Monday, August 23, 2010

Why Painting and Dancing Tango Are The Same

I was discussing this very thing with my dance teacher the other day. As I am a painter he often uses art analogies to get his point across, for instance in tango – the man as the leader is the painter and the woman as the follower is the brush and together they create a beautiful painting on the dance floor.

It often happens that I find myself frustrated when I dance, nothing will flow and it all just feels like a struggle. Likewise with painting. This usually happens when I try to hard to get it right, both with dancing and with a new painting. I also start to lose the enjoyment in both. In painting as with dance, you need to learn the technical stuff – this is the foundation, but then you need to be able to let go and just express yourself.
The more you can let go and lose yourself in the music, the easier it seems to become and the more fun you will have while dancing.
With tango and with painting I find if I let go of the outcome and stop worrying so much about how it will look, the more free I start to feel and the more I enjoy the process.

So my take on this is: Enjoy the process and let the outcome take care of itself.

Separate the technical stuff – practice what you need to practice, but you need those moments on the dance floor and in the studio to just be. This is when you chase all that technical clutter out of your mind and believe that your body knows what to do.

Here is what happened to me.
After a particularly unsatisfying tango lesson last week and after a long discussion about letting go and not trying too hard, the following day I decided to have a go at abstract art – something I have always liked but have never tried.
I had no idea of what I was going to paint, all I wanted was to let go and express myself on canvas. After the first one, I enjoyed myself so much that I produced another two, all on the same day. It seems it unleashed my creativity and broke the stuck spell I was in due to wanting to try too hard and worrying too much about the end result.

I am including these small paintings in this post. They are very experimental as it is also the first time I have tried acrylics. I don’t know that they will be considered great art, but it is a start and I would like to explore this way of painting more.
I also want to try this approach on the dance floor and see what happens.
Perhaps I will remember how I felt while I was painting these and try to recreate that same feeling.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Are You Afraid of Feedback

Have you ever been afraid of feedback, especially when it's negative?
I know I suffer from this, it's not always easy to hear what people really think.
Here is an article by Jack Canfield on how to use feedback to your advantage. This is one of the principles in his book that I just can't stop reading.

