Where in the world is Shaeffer’s Forays? It has been over a month since I posted, but this is not due to the lack of material to write about.
I spent several weeks preparing for a performance for Dancing with the Stars of the ‘Burg. See Sept. 3 blog post “Giving away time to get Time.” I wouldn’t put myself in a situation where I can make a fool of myself, but Dancing with Stars of the ‘Burg is a fundraiser for the Rockingham Harrisonburg Child Daycare Center, which is a great cause.
I am happy to report that during the performance on November 11, I met my goal of getting through the dance without falling down. And the truth of the matter is that I learned a great deal from this experience.
Some lessons learned:
A willingness to take direction –
I don’t dance, so I was the classic example of starting from scratch. What I quickly learned is that I was very lucky to have an understanding dance partner who provided not only suggestions but also helpful encouragement. I also had a great dance instructor who broke down the routine into small pieces that allowed me to master the dance in small bites. She provided coaching throughout our practices and she pushed me, and us, near the end to work on small things to make the performance better.
Thinking about working with new employees and new students: they need the same support I received in preparing to dance. These folks need understanding, encouragement, training, and coaching.
Thank goodness for friends—
There are two responsibilities for those of us who were “celebrities,” as they called us. One is to dance and the other is to raise funds. Quite honestly, I must confess that the harder of these two responsibilities was the fundraising. I don’t know that I have ever done anything harder than asking people for financial support. My greatest fear was that I wouldn’t be able to raise much money.
I knew that I would get support from my family — I could embarrass them into giving something and as it turned out they were all very generous. But to my surprise and relief I received support from friends throughout the US, including people I’ve worked with at UPCEA, the Army Education Advisory Committee, and other national and local boards. I also have great colleagues and friends who stepped up as well. I had the modest goal of raising $3000 and thanks to everyone’s support we raised just short of $6000.
Many thanks for the kindness and generosity of my friends and colleagues.
It’s all about the team—
Let’s be clear, Dancing with the Stars of the ‘Burg was a competition, both in terms of who raised the most money and of course who were the best dancers. Despite the nature of the competition, I was so lucky to be part of a greater team of fellow dancers and a great support team. What made this fundraiser so successful was our ability to work as a team to address our mission, which was clear: raise money for a great cause. Teamwork included sharing great ideas for fundraising events, partnering on fundraising events, and most importantly supporting and cheering on all the performers. It was this team work that helped us to raise nearly $60,000 this year, which is a record for this fundraiser. Clearly because we worked together, as a team, we were more successful.
Practices makes…….being flexible easier—
Thanks to my dance instructor (Karen) and to my partner (Julia), we finished putting together our dance two weeks before our performance, which allowed us to practice the complete dance for at least an hour nearly every day for two weeks. This allowed us to work on small items; in my case I needed to learn to control my arms.
You might think that all this practice would lead to perfection. That was what I was thinking, keep practicing so that you make it perfect, so you don’t make any mistakes. Well, it turns out that all this practice allowed Julia and I to be flexible in dancing through any mistakes that I might make during the performance. This flexibility came in very handy on the night of the dance — I over-rotated on one of the lifts and we were on the wrong sides of each other, and all that practice allowed us to just keep going. We were the only people who knew we made a mistake.
All this practice reminds me of what I’ve learned in my 30 years in professional continuing education. We practice, we work hard, we come prepared; not to be perfect but to have the flexibility to be successful. It reminds me of the phrase “The harder I work, the luckier I become.”
When I said yes to Dancing with the Stars of the ‘Burg, I thought I was saying yes to learning how to dance. That part was true, but I also learned a whole lot more. I learned what it’s like to be learner or new staff member who begins from scratch and the support they need to be successful. I learned about fundraising and how important it is to have the support of long-time friends and colleagues. I learned (or remembered) that practice is important, not so much to find perfection but to have the flexibility to get to success.
So, the event is behind me and now I want to share it with you. You can decide for yourselves how well I learned to dance. Go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tqSW-LJilPk and take a look.
Stay tuned for future posts: I still need to write the annual “what I am thankful for?” and what happened on our trip to Spain and Italy.
I hope I left you dancing.