CoachBrain

How To Stop Being A Loser: Pole Competition Edition

I’d like to share one of my three 2019 competitive pole routines. I’m terribly proud of it. (The dancing bit is 90 seconds long. I promise I won’t be mad if you watch it and move on with your day without reading.)

[Video By Maverick Sean Photography. Sponsoring brands included US Pole Dance Federation, Lupit Pole, NY Pole Dancing, Mila Krasna, Nightshade Designs. Song: Be Great by Kevin Ross ft. Chaz French.]

20 reasons in 6 words or less why I’m almost unreasonably proud:

  1. I’d never competed in heels before.
  2. Twisted sister:* secure AND bangin’.
  3. My favorite cocoon** to date.
  4. I came mentally prepared to rock.
  5. I stayed coolly focused all day.
  6. Sharing the stage with pole idols.
  7. Hugely high honor of competition.
  8. I didn’t even qualify last year.
  9. Made it into USPDF Pro Finals!
  10. I was happy to be witnessed.
  11. Modeled tons of sponsored swag.
  12. Kept going after an imperfect trick.***
  13. Adorable unicorn-ish sponsored outfit.
  14. Love how I look: freaking great.
  15. Danced to a song I love.
  16. Powerful self-care before, during, and after.
  17. Feel connected to the art I make.
  18. It felt great in real time.
  19. Amazed at what I can do.
  20. Includes a message I care about.

Fun fact (and the cornerstone of this writing): this routine took dead last in its division, and by a relatively large margin.

Did that make me a loser? Explore with me! Here are my four primary takeaways.

You Get What You Ask For

My housemate Christopher asked me before I departed for New York, what was I hoping to experience at the competition? I responded with Satisfaction and Community (boiled down from many more words).

What everybody else kept asking: was I going to win?

I was always taken aback by this question. Wasn’t it up to the judges? Sure, I *could* have won. And, while it was a high priority for me to have a good showing, I wouldn’t say that I trained like the ultimate champion. If I had decided to win, I posit that I would have trained differently. Made different levels of commitment. (Some say sacrifice; see below.)

What I *did* get to experience was the presence of all the humans backstage. I watched 0.3 performances live, but I got a front row seat to all of the backstage magic. I saw women being compassionate, zoned in, kind to each other, powerful, nervous, hyped, methodical, communal, flexible, balanced, and really giving themselves permission to be WITH each other and themselves. I am so humbled, so honored to count myself among them.

If I got what I came for (satisfaction + a great showing + community), I’ll call it a success.

You Perform What You Practice

Even if it’s 5 minutes of glory, it’s more like 500 hours to prepare. The preparation is where life happens. Much of the elite athlete or performer repertoire is built invisibly, out of the public eye. It’s measured not only in the accuracy but the precision – how reliably can you produce a strong result, even under adverse conditions? The performance is the snapshot – an invitation to see me at this moment, and perhaps imagine everything that came before, everything that got me here.

The way I trained was the way I wanted to – hard and smart. Enough – to see progress and present a piece I was proud of; not too much – to be overtired, overtrained, injured, or discouraged. I walked out of every practice session pleased, proud, and PUMPED – so it would certainly follow that my performance would be similar. I made this experience into a deep individual commitment, and I chose it consciously.

Your Mindset Matters

I call myself a recovering perfectionist. I already know the heartbreak of beating myself up and kicking myself for not being “perfect.”

I came to kick ass in general, not kick my own ass.

I came to “leave it all on the field” (a la high school marching band), not bring regrets home.

The deep knowing that I am worthy and loved – not because of my dancing or my style or my level or my courage, but regardless of it – is freaking revolutionary.

Society would say, how dare I believe that I am enough? Yeah, I know I do pretty cool things. I get to be a badass, physically and artistically. Am I the best badass? Survey says, not this year, not that stage. Does it wreck me? No thanks. In coach parlance, I would say “I am complete” – I have no extraneous emotional energy about this experience; no resentments or grudges. Would I like to go back and win someday? Sure, winning is fun! Is it a mega priority to win? Not particularly. Am I allowed to compete if my priority isn’t to win? Why, yes. I know I’m here to learn and grow, to be challenged and evaluated – and none of these is a measure of Who I Am. Lately, I choose to compete in order to stretch and grow beyond what I could do before – to push my own envelope in this community that I adore.

