Be Fan-Freaking-Tastic At One Thing

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“We learn by practice. Whether it means to learn to dance by practicing dancing or to learn to live by practicing living, the principles are the same. One becomes in some area an athlete of God.” ~Martha Graham

When you were a kid, what did you dream of being or doing? I wanted to be a ballerina, but my one year of ballet lessons must not have proved fruitful because my dream didn't come true. I have since learned that being an accomplished dancer requires more than one year of weekly lessons. It requires years of intense training, as well as loads of discipline and many sacrifices.

That's my daughter in the photo above. She has reached her dream and is now a trainee with a professional ballet company. I have been with her through most of her journey and have seen first-hand the commitment and hard work it requires to get to the place where she is.

Of course I'm a proud mom, but this is true for any serious dancer. Like most of her dancing peers, she gave up a real social life at school; stayed up until the wee hours to finish homework after dance classes; and commuted 60 miles round trip from home to the studio.

No matter what else happens in her life in the future, she can always know that she reached a pinnacle in her pursuit as a ballet dancer. Although she doesn't view herself this way now, she is an expert in her field and will become more so as she continues to advance in her profession. Sometimes I look at her and wish that I had had a passion so young and had pursued it as ardently. I floundered as a teenager and young adult trying to figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.

Now here I am in middle age, and I've finally figured out it is never too late to really be great at something.

Maybe not dancing, but I can be really great at what I love to do right now. For me it's coaching and blogging. In the last year, I have thrown myself into a new career with a fervor. I am learning something new every day and now know enough to help others develop their own blogs and coach them with their goals.

What is it for you? Are you pretty good at something or do you want to be good at something? Why not be great instead?

Here are some of the benefits of being great at something:

  • Your self esteem skyrockets. Working hard and achieving something makes you feel valuable and fulfilled.
  • You become a go-to person. Others will view you as an expert in your area of knowledge and will seek you out.
  • You expand your value at work. Especially if you are building your knowledge in a work-related area. Even if you are not, you will be perceived differently when you become an expert at anything.
  • You create opportunities to build your income. Become great at something and then write about it, create a course, offer coaching or consulting, blog about it, sell products related to it.
  • You can use it to serve. If you are great at something, share your abilities with others in ways that serve and uplift people. If you become a great cook, prepare a beautiful meal for family and friends or for a neighbor in distress. If you write or paint, create something beautiful for someone. Whatever it is you do really well, give it away sometimes and let the world enjoy your greatness.
  • Expand your relationships. As you work toward becoming an expert, you will meet new people who share your interest and commitment. You will make new friendships that can be personally fulfilling and lead to more and different opportunities.

I understand that being great at something requires time and hard work. But if it is something you really like — better yet, something you feel passionate about, the work will be pleasure. Time will seem to fly by because you are in the flow of passionate energy.

The key to greatness at one thing is the “one thing” part. It is hard to have the time and energy to be great at one thing if you are distracted with many other things. You can eventually be great at many things, but you must tackle them one thing at a time.

If you are considering going for great in a certain area of your life, here are a few things to think about:

1. At the very least, be sure you like what you are doing. Passion is much better, but liking something is enough to carry you through the necessary work and discipline.

2. Do you have a goal for becoming great in this area? To make more money? Get a better position at work? Be more competitive? Or simply for the pleasure of it? Your goal might drive the amount of time you spend every day and week pursuing your greatness.

3. Do your research. Find out before you begin what it takes to reach the highest levels of your pursuit. Is this something you can work in to your life right now? How will you make that happen?

4.  Set small goals for yourself every day, every week and every month. Then acknowledge and celebrate each achievement along the way.

5. Expect setbacks and frustrations. No one ever became great without them. I've watched my daughter over the years suffer with injuries, exhaustion, disappointments, and setbacks. But she never quit. Every one of these made her stronger and more resilient.

6. Find a mentor and role models. Go to the people who are already the experts in your area of greatness. Ask them for support and guidance, or just observe them in action. They will motivate you as they reveal where you will be as you continue to pursue your endeavor.

7. View the process as part of the pleasure. The actions you take every day toward achieving greatness should be savored and enjoyed. Ultimately, it is in doing, not achieving, that we find the most meaning and happiness. Don't rush through the doing just to reach the goal. Take actions mindfully and focus on the task at hand.

8. Find a tribe or a partner. There must be others out there somewhere who are working toward the same goal. Go find them. Work together to support and motivate each other. If you work too much in isolation, you lose perspective and can feel lonely.

9. Don't wait for great before you act. In coaching school, students frequently shied away from coaching clients while they were still training. Many, myself included, felt you had to be an expert before you coached someone. We learned from our wise teachers that you have to coach to become an expert.  Whatever it is you are doing, practice it with others. It's OK to flop while you are learning.

10. Celebrate when you arrive. I was recently at a performance my daughter was in — her first time cast in a professional company role. I reminded her that she had reached her dream of dancing for a professional company. She was blase about it at first, but then realized that all of her hard work and sacrifices had led her to this moment. Arrival can sometimes feel like just another step along the way, but don't forget to step back and celebrate that you are fan-freaking-tastic!

