Story Time – Action Creates More Clarity Than Inaction 

No matter how many lessons I’ve learned throughout my time on this earth, I am constantly reminded that taking action cures uncertainty and slowly creates clarity. I wouldn’t dare pretend to be some type of expert on this subject matter, but I’ve had too many learning opportunities not to share what happens when I take action instead of thinking so much that I never even take the first step. 

Planning or impulsively doing something you have never done before can be extremely scary. It’s like walking in the dark and waiting for your eyes to adjust, and you realize there is no light to show you the way. So you have to trust you have the light within you to find a way.

As much as I know this, I still have my own struggles when I’m faced with new territory or familiar scenarios I still have not resolved how to navigate. What I do know is that we hesitate, procrastinate, and 2nd guess our next steps when we are not sure what we are doing. 

Whenever we are faced with the unknown or something we have never done, we enter this fearful response of retraction instead of walking we make our own path. Some of us are even scared to make our own path or do something different from the norm. At this point in my life, I feel like all my life experiences or major decisions are becoming less familiar. So I am constantly in a phase of acting so I don’t freeze from overthinking.

I have been a dance teacher and a choreographer for 20 years now, and every class I teach or opportunity I get to create movement is new. My response to these opportunities determine whether or not I am successful or hesitant. For example, if a new song scares me a bit then I know I need to take action by just moving to it and then trust that I will figure it out. It’s the only place where skill and creativity makes sense. Then through sweat and work, I begin creating something that authentically represents me as the artist I aim to be.

As a chef, creating new dishes almost always puts me in uncharted territory. Whenever I get an idea, I have to take action in order to make a dish or pastry a reality. I literally have to go in the kitchen and let my skill, knowledge, and work bring my creation to life. If I don’t take action, then it doesn’t happen at all. Just like dance it teaches me to trust that I have the tools and courage to create something new. Even when I am in the dark.

Taking action is the most efficient way to erase the possibility of not knowing. It takes a lot of courage and most times you have to do it alone. For me, when I do take action, I allow myself to make mistakes, fail and sometimes I want to give up. However, I know from experience that those things are a part of the journey and the result of discovering new parts of yourself is much more rewarding. So therefore I welcome the dark.

The question is – why did I decide to share this with you? Over the past 5 years I have heard many people talk about their dreams as if they have given up on the possibility of achieving them. Some started their journey and then stopped abruptly. Some have experienced success and some just convinced themselves that they can’t do it. What I am saying is that I know that you can do anything you put your mind and full effort into. It is not going to be easy. Nothing worthwhile is easy. You will fall. You will make mistakes. You will definitely be embarrassed at some point along the way. However, after you get through those learning opportunities, there is a beautiful destination of self discovery and overcoming your fears that taste sweeter than living in the purgatory of inaction or ‘what ifs’. 

Taking action has taught me more about myself and life than anyone in this world. So I say this to you. Do not spend too much time talking about something you truly want in your life. Take action and trust that you land on your feet even if you fall a few times. Something more beautiful than what you know is on the other side. 

Story Time – How I became the dancer I am today

Everyone loves a good Before and After. It’s shiny and exciting cause it shows you what’s possible! It’s something that makes you stop and say, “Whoa! Is that her?! That’s incredible.” Seeing a transformation side by side like that can be very powerful.

Over the past few years we’ve shown a few different examples of my growth as a dancer by highlighting videos of me dancing from over 10 years ago all the way through examples from today. And you better believe there is a difference! We shared those old dance videos in conjunction with current dance videos so you can see that we all start somewhere and that growth is possible. But HOW? That’s something we haven’t specifically talked about in relation to my dance journey. How did I go from someone who was clearly passionate about dance but had little to no technique and looked out of control in her movement to the dancer I am today?

Before I can answer the “how” for you, I have to discuss the “why.” Why was my dancing so spazzy? Initially, yes it’s because I was never truly taught technique. But one day, I started taking classes from this guy named Rishone, and he started teaching me about groundedness and paying attention to my feet and how to create movement by pressing into the floor. But here was the problem – I was getting the education, but I WASN’T LISTENING. I thought I knew better. I was so stubborn! More specifically, I created a learning block for myself. The way that Rishone taught choreography back when I first met him was solely through “feel.” He didn’t use counts or really any measure of timing at all while he was teaching. He choreographed based on how he felt so when he taught it, the timing would change throughout the class, and that infuriated me. I was all about the counts and the timing. He was all about the feel. Because of that clash between us, I put up this barrier in my learning process that stopped me from being able to take in the choreography unless I knew what the timing was. And my dancing suffered for it. But again, I thought I knew better.

