Not long ago, a friend and I were discussing how fun it would be to be a great dancer in any genre, be it ballroom, ballet, salsa, country line dancing, or whatever, and how satisfying it must be to master it to the point where we could walk onto a dance floor, and not only have confidence, but also to truly feel as if others enjoy watching.
As we spoke about various types of dance, my friend asked me if I had ever seen the movie, “Scent of A Woman.” One of my favorite scenes from this movie was when Pacino asked a woman if she would like to learn the tango and she replied, “I think I’d be a little afraid.” Pacino asks, “Of what?” “Afraid of making a mistake.” Pacino says, “No mistake in the tango, not like life. It’s simple. That’s what makes the tango so great. If you make a mistake, get all tangled up, just tango on.” But it was another quote that caught my attention: “The day we stop lookin’ is the day we die.” It was this quote that made me realize how many similarities I found between my lifelong desire to race cars and anyone who wants to be a graceful dancer. I remember how long I had the same insecurities as the woman to whom Pacino offered tango instructions, and being too afraid to even try.
What happened next was learning the reality of how we can either learn to sink or swim depending who the instructors are. The fears the young lady in the movie expressed seemed all too familiar when I signed up to take tango lessons. I must say the anticipation quickly led to anxiety as soon as the class began. In fact it was a terrible experience as my partner and I found ourselves on a dance floor filled with other students, all of whom clearly knew more than us, with only one instructor blurting out commands, leaving me to feel like a fish out of water.
I was determined not to give up so easily, so the following week we took private one-on-one lessons with a qualified tango instructor. The end result was one of great exuberance and satisfaction as we were both excited and looking forward to this new journey. Finding an instructor that worked with us one on one was instrumental in leaving our anxieties behind allowing us to move forward with our dream.
It was interesting to learn many of the steps to learning to dance may be compared to the steps of learning to be a racecar driver. All qualified NASA instructors start with good basics much the same as a good dance instructor. “Hold your arms like this. Be confident. Your first step begins with the left foot.” And so it begins.
Over the years, I have grown to love watching good drivers maneuver around the track, not at all unlike Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers did on the dance floor. It is indeed a thing of beauty and well worth watching.
In retrospect, I love how this all came to be, and equally encouraging, is knowing how NASA fills the role of giving one-on-one instruction, thus never leaving a student feeling like a fish out of water. Doing so fulfills the dreams of learning the fine art of racing at speed and having the confidence to feel good about it and truly feel as if others would enjoy watching. Using Pacino’s line, “It’s simple, that’s what makes racing with NASA so great.”