Dancing With Failure…

As many of you know, I offered my first-ever Dancing Mamas Tribe session over the past 5 weeks. This was a HUGE deal for me on so many levels. For example:

1. It was my first step back into ‘teaching’ (facilitating? leading? you know what I mean) after having Xander. And my friends and darling-patient-amazing-how-did-I-get-so-lucky husband will tell you, it was an agonizingly slow-to-happen step. We’re talking 3 years in the making here.

2. It was something I invented myself, the dream closest to my heart, the thing I created for the Meg who sat alone in the apartment with a small baby and couldn’t even dance on her own in the living room (I really couldn’t! Not for months!)

So yeah, it was a Big Deal. And I finally stepped out there and booked a space and created a description and posted on my blog and put up posters and posted ads online. I Did It.

…and then nobody came.

Not the first week, or the second week. Not the third week or the fourth week. Not even after I changed the time to make it easier for people to get to. And then the fifth and final week arrived, and I went to that studio with my gear…and no one came.

Five weeks. No people.

I am a Big Fat Failure.

…or so the gremlins told me.

But I don’t really believe them. Not entirely.

(OK, I wasn’t sitting there by myself…but you get the idea)

Here’s the thing: it’s always been my habit to berate myself for not succeeding and to walk a mile to avoid anything that seemed too difficult or doomed to failure. I was that OMG-so-annoying girl in school who was convinced that she would fail every test and then, when she scored a 95%, would be down on herself for “failing” and not making those extra 5 points. I’m the girl who dropped a German class in university because it was too hard and was going to bring down my GPA and I was too afraid of failing. That’s me. That’s my M.O.

So someone please explain why, in the face of 5 weeks of NO STUDENTS, I’m not huddled in a corner sobbing “Nobody loves me” and shoving pints of Rocky Road Hagen Daaz down my throat!

I’m not going to lie: I did feel bad each week. But at the same time, every day that I went in and sat there was a day that found me furiously scribbling notes into my journal. I got so many crazy insights into myself, my business, and the ways I’m going to do it differently next time that I actually think it was worth the price of the studio rental!

And even now, when I’m face to face with what can only be called a failed term (no students pretty much is the definition of failure for a teacher, right?), I’m really not that upset. Not devastated. I keep picturing myself a few years from now, telling the story of how I started. “Seriously, when I offered my first session of Dancing Mamas,” I’ll tell an interviewer, “Nobody came. Not one person. I sat there in that studio and waited, and nobody came. If you’d told me then where I would be in X-#-of years, I wouldn’t have believed it…but here I am!”

Only, I do believe it. This is just the beginning, and everyone falters at the beginning. The fact that I started this at all is a major victory. I’m not going to let this bother me. I’m going to learn everything I can from this experience, really get my money’s worth for the rental fee I paid, and I’m going to take those lessons and apply them to my next effort.

“I’m grateful for my missteps,” I’ll tell that interviewer, “They taught me so much about what works and what doesn’t, what feels right for me, what’s joyful, what makes me tick. My business wouldn’t be what it is today if I hadn’t danced a number or two with Failure at the beginning.”

Really, that Failure gets a bad rap. He’s not the most popular guy, but I’d rather dance a round with him than stay a wallflower and not dance at all.

…and that’s a first for me.

31 thoughts on “Dancing With Failure…”

  1. You know I never post on your blog, because frankly, it’s easier just to call you from work, or comment on your posts in person. But I’m making an exception here. I think everyone needs to know how proud I am of you. You’re a brilliant and vibrant woman, Meg and it’s a privilege to have the honor of watching your journey unfold.
    Over the last six years I’ve seen you shrink away and hide in a bubble, and burst out dancing in the sun… But this is the first time I’ve seen you truly fearless. You amaze me in every way a man, partner and friend could be amazed. I love you so.

    1. I am so incredibly lucky to have you in my life, sweetie. You are the most amazing, supportive, understanding, incredible husband a girl could ask for.
      You’re my night sky.
      I love you.

  2. First off, your husband is a sweetie! How nice of him to post his thoughts out there.

    Second, you’re soooo not a failure. People haven’t come to the class yet. They aren’t even aware of your awesomeness! You can only do so much advertising and promoting, and it’s up to the students to make the first step. You’ve taken that first step already! You are OUT there!