So what changed?

Nothing did. At least not for a long time. My mindset about the learning process stayed the same for several years, and so did my dancing – spazzy and lacking control.

It wasn’t until I let my guard down and opened myself up to the learning process and allowing myself to be comfortable with moving and learning choreography without necessarily knowing the timing first. That was hard! It was going against how I am wired. But once I stopped holding on so tightly to what I thought was the right way to learn, I was able to actually take in the information and technique I was being taught. And slowly but surely, I could start to see a difference in my quality of movement. There was more control and more finesse. I had more range of motion and dynamics instead of just one flat tone of movement. Because those things that Rishone tried to teach me back in the day – the groundedness, the use of my feet, pressing into the floor to generate the move ment – I was finally implementing them. 

That is why you can see a clear difference in a ” before and after ” in my dancing between 10 years ago to now. I had to get rid of the chip on my shoulder thinking I was better or smarter than the process. I had to open myself up to trying new things and new ways of looking at dance. I had to be okay with not being perfect. 

Now let’s put up a mirror. Have you been feeling stuck as a dancer?

Every week, we give you the “how.” We’re teaching you all the technique and skills you need to grow as a dancer. But right now, I want you to look in that mirror and ask yourself, what is your “why?” If we’re telling you how to get better, but you’re still feeling stuck, why are you not progressing? For me it was my stubbornness in the learning process and being afraid of not being perfect. But it may be something different for you… Maybe it’s an uncomfortability with looking at yourself in the mirror. Or maybe It’s a mindset you can’t get out of that’s telling you that your not a (hip hop) dancer. 

Whatever it is, if you have something that’s preventing you from being able to learn and implement the technique we give you in class, you’ve got to address what that is before you’ll be able to move forward and make any real progress on your own dance journey. Once you can figure out the why that’s been stopping you, that’s when the real work begins. And no, it’s not glamorous. It’s not the shiny “before and after.” But it’s the consistent work that’s required in order for you to be able to reach that “end goal.” And we’ll be here to guide you along that journey. But you’ve got to come open to the process ready to learn! When you can do that, you’ll be unstoppable.

Story Time – Once a Student, Always a Student

My heart was racing. Why was I so nervous? I’ve probably done this 1000 times before. But even still as I got ready to take class, I felt the nerves start to kick in.

Last week, I had the privilege of being a student and taking a “Heels and Feels” class with Salena, another local dance instructor. I LOVE being a student and the whole process of taking class. I love the challenge of syncing my body with the musicality of the movement and remembering what step comes next. And being able to perform the choreography with confidence by the end of the class is just the cherry on top for me.

As I was driving to the studio to take the class, I started to experience some anxious but excited feelings. I can’t tell you how long it’s been since I’ve taken a class from someone other than Rishone or James. After I checked in at the front desk, I quickly shifted my focus. This was my time for me, no one else. Time for me to do what I love and access a part of myself I don’t always have the opportunity to do.

We stretched, and then all made our way to one end of the room to do “across the floor” work. This was when my body decided to really let me know I was nervous! I started to feel my heart race again and felt the tingling sensation of blood rushing through my body. Why was I so anxious to go across the floor?? Even though I’ve taken countless dance classes, going “across the floor” was not something I had much experience in. Because it felt new to me, I felt uncertainty – Was I going to be able to do it? Was I going to look good??

Immediately, I took a deep and intentional breath and told myself these key words – IT. DOESN’T. MATTER. It doesn’t matter if I look good right now. I’m learning. It’s ok if I make a mistake and stumble a little bit. No one else cares. These are literally all the same words and sentiments we say to our students every week. 

I share this story with you, because we want you to know that the things we tell you as instructors are the same things that we apply for ourselves when we’re in the student role. No, we’re not perfect, and we also have insecurities. But the way you work through that is to push through. Take the pressure off of yourself and allow yourself to look silly. And from experience, it feels incredible when you do, even liberating. 

