edition!)
Who writes for INSight™? What types of articles can I expect to read?
Our contributors include a variety of MTJGD Certified Coaches™ as well as dance journalists and other experts in a specialized field. INSight™ has of-the-moment features, how-to articles with companion activities and worksheets, inspirational pieces, Q&As, vendor highlights, and much more. You can pick up any issue of INSight™ and see YOURSELF in the words on the page!
What if I have an idea for an article topic?
Send it our way! Complete this survey to tell us more about WHAT you like to read and HOW you like to read it.
How do I stay up-to-date on all things INSight™?
Stay on track with us by visiting and liking our MTJGD Facebook page and checking out our current and past INSight™ editions on our website! And don’t forget that you can get in on our next edition pre-sales: Just CLICK HERE for the info and expect to see the Build Up edition hit your inbox (or mailbox!) in July.
I believe in the saying that “leaders are readers” … and it’s not only about books! Leaders consume information that helps them learn, grow, and do business well. I love being able to say that our readers ARE leaders, and that you are helping the dance industry become a better, stronger place for your staff, students, and community.
When I first started More Than Just Great Dancing®, becoming a magazine publisher wasn’t on my radar yet. But I have to say, the journey has been a fun one. And most of all, I LOVE being able to reach more studio owners with messages of smart business and positive impact. Here’s to YOU and your best business self!
OK, so here’s a funny story: I have been driving the same car for five years. That’s five years’ worth of frigid—mostly downright arctic—winters. Just recently I figured out that this car has a HEATED STEERING WHEEL. What!?
While my fingers can’t get those five years back, I am now officially basking in the glory that is a toasty steering wheel. (When we first discovered the feature, my husband Mitch informed me, “Yes, it’s actually hot!”) I still cannot believe for all this time, I had no idea of this magic that existed in my car, right in front of me. I’m shaking my head in wonder as I type this.
It also made me think though …
However amusing it is that you could spend five years in this frozen tundra without knowing you had a warm steering wheel, it’s not so amusing to think of what ELSE you don’t know. For example: Have you ever uncovered something inside your business and thought, “How did I not know that!?”
Countless times I have coached studio owners who have come to me saying that very thing. They might have discovered that a beloved program is actually a loss from a revenue standpoint, or that for years they’ve been paying double the sales tax on their costume orders (both true stories!). It can be a downright bummer to realize what you don’t know about your business.
It’s also EMPOWERING. Knowing something’s wrong means you can fix it! When you miss key elements inside your business—and then suddenly they are right in front of you—it means you can DO something. ACTON is where solutions really begin to take shape.
That unprofitable yet beloved program may need a whole spreadsheet devoted to a two-year tuition-correction plan, followed by communications to your staff, and a PR rollout to your clients. The sales tax slip-up probably requires a call to your accountant as well as your state comptroller’s office so you can make the correct payments moving forward. Step by step, problems get solved. And new problems get uncovered. This cycle is what entrepreneurship is all about!
One of the best choices I continue to make for myself, and for my business, is continuing my own professional education. It helps me stay in tune to all areas of my work and dream bigger than I used to think possible! It also allows me to discover what I don’t know … and solve BETTER problems than I solved years ago. Having mentors and coaches in my life means I have people who challenge my ideas but also cheer me on. Being a part of mastermind groups and educational conferences means I am constantly learning, growing, and fine-tuning.
Now my question to you is this: Are you willing to go uncover what you don’t know? To probe and dig into your business to see what needs to be elevated? Are you excited about the possibilities that await? Hint: You should be. 🙂
I won’t sugarcoat it; this is deep work. (Much deeper than flipping a switch on your steering wheel!) But it’s also the work that leaders do. It’s how we get stronger and grow our influence. Just like good nutrition or an endorphin-filled run, the work you do on your business creates health. Take the leap to understand what you don’t know!
And look … if you need SUPPORT and TOOLS and a COMMUNITY of fellow problem-solvers, then joining More Than Just Great Dancing!® should be on your to-do list. Please get in touch with us HERE and we can help coach you toward your goals. <3
Back in February, I trained 500 studio owners, managers, and industry vendors at Studio Owner University®, an event we made virtual this year for safety. The virtual platform turned out to be even BETTER than I could have imagined. I swear you could feel the buzzing of the energy through the computer … or maybe that was my extra coffee kick. HA!
We’ve never held an event of that size until now. It was seriously incredible. We shared the virtual stage with presenters like our MTJGD Certified Coaches, vendor sponsors, and our keynote speaker, Heather White of Trillfit. We held sessions on SO MANY educational topics, ranging from pivoting performances to summer sales to smart budgeting—and tons more! We had vendor appointments, “extra credit” sessions, and add-on days for our Executive members and a Masters Day deep-dive. We even had a social hour with games and prizes (because you can’t have a conference without a party, right!?).
But it was at the end of one day, when we had wrapped up at 8pm, when I was reminded WHO the real benefactors are of this essential education.
The daughter of our accountant had stayed at the office with her mom. This little girl, Adalyn, set up her own conference, complete with a drawing of me on a whiteboard, so she could “watch” the sessions just like the grown-ups. (She even created her own vendor appointments!)
Seeing Adalyn that evening made me tear up. THIS is why we do the work we do, I thought, because behind every screen at SOU is a child who receives services from one of our More Than Just Great Dancing!® affiliated studios—a child with their own ideas and dreams and gifts and talents. A child whose potential can be fostered. A child who needs to hear, “I’m proud of you!” and “You can do it!”
Thousands upon thousands of kids are positively influenced by our dance studios. This positive influence has always been at the heart of MTJGD’s mission—that certainly hasn’t changed—but the sheer importance of it, well, I believe that HAS changed. It has been magnified. For so many children, dance is a lifeline. It is community and comfort and expression. It’s more than an art form; it’s more than a pursuit to excellence. It’s life-GIVING.
Adalyn reminded me of all this, with her creativity shining and her confidence on full display. She reminded me that our kids need the freedom to think and do and problem-solve … and they need deliberate encouragement. This can then have a cascading effect through their families and into their communities. Our kids are full of so much possibility!
Back at SOU the next day, I felt such a renewed sense of purpose. Every morning I say a little prayer of gratitude for the opportunity to coach other business leaders and to help them achieve what success looks like in their lives. And while I’m always thinking of ways to connect those dots back to our kids, sometimes I need a personal reminder. <3
Then and now, I am thankful that what we do as studio owners always circles back to serving our students. It keeps us grounded and gives us motivation. It gives us PURPOSE. And I think it’s fair to say it was the ultimate reason why we had such a successful SOU this year—because our work MATTERS. Because studio owners and managers and vendors from around the world raised their hands to collectively say, I want to improve my own education so I can create a deeper impact. Because our kids are worth every effort.
And so here is my extra encouragement to YOU in all this: On the days when it’s hard, when you are digging in to the work of reimagining your programs, restructuring your tuition, reevaluating your expenses, rearranging your team, or any number of other pivots, remember that ripple effect out to your students. Remember that this calling chose YOU.
P.S. Adalyn, you’ve got a BRIGHT FUTURE! Keep dreaming! <3
P.P.S. If you have been thinking about joining More Than Just Great Dancing!® please get in touch with us HERE! We’re ready to help you thrive in 2021 and beyond!
In dance, the physical limitations we’re faced with these days are pretty incredible: Dancing in socially-distant groups, sometimes inside literal boxes taped on the floor; dancing with face coverings and only the eyes to connect with; dancing without partnering or other close contact. Suffice it to say, we’re on a new level of what “limitation” means. And these physical limitations are in addition to the ones we’ve always had, such as how flexible we are or how tall or whether we were born with natural turnout.
Beyond dance, of course, we all have our own physical limitations too. They exist constantly in our day-to-day lives—the limits of sleep come to mind—and of course, our bodies change with illness, injury, age, exercise, and nutrition. We are forever challenged by these physical limits in SOME way or another.
But let me take this moment now to remind you about something that you do not have restrictions or limitations on:
No one has limits on what they can believe, the strength they can summon, or how they can use their faith. For me in my spiritual life, God is always there, full access, waiting for me to turn back to Him; to see, seek, come, listen, and refill. For you, it may be the same way, or different. Or you may be searching for that kind of relationship in your life.
I think the key is that you KNOW your spirit can soar beyond your bodily limitations; that you can find contentment in the connections that soothe your soul, bringing wholeness to your life. You find ways to fortify your spirit so that it can continue to support your physical body—perhaps no other time in our living history have we experienced how deeply this connection affects us.
In my life, prayer reminds me that my spirit needs this exercise; it is restored over and over again by my relationship with God. Some people seek the fellowship of others, but right now I know I need quiet time each day and each week, to personally reflect on the big picture of my life and life’s work. Perhaps you’ve experienced this, too. However it happens for you, I believe your mind and body are stronger for it.
It is only human, I think, to sometimes feel stuck or trapped by our physical limitations, especially when we are subject to those restrictions for a long period of time (like during a pandemic!). But it is your spirit that helps you see PAST the restrictions. It is your spirit that allows you to open yourself up to new pathways and possibilities. It is your spirit that says, “HEY! You are not ONLY your physical self. You are MORE.”
Here is the encouragement I hope you take away from this philosophical message:
Take care of your spirit. Discover what replenishes it. Do more of that.
You have a soul-deepening strength inside you that cannot be contained inside a box or behind a mask. <3
I’ve written before about my friend, dance industry leader Susan Epstein, and I’ve also written about the silver linings of today’s world. Today, I wanted to share with you a silver lining she recently shared with me…
As you may remember, Susan is the Producing Director of Group Study at Gibney in New York City. Like everyone in the dance world, last spring Susan had to completely reimagine how to deliver Gibney’s programming. Master classes, workshops, and discussions moved online to Zoom, and Susan—ever the dauntless leader—began to brainstorm how to amplify their offerings even further. She said to me that the silver lining of taking Gibney’s group study online has been the OPPORTUNITY it brought:
“We can now serve more dancers, studios, and schools, without the travel aspect, and bring costs down for participants. A lot of kids in dance see their future crushed, but they shouldn’t! We’ve been able to help them start looking forward again.”
Susan’s perspective hit me hard—in a good way. She’s right. So many dancers find it impossible to look ahead to the future, to college or careers, when so much in the dance industry has changed since March of 2020. But now is the time to make the effort to GROW as a dancer! And as educators and leaders, WE have the chance now to help our students look further out.
Susan pointed out too that at Gibney, they’ve been able to add more options to their Group Study offerings online, making it possible for studios or schools or colleges to completely customize a group experience based on their needs and goals. Gibney added new styles to their master class roster and ramped up their discussion material about college dance and career pathways, including a career counseling partnership with The Actors Fund. They updated their workshops about health and wellness, emphasizing their partnership with the Harkness Center.
And for over 20 years, Gibney has also had social justice programs as part of its educational offerings, which are now more relevant than ever. Susan said to me, “It’s about asking, ‘How can you use your art and apply it to the things that are important to you and will make a difference?’ How do you use your creativity for impact?’”
What struck me most about this entire conversation with Susan was how it mirrors so closely what many of my studio friends are discovering right now … that the power of dance really does go beyond the individual dancer, and in fact it NEEDS to. The power is not in any ONE student or program; it’s in the collection of us all working together for an even stronger impact (and a strong recovery, post-pandemic). The power is in our ecosystem … the constellation of all of us learning from each other. We are educators and students and artists TOGETHER.
So here’s my question to you:
How are you harnessing this power now, for your students? What are you doing to help them look ahead with HOPE and foster their own sense of ownership over their future? To commit to themselves and their growth? To see themselves having a positive influence through dance?
Like Susan, I hope we can all see that the challenges of dancing through a pandemic are surmountable if we’re willing to get creative, look ahead, and take advantage of the new opportunities in front of us. She told me that even when they can resume in-person Group Study at Gibney, they also plan to continue their online programming because of its benefits. (Now THAT’S an extra silver living!)
I hope that as you step into spring—into classes, conventions, competitions, recitals, and more—you’ll be reminded of how much greatness there is in our industry and how opportunity exists around every corner, if we choose to seek it out.
To your students and their future!
Self-care, understandably, has reached an outsize importance in a small business owner’s life. The past year demanded a LOT from us, and somewhere along the way we had to be called to action… for ourselves! We had to remember to stop and breathe and treat ourselves well, so that we could give and serve from a place of strength instead of exhaustion.
Now, as we move forward with hope that the pandemic can improve this year, and perhaps even come to an end, I’ve realized that we ALSO need to step up our game with taking care of BUSINESS—namely, with the pieces of a business that only an owner can do.
Don’t worry. I’m not suggesting we should swing this pendulum back to the extreme and work ourselves into a frenzy. (No way!) But I do believe it’s time to hunker down on giving your business the same level of care you’ve committed to giving yourself. It’s time to dust off the cobwebs of pre-pandemic life, re-write goals, clean up systems, and do the executive work that your business needs to be its healthiest in 2021.
This isn’t an all-inclusive list, but here’s what I mean:
Get with your attorney and make sure you’re on the right side of the law with employee contracts, handbooks, and hiring/firing procedures. Tighten up your client policies and release forms with a legal thumbs-up. This is an investment well-spent to ensure your business can stand up in a court of law if anything ever happened.
Have a heart-to-heart with your accountant. Review your chart of accounts and financial reports from the past three years. Tell them about your 10 year goals and beyond, like if you plan to expand your locations, hire more employees, or even retire. Ask them to help you plan strategically for the best financial outcome in 2021 so you can achieve the vision you have in mind further down the road.
Contact your insurance agent(s) and look over your policies together. You may need to update enrollment numbers, talk to them about facility changes, or scale your coverage up or down. Review it all with a new, post-pandemic perspective. Now is the time to make sure that what you have in place truly insures what you want and expect.
Audit your technology and facilities. With all the changes you may have implemented in 2020, your studio might have everything it needs—or you may need a Wi-Fi booster or to repurpose that extra webcam. Maybe your HVAC now requires more frequent maintenance or you need to rethink your lobby layout. You’ll gain peace of mind knowing you checked every angle of the physical space for improvements.
Evaluate your team. Whether you regularly conduct employee reviews or not, now is the time to analyze the “seats on the bus” to better understand what’s working well and what may need to change in 2021. Ask for feedback and be prepared to give it too, and use this new knowledge to shape up the roles and organization of your team.
Study your programs and pricing. You may have had three-year or five-year plans in place for tuition changes or new programs, and we all know that went out the window with the pandemic! So it’s time to get back in the saddle again; open those spreadsheets and look at them with fresh eyes. Where might you need to trim an underperforming (not profitable) program? When do prices need to increase for your competitive kids? What does your studio need to thrive?
Get back on track with your goals. As a small business owner, your goals drive the business forward. You are the one who casts the vision; who says, “Here’s what’s POSSIBLE” while working with your team on how to make the possibilities into reality. The goals you used to have for your business might not apply anymore. Maybe they’ve been amplified or even taken a totally new direction. Either way, it’s time to RECAST that vision to yourself and your people!
When you became a small business owner, you knew it would have its challenges. None of us knew, of course, what kinds of challenges would await in 2020! But the best part about challenges is overcoming them… and by taking care of the business, with the work only YOU can do, you are overcoming and achieving like you never have before! Look at this year as a renewal of your entrepreneurial spirit. It’s going to be huge!
You might remember that several months ago, I had a major surgery. Over the course of my recovery, with healing and the help of physical therapy, I went from a wheelchair to a recliner to a walker to walking … and FINALLY to actually teaching a dance class (I subbed for my daughter one night in January—full circle moment!).
It is such a JOY to feel the freedom of movement again, after working so hard for so many months to gain basic skills and strength back. Today, I’m actually physically stronger than I was before the surgery. But it took a LOT of work.
I believe that as business owners, what we’ve all been through during this pandemic season has been “surgery” of sorts. It’s been a shock to our systems, in so many ways. So now we must do the “physical therapy” of our bodies, minds, hearts, and business operations to become STRONGER than we could’ve been, had this time in history not happened.
In my heart, I feel a sense that we need to build ourselves up this year, in all ways that need our attention. Each of us has experienced trauma in some way, shape, or form. And anytime there is a trauma you have to build back up.
So here’s my question to you: What are YOU going to build up during this season of life and business? Here are some examples of what’s been on my mind:
Where will you seek stronger connections with people? Perhaps you need to clarify expectations and renew relationships with employees. Or maybe it’s time to build better relationships with your clients or vendors, especially since you may not see them in person as much due to physical distancing or virtual classes. Whose presence in your life do you need to nurture and cultivate?
How will you build up more muscle in your revenue and cash flow? For me, I’m analyzing every financial statement and system for improvements. The pandemic has shown me real-life examples of the importance of savings and smart money management. I want to continue to create more financial security for my business, which in turn creates security for my staff, clients, and students.
Inside your business, what programs need to be expanded or cut? What success can you capitalize on? Where are you draining resources and need to pivot? The health of your organization depends on your ability to offer programs that have successful outcomes, not just programs you think you “should” have.
What will you do to promote your business this year? The time is past for you to be afraid to market! Yes, you need to be sensitive to your community and the climate of your clientele. But you also need to build your confidence back up when it comes to actively marketing your classes and programs. You are still a key part of the ecosystem of dance and the arts, and your local community needs you.
How will you reimagine your personal life, after the traumatic shake-up of the past year? Sure, your business still needs you, but so do your family members and friends. You have MANY reminders these days to be grateful for your health, and let’s not forget that your mental health is part of that equation. Emotionally, you CANNOT allow yourself to be consumed by work. What will you do to take care of yourself, allow yourself breathing room, and find ways to have fun with those you love?
I believe that to BUILD UP we also need to LET GO. Sometimes it’s letting go of unreasonable demands, self-pressure, ego, or perfection. Letting go of those things will free you up to focus on your “physical therapy” and long-term health.
To heal from the trauma we’ve all been through, we need to commit to getting stronger. Are you with me? I hope so! I’ll be cheering you on the whole way.
A few months ago, we conducted a survey of More Than Just Great Dancing!® affiliated studios regarding our Safer Studio™ guidelines. When they results came in, I was FLOORED … in a really good way.
The statistics collected from this survey were uplifting to say the least! The numbers showed us that not only have our licensees been able to maintain a safe dance environment for their employees and students, they are doing so across multiple states, regions, provinces, and countries. Here’s what we found:
There were 156 studios surveyed, representing 42,000 students who have taken 142,000 classes since reopening. The student cases reported were 0.001%. Yes, you read that right—that’s an incidence of 1/1,000th of 1%, or in other words, very, very low. (This was based on 186 reports of COVID-19 among the 142,000 class contacts.)
There is great power in these numbers. Let me explain …
So much of what is happening in our news and media is about FEELINGS. Yet the FACTS show that it is possible to conduct ourselves in a way that greatly minimizes risk. And the facts we found within MTJGD confirm this truth: It is not only possible, it is happening! A Safer Studio™ means we’re meeting our kids’ needs, keeping our staff employed, and creating an atmosphere of trust for all. We’re showing our communities that we can operate with integrity, with well-being as a priority.
Now, each studio’s Safer Studio™ approach may vary slightly, depending on their local recommendations and health department requirements. But this survey also proves that we do not need to have the exact same model of safety at each business to do well; rather, each business owner uses the Safer Studio™ guidelines to construct their own detailed approach to doing business, with room to evolve as needed.
Dance, as I’ve said before, is meeting some crucial needs for our kids these days. It’s fueling their social-emotional growth, fostering much-needed connections with teachers and friends, giving them an outlet of self-expression, and providing mental and physical exercise for a healthy body. Now we are beginning to see the proof that we are meeting these needs in a safe and responsible way.
It is incredible to see these results but of course, the work is far from over: This new year still has its unknowns, even as we see glimmers of hope that the other side of the pandemic is getting closer. All of us have to remain committed to the safety and health of our students, to the balancing act of doing what’s right for as many people as possible, leading with our purpose front and center.
