“Under this pressure, under this weight, we are diamonds taking shape.”  Coldplay

My biggest regrets haven’t been mistakes that I’ve made, but the moments when I caved under pressure. I would often cave before having difficult conversations. You can’t be a good leader or be in a good relationship without being honest and having those courageous conversations.

When I first took over Toronto Dance Salsa, I told my mentor that I wanted to be a great leader and to build the school into something beautiful. He told me; “Terrific! That means Aleks does difficult things. That means that when you feel pressure, you will not run away but confront the pressure and do the difficult things.” Sage and reasonable advice, and I readily agreed.

Two weeks into running Toronto Dance Salsa I made a huge mistake with the schedule for one of the volunteer helpers. She was supposed to volunteer on Wednesday nights. That was her night. Her friends, her favourite instructor were all there on Wednesday nights, but I put her on Tuesday nights.

She came to me very frustrated. “Aleks, what the heck happened?” She explained the situation to me and I apologized a million times and agreed that I had messed up and that I would fix it. So I did. She volunteered on Wednesdays again.

But it wasn’t enough. Even though the mistake was fixed, the relationship wasn’t. It soured the relationship to the point that the energy between us was so toxic that I avoided her and the studio on Wednesday nights. Sort of like when you are living with a roommate who’s angry at you – I hid in my room and avoided the common areas when she was there. I caved under the pressure.

A month into this awkwardness, I felt like I was getting an ulcer and I was becoming increasingly intimidated by her. Then I heard that she wanted to be an instructor. My immediate reaction was panic. This was crazy! I run the studio and we can barely be in the same room together. I needed to fix this.

So I set up a meeting with her and as I’m talking to her, I’m not really saying anything, avoiding the difficult conversation. After an hour and a half, she is stuck with me and still pissed off with me. Finally, she says “Why did we meet, Aleks?”

Immediately, I went silent. I was scared. I was scared of her. I was scared of having a hard conversation and I felt enormous pressure. My natural instinct is to run away. That’s what I had done in the past. I had run away from pressure and not dealt with it.

But then I remembered my mentor’s advice; “Aleks does difficult things.”

So I took a deep breath and dove in. I explained that I knew she wanted to be an instructor but I didn’t know how that could happen unless we repaired our relationship. I had messed up but the studio is a family for both of us, so how do I make this right? How do we fix this?

We had a long conversation and at the end, she said “Let me get back to you. I will try to figure out what we can do.”

I was ecstatic. “That’s amazing!  Thank you!” I had found a resolution.

The next day she messaged me. “Never mind, I’m just gonna bow out. I’m not gonna help anymore. Don’t worry about it, I’m stepping back.”

I was crushed and I felt like a failure at that moment.

This was why I had always run away. Running away meant that I could avoid these kinds of mistakes and these conversations. I really should have just stayed hidden in my room.

Yet…that moment taught me many lessons that I used for the last 8 years.

Lessons about having honest conversations earlier, not to beat around the bush and you can take ownership but you’re not responsible for the work the other person has to do.

I am a better leader than I was eight years ago. I also learned that Aleks does difficult things, especially when under pressure.

One of my favourite lyrics is from a Coldplay song called Adventure of a Lifetime; “Under this pressure, under this weight, we are diamonds taking shape.”

Deep down, I always wanted to believe that there was something special about me. If I worked hard enough, if I gave enough, I could shine bright like a diamond. It sounds silly for me to even write that…I honestly feel uncomfortable saying it outloud…

After eight years of allowing myself the freedom to deal with pressure, of having courageous conversations and doing difficult things, I am finally starting to believe. To believe that there is a diamond in me.

I believe there is a diamond in you as well. It just can never be brought out until you and I stop running away from the difficult things. We know we have to do difficult things because diamonds can’t be formed without pressure.

I can’t wait to welcome you to our big family, have you coming in week to week, having fun, connecting with new friends and letting lose to amazing Latin songs. Click here to check our current schedule.

If you have any questions you would like me to answer here are some ways you can contact me: message me on Instagram (torontodanceSalsa), on Twitter (#torontodanceSalsa), on Facebook (Toronto Dance Salsa) or email me at [email protected].