What I Learned From So You Think You Can Dance
**I'm the dancer in the blue button up shirt
When I was 16, I discovered the show “So You Think You Can Dance.” Being someone who could never just stick to ONE thing, seeing those dancers do so many different styles inspired me beyond words.
I would stay up at night, dreaming about dancing on that stage. I would think of what it’d be like to have the host, Cat Deeley, announce my name on national television. When I practiced, I imagined the spotlights, the cameras, the people. And what I spent most of my daydream on…thinking about what I would say during each interview. About what I needed to say that the world needed to hear.
In 2015, after 3 unsuccessful attempts, I finally got the golden ticket and was on my way to Vegas. I was among the top 120 dancers that were hand selected out of the thousands that auditioned from all over America. Here was my chance!
But…I got cut in Vegas.
After the cut, some dancers and I waited in the lobby as the SYTYCD crew planned our flights home. That’s when Twitch - former contestant on the show, Ellen DeGeneres’ co-host, and a judge during the auditions - approached me. He shook my hand and gave me one of the biggest compliments I could’ve asked for at that moment.
He said, “Yo, you are dope! Out of everyone here, you were in the top 5% of people who had the best technique. I was fighting for Nigel to keep you, but…he has the ultimate say and he decided no.”
He then asked, “Do you want me to share why you didn’t make it?”
Naturally, I said yes.
“It’s because of this,” he said as he imitated the face that I made on the stage.
“We could see the insecurity on your face. So even though your technique was on point, remember that we’re not looking for America’s BEST dancer; we’re looking for America’s FAVORITE dancer. And America’s favorite dancer is not going to be someone who is insecure about himself.”
While this feedback felt good at the time - like, “hey! At least my dance is good!” - it soon started to eat at me. I would’ve much rather been told that my technique wasn’t up to par.
That feedback stung so bad that to this day, I still consider it to be my only true failure.
Why did this feedback sting so much?
It stung because I always knew there was internal work that I needed to work on. Internal work with my thinking, my emotions, my beliefs, my visions. Internal work for me to better understand myself and the qualities that I bring to the table.
And yet I convinced myself that all I needed to do was to “train harder” and “get better.” I bought into the myth that if I simply put in enough hours of external work, then things would work out.
And here was the perfect example that slapped me across the face to prove to me what I already knew but was too stubborn to follow through on.
Now don’t get me wrong, external work matters and you can definitely create results from this place. But without the internal work, real change does not happen. You just end up running the same cycle but on a bigger scale. The insecurities, the scarcity, the fear, the need to prove yourself…they all remain. The only difference is that they now have your external work to distract you from them.
Having finally done the internal work for over 4 years now - and marrying it with the external work - I’m proud to say that everything has not only changed, but completely transformed. The quality of my relationships, the meaning behind the work that I do, the results in my life, and the standards that I hold for myself…all transformed.
And while I never went back to the So You Think You Can Dance stage, I feel an intense sense of gratitude and pride in knowing that no one will ever be able to utter these words to me again:
“We could see the insecurity on your face.”
So if you’ve been grinding, hustling, and doing the external work but still feel like nothing has really changed, I hope that this share will inspire you to take a moment to pause and do the internal work as well. I promise, it will transform your life.
Sending you all a lot of love and care.