Use Feedback to Your Advantage
As you begin to take actions toward your goals, your dreams, you’ll soon realize that not every action will be perfect.
Not every action will produce the desired result.
Not every action will work.
Making mistakes, getting it almost right, and experimenting to see what happens are all part of the process of eventually getting it right.
Thomas Edison is reported to have tried over 2,000 different experiments that failed before he finally got the light bulb to work. He once told a reporter that, from his perspective, he had never failed at all. Inventing the light bulb was just a 2,000-step process. If you can adopt that attitude, then you can be free to take an action, notice what result you get, and then adjust your next actions based on the feedback you have received.
>u>There Are Two Kinds of Feedback
There are two kinds of feedback you might encounter – negative and positive. We tend to prefer the positive – that is, results, money, praise, promotion, raise, awards, happiness, inner-peace, etc. It feels better. It tells us we are on course and doing the right thing.
We tend not to like negative feedback – lack of results, little or no money, criticism, poor evaluations, complaints, unhappiness, inner conflict, pain, etc.
However, there is as much useful data in negative feedback as there is in positive feedback. It tells us that we are off course, headed in the wrong direction, doing the wrong thing. This is priceless information!
In fact, it’s so valuable that one of the most useful projects you could undertake is to change how you respond to negative feedback. I like to refer to negative feedback as information for “improvement opportunities.”
Ways of Responding to Feedback that Don’t Work
Though there are many ways you can respond to feedback, some responses simply don’t work.
Caving in and quitting:
How many times have you or someone you know received negative feedback and simply caved in over it? All that this does is keep you stuck in the same place. It’s easier not to cave in if you remember that feedback is simply information. Think of it as “correctional guidance” instead of criticism.
Getting mad at the source of the feedback:
Think about it… How many times have you reacted with anger and hostility toward someone who was giving you feedback and it was genuinely useful? It may temporarily make you feel better to get angry, but it doesn’t help you become more successful in your quest.
Ignoring the feedback:
We all know that people who turn down everyone’s point of view but their own. The sad thing is, feedback could significantly transform their lives, if only they would listen.
Ask for Feedback
Most people will not voluntarily give you feedback. They are as uncomfortable with possible confrontation as you are. So to get honest and open feedback, you need to ask for it and make it safe for the person to give it to you. In other words, don’t shoot the messenger!
The Most Valuable Question You May Ever Learn
In the 1980s, a multimillionaire businessman taught me a question that radically changed the quality of my life. This magical question can improve the quality of every relationship you are in, every product you produce, every service you deliver, every meeting you conduct, every class you teach and every transaction you enter into. Here it is:
“On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate the quality of our relationship (service/product) during the last week (month/semester/quarter)?”
Here are a number of variations on the same question that have served me well over the years...
“On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate the meeting we just had? ... me as a manager? ... me as a parent? ...this class? ...this meal? cooking? ...our sex life? ...this deal? ...this book?
Any answer less than a 10 always gets this follow-up question:
“What would it take to make it a 10?”
This is where the really valuable information comes from. Knowing that a person is dissatisfied is not enough. Knowing in detail what will satisfy them gives you the information you need to do whatever it takes to create a winning product, service, relationship or result.
Is All Feedback Accurate?
Not all feedback is useful or accurate. You must consider the source. Some feedback is polluted by the psychological distortions of the person giving you the feedback. For example, if your drunk husband tells you, “You are a no-good bleep,” that is probably not accurate or useful feedback. However, the fact that your husband is drunk and angry, is feedback you should listen to.
Remember, feedback is simply information. You don’t have to take it personally. Just welcome it and use it. The most intelligent response is to say “Thank you for your feedback. Thank you for caring enough to tell me what you see and how you feel. I appreciate it.”
Look for patterns in the feedback you get, too. As my friend Jack Rosenblum likes to say: “If one person tells you you’re a horse, they’re crazy. If three people tell you you’re a horse, there’s a conspiracy a foot. If ten people tell you you’re a horse, it’s time to buy a saddle!”
For more on Using Feedback to Your Advantage, review Principle #19 in The Success Principles. It’s one of the core principles you can apply to your life.

Jack Canfield, America's #1 Success Coach, is founder of the billion-dollar book brand Chicken Soup for the Soul© and a leading authority on Peak Performance and Life Success. If you're ready to jump-start your life, make more money, and have more fun and joy in all that you do, get your FREE success tips from Jack Canfield now at:

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

Last week Tuesday evening I found myself perched on a barstool in what I believe to be the smokiest pub in JHB. Can’t remember the last time I spent an evening out that didn’t involve tango so it all felt a bit strange. Those who know me from the tango scene will thus deduce that I don’t get out much – since they have hardly seen me at all the last month or so.

It all started a couple of days before at a family gathering, when my dad painted such an inspiring and an “Oh I can’t wait to see it you must be so awesome” picture of his fabulous music talent and that of his recently acquired muso friends, that I decided I really must go and see for myself. My brother got hooked too like so much fish bait, which was fortunate because I got to bum a lift with him, not being able to drive myself due to sliced thumb issues.

Now you may recall that I have in fact seen Pater play before – at Moyo, but that was an outdoor setting with piles of soccer fans making noise, plus with his mike accidently turned down it was not that easy to hear his performance.

Anyway, with great anticipation Boet and I arrive at the pub and squeeze our way through to a table my clever dad has managed to keep free for us. I say squeeze because the place was jam packed with eager musicians plus their hangers on, all waiting for their go on the mike. Tuesday nights here is jam night – all organized by a very cool drummer called Roy, who also decides who gets to play and when, so you gotta keep in his good books I reckon.

So we order our drinks and wait for the jamming to start, which we are told is about 8pm.
While we wait, my eyes start watering like crazy and the smoke smell is pretty unbearable – the whole pub area has been designated a full-on smokers zone.
My brother is an ex smoker and even he thought it was pretty bad, but he opened a window next to us, and the cold air was way preferable to the smoke.
I am now fantasizing about a smoke free tango floor, but I am here to see Dad play, so I stick it out. Problem is, he’s not sure if and when he will get a turn; you have to wait for the nod from Roy you see.
Meanwhile he’s telling us stories about Dave – the pan flute player who can also sing, his (rendition that evening of Locomotive Breath by Jethro Tull was fabulous), Domingo the guitarist;(who must have been born with a guitar attached), plus quite a few others I don’t recall the names of, he’s only been here once before and he is already friends with half the pub!