Story Time – Above All, Choose You

I am an over-achiever to a fault. I am always looking to learn something new or seek out new experiences that open up my perspective beyond the existing limited one. Is that a bad thing? 

I don’t believe so, but if I invest a large percentage of my time into something that is not servicing the goals I have for my life, then I will always choose to leave that thing behind regardless of its pereceived benefits. 

The last year and 6 months I have been working as a Validation Engineer II with a sub contracting company that services pharmaceutical companies. Within about 8 months I got promoted to the position of Area Client Manager of WNY which is a equivalent to a regional manager. 

Now I won’t get into too much detail on why I decided to take on this career path once again, but I’ll tell you this, it provided financial gain that was needed at the time. However, I did not forsee the emotional toll I would endure dealing with a management team that decided to string me along for 6 months without the appropriate compensation for my new position. 

Now I see the value of money and I respect it. However, I value how I spend my time on this earth more than money. Therefore, my happiness, my family, and my businesses will always take priority over everything else. That is a contract I signed with myself when I left the pharmaceutical industry in 2014. 

Anyways, to make a long story short, I took the new position on September 29th 2022. Again, I needed time to learn the position and devise a strategy on how to be my most efficient self. It took about 3 to 4 months to figure that out along with balancing everything else in my life. During that time I realized my management team was dragging their feet on the salary transition that was supposed to happen in late January/ beginning of February. 

Keep in mind I had been working this position now for a few months with expectations and a lack of proper resources/tools to actually do my job effectively. Regardless of those , I still took care of my responsibilities in order to establish credibility in WNY. Of course not having the proper resources caused more stress to my life but I knew if I kept manufacturing results there would be no reason to question the salary compensation I was requesting. However, I began feeling more and more uneasy about not hearing anything about the salary transition. Therefore I requested meetings with my regional manager so he could clear things. After a few unsuccessful meetings, I final recieved an answer about the date I would recieve my salary transition. I was told March 15th woukd be the date everything would be taken care of. So I kept on doing what I was doing, expecting to hear good news on March 15. To my surprise, on March 15th my regional manager shared with me during our weekly check in meeting that they are dissolving my position. That would mean I would no longer be the Area Client Manager and I would be expected to travel out of state to service another client for a little over a full year. Immediately all the stress I had accumulated from this anticipation made me feel manipulated but also relieved. Why, because at least at this point I knew where I needed to put this new venture on my priority list. 
I was mislead and manipulated by my regional manager/management team with no prior communication or updates. Therefore, I knew what decision I needed to make. Having this postion in my career field opened up some old parts of me that I enjoyed but the stress of it affected my overall happiness, devoured my valuable time, and also took my focus away from growing my businesses. Therefore, I took a few days to devise a plan to resign. My last day in my position was April 10th 2023. 

I can literally feel myself slowly regaining that connection to my internal happiness. That’s how I know I made the right decision. 
It is still a struggle readjusting to my daily routine prior to taking on a whole career but I know in a couple months I will be fully engaged in all the things that service my life.

I am sharing this to tell you that it’s ok if it didn’t workout. You determine what makes your life whole. If you have done everything in your power to make it work but your efforts were not valued then you have to evaluate what you value and your goals in order to make the right decision. It’s ok to not allow that thing you made a choice to invest in destroy everything you worked so hard for. Whether it is a job, a hobby, a bad habbit, a mindset or someone that no longer services your goals for yourself, make the decision to let go and choose yoy. You will thank yourself for it. Don’t invest too much time into the ‘pros’ that you don’t see how much the ‘cons’ are affecting you and everything around you. I chose to get back to those things that ignite me. So my message is to always choose you. 

Story Time with Rishone – And… ACTION!

And… Action!! 

It’s hard for me to share this with the outside world because it’s still work in progress throughout my current being. I have not quite figured it out or mastered this approach yet but I know I’ve made so many achievements over the past 6 years because of it.

For most of my life I have been keenly observant. I would study life, family, people, social groups, and myself closely to understand why we made certain choices. To be more specific: like what inspired us to act or better yet, what inspires us to do anything given our unique or special circumstances. So basically most of who I am and what I wanted to become existed  inside my head. There is one specific moment that started a domino effect of where I am right now in this process.  