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 16 comments
  • The Exception

    My daughter started studying Russian classical ballet just before she turned 3 and is still going strong at the age of 10. There are days when I wonder how she does it; how I do it as supporting her dream to dance is a commitment on my part as well. It is wonderful that your daughter achieved her goal – the move from student to dancer is one to be celebrated!!
    Through the years and the choices my daughter has made – I have recognized something about dreams or becoming really great at something… it is having people or a person there to hold your hand… not to push or prod or force the dream into fruition… but to hold your hand and stand beside you… recognizing the importance of the goal but also the choices that are made daily along the way.
    It doesn’t happen over night – and it doesn’t happen in a bubble… and it takes more than just a dream but a lot of hard work and time and choosing to do what is required over going to the parties or hanging out in pajamas “just once.” It is continually moving forward. So often it seems we forget all the work that goes into it. If my daughter becomes a dancer, it will be the realization of a goal… and yet, she is fantabulous already due to her commitment. At some point being in the spotlight is just a moment… the dream fulfillment is the lessons and knowledge and skills and development that accrued along the way.
    .-= The Exception´s last blog ..Grace is =-.

      Barrie Davenport

      I couldn’t have said it better! Thank you for your comments. I hope you and your daughter enjoy the dance journey. Even if she never becomes a “professional” dancer — there is so much she will have gained along the way.

  • Adrienne

    Hi Barrie,
    Let me start out by saying, your daughter is absolutely beautiful!! 🙂 I think it’s pretty amazing that you get to live your dream through her in a way. As much hard work as she’s done, I know she couldn’t have made that journey without your love and support. I say this because I know I wouldn’t be who I am and where I am in my life without all of the encouragement, love, and support my mom gave me. My mom has done some incredible things in her life, but I know she feels the greatest sense of accomplishment when she sees my sister and I succeed and live our dreams.

    You’ve provided so much great information here…some things I’m doing already and some I really need to do. I have a pretty clear picture in my mind of what I want to do and why it’s important, but I’m still not really sure how to do it or how to get there. I’m really happy to have found you and your beautiful blog. Hopefully I’ll gain some more insights to here to keep moving me forward.

    Keep doing what you’re doing…it’s wonderful!
    .-= Adrienne´s last blog ..A Deeply Real- Profound- and Incredibly Human Experience =-.

      Barrie Davenport

      Thank you for all of your nice comments. Yes, I was definitely involved, but the real joy is seeing her now doing it all on her own. It is deeply gratifying to know that she has seized her dream. Thank you so much for reading my blog. I have a free download on setting and achieving goals in my resources section. Maybe that can be a start toward helping you find your direction!

  • Meg B.

    Your daughter is beautiful and obviously focused! I am proud of her, too – who says the next generation is not going to do well?!?

      Barrie Davenport

      Thank you so much Meg. She definitely has a good work ethic, so that should help her wherever she lands!

  • Aileen


    what a truly lovely and powerful post! Congratulations to you and your daughter! That level of success is a team effort and needs supportive parents. Her pictures are beautiful.

    You offer many reasons on why we should go for great!

    I love your tips:
    “Don’t wait for great before you act.”
    “View the process as part of the pleasure”
    ‘Celebrate when you arrive”
    .-= Aileen´s last blog ..Sometimes Life Gives us Second Chances =-.

      Barrie Davenport

      Thank you so much Aileen. I’m glad you liked it. Readers, Aileen has a great post on her recent dance success too. You should check it out!

  • Steve-Personal Success Factors

    My two takeaways from your article, which is packed full of great information: find a mentor or mentors, and find a tribe. I’ve found a tribe online, but I have a ways to go with finding mentors in my areas of specialization. By researching, I believe I will find more mentors offline. Very powerful article: thanks so much for sharing!
    .-= Steve-Personal Success Factors´s last blog ..Who Else Is Ready for 2011 =-.

      Barrie Davenport

      I am so glad you found it useful Steve. Thank you so much for your comments. I think having mentors is so wonderful. It is such a great way to learn and avoid some of the pitfalls that are inevitable when you strike out on your own.

  • Christine Morris

    Congratulations to both you and your daughter! I really love this post, not only am I the mom of a young dancer but a woman who is finally doing what she loves! Your post is full of great information and inspiration!

      Barrie Davenport

      Thank you so much Christine. We have a lot in common! I am so glad you liked the post.

  • Alex Blackwell

    Terrific advice here Barrie. Life is a marathon not a sprint, after all. We can’t be all things to all people without being something for ourselves, first. I try to approach each day with a single objective: Spouse, father, blogger, friend, son, etc… This approach brings less anxiety and more fulfillment for sure.



      Barrie Davenport

      Hi Alex,
      Sometimes it feels like a sprint, but it should be a marathon with loads of great scenery and interesting twists and turns! Thank you for your comments, as always!

  • Carolee

    Absolutely great advice!

    I have what I call an “accountability Partner” – we talk via phone once a week and several times a week by email. We share great blog posts, SEO tips we learn about, pretty much help each other with all aspects of our individual goals.

    I offer this same service to my clients. It’s very hard to work totally alone….

    When you have someone to “report” to, you stay more on track…
    .-= Carolee´s last blog ..Blogging wanna-be Reserve this date =-.

      Barrie Davenport

      That’s wonderful Carolee. Accountability is a huge part of motivation. I’m so glad you have someone to work with regularly. Thank you for sharing that.

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