I’m a nerd – goal setting 101

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When I was 18 I worked for athletic apparel company, Lululemon Athletica. I had the gift of working with wildly colourful people AND I got to wear yoga pants and trainers to work – score! The main thing I took away from working with Lulu was how to set goals. I’d write SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused, and time- bound) goals around my 1 year, 3 year and 5 year aims. It’s interesting to look back on what was important when I was 18. I was way more focused on owning property and stuff. I’m in the process of revamping my goals for the next little while and thought it might be helpful to share some steps in case the idea appeals to others.

1. First, think about what your life looks like in 5-10 years (pick one timeframe). Write down personal, career and health headings. Make some notes under each heading of what you envision, what you want. Who’s there? What would you want it to look like, feel like?

Now in a few sentences write it down as if its happened or happening. Example: I own a two bedroom flat. I make hats for dogs (or something like that). Complete this for all three headings. Personal can be relationships, friendships, mental health, physical health, wellbeing etc.

Be honest and be bold – this is for you, not for anybody else.

2. Then, under each heading write down 5 years and think about and write what you would need to do then to achieve that vision. Make sure that they are tangible and measurable goals.

3. Then, write down what you’d need to do 3 years from now to achieve that 5 year framework…then 1 year…then 8 months…then 3 months.

Suddenly, if you’re goal is own a house (an easy example) – you have a road map of how the $50 you save each month is adding up to your deposit/downpayment. Or taking out a small loan to pay it back in full to build credit so you can get a mortgage. Or researching property value and demographics for up and coming neighbourhoods! It all counts. We are all looking for patterns to feel like me make progress – sometimes reminding yourself that small acts add up to a bigger more meaningful gain can help you feel motivated and accomplished. Also, if your goals change….THAT’S FINE. That’s more than fine. That’s human. (If you want more details or a worksheet go here).

If I was still holding myself to the rigor of my 18 year old Nancy’s goals, I’d probably be a very unhappy musician. You change. You grow, so do your goals. Making time for yourself to think about what you want, what inspires you or where you could go if nothing held you back is exciting and freeing. Don’t view it as a series of tick boxes, but rather an informed guideline meant to help you distill and create your best life with people who challenge and inspire you in the right ways.

I’m finding it really interesting and hard to think about what I want next. Partially because my life has changed so much. My career has changed a few times over and I’m only 29. I don’t know if this helps you, but try it. Even for one year from now. Christmas 2016 – what will you have embarked upon? Wishing you and your loved ones a very festive holiday season – a prosperous New Year and many cups of tea with those you love.

That feeling in your gut

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It’s incredible to me that the last time I went to the International Lindy Hop Championships it its inaugural year, 2008. It was pre-back injury. It was pre-surgery. It was only one of the most memorable competition moments I’ve had in my lindy hop life – making the solo Charleston semi finals surrounded by professional lindy hoppers doing the Big Apple around Marty Kempler in a red zoot suit truckin’ (if you need a definition or visual for truckin’ look here).

For a variety of reasons, moving to London has had the most profound impact on my dancing and personal philosophy towards the dance. I decided in April 2014 that I wanted to push my dancing further and after years of being relatively complacent with my dance ability – started working, pushing, training and facing fears. This really gained steam in September 2014 and I am really excited to share, to be inspired and to celebrate with my London peers at ILHC August 27-31. I feel like such a different dancer – hell, person!

I love competing because I love challenging myself to perform and share what I love. To get to a level of proficiency where I can interact with an audience and offer something I’m proud of. That’s what I’m hoping for anyway. But like all things, I get nerves. I get nervous that I am not good enough. Or that my body doesn’t know what to do or where to go. I like to think of this as the essential artistic existential crisis. The internal monologue that pushes me (with time to make a difference) to take some extra time and care.

To those competing, I can’t wait to see what you’ve all been creating in your home-town practice rooms and living rooms. To those watching from home, thank you for gracing global dance floors – let’s get inspired together. What do you say?

There is a live stream here if you want to watch from home. See you in DC! http://www.yehoodi.com/ilhc

How come everyone has a back problem?

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Ok – this is an entirely anecdotal observation, but so many people I know in the lindy hop community have back problems right now. A herniated disc, uncontrollable pain, pain medication that does nothing, MRIs on the horizon. What’s going on guys? Is it that we don’t listen to our bodies? When I had back surgery in 2009, I had a herniated disc between L4 and L5. I didn’t sleep for like five months. I lived with chronic pain for 8 months. I isolated myself. I stopped dancing at doctors orders and had no idea if I’d dance again.
In the end, after consulting specialists and my grandfather (who is still the best doctor I know) I had a laminectomy by a neurosurgeon in Toronto. I walked in pacing the floor because lying down was too painful and left with no pain – just soreness and recovery time. I will admit that I definitely threw up in Sunnybrook Hospital’s foyer, but hey, we can’t be classy all the time.

It’s incredible to think back to this time in my life. When shoes and socks felt defeating. I know something similar to your pain. Everyone’s treatment is unique to them, but please consult a doctor, get an MRI, demand you see specialists. You only get one back. Physiotherapy is great, but they can’t see what’s really going on. It’s a short term solution most of the time. (Again, my opinion).

