You know, there have been many a instances (yes you can use 'many a') where I've been told – "Well Anthony – of course you dance well, you are Puerto Rican". While I laugh because its their assumption that I had a natural ability for salsa – that wasn't the case. I tell people that while I've been listening to salsa all my life, my REAL salsa dancing did not start until I had gone to the state of Iowa (USA). Ames, Iowa to be exact – a college town in the middle of nowhere (yes – it might sound harsh but its the truth). Learning salsa was not a magical process, and for sure it did not happen overnight.
Now, I read this great article on Yahoo Finance (http://biz.yahoo.com/weekend/great_1.html ) and I think it can apply to everything we do in life – in this case – specifically salsa.
See, there is a big misconception – which causes a lot of people to think that they'll never be a great salsa dancer, and that is that they are not LATINO. Now, I'll tell you why this completely irritates me. Lets assume that there is a stereotype that Americans are the great singers. Now, lets say I would like to become a great singer (cause I love to sing). How would I feel if someone (joe-schmoe or worse – myself) told me that it would be very hard for me to be better than most American singers because I wasn't born American. What if I kept that thinking that because I wasn't of a specific race, religion or breed – I would not make my dreams come true. I believe that is plain stupid. I believe if you have the desire to be something, you will achieve it.
Quoting the article: "What makes Tiger Woods great? What made Berkshire Hathaway Chairman Warren Buffett the world's premier investor? We think we know: Each was a natural who came into the world with a gift for doing exactly what he ended up doing. As Buffett told Fortune not long ago, he was "wired at birth to allocate capital." It's a one-in-a-million thing. You've got it – or you don't.
Well, folks, it's not so simple. For one thing, you do not possess a natural gift for a certain job, because targeted natural gifts don't exist. (Sorry, Warren.) You are not a born CEO or investor or chess grandmaster. You will achieve greatness only through an enormous amount of hard work over many years. And not just any hard work, but work of a particular type that's demanding and painful. "
So, if you look at current scientific research – there are not real targeted natural gifts (in other words, I can't inherently and specifically be a great salsa dancer just because I'm latino). Again, I hardly ever danced when I was in Puerto Rico (of course because I was shy and I thought I wasn't a good dancer). But lo and behold, when I realized I wanted to dance salsa (of course to meet girls cause I don't have catch phrases for bars – 🙂 ), I worked almost every day for years (and still do) to get better at salsa. People see me dance at a club, and they go – oh man, I like how he dances, he's good – but they don't realize that it took hard work, effort and patience. There are two key things to be great: there is no substitute for hard work and practice makes perfect.
"The critical reality is that we are not hostage to some naturally granted level of talent. We can make ourselves what we will. Strangely, that idea is not popular. People hate abandoning the notion that they would coast to fame and riches if they found their talent. But that view is tragically constraining, because when they hit life's inevitable bumps in the road, they conclude that they just aren't gifted and give up. For most people, work is hard enough without pushing even harder. Those extra steps are so difficult and painful they almost never get done. That's the way it must be. If great performance were easy, it wouldn't be rare."
Why do some people end up quitting salsa or giving up? They get easily frustrated and may tell themselves that they are not naturally gifted or they are just not built for salsa. Thats not the case. Do you think Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Warren Buffett and Michael Jackson only had good days when they were learning their talents? It is like they say, for every time you fall down, there is a time you get up.
So, in summary, don't let it fool you that any good salsa dancer out there works hard at his trade to get as good as she/he is when you see him. Two favorite quotes of mine: When you stop practicing, remember, someone somewhere IS practicing. (Serena Cuevas) and If you tell yourself you'll practice later, you'll only become a great dancer later. (Juan Carlos Hernandez)