It’s having that purpose—and shining a light on it—that will continue to be a beacon of hope in your community. YOU have so much to offer.
And even as COVID-19 policies eventually relax and we adapt to another version of a “new normal” in the future, safety will continue to be at the forefront of what we do in the dance industry. A Safer Studio™ will continue to be more than physical safety from a virus; it will be a safe place to share feelings, to grow friendships, to bond through good times and tough ones, to build confidence, to see role models in action.
For the time being, the facts tell us the story we needed to know, to keep charging ahead with the important work—that dance class CAN be part of the way forward.
If you or someone you know leads a dance studio and is still trying to find that balance, our Safer Studio™ guidelines are available to members of More Than Just Great Dancing!®. Reach out to email@example.com if you want to learn more about joining. We want to get to know you!
Tell me if this story rings true:
You wake up in the morning, ready to go, and charge ahead with your workday. You plow through phone calls, emails, and hard decisions and complicated leadership issues. And when you get home, you’re wiped out—possibly even a little snippy to your family. Your energy has been used up and there’s none left for yourself, your spouse, or your kids.
This has been an all-too-common cycle since the pandemic set in. Small business owners found ourselves running on fumes because we felt we needed to work at all hours (and to be fair, sometimes we DID need to!). We were trying to save our businesses and clients, with uncertainty blooming all around us. But, as the months went on, these new habits persisted.
It’s called surge capacity depletion, also known as using up all your energy with work and having none left over for anyone else. And it’s too common these days. Now the big question is, how do you overcome it?
I believe the answer is about setting aside the expectation that your work—the emails and calls and decisions—is all on you. While you may be at helm, and there may be tasks only you can do, you DO have support if you know where to look for it. There are lifelines in your relationships. In your vision. In your passion. In your faith.
For me, one lifeline is my belief in a God-strength: It’s a belief in a power beyond my own physical, mental, and emotional strength that allows me to endure—and to eventually take part in what is bright and beautiful after the pandemic has passed.
One particular Biblical passage (from Colossians 1:11) stands out to me as a comfort with this idea. It is from a letter the Apostle Paul wrote to the Colossians, which said, “We pray that you’ll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul—not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy …”
No matter your spiritual path, I think we can all learn from these words. To me, this passage says that strength doesn’t have to be silent or lonely. Instead, it can be shared and joyful. Shared strength makes it possible to endure, eventually moving us past difficulties and into a brighter place. It is felt in the valleys and the peaks and in between.
To that same point, I think we can remember that we need to ask for (and give) grace to those we love most; the ones who may be on the receiving end of ourselves when the surge capacity depletion happens. We need to be unafraid to ask for THEM to share in our strength. We don’t want to give our best to everyone but them—and so we need to consciously reach for their support and infuse those relationships with assurance that yes, we are in this life together.
Moving past surge capacity depletion, strength-sharing with something greater than yourself, allows you to look more clearly at the future; to wonder what can come of this difficult time, in a positive and productive way—to start DREAMING again of where you want your business to go next. This pandemic won’t last forever and your dreams are NEEDED. They got you where you are now, and they’ll get you to a new place in the future.
The stability and restoration of our world won’t be a straight, upward pathway. But it will happen—it is happening. Allow yourself the freedom to look forward to the day things are different; to dream up a new vision or edit the one you used to have. Think bigger than you would normally! I advise my coaching clients to continue to be gracious and seek graciousness, and I would advise you the same way.
My wish for you is to find this grace for yourself, to tap into your shared strength and to dream out loud, in color, with hope. Dance is in your life for a reason, I believe. Business too. If you lean into your strength, what will you do next? The possibilities are endless!
There’s this game I invented called “It’s a Really Good Thing”. (OK, I call it a “game” but really it’s an exercise in focus and discipline and reflection and appreciation.)
Here’s what I mean:
I’ll say to myself, “It’s a really good thing THIS happened, because now we can do THAT.”
For example, IT WAS A REALLY GOOD THING two years ago that we did some deep work on our human resources, including new software, updated job descriptions, re-prioritized responsibilities, and more, because now we’ve been able to adapt to the pandemic environment with very few bumps in the road. Our team has been solid and prepared, in large part because many months ago we invested so much time and energy into redefining our organizational picture. Back then, it was a huge, tedious project … one that I wanted to give up on several times! But it’s a REALLY good thing we did it, because we’ve never been stronger.
Sometimes I play this game with smaller victories too. IT’S A REALLY GOOD THING, for example, that I got proactive about the kids’ chore list because now we’re all trapped in the house together 24/7. Ha!
You can probably think of endless examples in your own life (that may or may not have to do with kids!). Maybe it’s a really good thing you finished paying off your business debt before the pandemic, because now your business has some breathing room in its cash flow. Or maybe it’s a good thing you leveled up your technology because now you have more ways to serve your clients.
There’s a way you can flip the script too, and look at the disappointments or failures you’ve been through recently … maybe it’s a really good thing you couldn’t renew your lease a year ago, because now you have a more understanding landlord who’s willing to accommodate your needs. Maybe it’s a really good thing that a particular teacher quit in January, because you know he or she would have brought the team down last spring when you most needed everyone to come together.
I encourage you to look back over time and connect the dots. Look at what you worked on six months ago, ten months ago, or even eighteen months ago. See that the work you did then has a profoundly positive impact on what you’re doing now, especially operating in a pandemic. Look at what may have happened to you or what your circumstances were, and see that even in the discouraging moments, something good came of the bumps in the road.
Things that have been hard or difficult in your small business life, reflect on how you are reaping the benefits of those lessons now; or of that effort you put in.
I truly believe that ALL THINGS WORK TOGETHER FOR GOOD eventually, even if you don’t notice the good in the immediate results. I’m always looking for ways that prove this is true, and so this game forces me to take stock of where things stand for the better.
I think it’s important to acknowledge the graces of the day no matter what, that if you have the discipline to focus your mind on the good stuff, the hard stuff (and even the bad stuff) feels more tolerable. At some point, THIS time in history is going to be a good thing too … and I mean that with no disrespect to the sorrow it has brought many people across the world. What I mean is that the work you’re doing and the impact you’re having will be proven in time, as we move forward and eventually heal. Distance gives us a clearer perspective of our growth and our accomplishments.
Anytime you find yourself discouraged, or even if you just need a boost to get through the day, give this game a try. Think about how if you were to fast forward months or years ahead, you might say, “Wow, it’s a really good thing that …”
We only get where we’re supposed to go by living confidently in our journey; by owning our direction and choices. So if you can appreciate where you’ve been, you can see yourself in that positive light. Your story is something to be proud of—learn from it and never forget it!
Last month, I walked into my office one day and saw a cream-colored mystery envelope with a gold ribbon on it.
It was set apart in the middle of my otherwise jam-packed desk.
Curious, I opened it, and inside was a handwritten letter of gratitude from a dancer who graduated from my studio in 2013. She went on to play the role of Tinkerbell at Walt Disney World for seven years. The envelope also included photos of her journey through her career, with detailed notes on the back so I could follow every audition and performance. (Her favorite performance? Dancing for her family.)
Reading just the first few lines of the letter, I couldn’t contain my tears.
It was such a vivid reminder that what teachers and coaches do with kids MATTERS … and it continues to matter long past the original point of connection. Sure, this student developed professional dance skills at our studio, but what she really took away was confidence, grace, and poise. She grew into her potential and became a hard-working person who found joy in her work life. All of those qualities will last a lifetime.
I also thought of her mom, who clearly taught her the value of showing appreciation. It’s a skill that has been in decline in recent times, at least as far as I’ve observed, and this letter reminded me that it’s a skill I want deeply woven into the fabric of my own children’s lives.
Upon reflection, I think my emotions while reading this letter were about much more than just receiving kind words. I read it and thought of how many studios around the country have closed—the places where kids learn these important life lessons, develop their potential, grow their confidence, build their resilience. And of course dance studios aren’t the only ones working to keep their heads above water and stay in operation. Music, gymnastics, swimming, gymnastics, cheer, sports, fitness, art studios … all of us who serve kids are reeling. The list is long and the losses are deep.
Activities are the heartbeat to so many childrens’ lives. It is during these classes, games, matches, and competitions that our kids learn about themselves and how to operate in the bigger world around them. It is during this time that their imaginations spark and their ambitions come to life. Many students see their grades lift, their emotions soothed, the bonds of their friendships cemented—and yes, set their sights on a career.
If you are reading this, my favor to ask is simple: Please continue to support your local youth activities. Sign up for that in-person class, if it can be offered safely. Agree to practice outside if that’s what is permitted. Make the best of learning virtually if they are forced to go online. Send a word of encouragement letting the coaches or teachers know how much what they do means (or meant) to your kid. And while you’re at it, send a little love to your child’s school teacher too!
Many activities are facing challenges no one could ever have prepared for and they are doing it with grit and grace. Those who can be open are doing so because they LOVE YOUR KIDS. They do it because once in a while they get a handwritten card reminding them that their work matters. And it does.
In closing, I wanted to share what’s on the back side of the letter I received from my former student:
“I am eternally grateful, and in the most magical and humble way, for you. Thank you tremendously. You helped in making not only my dreams come true, but the dreams of thousands of children.”
THIS is what we do.
THIS is why we do it.
I have SO MUCH gratitude for the gratitude that’s been shown to me. I’m passing it along to you in hopes that we can all pay it forward. <3
I think we can all agree that this year has had more unknowns and unpredictability than probably any other year we’ll experience in our lifetime!
The virus that brought businesses and schools to a halt in March continues to cause ripples worldwide, leaving us wondering what’s next, with no guidebook or map—just our own resourcefulness, grit, determination, and resolve.
For me, what’s helped my mindset more than anything is to rethink my approach to the unknown. Instead of fearing it, I decided to look for its silver lining. (Easier said than done, of course!)
Certainly there are monumental challenges with not knowing how the rest of the year, or next year, will play out. When it comes to coping with a pandemic, we just don’t know if the dance season will look more or less like a traditional year. As business owners, we can no longer expect to have a “typical” path forward; instead we need to pave several paths, not knowing which one we’ll need to take, or when.
But what I’ve realized is that there is FREEDOM in the way I can look forward now, a freedom I never felt before as a business owner. That’s a MAJOR silver lining!
Building a new business model this year—bringing classes online, investing in new technology, refocusing attention on our students’ new needs—has underscored for me the freedom to adapt and do things differently.
Here’s how I’ve been looking at the “unknown” through a positive lens:
- I can get creative in a limitless way, solving problems with solutions I may never have thought of pre-pandemic.
- I can get proactive with multiple plans, choosing the best one and putting the others on the shelf for future use.
- I can take control of what’s within my reach, making it easier to adapt to what’s NOT in my control.
I think what’s been most profound about this way of thinking is the weight I feel off my shoulders. Not having so much self-pressure to operate in a specific way means I’m more open to new ideas and my imagination has more room to grow.
Who knew that such a TOUGH year could also have so many POSSIBILITIES?
My hope is that as you’re reading this, you are taking stock of the lessons you’ve learned from this year and can appreciate everything you’ve done to rise above the difficulties. I hope you’ll read this and decide to reframe your mindset to the silver lining too … to see the opportunities you have to change what’s not working and improve what IS. To be curious about what COULD BE instead of deterred.
YOU have the power to make your business what you want; to serve your clientele based on a positive outlook and sheer determination. You have the power to flip the notion that the unknown is to be feared and instead use it to your advantage.
Perhaps we won’t even understand the full benefits of this approach until years from now, when we look back at this time with awe … when, in hindsight, we can admire the ways in which we persevered and came through to the other side wiser, more confident, and more innovative.
Ask yourself today, “What am I waiting for?”
Grab onto the silver lining and feel the freedom that comes with it. <3
I’ve always said I believed in the transformative power of dance.
It’s the concept my studio was built on over these past two-decades-plus. Dance has, for as long as I can remember, held this central place in my heart, my mind, and my work.
Like many studio owners I know, my life was influenced by dance from the moment I first stepped foot in the classroom. Dance is part of the reason why I became an entrepreneur, a teacher, and business coach; it’s been a complement to each facet of my calling in life.
Today, when I see our students in the studio, I realize that this transformative power has taken on new meaning. Sure, I still believe dance will have a positive impact on their life goals, their education, their personal development, and their achievements. That is still AWESOME in every way.
The difference now is that there is a deeper internal transformation happening.
I can see it in our dancers.
Dance is meeting a physical need for activity. It’s allowing our kids to exercise their bodies that are sitting more than in previous years, with eyes that are commonly strained by hours of (often necessary) screen time. It’s giving them cardiovascular strength and respiratory stamina and an outlet to burn their excess energy.
Dance is meeting a social need for connection, bringing old friends together and introducing new ones, even from a safe physical distance. It’s giving our teachers and students moments of vital personal connection, through eye contact, jazz hands, and verbal encouragement.
Dance is meeting a psychological need for expression. It’s giving our kids a way to express their feelings, to communicate their highs and lows, even if they don’t want to talk. Expression through movement offers a relief; a respite from any stressors and a joyous celebration for successes.
Dance is meeting an emotional need for community. Everyone desires a sense of belonging, children especially, and dance is offering them a consistent place to sense that they belong—that their presence matters. Self-worth comes from many places, and community gives it a major boost!
I believe that a person’s well-being is profoundly, life-changingly influenced by these four areas, and now I can see just how much impact dance can have at this deeper level. It matters more than ever, because our kids are making history. They are with us on the journey through this season of pandemic life, but we must remember that their needs might be met differently than an adult’s.
Dance, to me, is the ultimate activity for a child, but I’m biased of course! What matters most is that our kids do SOMETHING that makes their hearts sing, that answers their need to move, connect, express, and belong.
This is a strange world we are living in now. But it doesn’t HAVE to be strange from EVERY angle. We can choose activities that offer familiarity, challenges, excitement, and growth. We can lean into what fulfills our children and watch them thrive! My hope is that, for many of our students, their experience with dance will be as transformative as it was for me—in their own unique way.
I want to leave you with this thought: Our children have the opportunity to progress through this year with a sense of confidence – if we make it possible. They have the chance to feel like they can come through the other side of this life experience with an incredible amount of resilience. We just have to help them get there.
Earlier this year I set a goal for myself to run a 10K.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with races like this, that’s around six miles or so … and a HUGE deal to me.
You might remember that I took up running about two years ago. I’m not the fastest runner (nor did I try to be) but I do have a lot of heart! When I started running, I wanted to do itto challenge myself physically and mentally. I wanted a reason to get outside with my kids and my dogs. I wanted to try a form of exercise I hadn’t done before, something that could help me become stronger and more agile and offer a sense of accomplishment.
Running has done all that and MORE. It has given me new confidence and shown me that my commitment will pay off when I set my mind to a race. I’ve always been goal-oriented, but this has been a whole new way to look at, quite literally, the milestones needed to reach a specific target. Which brings me back to the 10K …
I’ve put in 300 miles of training over the course of two years.
Yep … TWO YEARS. That’s how long it took to work up to this!
My training has consisted of running loops around the local park with the dogs. Occasionally, one of my kids would join in and coach me along too. I never had a fancy watch to help me track my miles or times, but I kept tabs through my phone. Very slowly, I started to see my one-mile pace improve. Very slowly, I began to see progress in how long I could run without stopping.
Although in the early days of running I didn’t know I’d want to do a 10K, I DID know that I wanted to push myself. I’ve done a handful of 3K and 5K races since I started running, butthe 10K was a big step up. I knew that by the end of the summer though, it could be a doable goal. And the timing seemed perfect, as I had scheduled a big surgery for September, one that would require a long recovery and a significant break from running. (And yes, I’m recovering and healing well!)
Leading up to the race—the “unofficial” French Island 10K here in La Crosse, Wisconsin—I started thinking about how much intentional FOCUS and DETERMINATION I’d put into running (even before I made up this 10K race due to local races being COVID-cancelled!).
First, I had to work up to running just ONE mile. Then I had to work up to running two, and then three. Then, I had to work on improving my pace of each mile. I had to get out and run even when I didn’t feel like it; even when the days were long and tiring. Every day that I ran, I had to make up my mind to go for it. When I look at those 300 training miles over the past two years, I think about how each mile mattered to a finish line I couldn’t even see yet.
So my question to you is this:
What are the miles, literally or figuratively, that you are working on in YOUR training—whether that be business, personal or physical training? Maybe you can’t see the finish line yet either. But you know that the work you’re doing matters, one step at a time. You know you should go for it, every day, because the training is setting you up for success.
And that success will be how YOU choose to define it. For me, for the 10K, it was having my family there cheering me on as I powered through. It was having my sister make me a paper plate medal to celebrate. It was finishing somewhere between 1 hour and 9 or 10 minutes, depending on who you ask. HA!
I think you should go for it, whatever IT is, and even if you’re not sure what IT will look like. Go for it even if you’re slow. Go for it even if you’re still learning. Don’t wait for the “right” moment. Get started and look at where you are in two weeks, two months, or even two years.
You’ll see a version of yourself you are proud of, because going for it changed you. It certainly changed me. <3
Last month I posted on social media to celebrate the launch of our new tech-enabled studios which can live-stream classes. It was a significant investment for our small business and so I was particularly appreciative of all the effort that went into it.
We hired a company out of Chicago that specializes technology to come to our studio and do the install. It’s a fairly complex system that takes the voice of the teacher via microphone, the music from our stereo, and the video feed from a camera and pulls all three elements through a mixer into Zoom. With the system in place, our students who are not yet comfortable coming to class in-person can have a seamless experience learning from home. It took four days (and about a billion feet of wires!) to install the systems in seven dance rooms.
After working all day to test each and every input, I asked a fellow teacher to take a picture of our installer, Tim, and me (from a safe distance) to celebrate the moment we went live.
The teacher backed up to get the best angle for the photo. I dropped my mask to my chin so I could smile, added my jazz hands, and put my mask back on. Then I shared the picture online and stayed at the studio most of the night to continue monitoring the tech launch.
There’s been a local mask mandate for several weeks now, but I’ve mandated masks for my staff for three MONTHS. Wearing a mask is no big deal for me or my staff. It’s a small thing we can do for the benefit of others and we do it gladly. Shortly after my post though, I started receiving messages expressing concern that I had my mask down in the photo … and the example that would be set for our children.
So in a quick reaction, I took that picture down. I reacted in fear of being misunderstood, and out of fear of losing business. I had already spent much of the previous week fielding calls and messages alternating between, “You’re TOO SERIOUS about all these safety precautions” and “You give TOO MUCH GRACE with your policies.” I was tired and I took the picture down out of fear.
But my action didn’t set well with my conscience. I slept on it, prayed about it, and decided to try again. I wrote a new post and included the original smiling photo, jazz hands and all.
I wrote that I was smiling after 5 months of fighting hard to create a safe environment for our students to return to.
I was smiling because we just launched another innovative solution for kids that will keep them dancing all year, even if they have to dance at home for any reason.
I was smiling because our students were coming “home” … finally. They were coming back to their second home, their place to grow and learn and express themselves, building the whole health of their bodies, hearts, and minds.
I was smiling because all of our employees still had jobs serving our dance families, and because projects like this support other small businesses too.
I was smiling because leading and teaching and coaching are all part of my calling. I get to something I love every day and I’m so very thankful for it even when it’s hard.
Reposting was important in that moment, because I wanted to be clear about my thoughts … that I wasn’t upset that people sent messages of concern. I’m always open to feedback and learning and growing. But I wanted to post as accountability to myself. I didn’t want to operate in fear. Fear of God, yes, but not fear of people’s opinions. I wanted to be clear that I am always operating in LOVE not fear.
I also think, in hindsight, it’s actually a GOOD example to our kids, especially to our young women, to work hard for something you believe in and be proud of a job well done. How special is it to exist in a world where you can live your dream and get excited about your work, every single day?
