Risk and Reward, Dancing with Strangers Edition

The great thing about dancing is that when I go, I always get some kind of idea for a blog post.

Cases in point: here, here, and here.

I did a lot of dancing this weekend, as you can see.

I didn’t exactly learn anything new from my microcosm of dancing. But once again I saw a life truth play out in a visceral way: there is little reward with little risk and great reward with great risk. 

Most people are insecure about their bodies and insecure about public dancing. That’s understandable. Also understandable: when most people go dancing, they hold back.

If they’re dancing with a partner (swing dancing for me), they stay within the same simple steps and simple box. If they’re dancing solo (80s night!), they don’t experiment. They keep their arms and legs into safe, familiar patterns – which often happen to be no patterns at all. If they want to dance with someone, they shyly sidle up and try to be accepted, or they wait for someone to ask them.

The great thing is that all of these approaches comes with built-in defense mechanisms. You’re well insured against the risk of rejection.

I’ve had enough experiences to know that this strategy is 1) boring and 2) complete unsuccessful at creating a good time on the dance floor. All the things you think are “safe” when you go dancing are precisely the things that will ruin your night.

No one wants to dance with someone who isn’t having a good time. No one wants to dance with someone who needs validation to have fun. And no one wants to dance with someone who isn’t willing to try something new.

Let’s be honest – that number includes you.

Ironically, it’s when I’m boldest and most unpredictable that I and any dance partners have the most fun. I’ll jump up and dance on a raised platform in front of a crowd of strangers (it’s not what it sounds like…), or I’ll pull someone up on stage with me. I’ll incorporate some fancy footwork and on-the-fly improvisation into a high-tempo swing dance with a girl I’ve just met. Or I’ll leap into the fray with a group of strangers and get involved in a danceoff.

All of this puts me at much greater risk of failure. I could (and frequently do) embarrass myself publicly . And yet, all the same, it’s then – at that point of greatest risk – that I have the most fun dancing. It’s then that I make new dance partners and new friends out of strangers. It’s then that I become the life of the party. All of a sudden I – a shy person – am someone capable of getting all the other shy people out of their shells.

I’m actually less likely to be rejected when I do all the things my social conformity training tells me will get me rejected. I’m more likely to be rejected when I do listen to the voice of fear.

This is just a small example of the counterintuitive nature of risk and reward. Dancing bears it out well.


James Walpole

James Walpole is a writer, startup marketer, and perpetual apprentice. You're reading his blog right now, and he really appreciates it. Don't let it go to his head, though.

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