At various points, in big ways and small, we get knocked down. If we stay down, grit loses. If we get up, grit prevails.

~ Angela Duckworth

What’s more important, the direction your heading, or how fast you’re getting there? Why are persistence and determination so important? What exactly is ‘grit’ anyway?

When it comes to designing your ideal life, it makes sense to have a good handle on the direction you’re headed. If you move too fast for too long only to find out that you were on the wrong track, it can be too late.

Experience tends to be a good teacher, especially if you embody the lessons the first time around. How many of your early efforts and big ideas were left by the wayside as you gained more perspective? They don’t call it ‘the school of hard knocks’ for nothing.

The thing is, when you’re careening around trying out new ideas or putting plans in motion, hitting the wall at high speed can be rough. But there is wisdom in the idea of ‘failing fast’ because the quicker you can course-correct the better off you are in the long run.

Like so many elements of life, balance is the key. If you make it a practice to lean into innovation while developing the habit of picking yourself up and dusting yourself off quickly after a misstep, you’ll maintain the forward motion you need to thrive.

The important thing is to not get stuck. Consciousness is like a spiral staircase that can lead either up or down. Sometimes we rise enough to get a breath or two of the rarified air above, only to slip back down. But that whiff from a higher level is like a carrot on a stick.

The trick is learning to know which direction you’re headed and to avoid going around in circles. When you’re faltering and trying to move forward it’s important to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

They say that ‘grit’ is more of an early determinant of success than other factors like raw intelligence or pure physical prowess. Kids that are brought up in a way that bolsters this capacity have a big advantage later on. And it’s never too late to develop.

From Wikipedia: “In psychology, grit is a positive, non-cognitive trait based on an individual’s perseverance of effort combined with the passion for a particular long-term goal or end state.”

It’s informative to break down what that definition is saying a little further. The trait itself is formed at the intersection of two very important elements. The ‘perseverance’ of effort that comes from patience, determination, and plain stubbornness plus the passion for a vision or a goal.

What exactly does ’non-cognitive’ imply? That’s where we get to the meat of the matter. It means that ‘grit happens’ when you get your brain out of the way. Once you fully embody your goal and build up the many muscles of perseverance, nothing can stop you.

Obviously, you’ll need every ounce of intelligence you can muster to make your dreams come true, but that old adage about having enough ‘fire in your belly’ to succeed is pointing to a deeper level of motivation. Your spirit, your soul, and senses all operate beyond your mind.

There’s nothing like a little regular practice to put a limiting belief to rest. I remember thinking that the DJs who could mix as smooth as butter had some innate talent baked into their DNA. Watching these turntable virtuosos spin records was like witnessing real magic.

Years went by where I collected all sorts of eclectic records and gained some notoriety spinning abstract soundscapes in the “chill rooms” at the big raves. My girlfriend at the time was a “main floor” DJ who had the knack for beat-matching down pat, but it still seemed beyond me.

Then I found myself living in the back rooms behind the small record shop I opened in Santa Rosa, California, and I set up a pair of turntables and a mixer for my own private use, out of earshot of anyone who could critique my skills. “Tennis shoes in the dryer” is a sound no-one wants to hear.

Each day I would devote anywhere between 20 minutes to an hour just playing around, experimenting with the pitch controls, learning how to drop the beat, developing the fingertip sensitivity required to dial in the mix, and more than anything, training my ear.

Before long I began to see some glimmers of hope. With no-one around to impress, (or distress), all the pressure was off and I could take chances. I found double copies of some records to practice with and started to understand the beat structure of ‘four-on-the-floor’ dance music.

Gradually it started to dawn on me that the ability to beat match wasn’t because of genetic good fortune, rather it came with practice, perseverance, and desire. In a word — grit. Some folks had more style or put more of their personality into it, yes, but much like riding a bike, it turned out the ear could be trained.

Developing the confidence to mix in public was the next step, and with my connections to Harbin Hot Springs and the willingness to tote my turntables around I established a multi-year residency spinning records monthly at the Unconditional Dance, a forerunner to the global Ecstatic Dance scene. Decades later I’m still at it, now streaming online twice a week!

