Fear isn’t a Good Enough Reason.
Six and half years ago when I took over the school it was intense. I took over from the previous owner as an instructor, in the middle of a semester. I was not equipped to be an Salsa instructor and I had only taught 5 minutes of a class. But I was now teaching advanced material. Not just level 1 salsa but level 3 and 5 as well. My mentor used to hide in the back closet of Toronto Dance Salsa as I taught and take notes and we would go over everything I said and did in class.
So about a month into my new role, I look at what I am supposed to be teaching that day in level 3 salsa and I immediately panic. Double turns! I can’t do double turns at this point. To be honest my single turns were still a bit shaky. So I panic. I run to the closet and bang on the door. The students are coming in at this point, but I’m not even paying attention. I am in complete panic mode.
Me: “You gotta come out.”
Mentor: “What is it?”
“I can’t do double turns.”
Mentor: “What are you talking about?”
“I can’t do double turns. You go teach this part and then I’ll take over.”
Mentor: “I’m not going to teach for you. ”
I am in a complete panic now. “No, no you don’t understand. I can’t do double turns. I’m going to embarrass the school. I’m going to embarrass you. I’m going to fall flat on my face. People are going to lose respect for me. How can I teach double turns and be an instructor if I don’t know how to do double turns? Please, please, please just teach this part and I’ll come in and teach the rest.”
Mentor: “No. You’re going to go teach. You’re fine.”
“But I’m afraid.”
Mentor: “Fear is not a good enough reason. You can do it. You fall, you get up. You continue teaching. You can do it. Go.”
My mentor returned to the closet and I walked to the front of the studio. It felt like a hummingbird was inside my chest trying to break through. There were 5 or 6 volunteer Helpers at the front of the class and all the students. So I started talking about what we are going to learn and I’m stalling. “Double turns are amazing. They are great. It’s going to be so much fun.” I’m describing how amazing double turns are for about a minute and half but I’m not demonstrating anything.
Then I see my mentor’s head pop out of the closet. He has silently reminded me “Fear is not a good enough reason, Aleks.” So I demonstrate a double turn. The prep for my double turn was bad and I know instantly that I’m going to fall. I’m finishing my first turn and putting my foot down for the second and I’m wobbling and then I hear a gasp from one of the Helpers. One of the helpers realized that I was not going to land this turn and I was going to fall. This does not help my fear at all!
At the last second, as I’m about to fall over while demonstrating a double turn, in front of all the students, all the helpers, I stumble and catch myself. I’m about to topple over but I landed on my foot and kept walking quickly out of it. I lied. I pretended that I did it intentionally, I laughed and I said “And we will fall and lose balance but that’s ok – that’s part of the experience.” And I went on and taught the rest of the class.
I don’t think the students ever realized my fall was real but the Helper did. She gasped again as I landed and breathed out a huge sigh of relief. It was hilarious and painful but I got through that class and my mentor continued to insist that I stretch beyond my comfort zone. The consequence of that stretch is that I now run Toronto Dance Salsa.
I discussed this class with my mentor about 6 months ago. I asked him if he would have stepped in at any point. He said “If you were so afraid and crying and really unable to do it then yes, I would have stepped in. You just needed someone to believe in you. Even if you fell, even if you didn’t land it. Someone still believed in you. You were fine man”
I am so grateful for that.
A lot of well-meaning people in our life, when we are feeling discomfort, try to soothe us and tell us to stop. And the consequence of that is that people are too afraid to try.
I have been lucky enough to have my mentor and a few other people who have reminded me that fear is not a good enough reason to stop. You may have to fall and fail many times, but in order to grow we have to leave behind the crutch and protection of our comfort zone and experience discomfort. Fear isn’t a good enough reason…
So surround yourself with people who push you out of your comfort zone, you will be amazed at what you can do.