Very special! And, I’m smiling about it every day under my mask. <3
Season 23 at MDU … I could have NEVER imagined what this year would look like!
Now that we’ve gotten started with classes, I’ve had some time to reflect over the many changes we’ve implemented and what the future might hold.
Looking around the studio and seeing our staff and students back in action, I can’t help but feel a lump in my throat and a few tears in my eyes. I’m imagining where I was 23 years ago, just getting started. I’m feeling the weight of responsibility, to ensure my team has a safe place to work. I’m loving the joyful expressions I can sense under our kids’ masks, their eyes lighting up at being back in the classroom.
It is a jumble of emotions, amplified by the new normal we are living and working and learning in. But most of all, I think, I am proud of where we stand now. And not just as MDU, but as a leader to our network of More Than Just Great Dancing!® studios. Together we are all proving that it is possible to gradually, cautiously, safely dance in-person again.
Since the pandemic swept us all up in its tidal wave in the spring, we have emerged stronger than ever. It’s taken a HUGE effort and commitment by our staff and our dance families, but I believe we are here now, serving up the transformative power of dance, because of how we reacted and persevered all those months ago.
And since then, we’ve made more pivots than I can count … certainly more than I would ever choreograph!
We’ve become tech-enabled, making it possible for our students who want (or need) to continue learning from home to do so in a streamlined way.
We’ve been wearing masks, following our Safer Studio™ measures and doing our part to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
We’ve made changes to our curriculum across genres and levels, to ensure all our lessons and positive reinforcements are no-contact.
We’ve updated our facility to set up a traffic flow conducive to physical distancing, and we’ve closed certain parts of our space to avoid gatherings.
We’ve kept our employees working, and even hired new ones, including alumni! Their work has, perhaps, more meaning than ever nowadays.
We’ve opened our Third Option™ Learning Hub, supporting local families AND local schools by offering a way for kids to learn and study while their parents go back to work.
We’ve adapted our way of thinking. We know, for example, that we’ll provide meaningful performance experiences this year, even if we don’t know exactly what they’ll look like yet.
In an industry that has been turned upside down in many ways because of the pandemic, I could not be MORE PROUD of the way we are paving a path forward for our staff, students, families, and fellow dance studios. While we wouldn’t have ASKED to make so many changes, we have CHOSEN to view the future through the lens of opportunity.
Where do you see opportunity in your business these days? With as much as we entrepreneurs have been through these past several months, I believe that our personal and professional growth will continue based on our attitude and our actions.
I am grateful for another dance season to lift up our community and bring joy into our students’ lives. It may look different, but perhaps that makes it even more special. <3
I’ve shared before how proud to be at the helm of Youth Protection Advocates in Dance®, the organization founded by Leslie Scott Zanovitch. With a mission of educating dance professionals about keeping kids healthy and safe in dance, this cause is close to my heart!
As the current leader of YPAD and a champion of this mission, I have found myself standing up for some uncomfortable topics … particularly the topic of sexual abuse in dance.
It’s clear though that being uncomfortable TALKING about sex abuse is absolutely no match for the pain and lifelong anguish survivors go through … and so talking about it is a MUST. We must talk about it to prevent it, and to prevent it we must be educated. Through evidence-based research and a panel of experts in psychology, social work, law, and advocacy, YPAD is moving this mission forward every day.
Last month we held a YPAD webinar for hundreds of dance professionals, focused on understanding the nature of sexual abuse and how we can be informed allies against it, working together to prevent abuse, intervene and report when needed, and to help those affected find healing.
From Katie Gatlin, social worker and licensed professional counselor, we discussed what it means to view sex abuse prevention from a trauma-informed approach (for example, using language such as “survivor” instead of “victim” and “abuser” instead of “perpetrator”).
From Dr. Tomi-Ann Roberts, professor of psychology, we discussed the implications of our culture and media, and how our students may receive messages of objectification in their lives. We listened to her talk about just how important our artistic choices in dance are, from music and lyrics to costumes and dress code.
From Dr. Christina Donaldson, clinical psychologist, we learned about brain development and why it is essential that dance studios provide a nurturing environment in which our students can learn and literally grow.
From attorney Lisa Phelps, we discussed how to be a safe person for a child to come to, in the event they’ve experienced abuse. She advised us about best practices in listening, taking notes, and reporting suspected abuse.
From survivor and legendary choreographer Wade Robson, we learned that it’s possible to begin a process of healing after the disclosure of abuse. We listened to his profound story and understood the ripple effect we could put into action to keep kids safe.
And from founder Leslie Scott Zanovitch, we learned about the powerful combination of advocacy and education. We have to come from a place of no shame and no blame, Leslie said, and encourage survivors to give themselves self-compassion. We must understand that as dance professionals, we carry a responsibility to learn, study, and practice being an informed educator and trusted resource.
It was a compelling webinar in every sense of the word.
I’m grateful for our panelists who contributed, and for our attendees who listened and learned. And at YPAD, we knew we could do even more, so we opened up our Sexual Abuse in Dance course for FREE, which you can access through the link below.
I want to close out this post with four key resources and ways to take action:
- You can access YPAD’s FREE Sexual Abuse in Dance course here: www.ypadnow.com
- You can participate in Darkness to Light’s educational training here: www.d2l.org
- You can find support for yourself or survivors you know at RAINN: www.rainn.org or 1-866-656-HOPE (4673)
- You can advocate for children through the National Children’s Alliance: www.nationalchildrensalliage.org
Happy, healthy, and safe in dance starts with us, and it starts with these uncomfortable topics. As we know better, we do better … and we all want to do better for our kids.
With love and appreciation,
When I began More Than Just Great Dancing!® almost 10 years ago, I knew that I wanted the community to be special—a group of like-minded studio owners who had the desire to be strong business leaders; who wanted to balance life and work and not be apologetic about making a living from their passion. Women and men who weren’t just looking for answers; they were working on solutions.
What developed over time went well beyond that goal. Not only have we grown this community, we began to see its positive ripple effect out into the greater industry. I’ve watched our members become teachers and coaches to other studio owners. I’ve witnessed them bringing together business owners in their states, provinces and countries. I’ve seen what an impact our members have on their communities and neighborhoods.
It’s been incredible!
Then, when the pandemic hit, it was like the industry storm I had predicted years ago at one of our Studio Owner University® events … I had said to our attendees from our stage, “I don’t know what will happen, but one day, as an industry we’ll be faced with something BIG. And whatever that is, I want you to be as prepared as possible with a stronger, healthier business to weather the storm.”
And weather it we have. As March unfolded, our members gathered for frequent Zoom calls with me—daily briefings even, for several weeks. I began implementing new communications and messaging at my studio, sharing our triumphs and challenges with the More Than Just Great Dancing!® members and learning from them as well.
Of course, we didn’t stop there. Together with our YPAD advisors, I also held industry-wide webinars to lift up our industry and provide information about federal funding and the future of dance. Later, joined by other industry professionals and studio owners, I also organized Perspectives in Dance webinars so we could all open up the conversation about race and diversity. Then, my team and I produced INSight Magazine’s Rise + Recover edition, complete with an e-course and author Q&A.
I say all of this not to boast, but to say out loud how AMAZED I am, that the community I had in mind all those years ago, has become so much MORE than what I could have dreamed. As a group, our members are moving forward with grit and grace—each in their own direction yet with shared knowledge and the support of each other. And within the industry, we are singing our heartsong by educating and energizing; improving and encouraging.
Now here’s the best part of where we are now: We have spots in membership OPEN!
If you’ve ever thought of joining More Than Just Great Dancing!® and being a part of our community, this may be the time! You can read about our three tiers of membership here. And every level includes the following:
- Active Facebook forum—full of robust conversations, support, and file-sharing among members
- Brand affiliation—so that your clients and community can recognize your investment in a higher standard
- Safer Studio™ guidelines—to give you a framework and hierarchy of measures to plan your safety and wellness protocols
- Graphic design templates—produced by our design team for easy “plug and play” marketing
- Connection calls with me—where I bring our member industry-forward news and open up the lines for Q&A
- Pop-up webinars—tactical teachings from our Certified Coaches, who are experts in specific areas of business
- Access to our Certified Coaches—one-on-one coaching call opportunities to tackle your most pressing needs
I hope you’ll consider applying. And if it’s not for you right now, no worries! No matter what, I know we will all continue to shape this industry into one that’s better than we found it. <3
At the end of July, we held our annual Member Rally event for More Than Just Great Dancing!® … all virtual. It was like nothing I’d ever produced! Amazing doesn’t feel like a strong enough word.
Pre-pandemic, we were supposed to hold the event in Nashville. But by April this year, I knew that even if things got better quickly, there would still be questions about traveling safely, and the responsible action to take would be to cancel the in-person event and move it online. It was a tough decision but one I haven’t questioned. Especially when things DIDN’T get better quickly!
Pulling off a successful virtual conference was the result of incredible teamwork AND our members’ collective mindset to approach the event with a new attitude. They would be missing each other in person of course, but everyone agreed that with safety as the priority, the virtual event could still be chock-full of the same high-level of professional development and leadership training they were used to.
Many times throughout the event I thought, WOW, here we are—truly rallying. Rallying to support each other. Rallying to learn. Rallying to be beacons of light in our respective communities. Rallying to lead with the right perspective. Rallying to demonstrate our resilience. I mean, if anyone knows the power of bouncing back, it’s my fellow studio owners!
It was during our keynote speaker’s session that the message of resilience hit me hardest. Jason Redman, former Navy Seal and best-selling author of Overcome, shared his story of being wounded in Iraq and his thoughts on finding positivity in the face of negativity. He shared a TON of advice from his experience and at one point he said this:
“You have to find the perspective that moves you.”
What seemed like such an innocent sentence had an enormous impact—and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one feeling it. The idea that you can CHOOSE your perspective is huge. And that choice is what leads you to action; it literally moves you.
For me, finding the perspective that moves me has been about pulling back to the reasons I love my work. I love having a positive impact on studio owners’ lives by coaching them through tough decisions. I love leading my employees to achieve whatever success looks like to them. I love bringing opportunities to our dancers at the studio, even if that looks different these days. I love being a part of the industry-wide effort to keep kids healthy and safe in dance.
It’s these reasons WHY that give me my perspective and move me to action. I feel my own resilience muscles growing as I continue to dig in to all of the angles of my perspective. My perseverance, I’ve realized, doesn’t just HAPPEN. It comes from perspective.
Rallying your resilience is probably one of the biggest efforts you’ll continue to make this year. It takes choice. It takes action. So what does that mean for YOUR perspective? How are you choosing to bounce back right now? Where are you taking action?
As the start of the school year launches, I hope I can offer you some encouragement as you uncover your answers: Get back to your WHY. Think about your influence. Remember your worthiness. Honor your creativity. And above all, know you are made for this.
WE are made for this. We’ll keep rallying. We’ll keep bouncing back!
The past two weeks, I’ve been on more calls with our county and schools than I ever have before.
With thousands of students who are served by our local schools, the challenges in this continuously changing situation are daunting, to say the least! But I’ve never seen a more earnest and professional effort at collaboration for public education. I’ve never been MORE PROUD of our local schools and the solutions they’re working on for our kids.
And I see similar situations across the country with the communities of our More Than Just Great Dancing® affiliates … administrators and superintendents and teachers and parents are all grappling with what the school year can look like, trying to piece together the best ideas for their unique climates and communities. It’s clear that NO ONE would ever choose these circumstances; to be figuring out how to safely offer in-person classes, to produce a virtual learning platform, or to consider if a hybrid approach could work. No administrator or teacher wanted to navigate without a roadmap. No parent wanted to choose new learning methods for their children.
But here we are.
I’ve been thinking hard lately about how to support our local youth AND support schools to help bridge the gap some families are feeling, the ones who might see that their child won’t have the physical academic supervision they need. I’ve been thinking about how hard our schools are working to provide in-person and virtual schooling options, so they are prepared for any possibility. And I’ve been asking myself, what can WE do, at the International Performing Arts Center, at Misty’s Dance Unlimited, to be this bridge?
It occurred to me that if we have the physical space during the day (we do), we have a team willing to help (we’ve got that too), and a community with a great need (we definitely have that), then there’s no reason why we can’t structure a safe, responsible program that supports our kids’ learning. We CAN’T control so much, but we CAN be good stewards of education and create a way to support the community in more ways than one.
And with that, I’m happy to say we will be launching a week-by-week solution at Misty’s Dance Unlimited, called the Third Option™ Learning Hub. It’s a way we can support local schools by keeping enrollments in local districts and provide a safe space for kids whose parents need more options. Special educational needs will be supported by the La Crosse Area Autism Foundation, and need-based scholarships will also be available.
Let me just say, I sure didn’t launch into 2020 thinking we would open an emergency learning support center! But I can’t stand by and watch families drown in worry when I’m sitting on empty daytime classrooms, a graduate degree in education, and a surge of Northside figure-it-out inside of me.
No, it won’t be enough. No, it won’t be perfect. But I gave up perfection on March 17th, and I’m not picking it back up! What I’m chasing now is HOPE and COMMUNITY SOLUTIONS.
I want to wrap this post up with a new favorite quote of mine from Stephen R. Covey:
“Transcend traditional solutions by forging a path toward a third option. A third alternative moves beyond this way or that way to a higher and better way—a far better place than either had envisioned. With the third alternative, everyone wins.”
So I ask you this … what third alternative can you lean into? What does your community need right now, and how can you contribute to the solution? We all need each other more than ever nowadays … small business owners and school leadership and families and children. To thrive, we must work together, think together, and find solutions together.
It’s on my favorite days of the year…not because it’s about me but because it’s a day I consistently give myself permission to really slow down, think about life, who I’m becoming, how I want to show up in this world and what I want to contribute.
Last year I spent the day giving free coaching calls to studio owners.
This year I want to share some reflections with my “younger self” AND share some love with YOU!
REFLECTIONS TO MY YOUNGER SELF:
This is 45
To my TEENAGE SELF, I would say: Don’t worry about what side of town you live on, about not having the right clothes or the 20-year-old car with no paint. Real friends don’t care about your things and being a scrappy Northsider is a gift!
To my DANCER SELF, I would say: Try a new style, embrace the corrections, and forget about the mirror. Dance is a gift, don’t worry about “making it”, you’ll get where you’re supposed to be.
To my COLLEGE SELF, I would say: I know you don’t like all these classes, but you’ll never regret learning how to learn, organize, communicate. You may not become a Spanish teacher like you planned, but education is never wasted.
To my NEWLY MARRIED SELF, I would say: Put down your work, take the trip, and enjoy your time alone. It will be a long time before you can do that again.
To my YOUNG MOM SELF, I would say: Stop obsession over the parenting books and follow your gut. Your parenting might not look like your friend’s parenting, but God picked you for these children, He’s not going to let you down.
To my EARLY STUDIO OWNER SELF, I would say: It’s okay to not do all the things. Hire more great helpers sooner! And, for the love of jazz hands, go home, have dinner with your kids and take that family vacation.
To my MID-CAREER SELF, I would say: Take that chance! You can do things you’ve never done before. If you don’t know how to do it, you can learn it. And, that whole “you can sleep when you’re dead” is dumb. Get some sleep.
To my JANUARY 2020 SELF, I would say: GET READY. You are going to be stretched in new ways and in new directions, but it will make you a stronger, more compassionate leader. Don’t miss the beauty in every situation. And, if you can’t find it, CREATE it.
Here’s to a year of LESS of things that will not matter in the long run and MORE of the things that WILL… LOVE and JOY, GRACE and PEACE, FAMILY and FAITH.
This is 45 <3
NOW, SOME LOVE FOR YOU:
If you follow me here you know that I’m a studio owner of 23 years. But, I’m also the owner of More Than Just Great Dancing!® affiliated dance studios and Youth Protection Advocates in Dance. I’m also publishing the new INSight™ Magazine: Recover + Rise Edition.
I’d like to share a little LOVE to our studio owner community who have been through such an incredible journey over the last 100+ days.
To celebrate my birthday, I’m giving out $4,500 in scholarships to our programs and publications to help lift up other studio owners.
If this would help you, or you know someone who would benefit, please direct them to APPLY HERE.
I’ll be leaving this application open until the end of the week (Friday, July 10). Please fill out or share it before that time. Thanks!
Much love and support,
When I was in middle school, my Grandma Marilyn helped my family by paying for my extra dance lessons.
In high school, my dance teacher and some school teachers pitched in with special opportunities.
And my college career was funded primarily by scholarships … and teaching dance. 🙂
I think it’s fair to say that many of us studio owners and teachers were the recipients of SOME kind of helping hands or scholarships during our training and education. Without this kind of generosity, the dance world wouldn’t be what it is! And we would not be able to reach the kids who may need dance at a crucial time in their lives.
So when I started Misty’s Dance Unlimited in 1999, providing need-based scholarships was a top priority.
Today, our Chance to Dance Foundation supports classes for the Boys & Girls Club, kids in foster care, kids with special needs, and families with financial needs, job loss, or other hardships. This foundation exists to stand in the gap for kids.
It probably goes without saying that in our current times, scholarships will be MORE IMPORTANT than ever before. The uncertainty that the pandemic has pressed upon families is like something we’ve never experienced.
Usually, I donate my speaking fees as a way to fund our Chance to Dance Foundation, but as you can imagine, the speaking gigs have dried up and I haven’t been to an airport in three months. What used to be a reliable way to ensure the foundation was fueled up for scholarship funds is no longer something we can count on.
A couple of weeks ago, I was wracking my brain while running with the dogs, trying to think of what else I could do to keep this program going. And then it hit me … RUNNING!
So please consider this a formal invitation to join me for the First Annual Virtual TUTU FUN RUN, a 2.2 mile fun run to support the Chance to Dance Foundation!
You can run it, walk it, bike it, skate it … we don’t care which way you get those 2.2 miles in! Just sign up with a $22 donation, download your race bib, and do your miles in a TUTU between June 22 and July 22! (You know the tutu MAKES the experience, right!?)
And of course, don’t forget to post a picture tagging #TutuFunRun and #ChanceToDanceFoundation to win some fun prizes!
I hope this is something you could do to have fun with your family AND help kids in need. It really doesn’t get much better than that. <3
Please feel free to share this with your friends and dance community so that we can do MORE good for MORE kids during this challenging chapter in life. We all know just how transformative dance can be for a child, and this is a way we can bring that positive impact to as many families as possible.
You can SIGN UP HERE to join in the fun from anywhere in the world!
Thank you for considering it!
All right, fellow business owners, maybe you can relate to this …
Last week I had to REMEMBER to have fun.
Yes, I actually had to tell myself, Hey, it’s OK to stop working for a hot mint and just hang out with the family🙂
It was my son Max’s birthday and we wanted to celebrate and have fun as a family. And we did! Complete with a pretty awesome basketball cake made my his Grandma Karen.
But I’ll be honest, after more than 80 days of working around the clock in my businesses, I’ve lost some of my other life skills, like relaxation and fun and play. Fighting for your livelihood, putting so much fuel into that passionate work, will certainly build some serious business chops. But it can also make you feel a little weird trying to downshift a bit into a more “normal” gear.
If this resonates with you, know that you are not alone!
From what the business owners I coach have shared, they have been feeling this way just like I have. It’s like we don’t even remember what it’s like NOT to work constantly. It’s a similar feeling to when you first opened your business and the grind feels never-ending. The pandemic has made so many of us feel like we are building our businesses all over again. And, many of us actually were.
And yet, we can’t forget that in order to do our best FOR our business, we have to take a timeout occasionally.
Even if your business is your passion like mine is, it’s still okay to remind yourself that downtime is valuable too. Necessary, in fact. Your family needs it. YOU need it!
At first, it felt strange to me to try to focus solely on a fun day with my family. But it was strange in a wonderful way … a way that reminded me just how special (and important) it is to have these quality moments with my kids. Moments where they don’t have to hear me telling them to keep the noise level down because I’m heading into another Zoom meeting one more time.