So we wait. And we wait. We watch some really great musicians play, plus one sad sack who really should have stayed on the karaoke circuit where he belongs. It’s a mix of styles, from 70s rock like Led Zeppelin to 90s Nirvana and U2.
By 11pm Jem and I are about ready to call it a night – we are both parents of small children and it’s a school night after all!

Eventually though, Pa gets the nod, dons his cool cowboy hat and sunglasses and gets settled at the mike along with a couple of guitarists and Roy the drummer.
They start up a blues number and he wings it with his harp, it’s a jam session so there’s no rehearsal, and Jem and I are blown away. He can not only play, he plays brilliantly!
I am hugely impressed; it just goes to show you are never too old to start something new.I think it is only a matter of time before he wangles his way into some band and starts doing the pub circuit, he has already found a few places in town to play in and I just hope he can keep up with the late night lifestyle all this entails.

Anyway, it was worth the wait and the smoke in your eyes, but I think I will wait until summer before venturing in there again, when the windows can be open wide and I can breathe.
He is going to play again tonight, but I am hearing the tango floor call my name so will most likely be dancing my butt off tonight.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Dumb and Dumber

Well folks, I think I need to get in touch with Jeff Foxworthy to collect my sign.
For those who don’t know who Jeff Foxworthy is, he is a very funny American with a strong Southern accent to match, who talks about dishing out “I am Stupid” signs to people who do stupid things. Yesterday – I definitely earned mine.

Here is my journey to being a Dumb Ass – as my friend Charlie would say.

Step 1: Decide to join friends for a family picnic on Women’s day at the Botanical gardens in Roodepoort.
Step 2: Ensure normal breadknife is unavailable by putting it in the dishwasher and switching it on.
Step 3: Start organizing all the food for the picnic while husband and small child go shopping.
Step 4: All packed and ready to go, child is dressed, I am dressed, hubby is dressed and all geared to depart.
Step 5: Hear hubby say – “Let’s take a knife to cut the bread with” (he had bought a loaf to take along)
Step 6: Immediately pick up big carving knife and special knife sharpening tool, making sure to hold the tool steady and run the knife through it with nice pressured downward strokes.
Step 7: Knife slips and slices through thumb holding the tool. Oops.
So I don’t really react too much, there’s a bit of blood but will just wash it and put a plaster on, I think.
In the bathroom after looking a bit closer, I see it’s more than a scratch – in fact its pretty deep. Leo in the meantime is going into crisis panic mode. I say “I think this needs more than a plaster, I think it needs stitches.”
More panic mode from Leo.
I say “Don’t worry, I know you can get special plaster strips that work like stitches, let’s quickly go to the pharmacy to get some”. I am really keen on this picnic and don’t want to spend the day in the emergency room queue.

Step 8 : What I haven’t mentioned yet is that it is the second time that day that I have sliced the same thumb with the same tool and the same knife, only it was minor and a plaster sorted it out. So you could say I went from Dumb to Dumber.

So we go to the pharmacy, get the strips, come home, wash the thumb, dress it with antiseptic and then attempt to apply strips. I realize then that they are just not doing what it says on the box, so off we go to Olivedale Emergency.
Turns out everyone in town is having an emergency – the numbers in the waiting room indicated a wait of at least two hours.
So we decide to go to Mediclinic in Randburg, much less busy and where we should have gone in the first place, which would have meant we could still have made the picnic.

In the end I got a lovely local anesthetic, a tetanus injection and three stitches in my thumb.
Oh and I have to wear a thumb splint to stop it from bending, because that opens up the wound again and we don’t want that.

So In the end we had a picnic on the grass at home, which was quite nice.

PS – I now know which way not to hold knife and tool, but this is moot because Leo has hidden said tool and refuses to tell me where it is.

Now I just need to go and collect my sign.