Mathew is a Business Advisor & Dance Theater Playwright
Mathew returns to the podcast from episode 122 to talk about his shift from choreographer to playwright, recovering from his business falling apart, and how What’s Your And is an influence on his new play!
• Shifting from choreography to playwright
• Knee injury
• Rising from the ashes
• Being more aware of sharing hobbies
• John’s influence on his new play
Please take 2 minutes
to do John’s anonymous survey
about Corporate Culture!
(click to enlarge)
- Read Full TranscriptOpen or Close
Welcome to Episode 330 of What’s Your “And”? Follow-Up Friday Edition. This is John Garrett, and each Friday, I follow up with a guest who had been on the show a few years ago to hear what’s new with their passions outside of work and also hear how this message might have impacted them since we last talked.
I’m so excited. My book is out. You can order the book on Amazon, Indigo, barnesandnoble.com and a few other websites. Check out whatsyourand.com for more. Thank you so much to everyone who’s read it so far and been kind enough to leave those Amazon reviews. Thank you so, so much for those. It’s just overwhelming to read them.
Please don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast so you don’t miss any future episodes. I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week, and this Follow-Up Friday is no different with my guest, Mathew Heggem. He’s a chief marketing strategist and business advisor, and now he’s with me here today. Mathew, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And?”
John: There he is. That’s awesome. Me too, man. Well, I’ve got my rapid-fire questions. We’ve hung out several times, and I’ve never asked you some of these. I probably should have, now that I look back.
Mathew: Okay, getting to know you. Okay, hit it.
John: All right, there we go. All right, if you had to choose, Harry Potter or Game of Thrones.
Mathew: Game of Thrones, hands down.
John: There you go. How about a favorite band or musician?
Mathew: You know, my fallback is Bjork.
John: Yeah, okay, okay. How about, brownie or ice cream?
John: Okay, that was a trick one. That is actually the correct answer. It’s the a la mode. I like it. Cats or dogs.
Mathew: Cats. I love dogs, but cats is where it’s at, in my book.
John: Okay, all right. Speaking of books, Kindle or real books.
John: Real. There it is. All right, two more, two more. Do you have a favorite movie of all time?
Mathew: Wow, that’s a big one.
John: Maybe something with Bjork in it? No, I’m just kidding.
Mathew: No, no, no, close, close, close because I think that the, it wasn’t the director, somebody on the film, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
John: Oh, that’s a great movie.
Mathew: Yes, because one of the people that was on that creative team, it wasn’t the writer, so it must have been the director, the director, if I’m not mistaken, did some of Bjork’s earliest music videos.
John: Nice. There you go. I knew that was coming. That’s awesome. Now, Eternal Sunshine, that is a great, great movie.
John: It’s a great movie. The last one, toilet paper roll, over or under.
Mathew: Well, I was going to say bidet.
John: Oh, okay, okay.
Mathew: Let’s just be real.
John: There you go. Okay. No, that’s very fancy. That is not a foot washer. That is for sure. No, that’s awesome, man. Very cool. Episode 122, then it was more of the choreography and dance. Now it’s moved onto Dance Theater. What is the difference between the two, for everybody listening?
Mathew: Yeah, well, to be clear, dance theater is inclusive of choreography because you’re making dance. I think any theater work, it includes setting the stage, stage direction, so you’re choreographing in time and space. So, that is still there. I think the distinction, for me, is that the work that I’m creating now is actually more in the realm of what people would consider theater than what they would consider dance. What that means is, in short, I’m actually choosing to write a play right now, and in that play, about 10, maybe 15% of it, in the dream sequences, is actually choreography, dance work, so that’s what’s going on.
John: Yeah, that’s awesome, man, writing — I mean, wow, what made you want to just, yeah, just I’m going to write a play? Because that’s something that you really got to want to do. You just don’t wake up one day and accidentally write a play.