    Have you thought about joining forces with a local yoga studio or gym? Like, maybe you could offer a 4-week starter series? That way you’d get a little help with the marketing, maybe pull in a few of their existing clients. I’ll have to ask my 5Rhythms instructor how his beginning months as a teacher were. Until he arrived, the closest classes were in New York and Washington DC; I doubt many people knew what the 5Rhythms were when he first came into the scene, yet now he teaches at 5 locations!

    And I know that newspaper reporter interview will come one day! I can’t wait to read the article! πŸ˜‰

  3. “I’d rather dance a round with Failure than stay a wallflower and not dance at all.”

    … should be on a T-shirt. That, I love. I too am so afraid to fail. And I remember every failure I’ve ever experienced in my life – far more vividly than I remember my successes.

    As far as no one coming, well… when I decided to open the dayhome, I was terrified that I wouldn’t find any clients. For several months it didn’t look good. I kept getting calls from people who wanted one afternoon a week, maybe, if they felt like it, possibly. And I needed the equivalent of three full-time just to break even. I had people with kids wildly allergic to dogs calling even though my ad said “I have a dog”. I had people who wanted to leave their kids here for 12 hours a day despite my posted hours. Sometimes it seemed I would never get a roster of reliable, stable clients that would allow us all to get comfortable with one another and develop a routine.

    Six months later, I’m full up – and am turning people away.

    This will happen for you, when it’s meant to happen. I’m hoping to have enough carseats by September to do day trips… in which case my brood & I will totally be there, if you’re offering a class then. I’ll even pay extra for bringing so many kids. πŸ™‚

  4. What an amazing breakthrough! I am in awe of your stick-to-it-iveness on this one; I can’t imagine going every week for five weeks, and I admire your effort and salute the very clear benefits you received from it. You go, girl! This is just the first step in an amazing journey, I know it.

  5. Meg you are amazing! I think I would have shrunk into a corner. Reading how you became inspired with insights week after week is definately inspiring to me. I can’t tell you how many times I put off giving Art Therapy workshops for fear that no one will show or I wont get enough people to sign up. But I have put them off too long! THanks Meg for sharing your story!

    1. Hi Petrea!
      YAY! Thank you! To be honest, I sort of amazed myself with this one πŸ™‚
      I can’t wait to hear how your workshops go! There is ALWAYS a lesson, even when things don’t go the way we want!
      GO YOU!! GO GO GO! πŸ˜€


  6. Well I am in Australia, so not much help there πŸ™‚ But the photo of your Flamenco shoes has reminded me how much I loved doing Flamenco classes. I got waaaay too fat and pregnant and had to drop out; but you know what ? I’m going to drop back in again !!

    Thankyou for being such an inspiration. I’ll see you at the Dance Workshop series you’ll be running here in Perth πŸ™‚

    1. Hi Molly!
      YES! DO it! Flamenco is so fun…I haven’t done it in YEARS, but I loved it! I loved how powerful it made me feel! RAAR!

      And even if I can’t make it to Perth in person, I’m going to figure out a way to dance with you! The internet is a magical thing!


  7. You are exactly right. It can only be a “failure” if you don’t apply what you learned from the experience. Put on your dancing shoes, turn up the music and dance AS IF the room is overflowing with people. “Gotta’ dance!” Thomas Edison dreamed of a lamp that could be operated by eletricity and had thousands of “failures” before he made it a physical reality. Aren’t we glad he didn’t quit?

  8. Thank you SO much for sharing this with us! I’ve had similar experiences: months of energy poured into a project and the the BIG DAY arrives…and you’re the only one there for it. It makes us stronger. Each time. We get braver each time. This speaks to me in a big way today. πŸ™‚ Much Love!

    1. Hi Molly!
      YES! We do get braver! And that is amazing! I thought I would be broken by it, but I wasn’t. And I’ve heard from so many people who have had the same experience, which feels so good.
      There is a gift in everything, isn’t there? πŸ˜€


  9. Hi Meg!!

    We are namesakes… I am just taking a leap into start my own venture and can totally relate to what you detailed out here.. I do love connecting with people and creating communities…and that is what I will be working on.. communities to help women blossom into their own…

    I do have a couple of suggestions for you (pardon me if you have already tried these)..

