I walked into a Fred Astaire dance studio a year ago with the sole desire of learning to Tango. It was something I had always wanted to do, and I was following my heart.
The deeper truth is that I was woefully in need of expanding my feminine energy…the energy we all have, regardless of gender, which fuels the feeler within us. It’s the energy that we are immersed in when we teach, nurture, create, innovate, dream big, receive graciously from others, guide, and mentor. It’s the energy we are in when we follow instead of lead. It’s the energy we are in when we simply let go.
As a leader I had spent so much time in my masculine energy: thinking, analyzing, strategizing, outlining, and – more than anything – controlling, that I had almost lost touch with the part of myself that could just let go, feel and follow. Perhaps this is something you, too, can relate to?
Ballroom dancing was the perfect antidote. I realized very quickly that in order to do well and actually enjoy it, I was going to have to learn to follow my partners. I had to shift out of the mentality that said, “I’ve got this! I can do this by myself. No one will do this as well as I am able to just do it myself.” I had to shift into the mentality that was open to receiving these words from someone else: “I’ve got you. Follow me and we’ll both succeed.”
It has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever tried to do. It has also been one of the most important lessons I’ve ever learned as a leader.
You would think that letting someone else take charge would be a welcome respite from the stress of leading and controlling and of being fully responsible for every step of the process. It’s not. What I learned about myself very quickly – and maybe is true of all of you – is that my leadership behaviors had become so ingrained in me that trying to let go of these behaviors was actually much more stressful!
I started wondering if there really would be any value in learning to be a good follower…or in learning to let go and to feel. And then my brilliant business partner and guide said these words to me:
“Think of how successful you’ve been using only half of yourself, your masculine side. Imagine how successful you could be if you empowered all of yourself. If you spent more time in your heart and less time in your fears.”
If you take nothing else away from this blog post, I hope you will ask the entirety of this question of yourself.
In my case, I honestly had a hard time imagining it. I didn’t know what it would look like or feel like. So, I decided to take on the challenge of a lifetime, which would force me to find out. This past January I signed up for the national Cross-Country Dance Championships in Las Vegas, with only three and a half months to prepare to compete in nine different styles of ballroom dance, plus a solo. Did I mention it was a national competition? This is probably the craziest thing I ever did in terms of “putting myself out there.” By far.
Over the course of five days I competed in more than 100 heats. My very first time stepping on a ballroom floor to compete was for the performance of my Solo on the very first night of competition. I walked out onto the floor shaking from all the adrenaline, but with this assurance from my soulful partner Joel: “I’ve got you.” I trusted. I followed Joel and I let the music move me. I gave myself permission to actually feel every second of that 2-minute performance. And I believe it showed on my face. Most importantly, I felt it in my heart.
The very last time I stepped out on the ballroom floor at the end of the very long week was to compete in the finals of the Smooth Division competition (Waltz, Foxtrot and Tango) in the youngest age category (meaning, against competitors who were, generally speaking, much younger than I). I had just started learning the Waltz and Foxtrot in earnest in January, and was literally still afraid of doing everything wrong. I was quite positive that I still had no idea how to Foxtrot. To say that I was stunned to make it to the finals is an understatement.
I knew I had only one choice when I stepped out on the ballroom floor for that final round with my partner Nick: let go, follow, and feel with my whole heart, just as I had done in my Solo with Joel. What followed were some of the most freeing minutes of my life. Truly. I felt whole. I felt divine. I felt empowered from within. I felt powerful in the most unexpected ways.
So what was the result of empowering my full self during the course of that week as my business partner had encouraged me to do; the masculine side that executed the steps to the best of my ability and the feminine side that followed and let go in order to feel? I took 4th place overall in the country in my Rhythm Division (Cha-Cha, Rumba and Swing) and 2nd place overall in my Smooth Division. But as unbelievable and incredible as this was, my most divine accomplishments – solely because of their importance to me and my journey, and because of how whole I felt while dancing them – were taking 1st in the country with my Solo, 1st in the Tango, and yes, I took 1st place in the Foxtrot. It was a week beyond what I had dared to dream or imagine.
The moral of this story, without a sliver of a doubt, and one that I will now be applying in every aspect of my career: we are all more powerful when we awaken every aspect of ourselves – masculine as well as feminine, head as well as heart – and live our lives as our full, whole, True Selves. Not only do we become more powerful, but we open the door to the possibility of expanding our lives in the most unexpected ways… ~
**Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Joel and Nick! I never could have accomplished any of it without you…
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Photos by Fred Astaire South Barrington.