The First time I chose to act. 

I always remember this one moment in my young life that I believe defines who I was and has inspired me to be the person I am today. I was 10 years old, and I wanted to be on my under 14 soccer team. To be on the Cornwall College under 14 team is something that was always on my mind. My dad was a respected soccer player locally, and though he wasn’t really apart of my life, I still had the opportunity to watch him play on select Sundays. I can honestly say that is the only time in my life where I wanted to be like him.  It was a Saturday night after the Jerk Chicken man had already sold out and everyone headed back to their homes to go to bed in preparation for Church on Sunday. My best friends Keon and O’Neal went inside to go to bed, so I got my old football from the side of my house in Catherine Hall Montego Bay and went under the street light at the end of the block at Keon’s house. That night I connected with a different side of myself. 

To gain more control over the football I need to be better at keep ups. So that night, I set out to accomplish doing 100 keep ups without making the ball hit the road or the side walk. I would visualize myself running on to the field with number 10 on my jersey with Todd above it. I could literally smell the grass, feel how perfect my shin guards felt, and hear my sister yelling my name. I could even feel how connected I felt to my team because I was the star player. 

I started at about 10:30PM that night, and I was so invested in my goal that I didn’t leave under that street light till I got to 100. In fact, at times I got to 90, 95, 98, and even 99. Though I got close to my goal, I knew I needed to get to a 100. Of course, I could lie about it the next day, but to me that wasn’t necessary. It would feel better to actually do it

No matter how long it took, I knew I was going to get it done. I learned so much about myself that night. There was no one there to celebrate with me. No one there to support. No one there to tell me that I could do it or tell me to keep going when I failed many times. At about 3:30AM after multiple failed attempts, I surpassed 100 keep-up, and my heart exploded with joy. I was exhausted physically and mentally. I even did it a 2nd time to make sure it wasn’t a fluke. 

I was happy that I achieved my goal and knew the struggle it took to get there, but I had gained this level of focus that made me feel like I could achieve 10,000 keep-ups. That focus gave me the confidence and motivation that enabled me to make the U14 team that fall with the number 12 on my jersey as the 2nd Half right wing Striker. 

As I have mentioned, I was 10 maybe 11 years old when I achieved my goal of making the U14 team, but throughout my life I would remind myself, whenever I was spending too much time in my head, that I needed to take action. Throughout high school, college, and most of my adult hood, I am still on this journey to go from thought to action. Even with that realization as child, it is not until 2022 that I instantaneously took action before it settled as a repeat movie in my head. 

My Realization:

That moment has lead me to many achievements in my life but none more important than lately. I launched a 5 year dream in Dine & Dance. I was able to serve the community through Plated Soul in response to mass shooting at Tops Friendly Market. I was able to balance Musicality Central, Plated Soul and a promotion at work. I achieved physical goals and so many more. 

The bottom line is this. I realized being observant and a hard worker was not enough. When I wrote my goals down, I also needed to take action and be as fearless about pursuing them as possible.  Being that I love the affair I have with words and beautifully organizing them to create stories, I am now creating stories through action. That is basically what I wanted to share. All the ideas, poetry, short stories, motivational speeches, advice, and accountability speeches have been transferred to this outside world.  

How this might help You. 

I feel like I am always giving you these stories about never giving up on yourself or the things you want for your life. My goal is not to make you feel like you are not trying. My goal is to share how I never stopped trying. I learned to think, create, speak and take action toward my goals, and that has made the difference in my life today. I am continuously growing and learning so I am destined to learn more from failures than my successes.  

Make this year the year you take action. Write your goals down not only on paper but in your mind and heart. If you don’t have anyone to support you or encourage you to win, then let this blog serve as a written document that empowers you to keep going even when it seems impossible. I have worked passed impossible more times than I can remember by now and let me be frank in saying it was hard. However, the joy that fills your cells when you’ve achieved something you have worked hard for over a long period of time is absolutely priceless and unreplaceable. I truly want that for you.

Final Thought:

Life is an action movie in our heads but the beauty of living takes place when we take action in this reality.  