Mixing is a metaphor for so many things in life. Whatever you might believe is out of reach might just take some time and practice to make happen. Obviously, if you’re 5’2” and over 50 you probably shouldn’t set your sights on a spot in the NBA, but if your dream seems do-able, give it a shot!

Grit happens in that magical little spot on your soul’s Venn diagram where passion, patience, and perseverance align with your greatest goals and visions. Pick up a piece of your personal puzzle every day and see where it fits. Your dream will become your reality with every forward step you take.

Much love and light in your world till next week!


Mark Metz
Director of the Dance First Association
Publisher of Conscious Dancer Magazine

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Dance First Member Insight: Cocréa founder Wren LaFeet!

This week’s Dance First Member Spotlight is brought to you by mindful partner dance innovator and Cocréa founder Wren LaFeet!

Leading a Death Affirming Life

I know many of us had high hopes for this year, and though it hasn’t delivered in ways we might have wanted, it certainly seems to be giving us a heaping dose of what we need.

In the vein of my Beloved’s teacher, I have been using this year’s events to learn to lead a death affirming life.

Death has been featured prominently throughout my short years. By 18, I had lost all of my immediate family, except for my mother and father. Death is a part of life, and so to live fully, acknowledging we will die, is to fully honor the gift of life. To live with the knowledge of our temporary form gives meaning and substance to the experience while in bodies.

COVID offered me another multifaceted trip through the death portal.

I not only had to come face to face with the reality that my newly elderly parents were at greater risk of dying sooner, but many friend’s parents and family; many beloved community members; and the very thing that formed the social fabric of my community: dance.

I had to let go of the idea that the practice I have been building for the last 9 years might ever go on existing as it had.

I teach, facilitate, and practice mindful partner dance. COVID effectively rendered my chosen way to connect, pray, commune, express, create, and regulate non-essential. What a label to put on someone; to have your vocation deemed non-essential. It does something to a person.

What does one do when the venue for one’s practice is off-limits?

To adapt and be versatile is at the heart of my practice. Cocréa has evolved into a way of dealing with life’s changes.

I had to get creative. I had to really practice what I preach about being present, feeling everything all the way through, dancing my life in every moment, everywhere. I found a beautiful farm to be on for 2 months, where I could immerse myself in the lush nature of Costa Rica while I fell apart. I sat in nature every day, and I grieved.

I sat quietly. I took in the beauty around me. I let myself be held by my Beloved. I held her. And we danced together, blessedly grateful to have one another in such an immense upheaval and departure from what we’d come to think of as “normal.”

One of my favorite quotes of all time comes from (ironically) the movie “Tombstone.” Doc Holiday is lying on his deathbed. Wyatt Earp says that all he ever wanted was a normal life, to which Holiday replies:

“There is no normal life, Wyatt. There’s just life. Get on with it.”

Despite it feeling grossly antithetical to my entire purpose of promoting partnered movement as a means of deepening connection and healing our relationship with touch and the body, I began to pivot my work into the “abnormal” virtual realm.

On Sept. 24th, after 3.5 months of production, my team and I launched our first fully fleshed-out online course. My years of theater and production experience were instrumental. I found I had already done the bulk of the work over the previous nine years, creating a coherent teaching. We were able to synthesize existing exercises and practices into a course specifically designed to support relationships.

Though I am hopeful that this course will allow me to survive in late capitalism by continuing to live my dream, the virtual format is still a woefully inadequate venue for what we as dancers do and yearn for and know deep in our being: that dancing in bodies, surrounded by others, instead of with bodies dimly in attendance through a screen, is a magical healing act.

The screen, for me, so far fails in supporting the arising of the numinous state of the dance hall in which I thrive and which nourishes me so well. Flow feels challenging to come by in the navigation of technology.

Yet we are resilient and adaptable. And with some luck and some help from the Earth and remembrance provided by indigenous cultures, I do believe we will make the needed change and come back together on the dance floor soon, stronger than before. 

Remember to feel it all, express it all, be with it all, and then move it into creative action. You are POWERFUL, and the Earth and its citizens need you. 

Get on with it. 😉

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