I was in Topeka, Kansas earlier this week for a gathering of 6 influential dance studio owners from across the US. It was my 2nd trip to Kansas in 4 weeks, and one of several over the past few years (not including the many virtual meetings that have taken place in the last year.) Together we are working on a large-scale project that is going to be a game changer in the dance industry. There is nothing more motivating to me than being in a room full of people who I look up to, admire, and can constantly learn from. 

Side note: I’m a musical theater nerd, but if you aren’t familiar with the musical Hamilton, watch it and you get my reference in the next sentence. This particular small, very selective group of dance studio owners were in “the room where it happens.” They are the type of people who cause the people around them to be better and do better in all areas of business and in life, and I sometimes find myself wondering “How on earth did I get here?”  

After our workday on Monday, we had some time to socialize in the hotel lounge, and as we took turns speaking about our background and all the different pieces of our lives that got each of us to this point in our career, I realized some critical common threads in each of our stories. 

*None of us would have been considered the “best” dancer in our studios. Some of us were pretty good dancers, some of us were just okay dancers. 

*We all developed a hard work ethic, integrity, and ability to nurture positive relationships at an early age because we were the kids who had to work harder than the “best” dancers to achieve our desired results. 

*Even when working our hardest, we each sometimes still fell short of (1) our goals, (2) the expectations of others, or (3) the technical level of the dancers who could achieve flawless results with less effort. 

*When work ethic wasn’t enough, we each learned to work smarter. 

*Each of us went through events that left us feeling the sting of disappointment, which consequently made it easier to later appreciate the feeling of success. We each had to work through icky feelings, some of which were very real deep raw and dark emotions, and recognized that we all turned out stronger as a result of walking through those experiences that made us feel vulnerable. 

*We each learned not to compare ourselves to others, but to genuinely celebrate the successes of others, even when our own paths felt uncertain or our efforts unfruitful. 

*We each had several other career paths we could have chosen. Most of us were encouraged by others to pursue other careers. Many of those other careers would have been more lucrative and more prestigious. We chose dance. We chose dance education. We chose to take our passion and turn it into a career that would give our lives a meaningful purpose and allow us to teach, raise and influence dance students who were just like us. We chose to invest our lives in your family. We chose to invest in the life of your child. 

Hearing the stories of my colleagues was a much needed reminder that success is really just a pile of obstacles that you’re standing on instead of buried under.

Those valuable life lessons along our paths that lead each of us into “the room where it happens” are the lessons that I want your child to learn too.  I left Kansas no longer wondering how I got here. I now understand exactly how I got here and exactly what my purpose for being there was. I made a commitment to my love of dance, to the dance industry, to my dance students, to myself and to my family to always be the best I can be, for the benefit of those around me, regardless of where or not I can say I am “the best” at something. I made a commitment to not compare myself to others, but to always have a growth mindset of continued learning, changing and achieving new goals. 

What does this have to do with you, the dance parent? What does it have to do with your dance student? Because chances are your student is not the “best” dancer in the room. Chances are your child needs to work a little harder to achieve the same results as others in some area of their life. Chances are your child is learning, or will learn to work as hard as possible and then to work smarter. Chances are your child will feel the sting of disappointment, and as much as you’ll want to protect them from those icky feelings, you’ll instead find yourself walking them through their big emotions step by step so that they can come out stronger through that experience. Chances are at some point, your child will have to make a choice about which path to take in life. Regardless of which path they choose, the life lessons they learned in dance along the way will influence who they become. 

I want to encourage you, as a dance parent, to help your child focus on what is most important in life. Parent your child(ren) with the end goal in mind. The goal is not to be the best dancer in the room, or to be on the front row, or to be in the class with the older kids, or to win awards. 

Do you know how many people care if your child is the “best” dancer? Exactly nobody. Yup, I said that.

Focus on integrity. Focus on work ethic. Focus on having a growth mindset so that your child enters into a life of continued learning. Focus on nurturing positive relationships. Focus on not comparing your child’s journey to others, but on helping your child grow into the best version of who they were destined to become.