Normally, I would say I’m pretty good at blocking time, but it’s been exponentially harder during these past three months. And, there were times when “safer-at-home” felt more like “busier-at-home”. Fun wasn’t always at the top of my priority list when there was homework to be completed, laundry to be done, and meals to be made, all organized around the endless business meetings!
And that’s why last night was SO great for us. Not just that we had dedicated time together as a family, or that we had fun watching Max blow out his candles and open presents, it was that it made me remember how meaningful this kind of time is … and how fast it goes. I mean, how on earth did my fourth kiddo turn into a thirteen-year-old?
YES, I had to go all-in on the business during these past many, many weeks. But now? It’s time to restore time to my family, in whatever pockets of time I can find. Scratch that…in the pockets of time that I MAKE.
I encourage you to pull back from your business enough to see what YOUR needs are and where you are able to put down the work. Give yourself a break. Focus on fun. Do something relaxing. Maybe it’s a birthday party; maybe it’s a weekend bike ride. Maybe it’s game night. Whatever it is, make it count!
Be as intentional with your FUN as you are your work and reap the rewards: Your mind will feel clearer and your body less tense. It may feel weird at first to unplug but do it anyway. And enjoy every second. <3
A couple weeks ago I posted a message on Facebook that I had to restart several times before I could come up with the words I wanted to say.
I’m still not sure I got it right…or that there is a right way to process. The post was a reflection on race … a response to the racial injustices that have been happening in America.
Why is it so difficult to find the right words, particularly around the topic of race, particularly right now?
Because I understand there is a big difference between empathy and first-hand experience.
Because while my mother-heart breaks with George Floyd’s family, I have not lost a child to violence, nor have I had fear for my child as he walks down the street.
Because while at times I have felt alone and unseen as a woman in business or felt discounted because of my background, I do not carry the tiredness that comes with decades, or rather centuries, of fighting for opportunity.
Because while some have wondered whether or not I could make it in college or as a business owner, my skin color likely was never a factor in that doubt.
Because as a dancer, I recognize that many of our dancers of color have actually CREATED many aspects of the table I get to sit as a white woman in arts.
Because I am covered in a privilege I didn’t earn and my heart is breaking about things I haven’t actually experienced.
Because as I’m watching the frustration boil over in our country, and it has made me realize again that I can do better. I can be better. I can be a better ally.
I can learn about the people and the lives behind the names on the signs, names that represent real people, families, communities. I can have better conversations with my kids. I can be a better listener to my friends and peers. I can make a wider table starting with my business.
To start, I gathered our More Than Just Great Dancing® members online last week to listen and learn from our studio owners of color. The stories they shared of their individual experiences in dance were both wrenching and inspiring. Some of them wept. I did too.
Their voices are VITAL and their experiences are IMPORTANT. Here is a small sample of what they shared. If we don’t understand our friends and colleagues and communities better, how can we BE better?
Let those of us who are white not be fragile. Let us be better. Better as individuals. Better as communities.
I believe we can. We can and we MUST.
I’m planning to host another industry-wide conversation on Monday, June 15th at 1pm. If you are a dancer, dance teacher, studio owner, or leader in the dance industry, you are invited. Reserve your space at: https://bit.ly/PerspectiivesinDance
I hope to see you there.
Back in mid-March I sat with my head in my hands.
We were in the middle of a “three week” school closure and I was watching dance competitions state by state “call it” as counties and cities around the countries lowered their assembly size limits.
At Misty’s Dance Unlimited, we had already transitioned our classes online, but I was looking out FURTHER. I was doing the “recital math” eight weeks out. The CDC had just put out a recommendation to keep assembly sizes under 10 until May 8th. Our recital was scheduled to be the weekend of May 15-17… just one week after that precarious date.
I knew that NOBODY was ready for the big event to be canceled, but I also knew there was NO WAY we were going to go from assembly sizes of 10 to an audience of 1,000. There was simply no way.
So eight weeks out from the recital, I did the unthinkable for a studio owner. I canceled all of our shows and started “re-imagining recital” from the ground up.
I never thought I would be in such a position. Like nearly all other small business owners I know, I was having to make decisions about things that had never even crossed my mind … ever.
Fast forward to now, and just a few weeks ago we wrapped up our season with a week of Virtual Recitals. Our families blew it out of the water! From special DIY backdrops to congratulatory cookie cakes, they went all out celebrating their children and this phenomenally challenging time.
Last week, we did another new thing by launching our Red Carpet Recital Experiences … “Personal Recitals” where every child is the STAR! We put on all the trimmings of a traditional show including a stage, photos, music, lights, teachers, and backdrops, plus ACTUAL red carpets and celebration treats! And on the first day, we did it 36 times!
Our team, led by Miss Shayna on this project, has absolutely knocked it out of the park. Like home run after home run.
No, it’s not our normal SIX recitals. It was more like 300.
300 personal, special, movie-star level recitals. And we would set it all up again even if it were just for ONE kiddo. Because every kid IS a star!
In mid-March, I couldn’t have fathomed what a virtual recital would be like, let alone personal red carpet recital experiences. As we dipped into the soup of uncertainty and the possibilities seemed to crumble all around us, I found myself wondering what in the world we could possibly do if there wasn’t a traditional recital. I couldn’t have pictured the absolute JOY of watching our students be celebrated in these unique ways … and now that it’s here, I can’t picture anything else!
I have so much GRATITUDE for our MDU students, parents, and staff who have made every pivot turn with me on this journey. The adventure continues, but for now, it feels amazing to have reached the point where our dancers have finished strong and proven what superstars they are.
Whatever your “wrap-up” is right now, I hope it’s giving you the same clarity: This chapter is complete and now it’s time for the next one. If we can get through what we’ve gotten through these past few months, we can get through anything. <3
When we had to shift plans for this year’s More Than Just Great Dancing® Member Rally to become an all-digital event, I knew that our keynote speaker would have to be someone who could be the ultimate inspiration.
We needed someone who could tell a story of hope and survival, someone who could remind us that, if we keep the right perspective, there are truly no such things as bad days.
There have been times during this pandemic where being a business owner feels like being on a battlefield … and I mean that with no disrespect to the military who face actual battlefields. But metaphorically, we have seen so many entrepreneurs fighting for their businesses, their employees, and their livelihoods.
Overcome became the word in my head; what I thought our theme for Member Rally should be. That as a group we will overcome, as an industry we will overcome, and as HUMANS we will overcome.
So who would be fitting of this theme and this motivation? Who could shine a light for us?
I had to look no further than Jason Redman, a retired Navy SEAL lieutenant whose extraordinary journey took him through failure and injury and disappointment but evolved into a story of redemption and leadership. His book, Overcome, shares his philosophy about using crisis to rebuild and thrive. And, well, it couldn’t be more perfect for the inspiration we need!
And it isn’t just the inspiration WE need at More Than Just Great Dancing®. I believe that the lessons from Jason’s book are relevant to ALL studio owners, and really, business owners of all kinds. Because HOPE is truly what we all need right now. It takes guts for anyone to start a business, but it takes an extra measure of “hope + strategy” to keep going when your business has to take on a pandemic environment.
Hope, along with strategy, is needed everywhere. As entrepreneurs, we need the HOPE that we can overcome this situation AND we need ideas to implement. We need the HOPE that our businesses can come out stronger AND we need a framework to follow.
HOPE drives us through difficult situations.
HOPE keeps us from giving up.
HOPE allows us to say to our children, “There’s MORE than meets the eye right now.”
Jason brings hope, plus strategy and framework.
His story has reminded me that if we have hope, we can do the hard work that’s needed for our businesses to overcome. We can see that even with uncertainty, there’s room for progress.
I’m certain that to overcome, we not only have to shift our mindset, but we also have to embrace the reality of where we are: That this IS a challenging time. That there are no easy answers that fit everyone’s business the same way. But also, that there is so much OPPORTUNITY to rise up and do better for ourselves, our families, our businesses, and our communities.
If you, like me, have needed a boost in this perspective, I can’t recommend Jason’s book enough. If he can overcome, if he can have hope, then so can we. <3
Even more, let’s have HOPE together. We can build a stronger dance community with forward-thinking, linked arms, and grateful hearts … and enough hope to carry us through to the next adventure.
If there is anything new I’ve learned this past week or so, it’s how much appreciation I have for PEOPLE.
Whether it’s online, seeing our students shine in their Virtual Recital Experience, or it’s in person, seeing their smiling faces waving from a distance during our MDU Car Parade, it’s the PEOPLE who make all the difference. My soul feels uplifted in the best way possible!
I know I’m not alone among studio owners who would say this isn’t what we pictured when we thought about what this spring would look like.
We didn’t picture an empty building.
We didn’t picture classes via Zoom.
We didn’t picture storytimes online.
We didn’t picture waving at our students from the parking lot, just to say hello and we love you.
It’s not what I would have chosen, but there have been SO many gifts during this experience. Like how amazing it is to see our studio parents encouraging their kids … sometimes even dancing with them! And how awesome it is to see an outpouring of support for our staff, for the long hours and hard work they have put into working and teaching from home.
But I think the biggest gift we are seeing right now is the SPIRIT and LOVE coming from our students.
They are the little heroes, showing up and bringing their contagious energy to their classmates and their teachers. They are proving that perseverance thrives in a positive mindset.
Usually, at this time of year, I’m high-fiving and hugging my way through the backstage area at our recital performances. It is a time of sheer joy; a time that not only fuels ME up, but that fuels up our dancers and sparks their passion.
Not having this “normal” experience is strange for all of us, but I don’t want that strangeness to overshadow the greatness that our kids are showing right now. I am prouder than ever to see our students fuel up on what IS possible, even though it looks different than what we’d all pictured. To see them flourish, to see their greatness shining through the computer screens and the social media posts and the car parades. Their sense of community, of belonging, and of confidence is good for the soul … for mine, for their family’s, and for theirs.
It has made me realize how, as dancers and performing artists, we have to answer this calling in our soul; this innate feeling to perform. Younger or older, less experienced or more, we all have this itch to be scratched, this goal to fulfill.
Our dancers are fueling up differently this year, making new types of memories that a year ago we couldn’t have imagined. But DIFFERENT doesn’t have to be bad, and NEW doesn’t have to be scary. You just have to have the right perspective to see that it works!
As far as I’m concerned, what’s good for the soul is also good for the heart. I could not be more thankful for our PEOPLE than I am right now. Our kids and their families are what strengthen our community and make it possible to build such meaningful relationships. Our souls aren’t fueled on dance alone; they’re fueled by the connections we have to each other.
Today and every day forward, I have a refreshed appreciation for these connections. Now, my question to you is this: What connections – what PEOPLE – are you feeling grateful for? Do they know how you feel?
If you haven’t told them yet, do it today. Do it soon. We can all use a little more love and appreciation to fuel up with. It’s good for the soul. <3
It was twenty-three years ago that I put an ad in the classified section of the La Crosse Tribune announcing I was opening my studio, Misty Averill’s Dance Unlimited (yes, that’s actually what it’s called :).
There were no websites, cell phones, Google, email, or text marketing campaigns. It was just a two-inch classified ad inviting families to learn more about my new studio in Onalaska, along with a photo of me, taken by Bob Zettler of Design Photography in Onalaska, WI.
Since there was no Facebook to refresh for updated reactions, every day I sat on the steps of the duplex on the Northside where I lived with my dad, looking for the mailman to arrive. Waiting, waiting, waiting for that mail to come.
DAYS went by and no mail came. I went through the motions of the days stuck in the unknown, wondering.
Then one day, as I was rushing down the stairs to get to class at the University of Wisconsin La Crosse, I saw it! An envelope with my name on it that a DANCE PARENT had tucked into our back door. Inside was our first registration!
I wept. I couldn’t help myself. I had big, fat tears of gratitude.
Last week I cried again when I saw that we got our first registration for our 23rd season of “More Than Just Great Dancing®” at MDU!
Tears of hope. Tears of thankfulness and joy.
I honestly hadn’t even recognized in myself how much I was holding my breath again, waiting for that sign of hope … just like I had been twenty-three years ago on those porch steps.
I realized at that moment, there are really two options for small businesses who are committed to getting through this crisis in our business lives:
You can choose to survive, meaning you can eke by with the same mindset, same systems, same expectations as before.
Or you can choose to thrive, opening up MORE opportunities for innovation, community, service, and growth.
Either option entails the unknown. But choosing to thrive means everything is on the table; it means you can fix the broken things in your business, nurture the things that are flourishing, and develop resilience for the NEXT situation that will test your operations.
With that registration last week, I knew I could choose for MDU to thrive. It gave me the hope I needed to know that my instincts were right; that we CAN get through this, with adaptations to our business model, with the support of our community, and because of those who have confidence in our programs.
So THANK YOU to the teachers and parents who made it possible for us to open back in those early days, and THANK YOU to those who are making it possible for us to open our facility again now, whenever it is we can safely do so. Our building may be closed but the business is OPEN!
Choosing to thrive may not be the easy decision right now, for any kind of business, but the easy decisions are not always right, and the right decisions are not always easy. <3
My encouragement to you is this: If you ARE a small business owner, choose to thrive. Choose to view this time as an opportunity. If you KNOW a small business owner and you want them to be here when this is over, take a minute and pay forward some hope. Make a call, send a card, buy a gift card, hit their drive-through, or book a service for whenever they might open again. Small business is half of our economy and 100% heart.
We can all do more than survive. With each other, we can thrive!
If there’s anything new I’ve learned this past week it is this: There is a paradox in our experiences right now; a duality of the difficult and the beautiful.
I’m learning that we can be both sad and grateful at the same time. We can be both disappointed and hopeful, worried and confident. Whatever the feelings, they can be felt together and apart.
My daughter, Isabella, tore her ACL earlier this year, and we were sad that she had to be dropped off alone for surgery last week. But I was also happy she was finally able to GET the surgery, which had been delayed for almost two months. I’m disappointed that she has to defer her dance training in L.A. for a year, and yet thankful to have her home with us for a year of recovery and teaching at the studio.
I’m tired of telling my kids that I don’t know how to do fifth-grade math or seventh-grade tech or high school Google Classroom. I’m also beyond appreciative of the teachers that take those questions ALL day long from ALL of their students. They’ve also done Facetime, sent emails, and snail-mail letters of encouragement – all bright spots in what seems like an endlessly gray time.
I’m worried about the endless brand-new logistics of pivoting to virtual and in-person recitals (where we will serve one student at a time). And I’m grateful too, for a team who is willing to go the extra mile to celebrate our students as they finish the season strong.
I’m grieving with the senior students for whom this is not just the end of the school year, but it’s the end of their dance journey with our studio. Yet I’m confident that they will take the time to process these losses and shine as an example of resilience.
I’m concerned about what opening up our businesses and schools will look like this fall, and still optimistic that we will come out of this stronger as a community.
I’m wondering about finishing construction on a second location this year, but I’m also committed to the positive impact we can bring to the Boys and Girls Club as our community partner.
I’m distressed by the continued loss of lives and livelihoods, and still hopeful for future innovations in medicine and wellness … developments I know experts around the world are devoted to.
This list could go on and on, but you get the idea.
Yes, it’s POSSIBLE to be sad, worried, grieving, tired, concerned, wondering, distressed AND be thankful, confident, appreciative, optimistic, committed, and hopeful. It’s also NORMAL.
That’s the way we were made – wired by our Creator as complex individuals with complex emotions. It makes sense that this duality of feelings would be more present than ever now, as we cope with what’s uncertain and what’s known; what’s out of our control, and what’s possible.
It is a reminder that it’s OK to give each other grace. It’s OK to feel upset that we’re in this situation … and still love our neighbors. It’s OK to have ups and downs. It’s OK to ask for help.
It’s in these times that I am personally leaning into my faith. My faith in others and my faith in the ONE who can do more than I can … the ONE who holds the future.
The verse below, in particular, speaks to the deepest part of me right. No matter your beliefs, maybe it speaks to you too:
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding. Acknowledge Him in all your ways, and He will make your paths straight.”
May we all lean into the paradox of our feelings and the trust when we may not understand.
I hope this encourages you today. <3
Last week when I walked into my office to work, I felt a little down. Here I was again. Alone.
It’s the way it needs to be but it didn’t tug at my heart any less.
I know many of you know the feeling.
Standing silent by the coffee pot, I noticed that even the plant by the window seemed a little down. I missed the friendly chatter of my co-workers and the energy of dance that fuels our workday. I missed walking past their offices to wish them a good morning.
Slowly I walked down the hallway, hoping the webinar I was about to record would make someone feel less isolated, that the messages I’m bringing will be the connection that helps someone get through their day a little easier. Then I opened the door to my office, turned on the light, and tears sprung out of my eyes like that crying face emoji!
The wall behind my desk was covered in paper hearts … each heart a different studio color, handwritten with encouraging words from my team. Gratitude washed over my soul as I wiped my eyes. SO MUCH gratitude!
You see, words are my love language. It meant the world to me to see those hearts; I literally felt uplifted. And the timing of it all! A gift of encouragement right when I really needed it. And it made me realize: The transformative power of words—much like dance—can make ALL the difference.
If ever there was a time when we could FEEL that transformative power of words, it is now, during this pandemic.
What we say and how we say it … it’s as though our words carry more weight now because we are typing more, writing more, video chatting more, calling more. Because we are missing some of the face-to-face cues we would normally have in conversation, the words themselves matter even more than ever. Because we are entrenched in an ever-changing feed of news and social media and memes, the words we give each other mean something MORE, something BIGGER.
I believe that words of encouragement may indeed be our new economy, and a way to pay it forward in a continuous loop. I think EVERYONE needs that extra word of encouragement.
What a gift it is that you can spirit someone along with your words. What a gift to hold in your heart and then give away!
To my team: THANK YOU! You are like family, and I am fighting for you, for us, for our dancers, for the industry! Thank you for taking the time to create something meaningful for me.
To my readers: THANK YOU! You are persevering and pivoting like no one else. Your positive impact on dance and business WILL be felt. Thank you for flexing your muscles and creativity to do the work required so we can all get stronger together.
So here’s my last thought for today: Who can you lift up right now with your words? Who can receive your currency of encouragement and pay it forward?
Now go transform someone’s day with your WORDS. <3
With appreciation & love,
One of my mentors, Dave Liniger, spoke to our More Than Just Great Dancing® members this week, and of all the wisdom he shared, this piece hit me hard.
I mean like a kick in the pants and a kickstart to the heart:
He said to us, “Your resilience is being tested right now. You must get scrappy. You became an entrepreneur for a reason, so stay in the game for that reason. How can you tap into that passion and get scrappy?”
I’ve known Dave for several years now, and I’m used to his no-nonsense talk. A Vietnam veteran and the co-founder of RE/MAX, Dave has the kind of professional and personal experiences that have made him skilled yet down-to-earth; accomplished yet humble. I have immense respect for his brutal honesty and his business insights.
Which is why the particular advice he gave last week was a HUGE reminder to me, and to our affiliated studio owners. It was like an immediate wake-up call that we have to use our PAST experience to inform our NEW experience.
And so what DOES it mean to get scrappy? For some of you, it’s been a while since you first built your business; since you first had that dream and worked to make it a reality. Now your world has changed, but that dream probably hasn’t.
My interpretation of what Dave said is this:
- You have to get creative.
- You have to change your mindset from “crisis mode” to “connection mode.”
- You have to innovate new solutions.
- You have to get proactive.
- You have to get a little (or a lot) uncomfortable.
- You have to be willing to learn new things.
- You have to remember your why.
Just like we teach our dancers, resilience is a muscle. And our resilience muscles are getting the workout of a lifetime right now. I don’t think doing business during a pandemic was on anyone’s vision board, and yet this is where we are and what we must persevere through!
