Leticia is a Content Specialist & Dancer
Leticia Mooney is a woman of many talents. An author, serial entrepreneur, music critic, and scholarship-winning dance student, Leticia has owned three (maybe four) businesses, one of which was acquired by another company in 2010. In the art of music critique, Leticia has been described as a “master”, has been recognized internationally for her work, and authored the first book on the mechanics of rock journalism. She dances ballet; writes for fun as well as for a living; and does more things in a day than most do in a month. Leticia’s mission in life is to light the fire of inspiration in people.
Leticia talks about her dance journey, how it helped develop the discipline she applies in the office, and how she managed to get a co-founder to attend a ballet class! She also talks about how a negative reaction to sharing a passion can hurt morale and productivity!
• Why notebooks are the most important thing you could own
• Getting into ballet
• Getting into belly dancing and returning to ballet
• Joining the Australian Dance Theatre Company
• Why ballet performances are more exclusive in Australia
• Gothic belly dance performance
• How dance has taught her discipline
• Encouraging founders to attend a ballet class
• Signing a scholarship with a local dance class
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Welcome to Episode 233 of What’s Your “And”? This is John Garrett. Each Wednesday, I interview a professional who, just like me, is known for a hobby or a passion or an interest outside of work. To put it in another way, it’s encouraging people to find their “And.” For instance, you’re an accountant and a cyclist or a lawyer and a painter. No one really cares about the first part. They care more about the things that are above and beyond your technical skills because that’s what actually differentiates you when you’re in the office.
I’m so excited to let everyone know that my book is being published in just a few weeks. It will be available on Amazon and a few other websites. Check out whatsyourand.com for all the details. I can’t say how much it means and everyone’s listening to the show and then changing the cultures where they work because of it. It’s really, really cool.
Please don’t forget to hit subscribe so you don’t miss any of the future episodes because I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week and this week is going to be no different with my guest, Leticia Mooney. She’s the Queen Pixie/CEO of Brutal Pixie in Adelaide, Australia. Now, she’s with me here today. Leticia, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Leticia: My pleasure, John. How are you going?
John: Yeah, absolutely. This is going to be so great. I’m so excited for this. Life is good for sure. But before we jump in to the real fun, I have my 17 rapid fire questions because if we’re going to be in a dance troupe together at some point, it’s going to be a lot of time together. I got to make sure that we can get along.
It’s going to be even more time in the hospital after I break an ankle. Here we go. First one. Favorite color.
Leticia: Favorite color? Pink.
John: Pink. Okay, all right. How about a least favorite color?
John: Oh, yeah. Even the word is terrible. That’s an excellent pick. When you’re on an airplane, more window seat or aisle seat?
Leticia: Window seat always.
John: All right. More pens or pencils?
Leticia: Pens, preferably fountain pens.
John: Oh, wow. Fancy. Do you write normally or is it all calligraphy as well?
Leticia: No. I use a fountain pen to write my books actually.
John: Oh, fantastic. That’s nice. I love it. How about when it comes to puzzles, Sudoku or crossword?
Leticia: Oh, crosswords.
John: Crossword. There it is. How about a favorite actor or actress?
Leticia: Favorite actor. This is really terrible because I have no idea about actor’s names but Leonardo DiCaprio is a really good method actor. For me, I kind of follow what he does.
John: There you go. It’s also an easy name to remember. He’s in everything. Would you say you’re more of an early bird or a night owl?
Leticia: I’m an early bird. I was up today at 5:00 to 5:00. I do that every day.
John: Wow. That’s impressive. Trust me. I am evening out that curve by sleeping in until 9:00 or whenever I wake up.
Leticia: Good. I’m glad someone is —
John: Yeah, yeah. More Star Wars or Star Trek?
Leticia: Star Wars. Yes. Actually, this is a random bit of factoid for you. My house is filled with Star Wars.
John: Really? That’s really cool. That’s almost your passion but we have other passions to talk about so that’s really cool.
Leticia: It’s not mine.
John: Oh, okay. There you go. It just is that way. For your computer, more PC or a Mac?
Leticia: I love Macs more but I run both.
John: Oh, okay. All right. When it comes to your mouse on a PC, right click or left click?
John: Oh, okay. Making decisions. Boom. There it is. How about a favorite band or musician?