Story Time – When your best doesn’t feel good enough

I’ve been frustrated, guys. The second half of this year hasn’t quite looked as I had hoped it would… Back at the end of July, I was in a fender bender that I initially thought was “no big deal” and assumed I’d easily bounce back from, but things have not gone quite as planned since then.

My body is still trying to work through any trauma it experienced, and with that, my physical abilities have changed, limiting my ability to do the things I love. I have a goal of hitting a 300 lb deadlift. That goal has certainly been put on pause in addition to lifting any weights heavier than 20 lbs. Then even my ability to dance (and teach) has been diminished, needing to modify my movement.

This has been hard. Dance is a part of my identity, and not being able to express myself through dance the way I normally would has me feeling like a part of me is missing. I know any dancer who’s ever experienced an injury gets this. I know I’m not alone. 

I don’t share this with you to get your pity. I just want to be real about where I’m at right now. This has been a journey, and I think I’m now at the point of being able to try to reincorporate some of the movement I’ve had to reduce. I’ve started taking some lower intensity workout classes, like Barre. And to be honest, it’s been humbling. The way I look in these classes is very different from when I used to take these classes all the time in previous years. I’ve got to take things slower and not go as “full out” as I normally would. And holy sore! My body is definitely adjusting to this movement again. 

So what’s the moral of my story?

Keep going! Do what you can. “Your best” will look different in different seasons. Right now, my best is modifying movement and keeping things lighter but ensuring that I don’t stop moving. This is just a season, and I’m confident that it will take me into a new season of stronger movement in the future. But for now, I’m giving my best. 

I want to encourage you to check in with yourself. Do you feel you’re giving your best considering the current season of life you’re in? That’s not for me to answer, and it’s something that you’ve got to be honest with yourself about. But it might be the case that you need to adjust your expectations for yourself so you can positively move forward. 

Story Time – Why can’t I?

No Really? Why Cant I!!!!

One of the most pivotal moments of my life was deciding to play tennis at Dillard High School at the start of my junior year. During my freshman and sophomore year at Dillard, I would watch our tennis team practice as I marched by the army green caged courts wishing I could be volleying a forehand cross court for a match point in an actual match. However, at that time I was on the color guard and drill team competition team that took place during the tennis practices. 

I would always listen for the match scores during the morning announcements imagining that the announcer read.. Rishone Todd won his match 6-3 6-0 against Blanch Ely High School number 2 prospect. So I made a goal at the end of my sophomore year that I would join the tennis team no matter what. 

I had been conditioned, through the sport itself, to think that only certain things were for certain people or exclusive to certain races. Though I loved tennis, I honestly thought that tennis was out of my wheelhouse because of my complexion. Oh how extremely wrong I was. I was led to think this way because no one looked like me that was watching from the stands or playing in the matches. 

My favorite player will always be Andre Agassi. Andre Agassi is an exciting, professional tennis player that set the early 90s on fire and is one of the greatest tennis players of all time in my opinion. He had some epic battles with Pete Sampras, another incredible American tennis superstar. However, they both did not look like me and it played into the marketing that tennis was not meant for people of color. 

However, this blog is not about Andre Agassi or Pete Sampras, it’s about two incredible women that proved to me that I was capable of anything no matter how the world painted me. Venus and Serena Williams made their entrance in the pro circuit in the mid to late 90s. They changed the image of tennis permanently. 
They brought so much grace, athleticism, strategy, and strength to the sport. I was already a die hard fan of tennis but finally seeing two women of color play on television lit a fire inside me that I can’t even explain through words. I no longer was expected to play basketball, football, run track, or soccer. I could focus on my academics, continue to enjoy being a member of AFJROTC program and now choose to fulfill a childhood dream to play Tennis for my high school.

This past week Serena played her last match at the US Open before considering her retirement and it certainly made me emotional. It was a happy, fulfilled, and proud emotional moment for me. As I was cheering her on to win her match, I realized I had been cheering for 25 years through all of her 23 grand slams titles. Now that I am a grown man I realized I was cheering for my dream to be different from the norm.  Even though she lost after playing a great match I simultaneously I saw the 15 year old in Lauderhill, Florida sitting on the couch excited to pick up a tennis racket and a few fresh tennis balls because Serena just beat Martina Hingis (the number 1 women’s tennis player in the world) at the US Open for her first single grand slam title. She is now arguably the greatest athlete of all time and has opened the door for so many other women in sports and tennis players around the world. Even her opponent who beat her shared how much Serena and Venus inspired her career. It was touching to hear how a woman, not of color, honoring Serena for inspiring her journey to where she is right now. 