Mathew: No, you don’t. It’s definitely a choice. It’s interesting. Back… God, when was it? It was back about, yeah, so about 11 months ago, I had hired these two dancers to work with me, and we performed in this festival. It was a riot. It was a great time. It was awesome. Shortly after that, I started teaching ballroom dance. Then while I was teaching, I had a knee injury. What turned out to be the case is that I actually ruptured a vessel inside — a blood pathway inside of my knee, and it filled my knee with blood. Originally, when the incident had occurred, the doctors thought that it was a torn meniscus. When they did the MRI, they actually discovered that I had a birth defect. It’s called an arteriovenous malformation. I’s like an AVM, for short.
Anyways, long story short, that had actually ruptured and filled my knee with blood, and it began this two-month period of time, where I was looking at the possibility of going in and out of these medical procedures to deal with this birth defect. Of course, I was, meanwhile, strapped up in a knee brace and on crutches for about a month and a half, losing my capacity to walk and do all this very physical stuff. It required that I reexamine my relationship to my creativity, right?
John: Yeah, yeah.
Mathew: I’m like, okay, fine, I’ll look at other ways of making art. I was exploring some visual art stuff at the time. I’ve always been a writer. Meanwhile, I’ve been wanting to write this book for a while, and I’ve been trying to figure out how to get out this story about —
John: Trust me, anyone can write a book, man. It is —
Mathew: Right? I did it, so that would be great.
John: Yeah, yeah, but you have that story inside you that you want to get out.
Mathew: Oh, yeah, totally. So I was grappling with this writing thing. Anyways, I just happened to — it’s funny because it’s literally full circle. If you actually go back to Episode 122, and you look at the episode description, it talks about the role I played as the Mad Hatter in this children’s theater. Right?
John: Right. Yeah.
Mathew: Just so you know, where I’m at, is actually in the home of the woman who wrote that play in Bellingham. I’ve literally come back to that space. I say that because basically what had occurred is, as I was just networking with people and reaching out and being in community, in my way of being, I reached out to this woman, Drew Robinson. I started talking to her about what my aspirations were, creatively. The long story short is she’s a playwright. She’s a theatre person. She’s an actress. She’s an incredibly talented human being. The long story short is that out of that conversation, we decided to work on this play, and she decided to become my, or I decided to hire her, basically, as my coach and my mentor to get this story out of me.
So, I’ve been working on this play for about five months now, putting in anywhere from eight to 15 hours a week. Yeah, it’s funny because as you were highlighting earlier, it’s not something to take lightly. I think when I first started working with her, I was like, yeah, sure, let’s write a play. What, we’ll get it done in three months? No problem. Okay, boom, boom. Turns out, it actually takes longer than that.
John: That’s so cool, man. It’s really awesome to hear just how it’s come full circle. That has got to be pretty comforting, at the same time. It’s probably like, wasn’t I here already? I could have just — but all that other adventure in life that you had to have, now you’re bringing to this, it’s going to be really awesome. That’s cool, man.
Mathew: Yeah, you’re right. On one hand, I feel like my entire world that I had lived in — when we did this podcast, literally, it was about — Episode 122 — it was three, four months before I found out that my business partner had been embezzling money and that whole story. Then the company fell apart, and all this stuff happened. It was just like, literally, everything around me was just burning to the ground. Then it had all the residual impact on my relationships with other people, even my marriage, my friendships, my own sense of self-worth. Literally, what occurred for me was a complete burn to the ground. Then as I’m sort of driving — because I just got back from five days on the road, I drove from Washington, DC to Washington State — just experiencing this feeling of coming to the place that I had been raised but seeing it from a completely different perspective and having a completely relationship to it, knowing that all this stuff had just burnt away. It felt like a phoenix, the rising from the ashes kind of a thing. It was interesting feeling.
John: No, that’s awesome, man. Yeah, I can relate. Sometimes you have to go through those down moments in order to rise up to go higher than when you were before, type of thing. It takes a lot of courage. It takes a lot of inner fortitude and mental toughness, especially when you’re down in the lower parts because it’s like, man, what the hell. You just keep moving forward and one step at a time. That’s super exciting to hear that you’re working on a play. That’s cool. Let me know if you need any backup dancers. I’ve been practicing.
Mathew: I’ve got a spot for you, honey. Your steps are already planned.
