The Special Quality We All Need to Achieve Success

When I was younger, I always wanted to be special. Maybe if I were special, then people would pay attention. I realized that the people who I looked up to and who I saw as special, had one quality that we can all have. You don’t have to be born with it.

When I was a student at Toronto Dance Salsa, I wanted nothing more than to be a volunteer. So at one social, I was working up the courage to ask the previous school owner. I kept missing the opportunity to talk to her because every time I would go over, she would be off dancing with someone else.

Finally, I found an opening. As I started to walk toward her, I saw another guy walking over to ask her to dance. I panicked.  I sprinted to get ahead of him. I popped in front of her with such energy and forcefulness that she screamed in shock.

“Aleks, what do you want? Why did you scare me?”

Feeling flustered and overwhelmed but knowing I could not quit, I asked,  “Hey, I would love to be a helper. How can I do that?”

She looked nervous, looked me up and down and then looked away for a second. I already knew the answer she was going to give. But she said, “Okay, let’s dance. So we can assess you.”

“No, thank you.”

Again she was shocked, “What do you mean ‘no, thank you?’ I have to assess you to know if you’re ready.”

“If we dance, it isn’t going to go well.  I’m nervous whenever I dance with you. Can we just skip that?”

She immediately said no and we started dancing. Within 30 seconds, my awkwardness and poor dance skills led me to step on her toes. She limped off the dance floor and I walked off with her. My face was red with embarrassment.  I just failed the test. She looked at me, “Aleks, I’m sorry, but you can’t be a helper. You can’t be stepping on other students.”

I was still determined, so I asked what it would take. She asked me what level of Salsa I had finished. I had just finished level five. She told me to repeat levels 3, 4 and 5. It was painful to hear, but my only thought was; “I still have a chance.”

So I started to train and eight months later, I was back at another social and told her I was ready. Once again, I asked to be a helper. She still wanted to assess me. I didn’t want to dance with her because it didn’t go well last time, but she was adamant. About 42 seconds into the song, I was doing a Salsa shine and kicked her in the shin.

Just like last time, she limped off the dance floor. I walked off with her, apologizing a million times. “Aleks, we can’t have you as a helper. You can’t kick people in the shins.”

But something in me snapped.  “Listen, no matter what it takes, I’m going to be a helper. Just tell me what I need to do.”

She looked at me and saw how stubborn I was. After a deep sigh of what I assume was resignation, she said, “Fine, you can be a helper.”

It’s hard to describe how special and amazing I felt at that moment. So I stuck with it and became a Helper. Once I was a helper, I wanted to be an assistant. Again I was told NO. She said  I was awkward and offbeat and wouldn’t blink. I worked my butt off and became an assistant.

My next goal was to become an instructor. Once again the answer was no. There was no room for more instructors at TDS. I didn’t look like a dancer. I wouldn’t inspire others because I was still awkward. That was five years into dancing and I am still told no!

But I didn’t quit. I continued to train. Three months into training to be an instructor, the previous school owner had a massive injury. Due to her injury,  I was given the opportunity to take over Toronto Dance Salsa.

And now I’m doing what I love. I am the last person anyone thought should be running a dance school or would ever even be a decent dancer, but I am running the largest Salsa Dance School in Canada.

That special quality we all need to achieve success is persistence. And anyone can learn it.

Persistence means that despite all the no’s, all the setbacks, you take one more step. Take one more dance class. You do one more turn. You send in one more resume. You try one more relationship. You stick with it when most people quit. Persistence beats talent. 

So if there’s some part of your life that feels hopeless and your goals seem unattainable, I want to tell you that you can do it. Persist and you can get what you want. I’m living a life that I look forward to waking up to every day. It’s not because I was born with a special talent, it’s because I just kept sticking with it.

“Persistence is a secret weapon for everyone.” Liu Wen

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