So, here’s the thing: Coronavirus sucks.
We know this, it’s all anyone can talk about right now.
You probably already know, but on the off chance you haven’t: get thee to some social distancing.
Yes, right now. No, being young and unlikely to die from this does not excuse you. If you haven’t been convinced of this by the severity and sincerity with which many governments and institutions have been closing borders and ceasing group gatherings, please read the science and understand why people are so rightly concerned about this. My personal echo-chamber has put many high-quality articles and descriptions of why this is so paramount in front of my face, but if you haven’t seen them or would like a refresher:
Here are some incredible simulations that present social distancing in a brilliant way.
Here’s a beautifully written article about why it’s important to act now and distance ourselves.
Here’s a University of Minnesota professor telling you why this is going to be a long haul, and why it’s so important to take this very seriously:
There are many other great sources out there, but those two are my favorites. This issue is really, really important. You probably already knew that from the heaps of media attention it’s gotten in the past few days, so I won’t spend my whole article ranting about it, but please do educate yourself and step back from face-to-face social activity for a bit.
And prepare for several months of really depressing news, worldwide.
So back to where we started:
Everything about this sucks. Not only are people getting sick (some dying) and healthcare systems approaching overload, it’s slicing through the dance world’s economy (and, frankly, every other service-related industry) like a hot knife through butter.
Events are folding left and right, and dance professionals are scrambling to cultivate online presence to continue engaging with the people who allow us to pursue this as a career.
The world-world-as-we-know-it is in free fall, and we’re not yet sure where we’re going to end up.
It completely and utterly sucks.
It’s a massive opportunity.
And I’m not talking about the people scalping toilet paper. That’s an ass-ive opportunity. See what I did there?
Don’t laugh, it just encourages me.
I’m talking about the opportunity to re-prioritize and invest in yourself. As schools send students home, businesses go to online work, and entire industries look at hours being cut back or eliminated altogether, most of us are looking at more ‘free time’ in the next several months than we know what to do with.
Before I jump in completely, let me acknowledge something: I’m lucky. While it is decidedly unlucky that I had 2 months (and counting) of work and travel cancel on me (no income, yay) and had to buy an expensive flight home, I’ve also got a loving family I can return to and live with rent-free while this is all going on. I fully realize that many people may not have this. I’m privileged, in case that was somehow unclear before.
Still, I believe what I’m saying has merit. For the vast majority of us, the coming few months are going to be tough financially, but even more disruptive will be the changes in how we spend our time. No more weekend dance conventions or weekly socials. No more going out to hang at a crowded bar or restaurant. That time is up for grabs, and it’s everyone’s choice as to what they will do with it.
Give me a minute of your time and I’ll tell you what to do with it: go make yourself better. Read some books, take some courses, start an online business, practice in front of a mirror, and then do all of that again.
This might be over-reaching for me to say, but I think we’ll see two kinds of people emerge from this crisis: Those that attempted to maintain the status quo and struggled through, and those who took the setback and turned into a future accelerator for whatever happens in the future recovery.
Yes, the payoff is some months from now. Delayed gratification is real, and the marshmallow on the table has to sit there for months, not minutes this time. Even so, go prepare yourself for that day. If, when everyone else was throwing up their hands in despair, you flip that assumption on its head and see this all as a good thing, you’ll find yourself far ahead of the curve when general fortunes take a turn for the better again.
The Corona is the Way
That’s the mantra of my new cult. Welcome. If you decide to join, we expect you to spread the good word to 2.5 of your closest…
Okay, I’m stopping myself right there, that got too creepy too fast. Yeesh.
What that heading actually represents is a reference to one of my favorite books of all time, ’The Obstacle is the Way’ by Ryan Holiday. If you get nothing else actionable from this article, go read that book.
If you find the philosophy in the rest of this article to be interesting, I think you will highly enjoy his work.
Here’s a link. Go put it on your kindle. Get a paper copy. Audible that shit. Heck, Ryan (the author) has that phrase tattooed on his left arm. However you choose to consume it, I’d recommend it.