In lindy hop, we seem to forget that many of us are ‘amateurs’ who practice or train at professional athlete volume. We don’t have the core strength, the best equipment, or the body awareness to know our limits or what our bodies need. I often think that we need some sport medicine practitioners to give us a lesson on how to take care of yourself when you dance 16 hours a day…but work a day job. Although it’s not always possible, ask your doctor, a dietitian, a sports medicine specialist how to make the most of your dancing and take care of your body. For me, I know that I need cross training. If I don’t do training in the gym, my knees and back get stiff. I also stretch my calves, my feet and my IT bands regularly. It’s the difference of waking up with stiff hips or with complete comfort. I am not a medical professional, but I am someone who’s been through trauma. Ask good questions, don’t only consult the internet, don’t only ask friends – get professional opinions and listen to those opinions. They may not ‘get’ how we practice, but at least they can help you prevent injury.

For my friends who are in pain right, take it ease. Meditate, swim, listen to your doctor. Know that you’ll be fine – it just takes time. If you need help, or support – ask! We’re all here.

London Swing Festival

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First and foremost, Laura Cupit Knight, is a boss, a legend, a titan, a visionary! The London Swing Festival was so beautifully run, presented and organised. It was a real treat to participate and compete. More than 400 people took class and more than 700 people bought a ticket to the event. That’s nuts! It was a festival of firsts where I competed with two lovely partners in the Strictly and Fast Feet contests and proudly presented a team showcase with some exceptional women. I’m pleased to say that placing 2nd in the Jack and Jill and 3rd in the Team Showcase certainly helped boost the spirits.

I love competing. Not necessarily to win, but because I love performing. I love sharing light and energy with an audience and what warmer audience is there then a lindy hop audience. There is something about the closeness and hooting and hollering that adds to the thrill. You’ve won even before you walk out because everyone wants you to succeed; to share some art; and maybe some joy. I feel tremendously inspired by everyone’s choreography and focus, it was great to see what everyone’s been working on the last couple of months.

It seems a bit surreal that this weekend I get to teach in Nottingham with Ben and next weekend I’ll be in Cork. I’m only five months into 2015 and already I’ve been to four countries, placed in two international contests, performed in an international burlesque festival and held down – with serious progress – my exceptional day job. I feel like the next three months are going to fly by as I prepare for the International Lindy Hop Championships, Camp Hollywood and European Swing Dance Festival – I’ll just have to create some space to take it all in and celebrate small triumphs along the way.

To Laura Cupit Knight, Michaela Delmonte and the entire LSF team. Thank you for making some serious magic happen this past weekend. You bring out the best in us.

Harlem, LT and six weeks of crazy

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I’ve attend a fair number of lindy hop events over the last 10 years. There have been highlights with crazy music, incredible dances and excellent memories. I sometimes feel like outstanding events come in waves…Harlem is definitely a high point on the crest of the wave. What did I love about it? I had to be assertive to get dances, but the occasional snobbery you feel at some events was entirely absent. The quality of dances was extremely high and the mood of celebration was undeniable.

I often think great events are curated – the organisers think through the journey for us, the participants, the staff, the teachers, the musicians and how we’ll interact at the dance. I loved how smooth Harlem felt (for the most part). It wasn’t perfect, but it was full of care. I really appreciated that. The event made me feel inspired and ready for new challenges. It also kicked off six weeks of intense dance weekends…

This weekend I compete at the London Swing Festival, next weekend I teach with awesome Benjamin Cook in Nottingham, the following week Simon Bressanelli and I hit up The Mooche in Cork, Ireland then I teach the following weekend at a Dance in a Day and lead some drills at the Teach me the Awesome workshop. I might need a couple of naps in there. Good luck everybody!

And here’s some inspiration for y’all – gotta love King of the Hill format:

How are you doing?

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Why does it take a plane ride where I’m trapped for seven hours without wifi to reflect? I’m lousy at carving out those moments for celebration and quiet…I think lots of people are. I’m four months into 2015, and it’s been wild – wild in terms of pace in my personal and professional life. I have been presented with moments of intense doubt and opportunities I previously never dreamed of. I have felt the tides of my heart shift in all sorts of directions and I wonder if it’s because I’m beginning to settle in, find my groove, find my sense of self in London – in my home.
I said in a blog post when I graduated from my masters degree that we were all pioneers who choose to leave our homes in the pursuit of knowledge and a global understanding of how the world works. I stated that I have spent more time alone in the last 18 months than I have in my entire adult life. I felt a kind of loneliness and personal strength I’ve never felt before. And what did that yield? It gives me a profound sense of gratitude for friends, family, peers and fellow wanderers. I feel more confident in my skills and aware of prioritizing self-care – although I think I could still do better on the self-care bit.
I need to remind myself more often that I’m alright – that everything is happening and to worry less. The kind of work I do – fundraising, dancing, community building – takes time and care. It doesn’t happen the way I want it too or when I want it too. It happens when it happens. And I could be more gracious accepting that. All I can do is hone my focus, be kind to myself, put in the time, train and build my skill and see what comes back. It’s outrageously hard and some days it’s easier to embrace then others. I’m doing so well, and you are to – but maybe some days it’s definitely harder to see through the emotional fog. Celebrate a little triumph today, however feels right for you.