I have been a devoted fan of Fox’s show So You Think You Can Dance from the very beginning. Cat Deeley had me at “jidges”. SYTYCD is a tapestry of talent, dreams, creativity, teamwork and story telling. But it is also a show about people: what makes us tick, what makes us vote, what makes us cry, what makes us love. So in honor of its 10th season, here are 10 life lessons from SYTYCD.
1. Everyone loves an encourager.
There’s always something kind you can say. Always. Cat Deeley is the consummate encourager and deserves the devotion of every season’s worth of contestants. Everyone loves an encourager.
2. No matter how much natural talent we have, we’ll do better if we take time to learn from others.
Dancers often show what they believe to be their very best skills in their solos and dance-for-your-life moments; but often their true greatness is not seen in their freestyle performances, but in how they flourish in choreography.
A skilled teacher (like Sonya Tahey) who sees your talent and spends time with you can stretch you, challenge you, hone your beautiful into breathtaking.
3. People skills often trump technical skill.
Season 7’s Jose Ruiz and Season 9’s Cyrus were great examples of this: despite other dancers being technically and artistically better than they were, Jose and Cyrus stayed on the show week after week because people liked them. As Executive Producer Nigel Lythgoe frequently says: its’ not about being the BEST dancer, its about being America’s FAVORITE.
This rings true in the workplace-dance too: employees who add value to their environment with the quality of their personal interactions are much easier to keep around (and promote) than brilliant people with mediocre people skills.
4. Hard work makes it look easy.
Sometimes we have to work HARD at a thing before we start to get great enjoyment out of it. No-one loves a beginner violinist, but every great violinist was once a beginner – and now they make it look easy. The very best compliment paid to dancers on SYTYCD is that they made it look “effortless”. It is a great tribute to years and years of effort to achieve that.
5. Connect with your audience.
One of the golden rules of communication is this: the message RECEIVED is the message communicated. It doesn’t matter if you FELT you were communicating well. What matters is whether people understood your communication. Eye-contact. Authenticity. Story-telling. Connection. Season 8’s winner Melanie was a master communicator this way.
6. Passion is contagious.
We love to see people love what they do. We enjoy seeing people enjoy themselves. How can you not smile when you see Twitch smiling at his own hilarious routines?
7. Injuries happen. It’s awful. But eventually, you’ll dance again.
Injuries sometimes take you out of the running. But SYTYCD is a great illustration of the truth that you don’t have to win to be an All-Star. You can shine even after great injuries. Just look at Alex Wong.
8. Try something different – you might even like it.
I would never had made time to listen to or learn to appreciate hip hop were it not for SYTYCD. But it has become one of my favorite genres, thanks to the storytelling genius of Tabitha and Napooleon. Think you don’t like hip hop? or sushi? or backpacking? or something else you’ve never tried? Try it. You might even like it.
And then, two great lessons for couples:
9. The secret of great partnerships is to make your partner look good.
You have nothing to gain and everything to lose by criticizing your partner in public. Every couple has different strengths and weaknesses, and sometimes it is tempting to think that one is really “carrying” the other. But carry each other you must. Use your skills to bring out the very best in them, and it will show the very best in you.
10. Be there for your partner.
No matter what else you bring to the partnership in terms of skill, the most important thing is to be THERE for your partner. If one falls, you both are going down. But if you know your partner will catch you…. you can FLY.