So here’s my advice to go with Dave’s: Dig back into your passion. Think about why you started your business. Look at the lives you’re transforming through dance. Your business can still evolve while remaining true to your founding principles. You can adapt when you have the WILL to get scrappy again.
I think being scrappy has a lot to do with your decisions. You decide to take your dance classes online. You decide to make a Plan B and Plan C and Plan D for your recital. You decide to revamp your fall schedule to accommodate staggered times or smaller class caps or the possibility of a permanent live-streaming back up. You decide to serve your community because your community wants (and needs) you to keep showing up!
Your scrappiness brought you to this moment in your business, and it will help you get to the next chapter too. You’ve been through hard things—and this won’t be the last hard thing—but you have the potential to get to the other side with a stronger, more efficient business.
If I know one thing, it’s that I was called to do the work I’m doing now. I feel an almost tangible pull to lead and teach and coach—to help others pull through this time. I’m betting you might feel the same way about your business. Would you join me in reframing this moment, this adversity, into an opportunity to serve?
Zone in. Be passionate. Use your gifts and get ready to bounce!
To dreams and to scrappiness!
I have had moments during these past three weeks where I thought I could literally FEEL the worry crowding into my thoughts.
One look at a press conference (or at the school closures) and it would feel like my brain was slowing down and my heart was being squeezed by stress.
I imagine you’ve probably felt moments like that too. You can’t help but feel a sense of overwhelm, especially when the events of the world are out of your control.
But, then the other day I saw a graphic that illustrated this perfectly. There were two circles, one inside the other. The outer circle included a multitude of things you might be concerned by, but that are out of your control: news reports, other people’s opinions, past mistakes, circumstances, the weather … you get the idea.
The inner circle, by contrast, included only things you can control, like your actions, attitude, ideas, choices, and responses.
I stared at this circle and immediately felt relief. Because of course I can only control what I can control! I just needed a reminder.
Maybe you do too?
It’s pretty easy right now to get stuck worrying about things that are out of your control. You can’t control COVID-19 and its effects on our world. You can’t control school or venue closures. You can’t control the economy, your government funding application status, or your child’s attitude about homework. So why not focus on what you CAN control?
I made myself a list and thought it might help you too:
- I can limit my time watching the news.
- I can decide to spend time with my son building a fort.
- I can go on a daily walk or run with the dogs.
- I can give as much as I can for as many as I can.
- I can check on my staff.
- I can have some quiet time for prayer and reading God’s word.
- I can check on my family members.
- I can think creatively about solving challenges for my business.
- I can do laundry (oh, the laundry!).
- I can plan the ways we’ll come out of this situation stronger.
It would be too easy for anyone to throw in the towel now and say, I can’t control this crisis. I give up. If you have felt that way at any point, my encouragement to you is this:
No, you can’t control this crisis…and maybe you’re not supposed to.
Maybe, instead, you were designed to persevere. To check-in with yourself and your family. To run your business with more efficiency and innovation. To prove that giving up is something you can choose not to do because that is one decision that IS in your control.
I believe we can all be informed by the news and yet refuse to be paralyzed it. I think we can accept this pandemic as a reality and still serve and support with an eye to the future. I know we can be an example for our kids of what it looks like to be challenged and still react with grit and grace.
My intent here is to emphasize that there ARE choices all around us, even when it feels like there aren’t. The situation we’re all in isn’t trivial by any means. But I do believe it’s a challenging time that is surmountable. Dance studio owners are some of THE most creative people on earth, and here we are adapting to a “new normal,” using our artistic abilities to keep the joy of dance alive in the hearts of our students.
Focus on what you can control, friends.
Keep making a positive impact. Your business is worth it. YOU are worth it.
You might remember that last spring I took up running, and since then, I’ve run a handful of 5k races.
These days, my favorite type of run to go on is the one that’s just two miles—for me, it’s just enough to clear my mind… and get me back in time to tackle crisis emails and calls.
I’m not sure if I’ll ever be a marathon-level runner, because I love these short runs. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say that the past two weeks of work haven’t FELT like a marathon! And I know I’m not alone.
I was thinking about this when I went out the other morning. It felt like it took all my energy just to jog through the first quarter mile. I literally felt like I was dragging my feet!
During that first stretch, I thought of every excuse to stop and get in the car and go home. It was windy; my knees hurt; I was tired from not sleeping for what has felt like weeks; my pace was slow.
You get the picture.
I had made ALL that effort to get out there in the first place and here I was, thinking of excuses to stop. So I found myself in pep-talk mode. I told myself, OK, this feels hard right now. So stop thinking about how hard it is and just do it. Put one foot in front of the other. Move forward. Keep going. Keep going. Keep going.
Finishing the two miles, I had a sense of relief—not just in the stopping (though that felt good!) but in the perseverance to get through the hard part into the satisfaction of going the distance. Past that first quarter-mile when I wanted to give up.
I believe it’s natural for all of us business owners to feel like we’ve put in a TON of effort over the past two weeks. We have, at times, felt like the weight of the world rested on our shoulders. The marathon of our current health crisis has thrown us all into that feeling that we’ll never get out of this; that it’s simply too hard. You might have been feeling that lag, just like I did in my run.
But it’s just because you’re in the first quarter-mile too.
You have to keep going because the big picture of your business depends on YOU getting to the finish line of this crisis. Getting through this early hard part of uncertainty might be THE hardest part. Sure, the rest may not be easy, but you’ll have proven to yourself you can withstand the doubts and the metaphorical sore knees.
You’ll see for yourself that you CAN do this.
I do know it will be important to plug in some time to rest. You cannot run a marathon without regard to your own physical and mental health. You need time with your spouse, your kids, your parents, your friends—virtually speaking, in some cases, but still vital.
So find the quiet moments to watch a show, play a game, or catch up on some reading. Find ways to take care of yourself with decent food and exercise. Seek the places where you can put your hands on love and gratitude.
For me, I lean into my faith. I lean into something bigger than myself; something more profound. And through that quietude and my relationship with God, I find the energy I need to push through each new quarter-mile into the remainder of the run. The marathon of this crisis may be long, but it won’t last forever.
Be encouraged that you can get through the hard stuff. Get past that first quarter-mile and keep going, keep going, keep going. You can do it. I believe in you!
There’s a forested area not far from my home, a former park, where I often take refuge when I need some quiet space to walk the dogs and calm my mind.
It’s a place I can walk through at any time, even at weird hours, and keep my social distance while still getting some exercise. Often when I’m there, I pray out loud. I ask God what our next steps are; where He sees my place in the world.
The other day I went to this park with our dogs, Stella and Jake, and the day was beautiful. The sun was out, the wind was low, and we walked over the familiar rolling land together, looking through the trees and picking up the occasional stick (well, Jake did – not me!).
I took that same walk one night afterward and it wasn’t so beautiful. I didn’t know exactly where to step (even though I had my flashlight and left the lights on in my car) and at one point, I even thought this one tree was a person. I actually screamed out loud!
Why was that? I KNOW this park! I walk there all the time.
It’s because it was dark.
I was doing the same one-mile loop I always do, but at nighttime in this forested area, everything seemed completely different.
It was the EXACT same walk I take in the light. But when the sun’s out, I’m in control. I can see the upcoming twists and turns in the path. I can see the sticks in our way. I can see that the trees are trees and not people! I can feel exhilarated while walking because I get excited about wherever we go next, whether we stay on this path or move over to that one. When I can see, the challenges make the walk fun and give it life.
Those exact same challenges in the dark were downright scary … I mean, HELLO! I screamed at a tree!
But this is where a lot of us are right now, as business owners. Our visibility has changed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t light.
It may feel like you are walking in the dark and can’t find the path you’re supposed to be on. YET what you are doing now is exactly what you’ve always been doing as a studio owner: you are responding to the environment; you’re making a new path; you are marketing, communicating, packaging, delivering, and iterating as you go.
You are TRYING, DOING, and FIXING. And then repeating the process to BUILD what your clients need.
You know how to do this. You know this road. It just happens to be a dark road right now.
And so you have to slow your pace and be a little bit more observant. You have to do a bit more careful planning-focusing on faith over fear. But you KNOW how to walk on this path. You’ve walked it before when you began your business and you can do it again. We can ALL do it and we can do it alongside each other.
We will persevere through the dark. The light will come.
And so I’m sending YOU a little extra light today and an extra measure of faith. This too shall pass and we will grow again. Together.
Friends and fellow studio owners, I wanted to share with you a revelation I had earlier this week about faith during hard times.
No matter where you fall on the spirituality spectrum, I think we can all agree that right now is a time that requires FAITH.
The definition of faith is this: “Being sure of what you hope for and certain of what you do not see.”
Now, allow me to be so bold as to say that the definition of faith I shared above sounds EXACTLY like what we need right now. We want to be sure of what we hope for (that we can get through this) and be certain that we can get to the other side (even though we can’t see it yet).
My questions are these: how can YOU choose to have FAITH instead of FEAR? How can you operate in a spirit of power, love, and a sound mind? How can you avoid being sucked into the spirit of fear and instead stand in grace?
I think that first we have to consider what fear looks like. For me, it looks like the 24/7 news loop of network TV. It looks like trying to figure out how to keep my staff employed and the mortgage paid. It looks like people ransacking the stores for supplies. For me, right now, it also looks like having five kids at home for an undetermined amount of time!
BUT. Back to the questions.
What does power, love, and a sound mind look like instead?
Well, POWER looks like your friends, family, neighbors, and fellow business owners. It looks like many different people in their own unique situations building a raft out of different types of logs.
LOVE looks like the way people are generously stepping up to solve problems. It looks like communities coming together to feed kids who need those free lunches at school, businesses offering extra tools and resources to those who are working from home, and industry leaders saying, “How can we help?”
A SOUND MIND looks like focusing on what we CAN do instead of all that we can’t. And friends … we can do a lot.
To stand in grace and cover others with it requires faith. And that’s exactly what we can do right now. We can choose to know the facts and then choose to take one step at a time moving forward. We can choose to create unconventional solutions and lead our studios with courage in the face of unknown outcomes.
We can choose faith.
We may be in uncharted waters, each with a slightly different method of paddling. But this river flows just one way. It’s up to us to have faith in where it takes us and that with the right resources at our fingertips, we can have confidence in the ride.
Wishing you a faith-filled week in the spirit of all these things and more.
I recently attended a servant leadership seminar led by Jim Hunter, author of The Servant.
It was an event funded by my mentor Dave Skogen, and offered free to the community—an opportunity I could not pass up, especially because Dave extended the invite! I think there were around 800 people at Viterbo University for the seminar that day, all eager to hear Jim speak.
Jim had some amazing knowledge to share about leadership, as I knew he would. But there was one highlight that really hit home for me and has stuck in my mind since that day.
It was about honesty.
Jim first talked about the importance of honesty as a virtue and character trait for leadership; he asked us if we agreed that honesty was important and if we considered ourselves to be honest people. Pretty much everyone in the room raised their hands and nodded. Then he put a different spin on it.
He said, in so many words, that if there are issues in your business, relationships or family, and you don’t address them, you are not being honest. You’re being deceitful. Plain and simple. You’re not being honest if you’re letting problems occur without also thinking and acting on solutions; without addressing those needs and holding yourself—or others—accountable.
I paused after I heard this. Like punch-in-the-gut paused.
I realized that if I’m honest, I’m not actually being honest.
I recognized in that moment that although my default sweet spot is to be in the cheerleader role at my business, but I can only really BE in that role if I commit to accountability as well. I can still cast the vision and lead us to our goals—but only if I’m willing to be honest about the places where we miss the mark and address them.
Every business has problems, issues, breakdowns and challenges. We’d be kidding ourselves to think otherwise! But as Jim reminded me, being honest about our problems is a necessary part of being a leader. We want to be solving better problems faster by being honest about what needs to be achieved.
So I’m encouraging you to do exactly what I’m planning to do now:
Take those problem-solving opportunities that might be overdue, take responsibility, and hold the right people accountable in those areas of the business. Explain, kindly, that to make progress, those gaps have to close. Ask for solutions and ideas too. I like to tell my people that I’m all ears in ALL CAPS! We can be fighting better battles and solving better problems, if we move the biggest rocks in front of us first.
Not only does this approach improve your leadership, according to Jim, it opens the door for more communication. It models for your team what real honesty looks like. And it brings your business closer to its goals.
Jim’s talk was something I needed to hear, and now I hope it’s something YOU needed to hear too. If you think about it, honesty has much more depth to it than what meets the eye, and this is a perfect example of that. So be honest with yourself. Be honest with your people. Don’t be afraid to address a problem; be empowered instead. Open up and own it … and keep moving forward!
With a knack for making connections and a talent for business, my longtime friend Susan Epstein is making BIG things happen in the dance industry.
For as long as I’ve known her, Susan has had a vision for the dance community that never fails to inspire me to want to do MORE!
Let me explain.
Susan and I first met about eight years ago, when she was working for Curtain Call Costumes and I had just founded More Than Just Great Dancing!®. We were hosting our first Studio Owner University® and I interviewed with Susan to see if it would be a good fit for Curtain Call to attend and sponsor. It turned out to be the start of a BEAUTIFUL partnership we enjoy with Curtain Call that continues to this day.
Since then, Susan and I have kept in touch, and I’ve continued to follow her journey in awe.
Susan is now the Producing Director of Group Study at Gibney Dance in New York City, and among the many other projects she leads, she coordinates the College and Career Fair for the Chicago National Association of Dance Masters.
Let me just say that I consider Susan to be THE stalwart supporter of bridging the gap between the dance studio world and the academic world, and this is what inspires me so much: It’s like she can see into the future, almost as if she can visualize what our students need before they even know they need it!
Take her position at Gibney Dance, for example.
Through Susan’s vision, the Group Study program offerings include an array of customizable classes and workshops, all designed to give high school and college students the opportunity to go deeper into their dance education. Our students at MDU have traveled to Gibney for this very reason … to illuminate the broader dance world and spark confidence in the possibilities that await them.
Similarly, at the College and Career Fair for CNADM, Susan has created an environment that both inspires and educates dancers and their parents. In addition to audition classes for various college dance programs, there are discussion panels to open up conversations about admissions and applications, about careers in the arts, and about post-grad work. It’s a weekend that quite literally changes the lives of some of these young artists!
Susan once said to me that throughout all of her work, her bigger goal is to ensure that our young people are educated with the knowledge and skills they need to be successful in life, whether they pursue an arts-related pathway or not. Because no matter what, their dance education has the power to positively influence their lives and the lives of others.
I couldn’t agree more.
With the work I strive for at MDU and MTJGD, I believe that we are at an important turning point in the dance industry. We can choose to continue the status quo, or we can choose to keep improving … we can choose to focus on education, safety, and opportunity at the forefront of this community we love.
When I spoke with Susan recently, it reminded me just how inspiring it is to visualize the future that is possible for our students. I believe that through her work, through our work, and through the work of studio owners and leaders like you, we can ensure that our kids have the education and the preparation to be both great artists AND great humans.
Cheers to what inspires us … to what inspires YOU!
To say the past month has been busy would be a major understatement.
From the usual beginning-of-the-year meetings and goal-setting to fine-tuning the preparations for our tenth Studio Owner University® (which just wrapped up), I’ve been shoulder-to-shoulder with my team working like crazy to make sure we’re serving our people with the highest-quality content.
But something stopped me in my tracks a couple of weeks ago, quieting the work.
Actually that something was a someone. My Grandpa Al.
Grandpa Al, at 90 years old, was diagnosed with Stage 5 kidney disease and moved into hospice care at home. So I dropped everything to go see him.
On my way there, I was flooded with memories. Grandpa Al was quite a character and growing up, I drew a lot of inspiration from him. He was one of 16 kids who grew up on a farm, with only Polish spoken in the house. Being from a poor area and with the farm to tend to, Grandpa Al never finished elementary school. He later joined the army and served in Korea. After his return, he got a factory job and eventually saved up enough money to open up his own business—a marina called Al’s Marina and Polish Yacht Club.
I remember sitting on the barstool of the marina as a child, watching the people come and go. It was sometimes a rough-and-tumble place, but always full of loud and loving people. Grandpa Al knew everyone by name. They were river people who were clammers, fishermen, locals, northsiders—and even out-of-towners.
This place Grandpa Al built was my first introduction to what community truly felt like, beyond the business. On Christmas Eve, for example, Grandpa Al and Grandma Marilyn would open the doors to their home for EVERYONE to come over. And, according to my childhood memories, I think everyone DID! This gesture of “come as you are; come one, come all” had a profound influence on my emerging faith as a kid.
I was remembering these gatherings when I pulled up to Grandpa Al’s house recently and headed inside. He was sleeping in a hospital bed by a window in the living room, with a John Wayne western playing low on the television across the room. To be honest, I’m not sure if he recognized me at first. But his eyes opened wide as I sang my best Jesus Loves Me to him. And he seemed comforted when I picked up his cat, Jumper, to snuggle by his side.
My mom and I were only there for only an hour or so before the house transformed into a mini-scene from the old days at the marina, with family and friends from the bar starting to show up.
One guy, who arrived on his four-wheeler, said he’d been a regular at the bar for almost 30 years. He showed up to make sure Grandpa Al’s front walk was shoveled, and asked if Grandpa Al needed any help getting adjusted in his new bed. Next in was the bar’s cook, who was on his break. He was just making the rounds to check on Grandpa Al and would return again later.
As I got back in my car after our visit, I couldn’t stop thinking about this outpouring of support—of love and faith and community. And, it just BROKE ME. In the best possible way.
Here were these people—many who’ve lived their own versions of a tough life—showing up and giving what money can’t buy: Time. Attention. Dignity.
It made me appreciate more than ever where I came from and the power of true community, whether it looks like guys on four-wheelers from down the block, long-lost family from states away … or a bunch of studio owners from around the globe.
It reminded me, even though I knew it already in my heart, that we ALWAYS need to see beyond the cover of a book. Everyone has a story. Everyone has hopes and dreams and something to give. Everyone has something to teach.
The investments we make in PEOPLE are the ones that will matter at the end of our lives. It’s the love we share, the faith we bring, the community we build.
Last week at Studio Owner University®, I got the news that Grandpa Al had passed on. He left this earth on Tuesday, just after I had been speaking about him on stage. It was as if God wanted me to ensure Grandpa Al’s story was told; that his life was celebrated … and so it was.
That visit with Grandpa Al will stay with me forever. He clearly made his impact. And I couldn’t be more proud to do what I can to pay his legacy forward and inspire others to do the same. <3
Not just a new YEAR, a new DECADE!
As most of you know I’ve dedicated my entire career to dance, first as a dance teacher, then as a dance studio owner, and now as a teacher to teachers and owners. 🙂
My journey in this industry hasn’t always been easy, but one thing has always kept me fueled and fired up about the future: Education.
Education for my mind. I’ve never hesitated to invest in my professional development as a dance educator and business owner because I love learning, and I love creating a positive impact on others through what I’ve learned. Education, to me, isn’t just about school or college or even dance lessons; it’s about being transformed by knowledge so that you can live your best life.
Education for my body. I truly believe in the old adage “once a dancer, always a dancer.” My knees may be crankier now than they were 25 years ago, but I’m still as passionate as ever about dance! My heart for the classroom continues to grow even as I teach from different types of stages and hone my coaching skills. I’m fortunate that I still get to dance when I’m on tour with Dance Revolution, and those moments are reminders that yes, at my core I’m still a dancer at heart.
Education for my soul. Everyone has something that feeds their soul. My soul has always been hungry to learn and grow, and to create. I want to become a stronger version of myself so that I can have a positive influence on our industry and its future. And although my focus on work has shifted slightly over the years, my soul still needs the satisfaction of learning on a deep level. It is a privilege to be educated, and my soul is grateful for it.
And so last week, I could think of no better way to kick off the new year and new decade than to make education and training for dance studio owners and teachers more ACCESSIBLE.