Leticia: Favorite band? Pungent Stench.
John: Okay, all right. I’m going to have to YouTube that after we talk. Hopefully, the right kind of video comes up. How about a favorite animal? Any animal at all?
Leticia: Favorite animals. Birds, generically birds.
John: Generically just all birds? Okay, all right. Do you prefer more hot or cold?
John: Hot? Okay. How about a favorite number?
John: Why is that? It’s so popular. What’s your reason?
Leticia: Is it? I didn’t know that.
John: Yeah, by far.
Leticia: I think it’s because my birthday is like a multiple of seven.
John: Nice. How about favorite ice cream flavor?
John: Really? I did not anticipate that coming from you. That’s impressive.
Leticia: You can find it literally everywhere. You can’t ever go wrong with it either.
John: Yeah. It’s hard to mess that up. That’s an excellent point. Two more. More oceans or mountains?
John: Oceans. Okay. The last one. The favorite thing you own or the favorite thing you have?
Leticia: Oh, my god. The favorite thing I own is probably my notebooks that I write in.
John: Oh, yeah. Excellent answer. Of course. Do you have just going back years? Is it mostly journaling or is it creative writing?
Leticia: It’s both. I have journals going back more than ten years. I have notebooks from work that I use on average, two notebooks a year. I have two notebooks a year so out of my business, I probably have 12. Then creative writing, I also have books.
John: Wow. That’s impressive.
Leticia: Yeah. It’s a lot of words, lots of scribble.
John: That is a lot of words.
Leticia: But the coolest thing about it is Jim Rohn once said that the most important things that you own are your notebooks because if you keep your ideas and you review your ideas then eventually, they are the things that make you money.
John: There you go. Yeah, I remember when I was doing comedy and I would have ideas and I would wake up and write down on a notepad and then you wake up in the morning and you’re like, what is bacon? Just some random words that is like oh, that was supposed to be hilarious apparently. I don’t even know. You’re doing it when you’re awake and conscious so that’s much more productive.
Leticia: Most of the time, yeah.
John: That’s where it is, yeah.
Let’s talk dance and specifically ballet and you’re still pretty active with as well, right?
Leticia: I consider that the dance studio is my church. I actually dance at 9:30 Sunday mornings. That’s a ballet class and I dance Saturdays in ballet, Thursdays in contemporary dance, and anything else I can squish around the edges.
John: That’s really cool. How did you get into dance? Was it something that you were doing from when you were younger?
Leticia: Oh, that’s a story. The short answer to that is yes, my mom put me in ballet classes when I was two. There are these fantastic little photographs of me in pink leotards and my hair in a bun, fluffy skirt, and my sister looking like she wanted to join in but had no idea what was going on because she was so small.
I did that until the ballet teacher left my hometown. I left the school, there was lots of us that didn’t dance after that. Some of the other kids in those classes did end up in companies like the Australian Ballet which blows my mind even today. But then there was a new teacher, came to town with her sister, both of them were like from the Australian. They set up a new school so I danced jazz ballet with them until I hit puberty.
Then this weird thing happened where I was like, I just don’t want to look at myself in a leotard, so I quit. I didn’t dance again until I was 30. That’s a really, really long time. In between, I always did movement stuff. I’d pick up martial arts when I was 15. Then in my 20s, I did Qigong and climbing and stuff.
I was always kind of a physical person but then when I was 30, I had just come out of a really long-term relationship. I was on my own again. I had a girlfriend who was a belly dancer. She was like, come to class. You will love this. It’s amazing. She said that to me for a year.
John: Using that voice or was it —
John: Right. No. I’m kidding. Because I would’ve waited also.
Leticia: Like how long are you going to say it like this for?
John: Right, exactly. Is this class in an alley? What is going on?
Leticia: I know. Are you trying to sell drugs as well?
John: Right, so you joined her?
Leticia: Well, eventually, she’s like look, here are some free classes. Just bloody will come to class. I said all right, just to shut her up. I fell in love with it. I was like, where has this been my whole life? I’m just was really good at it. I was like, oh, how about that? This is the weirdest thing I’ve ever done. It was so funny.
