Panic, Progress and Dancing the Rumba

Sales Lessons Learned in Dance Class

By Jeff Shore

rumba_3I am a middle-aged, balding, white, professional male, and I dance the rumba. Or at least, I aim to. My wife and I recently starting taking rumba dance lessons because 1. YOLO (Google it); 2. Maintaining an upright and forward motion while merely walking or gently jogging is near the top of my coordination aptitude. Which is to say, there is space similar to the size of Texas for improvement in my overall coordination and grace; 3. I am a very determined person. (But, we all know that the pitbull nickname is already taken.) So, bring it on, rumba!

All of the rumba movements take place from the torso down; one’s shoulders and arms are supposed to be completely still while one’s lower body is rhumbaing. So, if one is to rumba well, one has to focus on two things at the same time: how to move one half of one’s person … and how to absolutely not move one’s other half. How unnatural is that?! There is, in fact, nothing about dancing the rumba that is in any way natural. (Even though our instructor insists that I will eventually “just feeeeel” how to move.) Remember Elaine’s dancing on the Seinfeld show? Let’s just say that for now, at least, my dancing makes Elaine’s look good.

It doesn’t help that my wife, Karen, really doesn’t follow very well when we dance. So far, when I rumba with her, she’s just sort of there, awkwardly fumbling along with me. That is, until Steve, our instructor, takes my place and dances with Karen. Oh. Just look at that: suddenly, Mrs. Awkward is this year’s winner on Dancing With the Stars. Hmm. So, subtract Jeff from the scenario and suddenly everyone can dance. Wow. Learning the rumba has also proven to be a great self-esteem booster for me as well. Clearly.

Contrary to what you may be thinking at this point, I haven’t quit dance lessons. I’ve sucked it up and stayed, and here is the realization I’ve come to: The magic moment of change does not come when I have reached perfection. It happens when I step out of the panic zone and into the learning zone. When I am no longer distracted and defined by my lack of skill, I am freed up to learn and grow. I am still uncomfortable, but now I am slowly “getting it” and I know how to practice to improve.

In his book Talent is Overrated, Geoff Colvin describes this progression in zones, as follows:

Panic Learning Comfort

When we consider the sales presentation and how we want to improve at it, we know we’re going to have to do uncomfortable things. We’re going to have to learn skills that we feel ill-prepared to carry out, let alone even attempt. The best way to think about this is to remember that the more uncomfortable we are with those skills, the greater the opportunity we have to advance our career. If I want to learn easy skills, I’ll move my career forward a tiny bit. If I take on the challenge of learning hard skills, I will experience huge advancement. If you only want to be a little uncomfortable, you’re only going to grow a tiny bit.

I am massively uncomfortable when I am dancing the rumba. But my discomfort is simply irrelevant. What matters is that I don’t quit and eventually, through repetition, I will arrive at mastery. (So do I think I can dance? Yes, yes I do.) Come to this same conclusion for yourself, in your sales life, and you will change the world.

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About the Author: Jeff Shore

Jeff Shore
Jeff Shore is a highly sought-after sales expert, speaker, author and consultant whose innovative and real-world selling strategies help you to change your mindset and change your world. His latest book, "Closing 2.0," is now available. Learn more at and follow Jeff on Facebook and LinkedIn.