I was thinking about how not everyone has the same access or opportunities to educate themselves to the degree they desire. I wanted to do my part to help other positive influencers in the dance industry get the education they want for themselves, their students, and their studio.
With that in mind, I introduced the 2020 Vision Scholarships for Dance Educators, scholarships in continuing education and personal development for those who have not previously had access to, or do not currently have access to, our More Than Just Great Dancing® programs, such as Youth Protection Advocates in Dance Certification, More Than Just Great Dancing® Kickstart Membership, and registration for Studio Owner University®.
What I didn’t expect was such a HUGE response! And I didn’t expect that reading through all of the scholarship applications would be so emotional. The depth to which dance teachers and studio owners go for their kids will never cease to encourage and inspire me.
I had originally pledged $20,000 but because of the amazing response, I wanted to do more. So I doubled my commitment to $40,000 and then reached out to some of my good friends in the industry to see if they would step up with some scholarships as well and they DID! So we were able to add another $20,000 in combined cash and program scholarships … for a total of $60,000 in 2020 Vision Scholarships for Dance Educators! I can’t even believe it.
A BIG THANK YOU to these companies for their contributions:
- Adrenaline Dance
- Curtain Call
- The Dance Effect
- Acrobatic Arts
- Rhythm Works Integrative Dance
- Wingman for Dance
- Discover Dance
- Dance Studio Owner Association
- Dance Teacher Web Conference
- Dance Teacher Web Membership Program
- Dance Studio Owner Membership Program
- Energize Dance Conference
These scholarships are going to enable MORE studio owners and teachers to go from DREAMING to DOING! If education is all about impact, then through this extra motivation and support, I know that our collective impact on the industry will be huge.
Emails have already started going out to recipients, and I couldn’t be more proud or inspired! Thank you, dance educators, for all you do for your kids each day. Keep going!
For eight years, I stared out the windows of my previous studio space at an empty piece of land across the street. I saw something there. Like I could actually see it in my mind’s eye.
Sometimes, I would walk around that land and pray about what I saw. I would draw it. I would dream about it.
What I visualized on that land was something much MORE than a dance studio. I saw an asset for our local families and the larger dance community. I saw a vision for Misty’s Dance Unlimited to become a gathering place—a learning hub, an international training facility—for anyone, any age, dancer or not. I saw a way for our impact to grow beyond anything I could do alone.
When I started talking about what I saw, I was told it would be foolish to build again at this point in my career. I heard, “You have a successful business, why not just ride it out?”
I was told it would be too much, that it couldn’t be done. In all candor, sometimes I said it to myself. There were times, even once my vision for that land was underway and construction on our new facility had started, that I wondered if it was the right thing to do. These were the voices of fear and doubt.
The last three years—the years of building and reopening and growing—have been a constant work in progress to lower the volume of those voices and lean into the still, small voice of God saying, “Keep going.”
I realized that there comes a time in one’s career as an entrepreneur where your vision trumps any naysayers or discouragement or self-doubt. It becomes true that what you believe in is SO strong that you can’t NOT follow your dream. When you see the vision, rally the crowd, and do the work, it’s like a compulsion …. you MUST follow through.
I understand this even more deeply now, as we wrap up 2019 and prepare to enter a new decade.
In the past six months alone, I’ve seen our facility filled with resources to strengthen our community, the dance industry, and the arts. I’ve seen our space wall-to-wall with parents learning how to manage their children’s anxiety from a Mayo Clinic expert, free of charge. I’ve seen it packed with dance students from all over Wisconsin, participating in the 3-D Dance Convention and leveling up their education. I’ve seen it bustling with other studio owners, teachers, and managers who are learning from More Than Just Great Dancing®. I’ve seen it lit up with the amazing artwork of local elementary students, as we showcase their talent on our gallery wall for all to see and celebrate.
The vision I first had all those years ago has become more than I could have imagined.
I am so full of gratitude for all who believed.
I am so grateful for faith in a God who is bigger than my fears.
More Than Just Great Dancing® isn’t just our tagline … it’s our purpose. And it is my prayer that we can continue to serve the community with opportunity, potential, and grace: all the ingredients of a dance studio and MORE.
I wish you a joyous holiday season, a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year! I hope that whatever YOUR vision is for 2020, that you go after it headstrong and with a full heart.
A few weeks ago, Mitch and I took a trip to Italy to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary—it was AMAZING.
During that time, the folks on my team were absolute rockstars. I was actually able to disconnect completely from work during that time, which is REALLY saying something!
Taking that week off reminded me of something I’ve learned over the years as an entrepreneur, but probably don’t recognize quite often enough:
Rest is hard work!
But, it’s also some of the BEST work.
If you know me, you know I love to work. I love to hustle and create and I love to be productive. Creating programs and content; coaching studio owners; planning keynote gigs … I am passionate about it all, and I’ll go and go and go till the cows come home (and here in Wisconsin, they actually do, HA!)
But, what I’m learning to recognize though is that rest—true, uninterrupted time away from business—is essential for us as small business owners. It allows us to recharge, reset, and replenish our souls. And so it can be just as important as the other work we do.
At this time of year, as the holidays approach, this awareness of rest is more pronounced than at any other time: there is an expectation of rest and reflection implied right there in our calendar. And there is a certain holiday-fueled generosity that fills the air … people are more willing to cut you some slack on not responding to an email right away, or they are understanding that you are spending time with family and will return their call on Monday.
I’m guessing that like me, you may be feeling a dynamic tension because of this … the feeling that you want to balance the full charge of accomplishing your goals AND allow yourself the rest and reflection time that the holiday season brings. You want to hit your year-end goals hard—and run past them if you can—and yet you’re also feeling a pull to take advantage of this built-in time to step back.
Before I left for Italy, a good friend said to me, “Rest is like a hearing aid. It allows you to hear better, which allows you to learn better, which makes you think a little harder about where you’re spending your time and energy.”
That’s powerful stuff!
And so while I don’t have one-size-fits-all advice for you about balancing your goals with rest this month, I DO have a question for you:
What do you think YOU can do to get the best of both rest and work during these next few weeks?
There are ways you can choose to close the gaps on your goals AND embrace the rest and reflection of the holiday season … but I can’t choose those ways for you. You must choose them for yourself and then go all-in!
For me, the next few weeks are going to be filled with some long hours spent checking budgets, tracking metrics, and inching closer to our year-end business goals. And you bet I’ll be celebrating my team and high-fiving their heavy-lifting to those goals too!
The next few weeks are also going to be filled with some family-only days, quiet observances of God’s handiwork, and plenty of prayer. I’m more in tune now than ever before to the importance of carving out this time and sticking to it.
I hope that in reading this you’ll feel encouraged to find what works best for you, your family, and your business when it comes to balancing the work of goals—and the work of rest. 🙂
Wishing you peace and joy in the discovery!
This season of gratitude always makes me reflect on how thankful I am to get to live a life full of dance.
Dance is something I feel so blessed to have in my daily world, whether I’m at my own studio with our families, coaching fellow studio owners, keynote speaking at business events, or teaching on the convention circuit. This last weekend I even had an opportunity to perform with the faculty of Dance Revolution – special treat considering I was on crutches 6 months ago.
But, last week, I was introduced to a new layer of gratitude for dance. The JOY of seeing adults discover it for the first time as I learned when I was tagged in a social media post a couple weeks ago.
It was a post by one of our adult ballet students who had just taken her first ballet class ever. She said one of her dreams had just come true.
I could not stop the tears. So many good tears.
Here’s a snippet of what she said:
“Yes, at 46 years old, one of the dreams I’ve had since childhood came true. I stood in a room, with pointed toes and a bunch of French words I can’t pronounce. As I looked at myself in the mirror, the same self I have a hard time looking at every single day, I didn’t see the wrinkles and the multiple chins, I didn’t see the bumps and bulges, I didn’t see the extra 50 pounds. I saw the dancer inside me, in the pretty pink ballet slippers my dear friend bought me for the occasion.
And I saw someone who was “doing it!” I wasn’t sitting at home dreaming about it. I was doing it. I may not have done it perfectly. It was hard and my body resisted, but I did it and I loved it and I want to do more.”
The emotions came tumbling out of me when I read this post. And the gratitude I felt for this woman, and for her experience, was overwhelming.
THIS is why I do what I do.
Dance is for everybody and every BODY. It is for every age, for every size, for every background. To dance is a dream come true for so many of us, no matter what stage of learning we’re in.
I’ve always said I felt called to do the work I do. God’s grace has allowed me to follow my passion in the dance industry and I am thankful for His guidance. What a privilege it is to be living out this life!
When I was a young dancer, I didn’t completely know what a “calling” was, but I knew there was something special about the way dance felt in my soul. I didn’t know that my calling meant I would be building national and international programs in dance. I didn’t know that my calling meant growing a tribe of like-minded studio owners. I didn’t know that my calling would be creating a community for my community.
It is beyond humbling now to see others’ dance dreams come true at MDU. Dance really does change lives.
Gratitude doesn’t seem like a big enough word to acknowledge the beautiful ballet student who tagged me in that post a couple of weeks ago. So this post will have to do. Thank you for saying what you said … and for following your dreams. You are an inspiration!
And to anyone who is reading this and thinking about trying a ballet class for the first time: Do it! Don’t hesitate.
Dance is for everyone.
Come as you are.
Embrace the feeling. Enjoy the movement.
You’ll always be welcome at my studio.
Last week I was visiting my daughter Isabella in California and we decided to go out on a shopping date, as mothers and their college-age daughters will do. 🙂
We went to this indoor/outdoor mall, which is AMAZING in and of itself because we don’t have that in Wisconsin … we’d only have a few days a year of shopping if we did! At this mall, there was literally ANYTHING and EVERYTHING your heart could desire: high-end, low-end, and mid-end products and services, retail shops galore, restaurants dotting every corner, and on and on and on.
But Isabella and I had two things in mind for this outing: there was a shirt I needed to pick up at a specific store and we wanted to get our nails done.
We had to turn our faces from all of the other awesomeness so we wouldn’t get distracted or tempted away from what we were there to do. I’m sure we would enjoy some of the other offerings (and I’m also sure we’ll go back another time!) but at that moment, we JUST needed to focus on getting the shirt and then getting to the salon.
The initial overwhelm of arriving at the mall gave way to an intense focus, where Isabella and I looked at each other and agreed that we needed to stay on track! It made me think about how I can apply this concept to my life. I realized the application could really be twofold, for myself and for my studio.
For example, right now at the studio we’re focused on our holiday shows. Our attention is pretty much all there. When we get through these holiday shows, we’ll move right into the next thing. I’m not thinking about rewriting the curriculum or re-evaluating our tuition structure or retraining staff because we are nose-to-the-grindstone on this main focus. But if we tried to focus on it all at the same time, the overwhelm would persist and nothing would get done right.
I think that, to that point, each of us has to dial into what’s most important for ourselves and our businesses at a specific time. Using the mall analogy – we can’t afford to wander into the jewelry store when what we needed was a shirt!
The other stuff is not going away of course, but you can choose to go for focus instead of succumbing to overwhelm. The other things that need to get done can go on the shelf or in the vault so when you’re ready to pick them back up later, you know where to find them.
And think about it this way: at our studios, we are a lot like this mall.
We have ALL of these amazing offerings, but most parents don’t need everything and definitely not all at the same time. They can very easily get overwhelmed! There are choices for ballet, tap, jazz, teams, camps, private lessons, and on and on and on. I think you can see where I’m going with this …
You and your team have to let your clientele know that it’s OK to pick and choose; that it’s OK to prioritize. When they’re ready for the next thing, you’ll be there to walk them through those next steps.
It’s SO easy to get distracted these days and wonder where our priorities went. Our worlds as entrepreneurs are busier than ever with many moving parts. But we have more control than we think! If we work to contain the overwhelm and pursue focus, our rewards will be in the clarity and success of our work. For me, that day with Isabella, the reward was my time with her. That our shopping date was comfortable and relaxed, exactly the way I hoped it would be.
My questions to you now are this: what is the balance of overwhelm and focus that you’re faced with right now? Where are you dialed in? Or where do you NEED to dial in, and what can go on the shelf?
Asking yourself these questions can be the first step to gaining back some control. I hope you’ll give yourself permission to prioritize … and celebrate the positive impact it brings!
Releasing my first book a few years ago was an intimidating process at first.
Getting everything written just the way I wanted it, then experiencing the PR behind the launch, followed by book signings and keynote presentations … the whole thing was intimidating and of course, VERY exciting!
At the time, I didn’t think too much about an audiobook version. But as I continued to gain support for the messages in One Small Yes, and as people asked for an audio version,I knew I wanted to do it.
What I didn’t know then was that releasing the audiobook would be JUST as scary AND just as exciting. I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent in the recording studio laboring over every sentence and every chapter. How important it is to me to convey the messages in the book with love. And of course, trying to find the places where I needed to slow down or speak more clearly (and not wildly like a rehearsal director!).
So much of my heart is in this book. I wanted it to come through and be heard.
And so I recorded. And re-recorded. I read parts of it over and over again to get it right. If you’ve ever listened to a recording of your own voice, you know how painful this can be! You ask yourself, “Do I really sound like that!?” Well, apparently I do!
This project has been in the works for a couple of years. And recently, it came time to choose a record label for the audiobook, which meant getting over any fears I had about launching it. I knew I needed to be very sure to choose a label that fit One Small Yes exactly right; it had to be a company that aligned with my own values.
Last week, I finally brought this audiobook release to fruition, and I’ve done it with End Hunger Records, where every download helps feed children in need. Yes, you read that right: with every download purchase of One Small Yes, End Hunger Records is contributing meals to hungry school children around the globe.
End Hunger Records believes that society is transformed by educating children. And educating children begins with a meal to ensure they can listen, focus, concentrate and learn. Through their charity partnership with the Annapoorna Breakfast Programme, children in need are receiving daily breakfast before school. Currently, the program feeds around 200,000 children every morning, five days per week … but those numbers need our support to go up.
Motivation + Meals = I’m IN!
When I first came across End Hunger Records, my first thought was WOW. As in, this is truly Worthy Of Words! (Literally!) It’s a cause that gave me a boost of confidence about launching the audiobook in the first place, to go hand-in-hand with children in need. To make it possible for these children to be transformed by their education, instead of distracted by their hunger.
Here we go, then. DEEP BREATH.
The audiobook of One Small Yes has officially been launched with End Hunger Records, and I humbly ask if you’ll consider purchasing a download? If not for me, then for the kids we can help together. <3
Here is the link: https://www.endhungerrecords.com/product/lown-one-small-yes/
Thank you so much for considering … and thank you for contributing to end hunger for kids!
It’s been months in the making and we’re FINALLY preparing to launch the updated programs of Youth Protection Advocates in Dance!
As many of you know, YPAD originated as the heartsong of Leslie Scott Zanovitch, its founder and long-time champion—and someone I now consider a forever friend. 🙂
Leslie created YPAD to uphold a high standard of health and safety in dance. It was an answer to the industry-wide question, “How can we serve dance students in the best, healthiest way possible?”
When More Than Just Great Dancing® acquired YPAD earlier this year, it was our goal to expand on Leslie’s mission, staying true to her legacy and opening up the YPAD education and certification to more studio owners and teachers. And now here we are!
Here is more information about the educational coursework at the core of the YPAD experience. YPAD currently has two course offerings:
#1: The YPAD SAFETY Course (which leads to Course Completion) covers the following topics:
- Best Practices for Dance Studios
- Abuse Awareness and Prevention
- Injury Prevention and Response
- Risk Management in the Dance Environment
Each of these four points represents an area of learning that we believe every studio needs to maximize student safety. It is my belief that a YPAD safety education will benefit every level of the industry, from the studio itself and its teachers, to our students and their parents. At MTJGD, we have gone ALL-IN on encouraging the industry to self-regulate and teach within the bounds of what’s healthy and safe for kids.
#2: The YPAD SAFETY & WELLNESS Course (which leads to YPAD Certification) covers the following topics in addition to the safety education:
- Social Media, Media Safety & Today’s Dance Culture
- Developmentally Appropriate Artistry
- Body Image, Nutrition & Disordered Eating
- Bullying & Conflict Resolution
What’s EXTRA cool about the work we’ve been doing behind the scenes is that YPAD’s educational courses are also all DIGITAL! Backed by evidence-based research, every lesson includes text and video components to optimize learning. Of course there are a few things that can’t be done 100% digitally (like CPR training) but it’s pretty cool for each participant to be able to learn online at their own pace.
Ultimately I believe that we can serve the dance industry with the YPAD mission and leave it stronger than ever for the next generation. I hope that through YPAD, more individuals will feel empowered with the tools and resources to serve their dance students with the utmost professionalism and sensitivity.
If you’ve been following me for any length of time, you know that I am a champion for studio owners and teachers. I also want my legacy to be that of being champion for needed change in the dance world—making it safer and healthier for kids to be involved in this art we love so much.
Will YOU be a champion of change with me?
I hope you’ll say YES and visit us at ypadnow.com 🙂
My fellow business owners know this well: Life as an entrepreneur is full of sacrifices, learning, growth, and surprises.
It has high peaks like nothing else I’ve experienced and low valleys that I’m thankful to have climbed out of. As a studio owner, there have been times where I know this life is THE perfect fit and other times where I’ve wondered what I’ve gotten myself into.
If I’m being totally honest, there have also been times when I’ve gone home from a long day of work and felt like I didn’t have any energy left for my husband and kids. I’ve walked through the door already feeling wrung out from the day. And so I would feel discouraged that I didn’t feel like I was my best self with the people I love the most.
Maybe you can relate?
I think this discord in our professional and personal lives is totally normal and yet also really, unmistakably HARD. It’s taken me years and years to realize that even on the days that feel utterly imbalanced, I’m actually still doing something right!
Because even on those not-so-great-nights, I’ve always pulled myself up the stairs to do a bedtime tuck-in. I’ve always made myself pause to SEE my kids’ faces and to speak a word of blessing over them. Even if it’s just for a moment. Even with the teenagers. No, ESPECIALLY with the teenagers. 🙂
What I say varies from night to night, but usually includes some version of this prayer:
“You are a mighty man of God, a man of mercy and honor, and I’m proud of you.”
Sometimes my kids seem to love these moments; other times I’m pretty sure they just tolerate it for my sake.
But I do it no matter their reactions. I’m imagining that YOU probably do something like this with your kids too … maybe it’s also a prayer. Maybe it’s a moment of gratitude or reflection of the day. Whatever it is, it’s something that your kids are listening to, whether they acknowledge it or not.
Last week, when I got to work one morning, I found this drawing in my notebook by my 10-year-old son Benji, and it reminded me of the significance of these nighttime moments. It reminded me that the words we speak TO and OVER and ABOUT our kids have such a profound impact on how they view themselves in this world.
I’ve had moments as a parent where I’ve felt like I’ve nailed it and moments where I’ve felt like I’ve failed it. But no matter how the day goes, I climb those stairs and do my best to speak life over my kids before the day closes.
So yes, my eyes got wet when I saw this picture that Benji drew. This picture, just sitting openly on my desk as if to say, “Here I am, Mom. I heard you.”
I don’t know about you, but that definitely looks like a picture of mighty and merciful to me. <3
And so if you hear it from no one else, hear it from me now: The rituals and words you have with your kids matter. YOU matter. THEY understand, even if it doesn’t seem like they do.
Keep going, friends. Keep living the entrepreneurial life; keep striving. And most of all, keep doing what you’re doing for your kids. Parenting is HARD and WONDERFUL all at once. But you’re doing it … and they’re getting the message.
Wishing you grace for the day and joy for the journey!
Here at More Than Just Great Dancing®, we’re getting ready for our TENTH Studio Owner University®—WOW!
From February 3-5 in beautiful Austin, Texas, we’ll be hosting this unique university-styled training for studio owners.