    1. If there is a cultural festival scheduled close to where you live, can you offer a free gig … and if you prepare a couple with a few friends (I am sure there are people you can coax to come dancing with you), you can take it to the people ..

    2. Try offering a few free sessions so that people know what you are offering.. and they can sign up if they like….

    So many ideas floating in my brain.. please connect if you wanna brainstorm further..

    No charge.. just part of taking my brain waves to the help women blossom.

    Love n Care n Luck,
    PS: I would say you both are darling-patient-amazing-how-did-I-get-so-lucky types.. XOXO

  10. Thank you for this honest courageous message. I’m running a Goddess weekend in July and trying not to get anxious and go galloping off down the ‘no takers = failure route. You have really helped me, and don’t doubt you are offering something wonderful.

  11. I have been a dance teacher for 15 years….and I have totally and completely been where you are in a studio with my journal and no students. But I have also taught 40 students in a master class completely unexpectedly….and so will you.
    The national dance day through americas SYTYCD is coming up on the 30th of July (I believe) they will release a easy and a more advanced dance for people everywhere to learn and then do flash mobs all over on that day, perhaps you could unite us women from all over the world to do a dance party web sync, because we obviously are reading and watching and supporting….. In the meantime know your souls dance is inspiration for my souls new direction.
    Have a fantastic day!!
    -Meg (yup I’m a Meg too)

  12. I am absolutely sooooo inspired by your truth and courage. I’m so the girl who has avoided failure at all costs–and those costs have been high. And when I risk and fail, it takes so much to bounce back. What’s the secret of your beautiful heart? I’m learning to feel the fear and do it anyway. I’m learning from your bravery. Thank you for being my teacher today!

    1. Hi Miriam,
      I’m so glad that my post resonated with you!
      I’ve always been that girl too. That’s why this process is completely bowling me over!
      I think that reading lots and lots (and lots) of inspiring blog posts by other creative entrepreneurs and joining their community has helped me SO much. It’s so much easier when you know for absolute certain that people you look up to have been through the same thing.

      Also, I just checked out your Inspiration page on your site, and I LOVE it! I’ll be back to visit! πŸ˜€


  13. I followed a link from Goddess Leonie and I’m so glad I did! Can I just say THANK-YOU for writing so honestly about this. Seems like all we hear from entrepreneurs is how great they are and how packed their programs are. The truth is, sometimes they’re not. I love how to re-framed this blip as a success.
    Onward and upward!

    1. Hi Emily!
      I know what you mean, and it can make you feel so alone and incompetent.
      I’ve been lucky enough to find a few entrepreneurs who are very open about their struggles: Andrea at ABC Creativity writes a lot about her process as she transitions into full-time entrepreneurship. And Jamie Ridler from Jamie Ridler studios has spoken about it on a podcast or two (plus commented here, which helped a lot). And there was a post on Art Aligned last month that talked about the same kind of thing: when you give it your all and no one shows up. It was such a comfort to me to see how they reframed their experiences. I took inspiration from *their* stories!

      The lesson I learned from sharing this process instead of hiding it away is that SO MANY people, even the ones we adore and look up to, experience this at first. Dance teachers, creativity workshop leaders, you name it. It takes time. But SO FEW talk about it! We (the world’s entrepreneurs) need to talk about this more…maybe people would stop being so terrified of failure…

      I’m so glad you stopped by! πŸ˜€

  14. Everything that teaches us or brings us closer to our “self” is never a failure. That you set out to accomplish something was your goal…and you did. And you’ll try again and again and again. Your attitude and your philosophy inspires me!

  15. This is wonderful and brave blogpost – I also found it on an old Goddess Leonie post and your writing is so gorgeous. It’s so tempting to believe that successful people are successful straightaway and that our failures mean that we should quit. I’m just starting out with my blog and your honesty as made me want to go for my dreams no matter what.

    By the way, I would LOVE to come to a dancing mamas class if you were nearby.

    1. Hi Charlotte!
      Thanks so much for stopping by and for your wonderful words! I’m so glad you found me!
      Your blog is fantastic! I have bookmarked the Endangered Species post for next week’s Inspiration Tuesday…I didn’t know about it, and it’s EXACTLY where my head is at these days!
      You are going to go far, beautiful Goddess πŸ™‚


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