The basic premise is that:
When bad shit happens in life, we have an opportunity. We can either let it drag us down, or we can use it as fuel for our fire. History has looked very favorably upon those who made a habit of fueling their fire instead of accepting defeat. It’s not necessarily glamorous, but the results are hard to argue with, and the elegance is wonderful.
To dust off an ancient tome and put it another way:
“Nothing good or bad, but that thinking makes it so” – William Shakespeare
We’ve got the opportunity to make of this worldwide crisis what we will. If we let it be a terrible thing, one that has unfairly put us and everyone around us down, that’s what it will be. On the other hand, if we can come to see it as an opportunity, a change of pace that can help us accelerate ahead, then that’s exactly what it can be, too.
The choice is yours.
I know what I’m choosing!
Ready to dig in?
Welcome to Corona University! Your semester’s tuition has graciously been paid by a sub-microscopic bundle of RNA that has a creepy lung fetish. Your professor will be the tens of thousands of people on YouTube and elsewhere online who have a skill that they desperately want to share with the world.
Go learn how to cut vegetables like a pro! Then practice by making yourself delicious food. Don’t forget to change the playback speed on YouTube if you’re like me and get a little bothered with slow-talking…
Always wanted to learn German? Go download Duolingo and learn it for free, then supplement it with the myriad of awesome YouTube channels for language learners.
Always wanted to learn how to code? There are bazillions of online services out there for you to go through, free and paid. Here’s one. Even if you think programming is something you never want to do as a career, the sheer act of solving mental puzzles is enough to get your dopamine response firing.
Khan Academy has refresher courses on nearly any basic subject you could possibly be interested in.
Hell, maybe you’re inspired to take a deep dive into epidemiology! I’m sure there’s a course out there for you, perhaps like this one from John’s Hopkins.
There is SO MUCH free (or very, very cheap) information out there it’s basically insane. The fact that you can take open-source classes from Ivy-League schools (no really, click here) hopefully gets you as excited as me! And guess what? Even if you decide you hate it after a week, you haven’t really lost time! Coronavirus has ensured that nearly everyone else will be safe in their homes, slowly letting their brains dribble out their ears as they watch Friends for the 5th time.
Okay, that was mean, I apologize. Sorta. 😉
The point is there are metric fucktons of stuff to be learned online if you’re willing to reach out and grab it. Most of us, especially my friends who are dance professionals or aspire to be, could use some help in the marketing and business development sectors. Why not go take a few YouTube tutorials on how to get the most out of Instagram? Or maybe you want to become Tik Tok famous? I’m sure there’s someone out there offering guidance on that too. There are hundreds of YouTube channels devoted to how to create good-quality footage for a YouTube channel of your own. Go learn from the hard work someone else has done!
As an aside, I’m dying to see more people in our dance make concept and collab videos. More on that in a future post.
On perhaps a more practical level, go gather up all of your best pictures, then practice making cool graphics out of them in one of the thousands of free, high-quality picture editors online or as apps.
If you want to go all-in, go get Adobe Illustrator and start taking a YouTube tutorial series about how to use this tool. Get frustrated, go pour yourself your favorite drink, then come back and attack it again. In my experience I’ve never really needed more than 5% of the features that this Ferrari of a toolset includes, and I’ve been able to run a modest business selling t-shirts with my designs on them.
There is so much to learn, and so many internet people who want to help. Go forth and conquer knowledge.
While it may seem counterintuitive to think that being unable to dance with any partners would be a good thing for your partner dancing, it absolutely can be.
First of all, on a purely personal note, after 2.5 months of aggressively traveling and dancing around Europe, my body is ready for some recovery and regeneration. I’ve got several nagging injuries that I’m excited to nurse back to full health before they become chronic. Yay dance life.
Beyond just taking a break to let the body recover, opportunity abounds to train your body in new movements, particularly solo ones. In case you’ve never had me yell at you in a class before, I’m a big fan of solo drills and the potential they have to accelerate your dance progress. So is nearly every other highly accomplished dancer I know of. Huh, maybe it’s a trend. Because it works.
Guess what? There are TONS of amazing dancers online right now who are happy to offer coaching, packaged videos, and tons of other stuff for a little money (or, if you seek it out, some is free!). This, as every dance pro and their brother is scrambling to point out, is great for helping support those who’ve lost months of work because of ye olde coronavirus.