Over the years there have been so many players that have made me proud of my complexion. Players like James Blake, Gaël Monfils, Jo Wilfreid Tsonga, Naomi Osaka, Sloane Stephens, Donald Young, Madison Keys, Coco gauff and Today (September 5th, 2022) I witnessed Francis Tiafoe beat Rafael Nadal in 4 set thriller to make it to the US Open Semifinals. He played brilliantly. 

Why do I share this story? I know I am a black man and vice versa you may think dance is not for you because you actually believe that knowing how to dance has to do with your complexion. I am here to tell you that it is a myth. Everything can be learned and mastered with time if you are invested for the right reasons. Just like I thought tennis wasn’t for me; I learned that I needed Venus and Serena to help me believe in myself. Our studio is a reflection of that belief. 

We often believe that we can’t do something because we have a different complexion, because we are too short, or too tall, or are not the right size or are not flexible enough, or you have no rhythm or think you have 2 left feet(which is also a lie)… etc. Sometimes it’s the marketing and history that prevents you from doing that one thing that brings you life. Well I am here to ask you. Why can’t you? In an effort to tell you to go out there and start doing. It may take some time to learn or you may even experience some discomfort but be open to that process because it is liberating. And in the process of doing the thing that you love you automatically give other room to go after things they may not have thought they were capable of. 

I will end this blog like this. As I sat in my C++ programming irate period class, I remember hearing my name at the morning announcements. The student said my 1st name incorrectly but I didn’t care. She said Rishown Todd won his match 6-4 6-1 against Platantion #2. I closed my eyes in a meditative celebration because I did. 

Story Time – It’ll All Work Out

You ever have one of those days where you just feel that nothing is going right? Or maybe it’s one of those weeks, or months, or even seasons…. Where nothing seems to be going your way?

That’s been me these past few weeks. I won’t go into detail, but long story short, I went through an unfavorable and frustrating experience with the bank that made me question if I’d be able to pay for the updates I’m making at my house. And in the midst of this, getting into a minor fender bender causing me to not have access to my vehicle for a week and dealing with all the phone calls with insurance companies and practitioners post accident. And then of course the outdoor furniture I ordered came partially broken so I had to order a replacement which is backordered… And I’m going through health complications… And dealing with shoulder pain from the car accident… And, and, and…..

So many things seemed to be going wrong within a few weeks time. But do you know why so many things seem to be going wrong in my life? Because that’s what I was focusing on! Yes, these things were in fact happening, but there were also SO many other incredible and wonderful things happening at the same time, like having a magical birthday celebration for my boyfriend, knowing I’m going to be meeting my niece for the first time next week, the fact that I now have central air installed and I’m not dying of heat in my house, the fact that I have a house that I love living in every day, having incredible dance classes with you all…. There are so many things in my life that that bring me joy every single day.

But instead of focusing on the joy, I was allowing myself to be distracted by the frustrations I was experiencing. I’ve had to remind myself that my life experience is what I make of it. If I focus on the bad, it’s going to feel negative. But if I focus on the good things, I will be so much happier. “Where focus goes, energy flows.” I want the energy to flow to the positive things. 

I’ve decided to no longer dwell on these frustrations, but instead trust that it will all work out, and in the meantime, focus on those positive moments and things that I’m truly thankful for. 

So if you find yourself in a rut, feeling like one thing after another, nothing seems to be going right, I want to encourage you to shift your focus to the things that are going right in your life. If you can’t think of anything, ask yourself, if everything that I didn’t express gratitude for today was gone tomorrow, what would I be left with? That’ll make you realize real quick that you have so much in your life that you can express gratitude for. When you start living in a positive headspace, your life experience will shift to something that feels much more joyful. And once you’re in the practice of seeing the positives in life, it’ll come more naturally, and you’ll start to feel the energy shift in your life. 