John: Okay. Until I get Tonya Harding and my knee hurts too. Then everything’s out.
Mathew: I’ve got a good kick ball change for you, so don’t worry.
John: Okay, okay.
Mathew: Kick ball change pas de bourree, and you’re good.
John: Yeah, that sounds like I’m going to need some practice, so I will start stretching now. No, that’s super cool to hear, man. Since we talked, do you feel like people are sharing these hobbies and passions more now? Or is it just something that maybe you’re more aware of? You always were. I remember when we talked before.
Mathew: Yeah. It’s interesting. I think I’ve been aware of my hobbies and my passion as it relates to my professional life, in a very clear way, even before we met. I think you — congratulations, you wrote this amazing book, and thank you for including me in it. In that chapter, I talk about my introduction to panic attacks and that the source of that was actually the division of my professional life from my artistic life and how that actually created a fissure in the self that caused anxiety, was a source of anxiety. So, that moment, that experience made it completely obvious to me, especially in hindsight, but certainly as things evolved, that my life as an artist is my life as a business person, that there can’t be a separation because if there is a separation, I’m not showing up, wholly, to do the work that I do best. So, yeah, I’ve always been present to that.
I think what’s interesting right now is, with the COVID environment that we’re in, with people working from home, with the fact that, oh, you actually don’t have to go to the office, wait, we’ve been pretending that we had to go to the office all the time; which means in DC, for me, at a period of time there, where I was going to the office, I was an hour and a half in traffic, one way, an hour and a half in traffic, the other, that’s three hours, man, that I could be painting or writing or doing some creative research or working with a collaborator. It’s like, okay, wait a second. Now, all of the space is getting created for us to be in a creative space that was, otherwise, usurped from traditional, corporate, hierarchical sort of environments or cultures. I think other people are experiencing that as well.
John: Totally, yeah. Because now, all of a sudden, you have that free time and then people realize, oh, I don’t really have a hobby. Or it was going out to restaurants which were closed forever, and it was like, oh, man. I think that a lot of people started to realize how important those other things are, to fill that time, and a lot of people did take it upon themselves to start doing something, which has been cool to see how that’s turned out. All of a sudden, there’ all kinds of creatives. Thanks to YouTube, you can just watch a painting video and then go do it. It doesn’t matter if it’s good or not. You enjoy it. That’s what matters. You’re not trying to sell this, for most people anyway. Yeah, that’s been cool to see. It’s cool to see how you’ve, rather than just sit there and take your lumps; it’s like, no, this is an opportunity with this free time.
Mathew: Yeah, yeah. It’s interesting because even in some cases, I have a friend who, in part, for various reasons, lost his job; and what that created for him, in light of the fear around COVID and the finances and all that stuff, he decided to pursue one of his hobbies as his profession. It was interesting because this whole experience created that opportunity for him, to a certain extent. I feel like I’ve seen other people who — in fact, I think some of my clients even. It’s like, okay, you’ve got the space now to explore your creativity. Why are you not just making that central to what you’re doing in the world?
John: There you go.
Mathew: I mean, it’s unfortunate what’s occurring in our country as it relates to health and wellness and the struggles we’re having, and it’s also creating an opportunity for all of us to reexamine our relationship to our work in the world. Thankfully, some people are utilizing this opportunity to create, to get back to who they are.
John: Exactly. It’s so encouraging to hear what you’re doing and what you’ve been up to, and I’m excited to see the end product and, apparently, be a part of it. So, there’s that.
John: I hope we’re all joking, for everyone’s sake.
Mathew: Yeah. I will say, I do need to underscore this. You have to understand that part of this play is going back. There’s a couple of different components, but one of the components of the story is these journal entries that I wrote in my experience. They basically span from, I think it was September 2017, to maybe — well, frankly, I think I’m still at the — I’m at the end of the story now. I’m about to turn 36. There’s something about October 14, 2020 that’s like the ending of a container. The point is that you bookend both ends.
John: Oh, yeah, the podcast episodes.