If you haven’t heard of SOU before, or you’ve wondered what it’s about, here’s the scoop: SOU might just change your life and your business.
You may think that’s a bold statement—and it is— but it’s backed by reality. Time and time again, our attendees have chosen to apply the knowledge, resources, and tools from SOU to their lives and create real, lasting change. They’ve headed back home to dig in to their businesses and improve themselves as leaders. It is humbling to see; it’s the best compliment we could ever receive!
So what motivates people to do this deep work? How is it that a few days at a business event could have such a lasting impact?
It’s because SOU is an immersion into cutting-edge marketing, practical financial tools, legacy leadership growth, and learning from others. It’s a course of education designed to make you think differently about your goals and your business. Here’s just some of what you can expect to experience at SOU:
Among the people you’ll hear from at SOU, Founder Misty Lown is the one who has envisioned your success before you even arrived. She has curated the educational content, dialing in to what she knows will hold the most value for studio owners in the coming year. Whether she is onstage teaching or chatting with you in the hallway, Misty is all-in on making sure you’re getting the most out of the event.
With topics ranging from personal to professional, you’ll also experience learning from the MTJGD Certified Coach® team. These trained presenters are living the MTJGD life and entrepreneurial journey. They have developed their expertise in areas of specialty content to share directly with SOU attendees. Each Coach is committed to bringing a unique value to your experience; get ready to take plenty of notes and ask lots of questions!
Classes at SOU range from customer service to marketing to social media to finance (and lots more in between!). We aim to touch on as many relevant business topics as possible to help you move your studio forward in the coming year and beyond. And while SOU is business training, it’s also life training. You are a whole person, and SOU gives you the tools to evaluate your definition of success, in and out of the studio.
Beyond the included SOU content, there are also opportunities to sign up for extra learning: The ANSWERED Series, for example, consists of small group lunch sessions with Misty, set up to give you the floor for Q&A. We also offer Graphic Design Live! sessions, where you can sit one-on-one with a designer and start or complete a project. And finally, there’s our SOU Masters Day, a one-day intensive that dives deep into a core business topic. This year’s SOU Masters Day topic is Staff.
SOU’s vendors are a breath of fresh air—they are all about service and developing relationships. There’s something for everyone at the vendor booths, whether you are looking at studio software, dancewear, costumes, curricula, student events, special programming, or other resources. Opportunities to socialize and get to know the vendors abound, and you’ll also have the chance to schedule appointments to meet with vendors one-on-one.
Just like at your studio, you’ll also find that SOU is an experience that nurtures new friendships and refreshes old ones. There’s simply nothing like being around like-minded business owners. You learn and share ideas; you understand each other like one one else does. One of the most beautiful things about SOU is that these bonds are formed and the studio owner life feels a lot less lonely!
Feeling encouraged? Sign up for SOU here and prepare to have your life changed! Your business will never be the same.
See you in Austin!
Just a few short weeks ago, I dropped off my oldest child—my daughter Isabella—at college.
It was much harder and more emotional than I could have expected. But it was also beautiful in ways I couldn’t have imagined. (And yes, I cried my face off. Right. Off.)
The thoughts and feelings that have been swirling around in my mind and my heart are finally settling down, and so I wanted to share some of them with you. <3
As I trailed Isabella around campus, watching her independence shine brighter than ever, I realized that so much of what USED to worry me no longer mattered. Not one bit.
For example, nobody asked about the level she was in at dance or how her team placed at competition. I didn’t hear a single question about her class rank or how many friends she had at home … or how many followers she has on social media. No one inquired about where her homecoming dress came from, what brand of shoes she wore to track practice, or if she got an iPhone in middle school (or worse, high school!). No one was curious about how many times she was or was not invited to sleepovers or other social events.
The list goes on and on, but suffice it to say that many things which seemed big or important or stressful way back when … they just weren’t anymore. They didn’t STAY that way.
But on the other hand, there were a lot of things that DID matter.
Memories flooded my mind as I accompanied Isabella from building to building, from classrooms and bookstores to coffee shops and dorms.
I had memories of her first birthday Christmas where I attempted to sew her a stuffed animal, her first steps in the living room of our first house, middle school conversations in her bunk bed, bedtime tuck-ins when she was little, prayers said together, school events with various outcomes … memories of rushed church mornings and runs to the Kwik Trip for donuts … I thought of family dinners and holidays, recitals and performances, silly traditions, the drives (so many drives!), welcoming new friends, cherishing old friends, letting her problem-solve by herself (even when it was hard), watching her become self-sufficient …
And mixed in with all of these memories were worries.
Have I done enough as a mom? Did I teach her everything she needs to know? Is she prepared for whatever challenges come her way? Did I turn in all the paperwork? I’m confident I didn’t.
Then my husband gently reminded me that this isn’t the end of our parenting. It’s just a new phase of it. We’re parents of a college student now. Parents of an adult who has grown and flown, but who is still our little girl. It’s her stage now.
So here’s to all the parents out there … may we cherish each day we have with our kids, knowing that the extraordinary is in the ordinary. That the seemingly little things—the personal things—matter most. The day-to-day love and life and learning—they are more extraordinary than we could ever fully understand.
And to the recent grads and new college students out there … may you look back on where you came from and dream of all the places you can go from there!
We all know the expression about the proverbial glass being “half full” or “half empty.”
This phrase is usually indicated to show someone’s optimism or pessimism, and it seems to be widely accepted that people should, of course, always choose to see the glass as half full.
I recently had the realization that when it comes to business, we might actually need BOTH perspectives, and so I respectfully disagree that “half full” is the only right answer!
I think it’s really all about having a productive mindset; training yourself to notice WHEN you need “half full” versus “half empty.”
But let me back up first and explain how I came to this conclusion.
Not long ago, I drove to Chicago for a conference. It took six and a half hours when it should have taken four—the traffic was that bad. When I got to Chicago, it turned out I had my dates wrong and the conference was actually a DIFFERENT day. (Total palm-to-face moment.)
I could have avoided the traffic. I could have driven to Chicago at a better time. I could have been home for my son Sam’s birthday.
Although my first impulse was to feel frustrated by the situation, my “glass half full” perspective kicked in pretty quickly. During the extra-long drive, I was able to conduct six hours of bonus More Than Just Great Dancing® coaching calls and personally connect with members. When I got to Chicago, I was able to see my daughter Isabella for dinner. Sam was able to do “man stuff” (whatever that entails!) with his dad to celebrate his birthday. And ultimately, because my conference was a day later than I thought, I ended up with a whole EXTRA day of focus to myself.
By changing my mental lens, I was able to see the blessings behind this situation that at first only looked like friction.
Now, even though the view of “glass half full” worked for me here, another situation popped up soon after that had me thinking about how the “glass half empty” mindset is ALSO productive when used at the right time.
This happened when my team at the studio met an important goal. We were celebrating the achievement when one of my employees said, “OK, now we need to update our scorecard to reflect the NEXT goal.”
She was right, of course, and after our celebration, we had to face the tempered reality that we still had more work to do—and actually a LOT of work to do! We needed to see the “glass half empty” again so we could problem-solve our way past the next goal.
I believe you need to train yourself to see BOTH sides—both perspectives of the glass—and immediately look for the silver lining OR the work that needs to be done. With practice, you’ll be able to discern quickly WHICH is the most productive mindset: half full or half empty?
The savvy entrepreneur, I think, knows which way to choose to keep making progress. The savvy entrepreneur sees past the simple explanation of optimism or pessimism. It’s more about knowing how to engage each perspective at the right time to keep your mindset working FOR you, not against you!
So now I ask you this: Which way do YOU tend to lean: glass half full or half empty? Where do you think you need to shift so you can have a more productive mindset? How will you discern the VALUE of each perspective at any given time?
As you jump into the new school year, I encourage you to give these questions some thought. Start the year on the right foot. Or the left. Choose the perspective—at any given time—that works best for you and keeps you moving forward. 🙂
When I’m on the road coaching and speaking, I’m often asked, “How do you do it all?”
It’s a question that always gives me pause, because I don’t do it all. Not all by myself.
People may see me and think I have some kind of secret system to accomplishing my goals or leading my businesses. And I HAVE learned a lot of lessons about how to do those things better and better. But there’s no secret; there’s no shortcut. I work hard, I love what I do, I ask for God’s guidance, and I am strong because of the people around me who do the same.
When I’m asked this question, I find myself reflecting on what I hope other people see about me. I think about our recent More Than Just Great Dancing® Member Rally theme, which was “stronger together.”
I truly believe that I can do what I do because I am stronger together with others. And I hope when people see me speaking on stage or come up to have a conversation with me or look me up on social media, they see MORE of my reason for being than what I can express alone.
I hope that they see that I love my family …
That “family first” is a value I hold near and dear in my life and in business. My family members are my number one fans and my number one motivators, and they are at the core of my why when it comes to doing what I do.
I hope they see that my kids are hard workers …
That even when I’m not at the studio, my kids are jumping in to help with odd jobs or to step out of their comfort zones and work at an event. That they have their own entrepreneurial aspirations and personal goals, and are held to high standards.
I hope they see that I have a vision, but I can’t create it alone …
That I have businesses with talented team members that keep the wheels turning; that I have a tribe of studio owners and friends and peers in the industry who believe in the same things I believe and stand up for those beliefs.
I hope they see that my team members have a big heart …
That they have a calling, that they are role models, that they are high-achievers. Together we are having a positive influence in the dance industry, and none of us could do it without the other. Everyone’s on the boat, and everyone’s rowing in the same direction.
I hope that they see that I believe WE are ALL stronger together, because going it alone in life caps your potential, but lifting each other up makes it limitless!
I believe the dance world is one that needs more arms linked, more potential raised. Because we will all be better for it, which means our students and their families will never be served with less than our best.
If you are ever asked, “How do you do it all?” I hope you’ll reflect on the same kinds of answers. Sure, you may do a LOT, and you may have learned a lesson or two on how to be more efficient or quick or productive … but I bet you don’t do it alone. I bet that, like me, you are the product of many influences, much support, and lots of care.
Today I’m giving some extra gratitude to those who are stronger together with me. I’m prouder than ever of what we are growing and building in the dance industry, and how awesome it is to share these messages on the road. I hope that I’m able to allow people to see more of me than just what meets the eye.
Now, I ask you: What do YOU want others to see in you as you go through life? Who will you reach out and thank, for helping you do what you do? I hope you’ll let me know about some of your answers.
To being seen and giving gratitude,
One of my FAVORITE things about this time of year is that it’s my peak time for coaching. I get to see and teach my fellow studio owners throughout the next few weeks, over 9 days of live events for More Than Just Great Dancing® plus a 12-day speaking tour. The busy travel season is upon me—and I love every minute of it!
No matter where I speak, where I travel, or who I meet, the challenges of growing a business are ALL familiar. Entrepreneurs have so much in common, no matter what type of business we’re in. And something I’ve learned through my own experiences is that building (or buying) a business is a LOT like deciding to have and raise a child.
Whether or not you are a parent to a human child, everyone can relate to the phases we go through in life. And the way a business evolves easily parallels those stages of growth.
Like in the early years, the business is an INFANT. Even if your business was established when you attained it, it will still be an infant to YOU. And infants require constant care and always-on attention. They cry a lot, they need to be fed all the time, they’re often up at night, they wet and poo themselves … and so do new businesses.
It’s physically exhausting.
Then, a business might grow and become like a CHILD. It enters the years of seemingly-endless busy-ness. There’s lots of exploration, curiosity, and trial-and-error. For the entrepreneur, this starts to look like more to-dos, more emails, more clients, more taxes … more everything except time in the day.
It’s mentally exhausting.
A business that continues to grow enters its TEEN years next. It begins to operate more independently, allowing the business owner to experience more freedom with their time. But it also tests boundaries and sometimes makes mistakes. If you’re not careful and you let it run wild, it will run YOU instead.
It’s emotionally exhausting.
Businesses that continue to thrive beyond the teen years then become more like an ADULT. And like grown children, they begin to function more freely, only needing your guidance from the side. As the owner, you start to look at redesigning what your role in the business looks like.
Owning a business, much like parenting, is a HUGE commitment. It is an investment of everything you have to offer of yourself … time, money, energy, love. And like parenting, there are JOYS and TRIALS at every stage. There are peaks to stand on and cheer, valleys to climb out of, and silver linings to see no matter what view you have.
The goal is to keep moving through each phase, to keep building and growing and reaching so that one day you can look back and be proud of what you built and raised.
Whether your entrepreneurial journey has just been born or is standing on its own two feet, I hope you feel encouraged that each season is a worthwhile experience—an adventure to be had as you establish your legacy in this world.
And if we get to see each other on the road soon, I hope you’ll share with me which phase YOUR business is in now, and what you are learning along the way! <3
During a recent interview, I was asked who my dance heroes are.
It took me just a second to think about it because although there are many famous dancers I admire, I realized that my answer was actually much closer to home: Teachers. Teachers are my dance heroes. They are the ones who make the dance world go round!
Teachers are keeping the practice of dance alive; they’re nurturing it and breathing life into it during every class they teach. They are inspiring generation after generation of new students to find joy in movement, and to discover an appreciation for the traditions dance has to offer. Passing down the styles and techniques that were established long ago is SUCH a unique responsibility.
Put that together with the ability to inspire children, motivate them to action, and shape their view of art, and you have the whole package of my answer wrapped up!
In my mind, there’s no one else who has such a powerful effect than a teacher.
When I was growing up, my dance teachers (and school teachers) were often the lifeline to my passion. I hit some tough times in my teens, some very influential teachers saw me and encouraged me – some even supported my dancing financially.
When I was 16 I started learning how to teach so that I, too, could contribute to my lessons, and from the start, I was hooked. Teaching dance is truly this magical combination of sharing, advising, demonstrating, and inspiring. It empowers you to trust in your abilities … and your creativity!
But teaching isn’t always a joy. Sometimes teaching is downright HARD. Teachers invest so much of themselves into their students, and it can be hard to offer just the right correction, or to enforce discipline in just the right way, or to make casting, judging, or level placement decisions. Teachers are human, and while a tough moment builds trust and responsibility, that doesn’t make it any less difficult.
There is no teacher I know who lets those hard days stop them. In fact, they seem to be even MORE fueled up to have an impact because they know they are making a difference, even if that difference can’t be seen overnight. Even if it takes years.
When I see a class of students at the studio with their eyes locked on the teacher, grins on all their faces, and a little bit of laughter bubbling over as they move their bodies to the music, I am positively lifted UP.
It takes a special person to come into their workplace every day and commit to bringing that kind of joy into the classroom.
These days, I am more of a teacher of teachers, since I coach studio owners more than I do students, but I still uncover those joyful moments. No, we’re not learning complex choreography, but we ARE building knowledge and skills together. I’m still getting to teach, and they’re still getting to learn. Then they’re bringing those lessons to THEIR teachers, and the education cycle continues …
And so I want to leave you with this final thought: If there’s a teacher out there whose influence made your life better, greater, stronger, or healthier, reach out to that person TODAY. Give them a quick thank you for having been a part of your life. Tell them they’re a hero … because they ARE.
Earlier this month, my daughter, Isabella, graduated from high school.
(Did I really just type that sentence!?!?!)
As you might have heard me mention before, Isabella’s high school journey has been anything but traditional. Two years ago, at 16, she left home to live in Chicago (about four hours away) to study dance with her favorite choreographer and master teacher, Kate Jablonski. She also enrolled in a local high school there to complete her high school education.
With support from our family and the steady presence of my adventurous mother-in-law, Karen, Isabella thrived in her new environment. We missed her at home, of course, and we missed her at my studio.
At MDU’s recital last month, Isabella came home to dance with her senior class and perform her senior solo. It was SO meaningful to see her back on our stage one last time standing side by side with all 18 of our senior dancers.
Like Isabella, many of them had made changes to their dance studies during their high school years. Some pared their classes down to one or two in order to focus on school studies or dance team; others ramped up to the maximum amount we offered. Some went deep with our pre-professional program and some focused solely on our ballet company. Some went all recreational. We even had a couple who chose to attend other studios and programs over the years but found their way back to the studio for senior year. They all went in very different, very personal directions with dance, but there they were at recital: all together, hands clasped, hearts united.
When the music began for their dance, you could see that despite their different journeys, they were still friends … childhood friends who’ve maintained an impermeable bond, who developed and deepened their friendships alongside their shared love for dance.
It took my breath away. What an amazing thing it was to see that dance had created this “third place” for them.
The third place, a concept by sociologist Ray Oldenburg, explains how people seek community in a place that is different than home or work (or for our kids, home and school). Social science tells us that the importance of this third place is key to allowing children to grow into their best selves.
Third place are places where people can cultivate relationships and pursue their passions. They serve to level the playing field by acting as an open, objective place where you can be yourself, explore your interests, and share ideas with others who are like you.
At the studio, the third place means it is like a second home; the place where you can go and always be accepted. It’s the place where you can always expect encouragement, where you can fall safely when you fail, where you get to reach for the stars.
To be the leader of such a place is humbling. And to see its importance in our dancers is downright awe-inspiring.
Some years at MDU, we produce dancers who go on to professional careers—and that is wonderful—but EVERY year we produce great kids. They are great kids who will go on to do great things, in part because of their growth at home, at school, and yes, in their third place: the studio.
This year all 18 of our seniors graduated with plans to attend college. Although that’s not always the right path for every student, it is for these girls, and I believe they are going to accomplish whatever goals they set for themselves. They are quite an empowered group!
Isabella will set off for Chapman University this fall, where she will be a dance major. I am proud of her beyond measure; my heart is bursting that she is living her dreams—dreams that are hers and hers alone. And although she and her friends will likely be finding a new third place as they set off on their new adventures, they know they’ll always be able to come back to the studio.
I hope you’ll be able to give this same encouragement to YOUR dance families and their children. What a profound thing it is for us as studio owners to be at the helm of a child’s third place!
You might remember that over the past year, I decided to take up RUNNING.
As in, purposeful fitness-driven running—not just running to meetings or events, or to pick up my kids!
So a couple months ago, as the frozen ground began to thaw out, I signed up to do a 3K with my daughter, Isabella, and our two dogs, Jake the German shepherd and Stella the golden retriever. (Hey, I didn’t say I was MUCH of a runner—just that I’m doing it. 🙂
This was a pretty cool 3K for people and their pets; we helped raise money for the local university AND got to experience what it’s like to run side-by-side with our furry friends!
Before this race, I got in a few weeks of practice runs so that I could improve my time from the last race I ran. I’m a little embarrassed to say, but after taking the winter off of training, a twelve-and-a-half-minute mile was my best time. If you’re not sure what this means in runner speak, it’s S-L-O-W.
Anyway, by the end of my training weeks, I had pushed myself to an eleven-and-a-half-minute mile, but I will admit, even that was HARD and STILL pretty slow. But I went into the race feeling as ready as I could be for the little time I put into practice.
On the day of the race, I chose to run with Jake-the-German-Shepherd and Isabella chose to run with Stella-the-Golden-Retriever. Once I put Jake on his leash and the race time started, we were OFF … and I mean we were running with POWER. Jake is a force of nature, and I could tell he was running to keep up with the people in front of us. And of course, I’m holding onto his leash and hustling to keep up with HIM. I was being pulled along whether I liked it or not!
There were literally moments during the race where I was saying, “Jake! Slow down!” And of course he didn’t (or couldn’t!). BUT, it worked.
At the end of the race, I came in FIRST in my age category and had done so by running MUCH faster than my previous rate … 9:30 per mile to be exact!! It was an awesome surprise and a HUGE accomplishment over my “spring training” efforts.
After reflecting on that race, I’ve realized what an obvious life lesson was at play here: When you link yourself to something or someone who is stronger and faster than you are, you’re going to be pulled along and become stronger and faster too … IF you’re prepared to take advantage of it. My training actually allowed me to KEEP UP with Jake and go faster than I ever had before!