If you financially can, it would be cool if you support the dance peeps, but I think all of us understand if you have to focus your spending on more critical areas.
Like building up your toilet paper hoard.
If you’d like a starting place, go check out all of the people offering dance critique services on Westie Pro or check out this handy list of professionals offering content, lessons, and just dance knowledge in general, put together by Babak Seyed Shakeri.
Beyond taking classes (#gettovirtualclass) this is the perfect time to master your bathroom-mirror grooving. You don’t have anything else to do, why not pop on one of your favorite jams and rock out in the bathroom mirror?
And yes, I know it’s awkward to watch yourself dance in the mirror. It is for all of us, especially at the beginning. It’s sometimes tough to face the reality of where our dancing is when our hopeful imagination has nudged it up a few pegs on the dance ladder.
But here’s the thing. The road to awesome goes straight through awkward. Straight through it. Straight through.
And you’ll really like the results you’ll find on the other side.
Oh, did I write an article about that at some point?
At the end of the day, whether you’re like me and plan to use this time to recover with some gentle yoga and body isolation work, or you choose to practice footwork challenges or take various intensives, just use this solo time to hone your dancing. Even if you just put on a few songs and bop through some triple steps that will be far better than rewatching Breaking Bad for the umpteenth time.
Corona School of Business
It’s never been easier to jump into the world of e-commerce, and while an economic crisis may seem, at first blush, to be a terrible time to start a new venture (nobody wants to spend money!) it is also generally a time where you can get all kinds of services for excellent deals. Tens of thousands of freelancers out there are hungry for jobs right now, and they’re probably going to be willing to entertain discounts that wouldn’t have been possible a few months ago.
Are you devaluing them by not paying what they would have been paid back then?
Personally, I don’t think so, not if it’s work you wouldn’t have had done without the market opportunity. By putting contracts out there, you’re helping to buoy things in the right direction. If there’s no work available, then nobody eats, so to speak.
Lots of stuff comes with a free trial, as well! Do you feel that Feather Three’s designs are crap and you want to make your own T-shirt business to drive mine under? You can! Shopify has a free 14-day trial, and Printful is easy to set up and start fulfilling through immediately. All you need is a few designs, a brand name, a decent web theme, and a smidge of copywriting skills. All of that you could, if you wanted, pay a freelancer to do, but if we’re looking at the strictly no-money-down approach, you could also set it up yourself with some dedicated watching of YouTube videos and a willingness to tinker!
If you don’t want to go toe-to-toe with me in dance shirts, serve another niche! If you’ve already got friends in that space, ask them what they’d want to wear. Even if you shut the project down after 14 days and only your mom buys a T-shirt and a mug, you’ll have learned tons even if not earned tons.
Beyond just e-commerce, there are tons of other things to be explored. Always wanted to open up a shop? I bet landlords will be interested to hear whatever deal you have to offer them soon.
Need some engineers to build you a custom website? Well, they’ll probably be happy to have the work and do an excellent job to boot.
Many of the greatest companies we think of today were founded during recessions or when all of the conventional wisdom said that a new venture was a bad idea in such an uncertain time. On the one hand, if there’s no market for your product or service that could definitely suck in a financial sense, but on the other hand, you’ll probably find that information out very quickly. Even better, if you do happen upon an idea that has great traction, all of your would-be competitors are probably only through season 3 of rewatching Game of Thrones at this point, so you’re likely to face little competition as you try to grow your business!
I’m not a business professor, I’ve just read a lot of books and listened to more hours of podcasts about this than I’d care to admit to. I could be entirely full of shit.
I’d like to think not, though.
That’s just a start. Ultimately, what you choose to do with the coming weeks and months is up to you, as it always has been. Whether you choose to invest your time or catch up on the latest season of Letterkenny (my favorite show of the past few years!) it’s up to you.
I think there’s tons of opportunity here, and that the glass is half full.
If nothing else, I’m going to be working on my writing, so that posts in the future will be (even) better than this one!
Here’s hoping you and your loved ones stay safe, and I’ll (eventually) see you on the dance floor!