Sunday, August 22, 2010

Getting Better

A strange thing happens when you study something for years and years, accepting (repeatedly) that you're just not very good at it and allowing (repeatedly) that you may never understand why you keep doing it anyway.

You get better.  Maybe not fast, maybe not when you expect to, but in time, eventually.

I've been videoing myself dancing, weekly, with the same partner to the same music for a few months now.  I've been studying the videos, and to my surprise the woman I'm watching is looking more and more like a dancer.

I'm guessing you're thinking one of three things: "well, duh", or "how can you be sure?", or even "who cares?"  If it's the last, go read my Awesome post. (Right now. You'll love it.)

If it's "how can you be sure?" I answer: it's about smoothness, and musicality. Posture. But it's also something that's hard to define but you know when you see it.  Grace.  Something I never thought I'd see in myself.

And if it's "well, duh"?  To you I made a cute piss-off gesture that you find amusing, feisty and adorable all at once, and you resolve to bring me some fabulously tasty chocolates next time you come to watch me dance.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Hot. Brain. Melt.

So hot your brain feels like it's melting.  So hot that riding from place A to place B I found myself deciding to go buy things near by at an air-conditioned store, rationalizing the need to go there TODAY, NOW to get stuff.  As if my brain were a whining child. A scheming, clever, and insidious whining child.

Get us out of the heat and brain forgets. Back in the heat it starts whining again.  It's almost funny, which is why I am sitting at a red light, heavy jacket, boots and black helmet, the sun crashing down, heat worming its way into my melting brains, and I'm chuckling.  In case you were in a nearby car, wondering.

It'll pass. Of course it will.  Then it'll be cool again. And too soon, it'll be too cold again.

But today Hot. Brain. Melt.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Consultants Need Ears

Yesterday I consulted with the management of a local non-profit about their online communication channels. It was intended to be a presentation about blogs and blogging practices, but when I got there it was clear that they hadn't really looked at their online communications in total - newsletter, events listing, facebook and twitter feeds - with an eye to who they were trying to reach and what they wanted to accomplish.

I changed my presentation on the spot because the client, this organization, needed something other than what I'd come in to talk about. I'm flexible. I give the client what they need.

Apparently not all consultants do this. They don't start by asking questions. I won't speculate on why, but - okay, I will. They can get away with it? They think it makes them look weak to ask questions?

You can manage to give a perfectly useless presentation on any subject if you simply disregard the audience's needs. I know, I've done it. I've seen the glazed look in my listeners' eyes, heard the polite applause. Resolved not to do it again.

You know you've done good when you leave people jazzed and ready to go to work. When I was done the director shook my hand, all grins and eager for the next step. She was glad I hadn't told them they were doing it all wrong.

Which they weren't. A few things maybe, which I told them in a way that played to their strengths, not their weaknesses. After all, the idea is to give the client useful tools, not convince them I know more than they do.

We covered what I came in to talk about, too, but we started somewhere else. And that is, in my mind, what a consultant ought to do: cover the ground that needs covering. This seems obvious, but I know there are plenty of well-paid people who fail to start with the most important step in giving solid value as a consultant: asking the right questions and listening to what the client answers.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Better at Me

I'm coming off a weekend of a lot of tango dancing with friends and strangers and some things have occurred to me.  It's funny how the stuff you hear over the years comes back to you in waves of meaning and applicability.  For example, what if I only took steps that were right for me at the moment, rather than pushing myself to take a step because I thought it was expected?  What if I took my time with each step, even at the risk of being late?  Would this change my dance?

Most certainly it would.  I've been doing that, more and more, and it's -- delicious.

And of course tango is a mirror for life.

Someone recently said to me between dances, his eyes wide and his tone full of surprise, "there's something about the way you dance... it feels like-- like you bring something to the conversation."

Well, yes. In tango, the woman's role -- we say "the follow" in this country, but that's sort of a confusing term -- is about listening.  As is the man's role.  But the woman's role is also about responding, about saying something in return.  About making it a conversation. Too many men -- "leads" -- don't get that part.   And by "don't get" I don't just mean don't understand.  I mean never receive.  What a shame.

I realized something recently about why I dance tango, and I've been saying it a lot lately:

I don't dance tango to get better at tango.  I dance tango to get better at me.