I kind of tumbled head first into this. When you’re a belly dancer, you suddenly discover an amazing lust for shiny things, sparkly things, dangly things, bells, skirts, and shawls, because there are so many costume-y things. In belly dance, lots of people kind of live the vision of a belly dancer in a sense like they gradually start wearing this stuff in normal life and not just in dance class. They listen to percussion albums and they learn how to play cymbals and they get really excited about djembes and all this stuff.
I danced and belly danced for a couple of years. Then my friend left, she went to Europe. When she left, the dance teacher was like, you’re my new Andrea. I was like, oh, my god. That’s some pressure. She was an amazing dancer. She would perform at parties and shows and she could improvise. She just was amazing. I was like, oh, okay. No pressure. Weird also.
I did kind of commit to the school. Then some weird stuff happened in belly dance in this particular school, the teacher was kind of like a jealous boyfriend. You couldn’t dance in anyone else’s school and you couldn’t do anything on your own. She wasn’t willing to train you or coach you unless you also paid for every single class which included the beginner classes. I was like oh, this is getting gross now.
In between, I had leveled up to the point where I was in advanced classes. I had come to this realization that I needed footwork. Even though belly dance is quite low, it’s low to the ground, the energy is really low and grounded, as you kind of progress through the ranks, the footwork does get reasonably complex. You have to be able to navigate the feet and the movement and directions and stuff.
I was like, I suck at this. What’s going to fix it? I was like, ballet class will fix this problem.
Leticia: Then I went, who does adult ballet classes? I started scouting around. There are not many, man. It’s really hard to find.
John: It’s like you and a bunch of five-year-old girls.
Leticia: I know, which should be okay. That would be fine but most of those classes will not allow adults in them. You have to be a pretty lucky person to get into a class with a bunch of seven-year-olds which funnily enough, last week, I did actually do a class like that much to my amazement.
I was looking around, looking around, looking around, and there is a very, very famous contemporary dance company called Australian Dance Theatre. Australian Dance Theatre is contemporary dance and theatre so it’s a really different style of performance.
Anyway, so they had an adult school. It wasn’t far from my house. I went, game on. I went there and I have been dancing in ADT’s adult school ever since. That has now been about eight years.
John: That’s really cool. It’s something that was something you did when you were younger whether or not you necessarily had a passion for it when you’re a kid, it’s hard to know. But after taking so many years off to find it again, and have it be stronger than ever is really encouraging.
Leticia: It happens a lot. In fact, there are a lot of women who come to the classes and men too actually, surprisingly, even elderly men come to class who were dancers when they were younger or dance teachers or whatever. People always come in and they’re like, I danced when I was a teenager. They’re now 60 or 50 or whatever.
Their brains remember the terminology because it’s all in French in ballet. There are like, I don’t know, five positions of the feet and hands which would form the basis of every single movement in ballet. People who have done it when they were small just know it. Their bodies just know this stuff.
John: Yeah, like riding a bicycle kind of parallel sort of a thing.
Leticia: Totally. They don’t even have to think about it. They stand at the bar, they stand in first position. They’re like oh, I remembered. No, you didn’t. Your body did. It happens a lot. People are like, man, I’ve really missed this. If they hadn’t had that time off, they wouldn’t appreciate it, I guess.
John: Right, yeah. Because I mean then you’d kind of take it for granted or it becomes mundane or whatever. That’s really cool. So you do performances as well. I imagine you’re not just practicing. Are there some of the bigger shows that you’ve been a part of that are more exciting for you?
Leticia: Well, fascinatingly, in ballet and contemporary dance, if you get the opportunity to perform as an adult, you are one lucky mofo. Schools here in Adelaide — I don’t know what it’s like in the rest of the world. In the US, I know there are adult schools who do encourage performance. It’s not common in Australia.
John: Oh, really? Okay.
Leticia: It’s kind of like if you go into a ballet class, this is your version of the gym. That’s how dance schools tend to treat it. It’s like alternative exercise, when in fact, what they don’t understand which is a whole other conversation about value propositions and business in the arts particularly. What they don’t understand is that people go to dance classes because they are dancers. They might be bleep at it but they are dancers.
If they had the opportunity to perform, they would level up really fast. In terms of ballet, have never performed on stage in ballet, have never really performed on stage in contemporary dance either. However, I do occasionally dance in a commercial dance school called That Dance Drop, whom our friend, Lauren Thiel, that you’ve had on the podcast —
John: Exactly. Small world. Look at that.
