For many Americans, last night’s appearance on the new Maya & Marty variety show may have been the first time they’d seen Savion Glover perform (although if you’ve seen Happy Feet you’ve heard him perform). Savion is a world-renowned tap dancer, and the television cameras did not do him justice. He performed this past February at the Wharton Center for Performing Arts in East Lansing. My sister is a huge fan, so my parents got her front row tickets as a Christmas gift, and I was fortunate enough to be able to tag along. The entire time I sat, completely transfixed by his performance, I was thinking about the valuable lessons that were offered up on that stage.

If You Love What You Do, It’s Not Work

No one would argue that Savion’s style of tap dancing is not hard work. He came out on to the stage, alone, and proceeded to tap dance for nearly an hour. Without a break. There was no back up music track to fill in noise gaps. The percussion-like noises were all him, and they were incessant. I’m sure it was difficult. I’m positive he’s spent decades practicing to get to this skill level.

And yet, it isn’t work to him. Or at least he doesn’t act like it is. He was smiling the entire time. As he took his bows, he had a huge grin on his face. He clearly has a passion for what he does, and for him this is fun. He’s making a living doing what he loves to do. Who could ask for more than that?

Working Hard Ain’t Pretty

With all that being said, Savion’s work is still physical exertion. By the end of his first set, he had sweated through all his clothes, to the point that it appeared he’d taken a shower while wearing them. Since we were in the front row, we could actually see the sweat pouring off him.

That’s ordinarily not a good look for anyone. But it’s a good reminder that working hard isn’t pretty. When you’re working on a project – creating art, writing an essay, building a database, getting in shape – your working drafts aren’t going to be pretty and polished and final product ready. But if you didn’t go through those early drafts, your final product would not be nearly as good. So don’t worry what others think of your first drafts, because you know that if you stick with things then your final results may wow the crowd.

Scuffed Shoes Get the Job Done

When Savion first came on stage, my first reaction was “wow his shoes need polishing.” Last night on television he wore new looking, highly polished tap shoes. But in February he wore tap shoes which could only be called “well loved.” There were scuff marks all over them and the soles were worn. My first reaction was based on the thought that he’d want to have nice looking, new shoes for a public performance. And then it hit me: the scuffed shoes got the job done just as well. Maybe even better, since they were broken in and allowed him to do all his signature moves. Most importantly, he felt comfortable in them.

So many times I’ve put off starting a project until I had what I thought were the perfect tools and knowledge to do the job. I’ve learned over the years that this is my go-to method of procrastination, and I’ve learned to become aware of when I’m doing it. Sometimes this procrastination is good as it gives me time to think through the steps I’ll take, drafting a post in my mind before I sit down to write or considering a website architecture before I design it. But seeing Savion’s shoes reminded me that sometimes I need to work with what I have and just get going!

Leave It All on the Floor

Savion gives his all in his performance. He walks on to the stage with confidence. He starts his performance gradually, then builds gradually to an impressive foot-driven crescendo.  He appears to be completely spent by the end. He doesn’t quit until he’s done. He doesn’t tap out and give up. They say you perform like you practice, so I can only assume that he always approaches his dancing with this all-out attitude.

We can all learn from his example to give it our all and know we did our absolute best at whatever we’re working on and no matter who is watching.