Here at Ballet Austin we are in full swing with Nutcracker shows! They are going very well and I am honestly having so much fun. Each show has its challenges, but after every show I feel so satisfied and full of gratitude. I am excited to continue to have the opportunity to perform. If you are in Austin and have yet to see the performance- BUY TICKETS NOW!
CLICK HERE to see what I do for each show and buy tickets.
After the Nutcracker performances, there is a Q&A session with the audience and a dancer from the company. It is a great way of giving people the chance to ask questions about the show or the life as a dancer. I did one this past Friday night and also yesterday, Sunday afternoon. On Friday, I got the question, "How do you keep focus when you do the same class everyday?" She was referring to my daily routine about getting ready for ballet and while I am at the studios.
That is a hard question to answer.
But that is truly what I am writing about today.
I have just finished this book called Grit, The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Dr. Angela Duckworth. This book has truly changed my life and I need to write about this. When I was injured during the last few months in Seattle in May, I started writing on my own about what is passion and perseverance. I got stuck on my direction of the piece of writing.
For months now, I have been looking for that perfect word that encompasses my feelings and thoughts-
I was in a rehearsal with little kids for a production. I was on the side of the studio and I whispered to myself that I was excited to not have rehearsal and have the day off the next day. This little girl in front of me turned around and gave me a weird look. A look of, “You don’t love ballet? What the heck are you doing with your life? Why do you question this?” This look threw me off. I watched this little girl dance for the rest of the rehearsal. She was dancing full out with her heart.
She inspired me. And challenged me.
Passion derives from action, it is not the cause of action (RULE 86). This girl is passionate about ballet and dance because she danced her heart out. If she never danced, she could not be passionate about dancing. But she danced with purpose and desire which creates passion. I cannot just say I am passionate about ballet and refuse to do it.
Too many people think that passion is a feeling. It is is NOT. Everything will suck at some time, even the things you love (RULE 87). There is this misconception that doing what you love is easy and fun all the time. When people are finally doing something they genuinely love and reach their first hardship, they freak out. "I love this, why do I not feel joy?" Insecurity and self-doubt creeps into one’s mind. Then it is easy to second guess if this is really what one wants to do. If we treat passion and purpose as a feeling, we won’t ever get to live with passion and purpose. Get past the feelings, and do not let them be the fear behind saying no or not trying. The best thing for you may not always feel the best (RULE 88).
Doing things that do not feel good are scary.
Kids aren’t afraid of falling.
They are risk takers.
They are willing to jump off a swing or climb a tree without over thinking the consequences of falling.
When you go after something in your life, failure WILL happen. Get over it. If you are afraid of failure, then you will never try (RULE 89).
People want to know what they are passionate about. I think we complicate this process and we lose out. As kids, we never questioned what we do. We just did. We played in the dirt without a question. We weren’t asking, “how is this a useful time of my life? Will this make me dirty?” Kids go after what they like! Why should that change? What do you like to do?
When we search for our passions, they are really right in front of us (RULE 90).
I had a different idea of how I wanted to go about life after high school. I was going to apply to college, differ for a year, pursue ballet professionally, and see if I could make a career into this passion of mine. People around me were skeptical, which makes sense, but I was very adamant about pursuing my dream of dancing. I was looking to move to Seattle to pursue my next level of training and performing as I deferred from Northeastern University. I was very fortunate to have the support of my family, friends, and school.
The only thing with this gap year was that I actually wasn’t in the program yet in Seattle.
Two years ago I had to make a decision.
I wrote this in my senior year before leaving home
I turned down a sure agreement to dance in Boston and I bought a one way ticket to Seattle. I went to the Pacific Northwest Ballet’s summer program, not knowing where I would be in 5 weeks. Life was only present. There was no future. I had faith, but I didn’t know where this adventure would take me.
I got into the Professional Division Program at the Pacific Northwest Ballet which would be the equivalent of being an intern. My few belongings were sent out to me from home to live in an apartment. At the age of 18, I skipped the dorm life and went straight to living like an adult in a full-time job environment. I was called to grow up pretty quickly.
Was the transition easy? No. But at the end of the day, I woke up everyday doing what I love. For the first time, I was truly happy about everything I was doing in the day.
We can stand on the edge, or we can jump and that is the whole difference. “perhaps all the wisdom, and all truth, and all sincerity, are just compressed into that inappreciable moment of time in which we step over the threshold of the invisible.” I had faith that there was something special pursuing ballet and life not on a plan but with passion and purpose.
So I didn’t go to university the next fall. I was in pursuit of a professional contract with a dance company.
Living a life for one’s passion is not an easy life which is what scares a lot of people from living this life. It is lonely. There are lots of times when one loses faith in the future. It is hard to visualize success.
If you stick to living with passion and purpose through all the hardship and self-doubt, you will get to live a pretty special life.
I received a contract with Ballet Austin in Austin, Texas but that was after about 30 or 40 rejections. Ballet Austin was my last audition.
Am I saying that if you aren’t a ballet dancer you aren’t living deliberately?
I don’t think every ballet dancer I know is living deliberately.
I am not here to praise my life, I am trying to show you how I went about passion and purpose in hopes that you too will question yourself. Life is not about what we are doing, it is about why we are doing it (RULE 91).
I write on this blog to share my pursuits in my life as a dancer.
My hope is that my writing inspires you to pursue what you love in your life.
This brings me to the word,
All of the self-doubt, failure, rejection - how do you fight it?
I am not perfect by any means. I still struggle with insecurity about my life- so this is something I continue to come back to in times of hardship.
NO EXCUSES! (RULE 92)
I shared my story of how I got to Austin above because so many times within the two years before receiving my contract I could have stopped. There were times where I wanted to quit.
If I wanted to be a professional dancer, I could not make excuses for myself.
Who cares if I am short?
Who cares if I cannot jump the highest?
Who cares if I cannot turn the most?
Who cares if I am not the most flexible guy?
What I did know that I can bring to the table was grit. A determination that burned inside me that I won't stop after 20 rejections - heck - 40! If you want something, you have to go after it everyday (RULE 93). You cannot make excuses, like, "Oh, I am too tired today." or "I just don't feel like it today."
Mind over matter!
Do not be the hesitating foot, but jump.
You have your dream contract but now what, Matthew?
This goes back to the woman in the audience's question- how to do you keep focus?
Find beauty within mundanity of life (RULE 94).
People love the finished product, the cheer, and the praise, but people do not like the mundanity of everyday.
If you can find beauty and love within the mundanity of life and training, then you surely will reap a life worth living.
I am living my dream, but I have ambitions on continuing to be better as a dancer and artist. Everyday I try to be better than I was the day before.
Living deliberately does not just apply to our career, it also applies to all aspects of our life. In our friendships and our relationships, why are we pursuing these friendships? Are they helpful or hurtful? If we don’t question ourselves and our motives we are hurting ourselves from truly receiving what we want (RULE 95). If we don’t live deliberately, we are being unfair to ourselves.
I will leave you with a parable-
There are three bricklayers. Someone came along and asked them what they were doing.
The first said, "I am laying bricks."
The second said, "I am building a church."
The third said, "I am building the house of God."
The first bricklayer has a job.
The second bricklayer has a career.
The third bricklayer has a calling.
Which one are you?