Leticia: Small world, man.
John: Yeah, that’s awesome.
Leticia: That Dance Drop does commercial dance. They do have performances. One of the most fun performances I’ve done was in a That Dance Drop dance showcase in July this year but probably the most significant that I was in was in a gothic belly dance performance that was like a supporting act for a male Turkish belly dancer. That was mind blowing. It was just incredible.
John: There’s layers upon layers in that.
Leticia: There are so many.
John: That’s really cool. Do you feel, at all, that dance gives you a skillset that makes you better at your job?
Leticia: Oh, my god. Yes. Okay. There is a real stereotype with dance that dance requires discipline. Dancers go to dance class when they’re tired, when they’re hurt, when they’re sick, when they can’t be bothered. It doesn’t matter how you feel. You always go to class. That’s just what you do.
If you go to class and you’re having a bad day because you will have a bad day like there are days where your balance is completely off, where you don’t know which one is left or right in terms of your legs, you don’t know which end of the room you’re going to, you have no idea what the teacher just said to you to do, or the sequence. You stand there and you nod and smile through the demonstration and the sequence, you’re like yeah, yeah. I got that. And then you do it, you’re like two seconds in, you’re like, I have no idea what I’m doing.
John: I forget what I did. Oh, you know what? I should come over and we would be good or I would be completely fine and, oh, no, distraction. That is awesome though because yeah, you show up no matter what and you got to power through.
Leticia: You show up no matter what. If something makes you feel like you’re going to cry, you do it anyway. If you don’t feel like tough, I have this recurring narrative in my classes at the moment where my teacher is saying to me, Leticia, don’t give in so easily.
There’s a movement called rond, okay? A rond is where you move your leg around. It’s probably the easiest way to explain it from forward position which is devant to behind you which is derriere. But when you do this and your leg is off the floor, there’s a point where you encounter your hip. If you don’t stretch your foot towards the wall and your body upright so that your leg comes out of your hip a little bit, then your leg will turn in a weird way or it will, it just looks gross.
I have a tendency to give in into the movement to make it easier. I always get told off. But at the same time, that’s a pattern that I see in myself in my business too. If I’m tired, I tend to give in. There are other ways it applies. The discipline, the persistence, not giving into yourself is a really big one and focus because dance is a very physical body focus thing. You learn to get into the zone even when you are in a room with 20 other people, with mirrors in front of you and music going on and you’re going in a billion directions. You learn to come into the zone. That’s a really useful skill at work.
John: Yeah, that’s huge because it’s one of those things that no one teaches us in business school or law school or whatever university program we’re in. Hey, dance makes you better at your job. Is this something that you talk about or have talked about in your career with clients or even co-workers?
Leticia: Not really. Not in terms of the impact. I have encouraged founders to come to ballet with me because I do talk about going to dance. In fact, in the first year of my business, I was also in a dance scholarship with a local school. I signed a contract which said that I would be in every single class for 12 months with no excuses which is tough, right? Because if you start a business, you have to go to all the networking events and make all the friends and do all the things. I had to bail on most of them.
If I went to an event for the first half an hour and then ran away, people are like, “Where are you going?” I’m like, “Dance class.” They’re like, “What?”
John: Are you driving someone to class? What do you mean? No, no. I’m in it.
Leticia: I’ve had people that look at how I stand and then say things to me like, “You don’t look like a dancer. Isn’t that interesting?” I’ve encouraged founders to come to ballet class for the last six years, and only one has ever taken me up on the opportunity. He has a slight physical disability. He stands unevenly and he has a contorted arm and et cetera. He’s a coach. He teaches people how to get out of their zone. He was like, game on. Yes, I will come. He was amazing.
John: That’s really cool. I mean it’s really cool that you’re sharing it. It’s, I’m a dancer. This is what I do. For people to say well, you don’t look — I mean how would they know? That’s the thing. It’s like when people say, oh, you don’t seem like an accountant or you don’t seem like a lawyer, you don’t seem like you’re in marketing or you don’t seem like a writer, you don’t — what do you mean? I am. What do I have to do to prove to you? Wear a tutu and ballet shoes? Do I now look like a dancer? Is this enough for you?
I mean it’s so crazy to me how people — you know, what do you have to do to be that? Just to do it once. I mean you do it once and you do it because you love it and I don’t care if I look like one or not. I’m a dancer.