We are so accustomed to measuring our life quantitatively and competitively. It feels revolutionary to measure our experience qualitatively, but it needn’t be unusual. Practice boldly with me, won’t you? It feels easy to be dissatisfied and complain. I dare you to be unreasonably pleased with your life. You know the distinction between Being Enough and Being Satisfied versus appearing that way. What if everything is Perfect? Double dog dare you to say it out loud and adopt it.

You Always Get To Choose

I could choose embarrassment and shame. Instead, I choose empowerment and expression.

It’s easy to talk about (and judge) choices that “past you” made. (Hint: that’s still a choice.)

Could I have chosen to train more like a champion? More hours/reps in? Hired a coach? Yep.
What I chose instead was a balance of training that worked for my lifestyle – which I also chose.

Then there’s present choices.

Could I choose to be dissatisfied and demoralized? Throw a big-deal tantrum? Of course. Could I choose instead to be satisfied with (or heaven forbid, proud of) a last-place finish? Celebrate with the beautiful humans who made stunning art and won extra swag? You betcha. Is it possible that any of my co-competitors performed brilliantly, placed much higher, and chose to experience disgruntled-ness? Sure. Could they (or I or anyone) choose anew in the next moment? Yeah!

Which brings us to future choices – aka, commitments. Opportunities to align yourself with what you say matters.

Will it take practice to silence the Censor and spread Love on the ego-wounded part of me that is so accustomed to being Not Good Enough – so much so that it disguises its self-consciousness by always trying to Be The Best? Oh yeah. Will it be hard to choose from Love sometimes? Anything new and unpracticed could disguise itself as hard. Will it be worth it? Every moment – if you say so. Commit to asking: when you allow yourself to expand into the greatness of Courage, Love, Expression, Power – what else becomes possible?

The ultimate message is a growth out of the very song I elected to dance to. The question in the song is, “Do You Wanna Be Great?” I would take out the “want” (ie Conversations With God teaches that declaring “want” creates the experience of wanting, not having) and re-state:Do You. Be Great.

PostScript: A Reverse Case Study

My dance partner Curtis and I once entered a Blues dance choreography competition and decided before we had set a single step that we were going to win. Well, what do you know – we won. (Different future blog post? Or the opposite-ly manifested version of the same blog post?) We practiced with an eye always toward victory, and I believe we manifested that. Choose your lesson from the list above, and please share what else you see.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

So what did YOU come for? What is the highest expression of your Life, your Learning, and your Gifts? What are your stories of how you stopped “Being A Loser” and stepped into greatness?

winning, mindset, life coaching, victory, creativity, dance, pole dance, competition, power, grace

Footnote: Starred Pole Lingo

  • Left: #2, Twisted Sister. Splitting and hand grip for dear life.
  • Right: #3, Cocoon. Backbending-ly spectacular.
  • #12: Timestamp 0:43-0:47, Reverse Grab to a Shoulder Mount. Not perfectly executed, but completed.
Being, Life Coach, Pole Dance, Presence, WonderPlay Coaching

Five Lessons from My Eagle

Content Advisory: This is (another) pole dance heavy post, centered around my personal journey.

I am approaching the final competition in my season (Pole Theatre USA in Atlanta!), and upon reflection, I was struck by the fact that the delicious lessons I’ve learned from my eagle are majorly applicable to coaching. Hence, blog post.
To clarify, when I say “Eagle,” I’m not talking about the feathery one. It’s this one, where the Instagram hashtag is #pdeagle. (“pd” is for “pole dancing” for the uninitiated.) This is my very first one, and my teacher (taking this photo in the background) had to sort of shove my foot into my hands.

I had unconsciously applied this formula in a few previous competition seasons with great success, and I am inspired to share what I’ve taken away from that.

Lesson #1: Decide you want it, and believe it’s possible.

