Psychiatric business tips learned from dance lessons

November 20, 2010

I’ve studied ballroom dance for five years. On our first trip in our budding romance Laura Lee introduced me to The Arlington, an old hotel in Hot Springs, Arkansas. That first night we danced to a big band in a lovely old ballroom. When she wouldn’t dance a waltz with me because I didn’t know it well enough I vowed to never let that happen again.

Upon my return to Dallas that weekend I hired a dance teacher. That seems so long ago now. When I moved to Chicago one of the first things we did was to enroll in Arthur Murray Dance Studios. From then till now – lately I am studying smooth with a private instructor, Matt Rivers, and West Coast Swing with May I Have This Dance – I have become an accomplished dancer. What I mean by that is Laura Lee routinely enjoys dancing with me. At our last Shore Club event (a ballroom dance club here in Chicago) I managed to use Matt’s lessons and recommendations to nail a whole song dancing silver level foxtrot. Amazing! She loved it. Mission accomplished!

But along the way I have learned amazing, unexpected things from dance. This morning as I headed over to my Starbucks one particular lesson came to mind. Recently as Matt and I worked on my foxtrot we reviewed the basics of dance frame and posture. These concepts and practices are incredibly important. Now that I have mastered the basics of many dances, I find myself returning to these first lessons again as we move to more advanced dance levels. Or as Laura Lee said recently (in sharing lessons from her yoga practice), “You have to go down to go up.”

While working on my tendency to lose frame, especially my right shoulder slumping forward, Matt noticed something I was doing incorrectly. I had become focused on maintaining connection with my partner with my right rib cage. You might say I had become obsessed with that lesson. Matt pointed out that, indeed, it is important to do that but – the intent of the dance movement should come from the inner aspect of the left rib cage. Or – as I like to think of it – the intent should come from my heart. I intend my every movement from my heart.

OK, where the heck are the business lessons? Enough of this dance foolishness! An old lesson that I learned very well was to take any action with caution and shame. How I managed to become a physician, psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, and businessman is absolutely miraculous. Early on I decided that if I was to have anything in this life I had to power through the fear and shame, close my eyes and hope for the best. Even though I have been an on again off again religious practitioner I suppose I prayed a heck of a lot. Where’s the damned business lesson?!

The fear and shame is so deeply rooted that it determines how I hold myself. The default is to round my shoulders as if curling into a pillbug ball. It’s all about protecting myself from the next blow. There is no danger of that sort on the dance floor. I have learned that if any one notices us dancing and takes the trouble to say anything it is routinely admiring and complimentary. In fact, my tentative intent messes up the dance. When I danced from my heart, stayed connected with my partner, and enjoyed the music the dance flowed nicely and she smiled!

You know what sort of psychiatric practice you want to build. With every act, lead with your heart. In all things: From renting your office space to designing your business cards, know who you are, what you want and move into it with joy. As surely as I approach my Starbucks friends and ask for my roomy grande Pike Place coffee and expect to get it with no trouble – you can expect success just as surely.

If you want more detailed help contact me here at ClearLifePath Consulting. If I can do this I am certain that you can.


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