So let’s do this together. What’s something that you’re grateful for? Share in the comments below.

6 Things I Learned from Co-Owning a Business for 6 years

“Own a dance studio,” they said…. “It’ll be fun,” the said…. And they were right!! After 6 years in business, I can safely say that spending time in the studio with you all is what I look forward to most each week. 

BUT!! That’s not to say that it’s been easy. It hasn’t. Each week brings new challenges, and to push through each one of those challenges every week for 6 years can be exhausting! But I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

With working through all the ups and downs, both Rishone and I have learned a lot – about dance, business, people, and ourselves….

Here are 6 of my biggest learning lessons from the past 6 years:

1. You have to be uncomfortable if you want to grow 

In order to grow, you have to change. And as we all know, change is not easy! But I’m proud to say that I’m a much different dancer and choreographer than I was 6 years ago. And that’s because (with the help of Rishone), I’ve pushed myself out of my comfort zone to learn different things. I’ve dug into the nitty, gritty details of improving my technique and movement. (Thank the Lord cause my grooves needed some serious help! I’ve learned about Hip Hop culture and my place in it (which that was a very uncomfortable journey that I’m still on!). Cause it’s not just the change it self that’s difficult. It’s hard to fully evaluate yourself and be honest with yourself about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. But in order to change something, you must first evaluate where you are today. Otherwise, you’ll have no idea how to get where you want to be.

2. Working with someone is hard work

For anyone who thinks that owning a business is automatically easier with two people…. It’s a lie! Of course, I absolutely love owning a business with Rishone, but it has not been easy. Rishone and I work every week to better our business and at the hear of that is us working to strengthen our relationship. This means better communication, working through conflict, having patience… These are all really hard things especially considering how different we both are as people. But I’m glad to say that all those painful conversations where we didn’t see eye to eye have all been worth it. We’ve learned how to work through those disagreements. And I think the biggest driving factor for why we’ve been able to come out on the other side of some really hard situations between each other is because of the genuine love we have for each other. Keeping that in mind throughout those challenging times has helped to keep us focused on pushing through for a better result, instead of simply throwing the towel in and giving up.

3. Consistency really is Key 

The only reason Musicality Central still exists today is because we have been consistent AF over the past 6 years. In the beginning, we had one, two, maybe four people on a good day… Some days we had no one show up for class. But we kept going. Because when you’re consistent, you create momentum, and not only for yourself, but for the people around you. The way you stay consistent is to stay focused on WHY you’re doing what you’re doing. If we were teaching dance to because Instagram famous or for the attention, you better believe, we would have quite years ago. But that’s not why we do what we do. We teach because we want to share our genuine love for dance with the world. We teach because we know the impact it has on our clients happiness. We teach because it makes us and you all better people. Because all of these “why’s” have been our focus, we’ve remained consistent.

4. Roll with the punches

Exhibit A – The Pandemic! Man, we certainly had to roll with the punches over these past two years. We had to figure out how to create a completely new business model with online classes and work through all the mini punches along the way with that journey, like mics not working or the internet cutting out. Not to mention dealing with the masks and social distancing once we got back into the studio. Things don’t always go to plan, whether it be a full-blown pandemic or simply forgetting a full 8 count of a routine while teaching it. I’ve learned that there’s no need to freak out. “Everything is figureoutable!” (Marie Forleo). So if I have a class that felt clunky and that our students left with blind spots and questions marks in the routine, I try not to let that get me down. Don’t get me wrong, I might feel sad or frustrated initially that the class didn’t go as well as I wanted, but Rishone and I will take a look and see what I can do to make the class better the next week, and I prepare accordingly. And this evaluation process is a CONSTANT work in progress for me.

5. It’s OK to Suck

This is kind of a tangent to # 1 and #4, cause really these all tie in together. This is something we preach in every single one of our classes: We do not expect you to be perfect! And this is something that I’ve also had to learn for myself. There have been routines that I’ve created where I watch back a video of it, and I feel sick to my stomach because I don’t like what I had created. But just as much as we tell you all that growing as a dancer is a journey, I’ve had to learn that growing as a choreography also takes time, and not to be too hard on myself if I create something that doesn’t quite seem to “click.” I’ve also experienced this as a dancer, even with my own choreography, where I watch myself back in a video and think, “wow, you really didn’t look as good as you thought you did, Susie.” This can be frustrating hard for anyone who struggles with perfectionism. But I’m learning that it’s OK to not be good at everything, cause like I talked about in #1, this is how we grow. But you have to first evaluate and stay consistent with working on your craft!