Not always the easiest part, but I certainly think it’s the most important part. In Think and Grow Rich, which I’m reading with my book club right now, this is the equivalent to the part where you “fix in your mind a burning desire.” I definitely decided what technical skill I wanted to present this season, and so I created the structure I would need to make it so. Deciding to have something is the beginning of making it yours. Would my husband and I have created 2 months of 2018 in Costa Rica if we hadn’t determined we would do it? Certainly not the same way. It got to be ours because we chose it on purpose.

Lesson #2: Ask for (and receive) help & support.

This is where a coach of any kind could come in. I definitely had to ask for specific instruction and assistance for the very first execution of the shape, as well as several future iterations. I got great feedback from pro dancers and instructors (Lara Michaels at Body and Pole and David C. Owen at Catalyst Movement Arts, my home studio, among others. This is especially useful after Lesson #1 because otherwise, I might not know what to ask for. When someone knows what you’re working on, they can give more direct and specific feedback. I had the opportunity to practice being open to instruction and growth, and also discovering what works for me (because, spoiler alert: not everything works for everyone).

Lesson #3: Balance patience and determination.

(In other words, be careful…but not too careful.)

Growth of many kinds takes time. In the physical realm of my art and sport, one aspect I’ve focused on a lot is the time and attention to training flexibility – time for the muscles to open, time for the tissues to expand. This takes Patience. This is applicable in the microcosm of a single moment, and over a whole season, even a whole lifetime. Staying in a stretched shape beyond your “norm” for even a single breath might be your limit one day. Enter Determination, so that you do more and more reps of moving into that stretched shape until you can take two breaths…until such point as you are sufficiently comfy there that it’s simply part of your body’s vocabulary. You need to spend time in a position to gain comfort there. Not that you won’t be uncomfortable in the process… How similar to any other Comfort Zone! You might only step out once, feel a little ping of discomfort, and venture back inside where it’s safe. But what could be possible if you push yourself to go there again? Anyone who has ever seriously trained in anything has gained awareness about how much discomfort is required to make changes. Growth is literally going beyond where you were before, occupying a new space. It’s going to feel different. And you need to listen and trust yourself so that you are consistent with the application of your efforts, but don’t overdo it to the point of your detriment. Acknowledge the thoughts and sensations that you experience, and decide where to put your trust. This goes back to Lesson #2: Do you need a kick in the pants, and so need someone else to provide some incentive to get the job done (like a coach or a trainer)? Would that person push you farther than you would push yourself? Do you trust that person NOT to push you TOO far? Or, do you tend to be overzealous for yourself and need help to slow down? Could you use some support in taking time off, or to be patient and gentle with yourself? Everything has its place and time.

As one of my pole idols, Heidi Coker, taught me at the final North American Pole Dance Championships this year, there are three kinds of discomfort.

1. Pain – this is hurting me and causing me damage,

2. Discomfort – this doesn’t feel super great, but is not harming me, and

3. New – this is a sensation I have not felt before, and I am unaccustomed to it.

As another one of my pole idols, Natasha Wang, put it in her workshop at the same event, “Soreness is not an injury.” It is, however, a state of being that requires attention and care so that you can not only avoid undesirable effects (injury) and create the changes you want to see (improvement in functionality, strength, mobility, balance, etc. – see Lesson #1).

Lesson #4: Do the work.

There is no substitute. Whether it’s the discipline to form a new shape or a new habit, to own something, you have to be willing to be responsible for it. Only you will be able to say what process you will choose…but any new product will take a new process. If your results matter to you (see Lesson #1), then this part doesn’t have to be hard.

Lesson #5: Celebrate!

With permission by the inimitable Leen Isabel at poledancingadventures.com

Did you get to create the results you were after? BETTER CELEBRATE THAT! Even (and especially) if the end looks different than how you might have first imagined it. Can you come to yourself with appreciation and gratitude for your learning? Can you see yourself as the magnificent creature you are, growing and shifting and evolving? Can you be complete with how it went this time (however it went), and exercise the courage to powerfully choose what’s next for you, again? I assert that it’s a practice, and it’s worth it.

And with these five things in place, may your personal Eagle also fly!
Let me know your thoughts.

 

What lessons or gifts have you taken away from a long journey?

What next goals thrill you?

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