Leticia: That’s right.
John: Says the person who has never danced.
Leticia: Who will dance when he comes to Adelaide?
John: There we go. I must start stretching now because I feel like there’s a hamstring involved.
Leticia: People who have danced their whole lives especially in ballet do stand in a particular way. They call it their 10:00 to 2:00 feet, kind of like the same position that you’re supposed to drive in. Your big toe is pointed at 10:00 and 2:00.
John: That’s exactly it.
Leticia: If you don’t stand like that all the time, and you say to someone, I am on a ballet scholarship, they look at your feet straight away. It’s kind of like this reaction. They’re like oh, does she have turned out feet? No. Oh, well, she can’t possibly be a dancer.
John: Right, yeah. That is so weird. We all have these stereotypes of what we think it’s supposed to be. Then I think it influences us as that to try to either be more of the stereotype which is never a good idea or just quit and be like yeah, I guess I’m not.
Leticia: Or just to not talk about it.
John: Right, which is even worse.
Leticia: It’s worse because what happens is especially in a work situation, if you start talking about what you’re passionate about with people, and you get a reaction like that, people tend to just shut up and that contributes to workplaces that have low levels of resilience and low levels of happiness and stress increases and all that stuff. Not nice.
John: It’s interesting to me how much that stereotype of whatever it is influences us so, so much. It’s so encouraging to hear that you’re just blowing through it, and you’re like look, I am that. I don’t care what you think. It is what it is. That’s really encouraging to hear. Really awesome.
Leticia: I’ve said to people for a long time that I’m the writer who wishes she was a dancer which is quite funny because I have a friend who is a dancer. She’s a professional dancer. She’s always wanted to be a writer which is amazing. We have this kind of weird thing like there’s this passion or this art in each of us that always wishes it was doing it full-time but then the weirdness is that if we were doing it full-time, we would wish we were doing something else.
John: Yeah, the grass is always greener sort of thing.
John: That’s really powerful. Before we wrap this up, do you have any words of encouragement for anyone listening that thinks, hey, I have this passion but it has nothing to do with my career at all?
Leticia: Oh, my god. Yes, I do actually. I have two concepts for these people. The first one is do whatever you can to design your life so that you have space. That might be if you’re a company owner, that means not working a thousand hours a week. It means making sure that you eat right, sleep right, have space. You do the things because that’s where creativity lives in the space.
Then once you have the space, you can start prioritizing what fills it. That’s why so many people that are baby boomer generation, they live flat out for their jobs and then they retire, and then they die. Don’t be that guy.
John: Right, right, yeah, or they have nothing to go do.
Leticia: Yeah, they lose their passion for life because they have nothing else. Whereas, if you have that other thing or those ten other things that you do, then your life is actually much more balanced.
If you are the person who doesn’t know what that thing is, your first step is to create space. Something will just occur to you. You just follow it.
The second thing is if people give you crap about it, just ignore them and do it anyway because it makes you happy and your happiness is more important than anything else.
John: Yeah. That’s so huge. So huge. Wow. This has been great, really great. But before I do bringing it in for a close, it’s only fair that I let you rapid fire question me. I so rudely did it right out of the gate on you. If you have some ready, I’m good to go here.
Leticia: All right, okay. Tim Ferriss or Gary Vee?
John: That’s a really good one. You know, I do like both. I’m going to go Gary Vee because I think the rawness of it is legit. He’s just take it or leave it. I do not care. As your last point is. Ignore the haters.
Leticia: Good answer, yeah. Second one. Pens or printed?
John: Oh, pens or printed. You know, I will go pens. Me handwriting it, I’m going to remember it a lot more than typing and printing it, yeah, not so much.
Leticia: Yeah, fully. I find the same thing. The final one is a bit crass. Boobs or booty?
John: That’s hilarious. I’ll go booty. I’ll go booty. That’s so funny.
I appreciate you taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”? This was really great.
Leticia: Thanks, John. It’s been fun.
John: If you like to see some pictures or maybe connect with her on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. While you’re on the page, please click that big button and do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture. Thanks again for subscribing in iTunes or whatever app you use and for sharing this with your friends, so they get the message that we’re all trying to spread that who you are is so much more than what you do.