Mathew: Yeah, literally, literally. In fact, in my journal entry, one of my journal entries, I don’t have it in front of me, but it literally says, “Oh, I’m about to get on a podcast with John Garrett and…. So, you’re in the play. Probably, I will be changing names and all that jazz, but the point is, is that there’s something significant about your presence, so I want to thank you, really, for creating —
John: You’re welcome, man. No, for sure. Having you be a part of the book and then a part of the launch team, it was just awesome. Because I wrote the book and then the publisher was like, “Well, what about these quotes from some of your episodes?” I was like, oh, I didn’t even think of that. Your quote just fits so perfectly with that chapter. So, to not just hear it in my words, but here’s a couple of lines from someone who’s lived it. I’m not just living in a crazy bubble world. This applies to real life. It was cool to have you be a part of that. That’s awesome. I guess we just return the favor. Now I’m part of your project, so that’s cool, man.
Mathew: Yeah, give and take.
John: That’s awesome. Tag, you’re it. Well, that’s awesome, man. It’s only fair though, since I started out the episode rapid-fire questioning you that we turn the tables and make this the Mathew Haggem podcast, Episode One. Happy to be your first guest. Thank you so much for inviting me.
Mathew: Thanks for coming, John.
John: Exactly. What have you got for me?
Mathew: All right, let me start off with a few questions, mister. Favorite Dolly Parton song.
John: Oh, my goodness. The only one that comes to mind is Islands in the Streams. I know it’s a duet, but that’s the only one that comes to mind.
Mathew: Full disclosure. I don’t know now that one.
John: I think it’s her and Loggins? Kenny Rogers.
Mathew: I think it’s Kenny Rogers.
John: Yeah, Kenny Loggins was Highway to the Danger Zone, right?
Mathew: To all my listeners, please fact check this information.
John: Exactly. It was Kenny. It was Kenny and Dolly.
Mathew: That guy, that guy.
John: Yeah, islands in the streams, that is what we are. See, I’m clearly not a singer. I should have Googled that.
Mathew: Listen to her podcast. That is also an amazing podcast, by the way.
John: Oh, thank you. I will add that to the list.
Mathew: Yes, it’s incredible. It’s amazing. Okay, wallpaper or paint.
John: Oh, paint.
Mathew: Sidebar question, extra credit question, what color?
John: My office I have is almost like a gray-blue. It’s not quite either. Yeah, I like that. It’s a little bit of a lighter color. I don’t know if slate is the right word for it.
Mathew: That’s classy.
John: Yeah, it’s classy, but it’s not boring. It’s different. It’s not just a primary or a standard color. It’s something that’s, is it blue or is it gray? Is it blue? It depends on where the sun’s coming in and all that stuff.
Mathew: It’s subtly dynamic.
John: Yeah, exactly, exactly.
Mathew: I love it.
John: But not weird where it gets psychedelic like some of those — there are some grays that turn another color. Wait, what the hell, this was a great wall. It’s definitely a little bit blue.
Mathew: A little bit blue, got it. All right, Devils Tower or Badlands.
John: Well, since I’ve never been to either, Mr. Carmen San Diego world traveler, I guess I’ll go Devils Tower just because it’s one thing where Badlands is like a big area, so you would have to go to all of the area to say you went to the Badlands, I think, maybe. I don’t know. Plus, Devils Tower just looks cool from the pictures. Plus, the devils there, so why not?
Mathew: And the alien hunters.
John: And the alien hunters.
Mathew: All of that.
John: That was a good one though, knowing that I had never been to either one of those because they’re only on the way to Bellingham, I guess, is how you get there.
Mathew: If you take the northern route. My way back, in about five months, I’ll be taking the southern route.
John: Okay. Very cool. All right. This has been so much fun, Mathew. Thank you so much for being a part of “What’s Your “And”? This is a blast.
Mathew: Thank you. Congratulations, you’re doing great work.
John: Everybody listening, if you want to see some pictures of Mathew, connect with him on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. Everything’s there. While you’re on the page, please click that big button, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture, and buy the book.
Thanks again for subscribing on 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.
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
Please take 2 minutes
to do John’s anonymous survey
about Corporate Culture!
(click to enlarge)
- Read Full TranscriptOpen or Close
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.