It’s kind of like the saying that you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with … and in this case I was the average of the PACK I was running with.
It reminds me a lot of what we’ve created with More Than Just Great Dancing® and the tribe of members we’ve grown since 2012. Certainly we could all be pacing ourselves with what we think is good enough, doing our work in isolation, and generally going it alone. OR we could be setting goals and linking up to a “pack” that will help us keep going and push forward, even when we might not think we can achieve more or go faster.
In this entrepreneurial life, we can choose to stay in our own comfort zones, or we can choose to elevate ourselves to run alongside others. There are times we can be pulled along because we want to keep up, and there are times when we can do the pulling. It’s this synergy of the group that can make all the difference!
I encourage you to think about the pack you run with: Are they lifting you up? Are you eager to keep the pace? Or if you’re not running with a pack at all, where can you find the like-minded people who will help you become stronger and faster?
My hope for you is that, in the next race you run—whether it’s the sprint to the end-of-the-season finish line or the marathon to next season’s new programs—you will surprise yourself (just like I did) and achieve even more than you had thought possible. And all because you made the choice to run with the pack.
To a stronger and faster YOU!
I was talking with a group of studio owners recently and the subject of “drive” came up, as in:
“Is it OK to work all the time, to constantly drive your business? Where do you draw the line at too much work?”
This made me really stop and think. First of all, because I LOVE my work. Going all-in at a fast pace is my jam! But that’s only because I CHOOSE it to be that way.
Driving at a fast pace can easily slip into the “red zone” (you know that place on your car’s speedometer?) when it’s born out of compulsion or necessity. You FEEL like you must go faster or you feel compelled to take on that project. Other times, a lack of financial or human capital might make it so that you actually have no choice but to drive in the red zone.
My fast pace these days is out of pure enjoyment and passion for what I do and I stay out of the red zone for the most part. But, I have been in that unhealthy place before. And so my advice to this group of studio owners was to recognize what an “unhealthy drive” can look like.
Unhealthy can look like having no choice because no one else can do the work. This version of the red zone happens because the work NEEDS to get done, and the only way it is going to get done is if YOU do it. And so you do, driving faster and faster … but not because you want to.
Unhealthy can also look like addiction, being pulled like a magnet to work (but not necessarily the RIGHT work). You walk into the studio and answer the phone, respond to emails, check the inventory …. all things you didn’t actually need to do but felt compelled to do anyway. Working when you don’t NEED to, you find yourself unwittingly stepping on your employees’ toes and missing dinners with your family.
I have personally experienced both of these types of unhealthy work, of driving in the red zone not on purpose, but through necessity or compulsion. If I’m not careful, I can easily start to see myself sliding into unhealthy compulsion territory … but I’m much more aware of that tendency nowadays and can squash it pretty quickly. (And, if I don’t recognize it, my husband is quick to call it out. 🙂
In my answer to this group of studio owners, I said something to the effect of:
“Working hard or working a lot does not mean that you’re doing anything wrong. BUT, if either of those unhealthy pictures looks like you, it’s time to push pause and come up with a better way to drive.”
So what does a better way look like for you? Maybe it’s:
- getting the right people on your team and equipping them with the right tools
- freeing yourself from the expectation that only you can do a job the right way
- stepping out of the way so your team can do their best work
- understanding that however intertwined you are with your business, you are not actually one and the same
- recognizing where your strengths are … and staying in that lane
- knowing that your success does not come solely from your drive; it also comes from your heart, your mind, and your choices
Do the work you love and are passionate about …but do it without crossing over into an unhealthy place of necessity or compulsion. Driving in the red zone is only possible for so long because it’s unhealthy. You risk burnout. You risk missing time with your family. And, honestly, you risk creating more problems for your studio!
My encouragement to you is this: Your pace and your drive will be different from mine, or from your other studio owner friends, or from anyone else. So find what healthy work looks like to YOU and commit to that lane. Just like with our dance students, practice makes progress!
It was in 2015 when I first met Leslie Scott, the founder of Youth Protection Advocates in Dance (better known as YPAD).
She had begun to take a powerful stance on the health and safety of dancers, bringing her passion for the topic out into the public beyond her own hip hop classes.
I had already been on a journey of setting best practices inside of my own studio and our More Than Just Great Dancing® affiliated studios. My choices were choices based on my own concerns for the industry and my advocacy for age appropriate costumes and choreography. But Leslie had so much more to share! In addition to the same passions, she was bringing experts and research to the forefront of the discussion. Leslie wasn’t just saying that dancers needed safe and healthy classrooms, she was PROVING it.
You may already know from past posts that Leslie and I formed a friendship back then, as she grew the YPAD organization. We had similar goals, and so it was an easy decision for me to have More Than Just Great Dancing® become YPAD’s first Visionary Sponsor. We were able to help develop YPAD’s website, arrange for photography and videography opportunities for marketing and promotions, provide guidance in public relations, and make connections in the industry, like with Curtain Call Costumes.
It made me MORE than proud to see Leslie growing YPAD’s influence and for MTJGD to play a part in bringing her message to a bigger market.
Soon after MTJGD became the first Visionary Sponsor, Misty’s Dance Unlimited became the first YPAD Certified dance studio … ever! There was no doubt in my mind that many more studios would follow suit and become certified once they could see just how important it was to level up their knowledge of keeping kids safe in the dance classroom.
While MDU always had age-appropriate movement, music, and costuming at the heart of its services, with YPAD we had a real stamp of approval that what we were doing was indeed in line with best practices for teaching children.
During these past four years, Leslie and I have continued to bond over YPAD’s mission, and so when she came to me last year to ask if I wanted MTJGD to take over the organization, it was an easy YES!
There were so many reasons to say yes, not the least of which was because I knew in deep down in my heart and my soul that the work YPAD was doing was so necessary. I also knew that Leslie was ready for YPAD to have a larger level of support, and personally, was ready to invest more time and energy into her family.
The timing for both of us was right.
Now, as we move forward with MTJGD at the helm of YPAD, I’m excited that we’re working on some changes to the program to begin rolling out late this summer. We want to support our current members with updated resources and also make it even easier for more studio owners and teachers to get involved and interact with this mission!
My goal is that YPAD will continue to serve as a key player in the conversations we are having in the dance industry about safety, physical health, and emotional well-being. And that part of our role will be to ensure more studios, studio owners, and teachers have access to the education they need to give their students MORE of the tools needed to become their best selves.
At MTJGD, we are wholly committed to building an even better future of dance for generations to come. With YPAD, we are all-in!
I hope you’ll stay tuned to how YPAD can help YOU be a part of this promise too. We are all in this together. <3
As many of you probably know, it was over twenty years ago that a businessman named Deak Swanson took a chance on me and built my studio’s first building.
Deak, who had a thriving construction company, had been the “Festmaster” of Oktoberfest in 1996, the year I was Miss La Crosse. As we rode together on parade floats, I would tell him about my dream to own a dance studio. Now I’m not sure if he really thought I could do it, or if he was just tired of hearing me talk about it, but one day he asked me, “Are you serious about opening that dance studio?”
“Yes!” I replied with enthusiasm.
“Then meet me at Marge’s Cafe at 5:00am tomorrow,” he said.
That meeting led to a handshake deal, which led to the first building for Misty’s Dance Unlimited, which after all this time, has led to our NEW building.
It still astounds me today: Deak said YES. Yes! He knew I was passionate and willing to hustle, but he also understood I was new to entrepreneurship. He saw great potential in me and said yes, I’ll help you start this dream. The rest is up to you.
If you had asked me back then if I knew where that mentorship would take me, I would have never guessed the tremendous long-term ripple effect Deak initiated with his generosity.
From our students and their families, to our MDU team, to the community at large, I’ve been able to invest in others because Deak invested in me. I still feel his positive influence today; he was right by my side at our new building’s groundbreaking!
Now the extra-cool part of this is that I get to pay it forward.
Less than a year ago, I met a young business owner, Stephanie Helmers, who was in a tough situation with her landlord and needed to move locations. At the time, we were preparing to open our new facility, the International Performing Arts Campus (which houses MDU). I knew we would be searching for tenants to join our rental space.
Stephanie and I hit it off immediately. There was no doubt in my mind that if her business, Zen and Pow Studio (a fitness and wellness studio) needed a new home, we could make it work. And so we did!
Zen and Pow Studio is now one of our tenants, and I couldn’t be prouder of Stephanie and this decision. She reminds me of myself 20-plus years ago—except with even MORE excitement (and experience)!
When I walk past Zen and Pow and I see Stephanie hard at work, I am filled with such JOY for her. Entrepreneurship can be a rocky road, a roller coaster, an overwhelming journey. But she is grinding it out with grace. She is putting in the effort and will reap the rewards.
It’s amazing—this full-circle situation, to have once been the mentee and now the mentor. To see what is possible when one person invests in another and has faith in them to do well.
I know for me, not just in the early days but now too, making Deak proud was extremely important. Not too long ago we had breakfast together and he said, “Misty, I made a lot of investments in a lot of people, but you were my best investment.
You are like the daughter I never had.”
Let me tell you, the gratitude I felt was IMMENSE. Not just for the kind words, but for Deak’s belief in me, STILL to this day. It’s awe-inspiring. He visited me at the studio again just this week. Our next breakfast date is in the works.
I can think of no other way to thank Deak so deeply than to continue to pay it forward. If we all choose to pay honor to those who helped us on our paths, and we salute their belief in us by believing in others, then I know our communities will continue to nurture gifts and talents that thrive and make a positive impact.
And so I ask, how can YOU pay it forward? Where can you take a chance, shake a hand, and change the world?
Let your influence be felt. We are all better for it.
Here in Wisconsin, this winter has been BRUTAL at times.
I’m talking 40-50 degrees BELOW ZERO with the windchill. School closings. Studio closings. More school and studio closings. Snow, snow, and more snow.
SO. MUCH. SNOW.
If you live in an area that gets a lot of snow, you know EXACTLY what I mean by the endless snow (If you live somewhere warm, I’m penciling myself in for a visit next year! Ha!)
Now, I will be the first to raise my hand and say that I actually do love winter (and snow) but this year was, as my kids say, “A little EXTRA”.
After big snowfalls, my sons will often help out our neighbors by shoveling the snow on their walkways and stairs to the front door. They are pretty good snow shovelers, I have to say, and I admired how they turned a no-school-day into a side hustle.
But, while shoveling the front steps of one neighbor’s home, they were having an unusually tough time. The snow was multiple feet deep, the stairs were icy underneath, and the incline was pretty steep. They came back home and told me it was TOO HARD; they didn’t think they could get the job done.
Well, of course, I didn’t agree! I figured I’d show them how to do it, so I bundled up and followed them back over to the house.
No sooner had I picked up one of their shovels and started to work and I knew they were right. It WAS too hard. In fact, while digging together, we uncovered a tiny sign the neighbors had on the very bottom step. It said:
Stairs icy. Please leave packages by garage doorway.
And there was our lightbulb moment: THE GARAGE!
We abandoned shoveling the path UP the mountain of snow on the stairs and shoveled the path to the garage instead. Problem solved. We just had to change the plan.
After we were back home and warming up, I realized that SO many times in life I’ve been in this same situation: there’s a seemingly impossible problem that I’ve been working too hard to solve using the expected solution. But what’s really needed is an alternate path; a new route to follow.
Maybe it seems obvious, but when you’re in the MIDDLE of dealing with a problem, it’s so hard to step back and see the full picture!
I bet you’ve been there too. As business owners, we can easily fall into the trap of thinking we know how to handle a problem and then pushing and pushing (or digging!) our way through it. We sweat it out, grind it out, and plow straight ahead without looking to the right or the left to see if there are any ALTERNATE PATHWAYS.
What we really need to do in those moments though, I think, is to pause and consider other solutions … solutions that might be faster or better! Just like the path to the garage. Sometimes the simplest answer really IS the best one.
So the next time you are faced with what seems like an insurmountable problem, do what my boys did and ask for help. Look for the signs (even the real ones!). DECIDE that you’re committed to finding a way. Whether your obstacle is snow or something else, choose to not give up … just reroute your path. <3
Last week, as I was driving my kids to their various activities, I had this overwhelming moment of gratefulness.
It happened when I drove past the studio and could see the cars parked in the lot and lights through the windows, with the shadows of people moving about.
It was an ordinary moment, one I’d seen before. Yet this flood of gratitude rushed over me.
- Gratitude for our dancers and their families.
- Gratitude for my team.
- Gratitude for our new building.
And gratitude for the lessons I’ve learned as an entrepreneur that led me to this point where I saw my business more objectively than perhaps I ever have.
There it was: standing on its own, operating efficiently, carrying on with its important work. Just a regular Tuesday.
And the milestone hit me!
After two decades I am to the point where I can put a full day in working ON the studio and go home to dinner with my family while others work IN the studio.
Twenty years ago, I had no idea that I would ever be able to reach this point. I knew I was called to lead my business, but also to be able to prioritize time with my kids. There were so many years I just didn’t see how it would be possible. One was always suffering. If I was at the studio, it seemed that the kids needed me at home. If I was at home, I was getting a call from the studio during dinner.
But, it DID get better with time and through developing a TEAM. Now if you’ve been following me for a while you know that my TEAM includes several full-time members. But, it didn’t start that way. It started by asking Miss Shayna to take on the costume ordering and exchanges. And, then the front desk and then the rehearsal schedule and then the class schedule and … well, you get the picture. Over the course of several years, my team became equipped and I became more free to focus on my strengths.
As business owners, I think we sometimes underestimate the power of measuring these miles, especially the “small” ones … like a free Tuesday night … and celebrating them. Because if we don’t appreciate where we’ve come from and how far we’ve traveled, how can we continue to push forward?
It becomes too easy to operate from a place of just go, go, go. All the time.
Seeing how far you’ve come, and holding that gratitude in your heart, it renews your energy and gives you fuel to keep going. It’s like stopping at a water station while running a marathon (OK, I don’t KNOW that marathon feeling personally but my 5K heart can make an educated guess, right!?)
Even if our pace slows or picks up; or we stumble or have the wind at our backs … however we achieve the miles in our journey, it’s worth noting. We learn, we acknowledge, we celebrate – and then we move on toward the next milestone.
I’m here to say now that I’m more committed than ever to measuring these miles, to boosting my potential through these moments of reflection and gratitude. Here’s to more Tuesday night wonders for us all!
One of my very favorite things about More Than Just Great Dancing® is that I get to spend time coaching fellow studio owners.
Working together one-on-one to strategize and problem-solve is one of the most rewarding things I get to do in my career!
During a recent coaching session, a studio owner and I were discussing her concerns about making changes to a big program at her school. She had made a pretty significant overhaul to the program two years prior and was questioning whether she should implement her new ideas or scale back to avoid possibly overwhelming her people. There were certainly pros and cons to each pathway.
As we worked through her questions and brainstormed, it occurred to me that her situation was not unlike home improvements! (Maybe this was fresh in my mind because of the recent work we’ve been doing with an investment property; who knows?) And so the conversation turned toward everyone’s favorite pastime: watching HGTV.
Now, I know you’re probably either nodding your head because this sounds all-too-familiar OR laughing at me because dance studios and home improvement television don’t exactly bring to mind apples-to-apples comparisons.
EITHER WAY, hear me out!
Sometimes, when you are contemplating changes to your business, I think you have to consider them just like you would home improvements. Are the changes you need cosmetic or structural? Are they touch-ups or reconstructions? And how will they affect your budget, timeline, and effort? The bottom line is that there’s a big difference between buying new throw pillows and getting a new roof!
The same goes for your business. Like this studio owner was experiencing herself, there are going to be situations where you want to introduce a brand new program structure or a big idea, but perhaps it’s not the right time. Maybe it’s too soon on the heels of other transitions and as a result, your customers would feel disrupted or frustrated. Or maybe it’s not the right decision for your finances right now. In those moments you may decide to simply freshen up what you already offer (aka …you change out the throw pillows).
Other times, you know you need to take the plunge and invest in the “new roof”: Maybe your recital needs to be completely revamped to accommodate your studio’s growth, or your 10-year-old tuition structure needs to be reexamined so it can carry you into the next decade. With research and due diligence, you can follow through the transformation without creating an undue burden on yourself, your team, or your customers.
So, what did this studio owner end up deciding to do? She went with the pillows 🙂
We discussed the probable outcomes of each of her ideas, and ultimately she decided it was not the right time to introduce another major change to the program. Instead, she made the decision to make two small tweaks to the policies and discuss those in advance to the families involved. And because she put in the time to think through the possible loopholes and communicate on the front side, there was not a peep of complaint.
With this in mind, I hope you’ll feel encouraged the next time you’re faced with a big business decision! Just ask yourself, is it time for a few cosmetic updates or do we need to rebuild? What are the short-term and long-term consequences of making this decision one way or the other?
Pillows or roof, making changes can be daunting. Have the confidence that if you do the work, seek out coaching, and walk through the possible outcomes, you’ll make the best decision possible for your business. I believe in you!
As you might have seen, I recently made a BIG announcement regarding NEW ownership of the 360 Dance Festival™
Mr. Richard Smith, a good friend of mine in the dance industry, is now officially leading this venture into its next chapter!
Richard’s background as a master teacher, event director, and artistic director makes him THE perfect fit for this unique event. I am so excited to support his vision for the future.
At More Than Just Great Dancing®, we started this dance festival three years ago. We saw the need for an all-inclusive, non-competitive, uplifting event for students around the country. Attendance and feedback at the events we produced affirmed that we were on the right track: dance families were hungry for exciting, relevant dance training in a positive environment.
The awesome growth of the 360 Dance Festival™ meant that new leadership was something I needed to explore. And I found it in Mr. Richard! Not only was he a founding faculty member, but he has worked tirelessly over the past 15 years to bring the principles of technique to every class and dancer he teaches. He truly has a heart for this mission, which I’ve seen personally in his work as a guest teacher with our students at Misty’s Dance Unlimited.
My team and I asked Richard to share with us his ideas for leading 360, and I thought this post would be the perfect way to tell you what he’ll be doing to take the event to the next level …
“Nurturing the whole dancer will continue to be a very important component,” Richard told us, “and I want to make sure that everyone who attends the event—students, parents, teachers, studio owners—leaves with knowledge they can keep using over and over again. We want everyone to leave feeling better than they were before.”
Developing the community of the 360 Dance Festival™ is a focus of Richard’s too. As a faculty member at the event previously, he knows firsthand how special it was for us to begin building the framework of this community. Now he’s ready to expand it.
“That sense of community is something I want to develop on a grander scale,” Richard says. “I want attendance to feel like a ‘homecoming’ in a way, like 360 is a place for camaraderie and coming together on an annual basis; the place you want to go for that face-to-face interaction and learning that only a live event can provide.”
The interaction and learning will come from select teachers on the festival’s faculty. Richard sees them as the backbone of the event; the people who will help carry out his mission.
“One of the things I’m most driven by in leading 360 is seeing American dance take its place in the world of dance,” explains Richard. “This is a platform for the next level of development, a step toward what that bigger picture looks like. We’re going to be creating an outlet for innovative teachers and choreographers to go beyond the technical merit of dance.
I’m looking forward to creating a space for these teachers to do what they love, not just teach class … they’ll be completely accessible to the participants. They will be on the floor, making personal corrections. They’ll be hands-on to instruct and inspire.”
So what does that mean for those who are interested in attending?
Richard tells us it means effective class sizes (convention sized, but not super-sized), teachers who are invested in making a difference, and knowledge takeaways that will continue to motivate dancers long after they arrive home.
I can honestly say that with all Richard has planned, the future of the 360 Dance Festival™ is brighter than I could have imagined! I’m so proud to have had a hand in developing this event. Now I’m even prouder to see where it goes from here.
I hope you’ll join me in extending congratulations to Richard on taking over the event. Stay tuned to the next round of announcements from him about this year’s festival in Chicago!