6. My Purpose in Life is to Connect and have Impact

I’ve actually already written a full blog on this alone. (Definitely take some time to read Story Time with Susie – Finding My Purpose if you haven’t already!) Through this whole dance journey, I’ve learned that I feel most like my authentic self when I am teaching and dancing. And when I’m authentic to me, that’s when I have a real impact on the people around me.

With all these learning lessons, I need to add one major takeaway… I love you guys so much! You all make my week, every single week, and I’m so thankful to have so many wonderful clients and people in my life because of dance.

So thank you for believing in Musicality Central and us. We wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for you all!

Story Time with Susie – Learning the Importance of Love Languages the Hard Way

February… The month of love! Whether you have a significant other in your life or not, we all have people who we love and who love us.

But have you ever experienced frustration with not feeling loved? Or maybe you’ve felt that the love you’ve tried to give to others was not being received? (Been there, done that!)

That’s because we don’t all give and receive love in the same ways.

The first time I really understood this was when Rishone and I first became friends.

NYC – December 2013

I love giving people gifts!! It’s a natural way for me to show people I care about them. I specifically recall on the second year of us being friends when Rishone’s birthday rolled around, I popped over to Walmart and got him an array of different things to give to him… A bunch of random things that I got a kick out of. But when I gave him these gifts, I didn’t get the reaction from him that I was expecting. Of course, he said thanks and I knew he was appreciative of the thought, but he didn’t seem excited about the gifts.

To be honest, I didn’t know Rishone very well at that point, and just wanted to give him something for his birthday cause I knew that I enjoyed receiving gifts. But just because (at that time) I may have appreciated getting a gift with a bunch of random things thrown into a basket doesn’t automatically mean that he would also like it. I’ve since learned that he does appreciate gifts as long as he can tell that there was thought put into it being for him specifically. But even with that being said, I’ve learned that he doesn’t value physical things and that gift giving is not primarily how he receives love.

If you’re not sure what I’m talking about when I say receiving and giving love, I’m referencing the 5 Love Languages, which are:

  • Words of affirmation
  • Acts of service
  • Receiving gifts
  • Quality time
  • Physical touch

Now that I better understand what’s important to Rishone and how he receives love, I always try to make sure I think of different ways to celebrate with Rishone for special occasions outside of my go-to (physical) gift giving nature.

For example, for his birthday back in 2015, I remember creating cards that I gave him throughout the day giving him “paths to choose” for different activities we could do together, like going to a specialty spice store or an oil/vinegar store, putt-putt or bowling, and of course going to get the best french toast in town (Rishone’s favorite) at Betty’s. This was me thinking about Rishone through meant much more to him than me giving him another kitchen gadget.

Betty’s – Rishone’s birthday 2015

This is such an important concept for everybody to understand! Because when we truly love someone, we want to make sure that they can actually FEEL and experience that love from us. So in order to do that, we have to speak THEIR language.

So I encourage you, take some time to better understand what your love language is as well as the love languages of the people you care about most. If you’re not sure where to start, you can try taking the official Love Languages Quiz and sharing it with the others you care about to take as well.

Once you better understand your love language as well as your significant others, parents, siblings, or friends love languages, now you can start taking action!

Let’s say you naturally like to give gifts, but your best friend who is going through a hard time with their job or their family actually receives love through acts of service. Maybe you bring them their favorite meal so it’s one less than that they have to worry about that day.

Or let’s say that you naturally give those you love words of affirmation, but your mom would actually most benefit from quality time with you. I’m sure it would mean the world to her if you gave her a call to schedule some time together even if it’s just doing something simple like taking a walk or doing a puzzle together.

Check out his chart for more ideas on how to show love for each love language:

When we start speaking in others love languages, our relationships get stronger. This certainly does take effort – don’t get me wrong. But if you love them, it’ll be worth it.

I want to hear from you! What is your love language? Does it differ from your significant other or the other people your closest to?