What Ballet Taught Me About Entrepreneurship

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Hey there!
I’m Courtney Fanning the copywriting and brand strategy brains behind Big Picture. I use my literal master’s in selling stories to help 1:1 clients and DIY students write purpose-driven copy that sells and scales. 

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Written by Courtney
Copywriting & brand strategy brains behind Big Picture.

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It’s kind of mind-blowing that the number of new business applications in the U.S. peaked in 2021 with a record-breaking 5.4 million new applications.

Gone are the days when you picked up a trade and worked for the same employer until retirement. The average worker makes a career change every 4.1 years.

Even if you’re leaving a job behind, you get to keep the skills and experiences you learned and apply them to your new role.

Entrepreneurship calls to those looking to build something of their own, a more flexible schedule, more autonomy, and sometimes, more income than the traditional office 9-5.

When I decided to hang up my point shoes and go to college (at the geriatric age of 20) I never imagined the things that shaped me as a dancer would be the same things that propelled my career forward as a book publishing professional, digital marketer, tech marketer, copywriter, and entrepreneur.

(See? It’s always a winding path that gets you to where you’re going.)

Here’s what ballet taught me about entrepreneurship.

1) Discipline Takes You Further Than Talent

There will always be someone more naturally talented than you, but that doesn’t mean they have staying power. You have to make the commitment to show up every day and strive for improvement, not perfection. Hard work pays off, but it requires patience and grit to see long-lasting returns.

2) Details Differentiate You

The way you hold your pinky finger matters just as much as how high you can hold your leg above your head. Paying spectacular attention to the details is how you master your craft. Developing small, signature traits is enough to make you recognizable from the back of the theater.

3) Emotional Storytelling Is Everything

You can be technically perfect, but if you can’t summon emotions, feel the music, and give off main character energy, no one’s going to pick you out of the lineup and give you your big break. Your stage presence is more memorable than the arch of your foot.

4) Turn Jealousy Into Inspiration

Ask yourself what it is you admire about others and how you can bring some of that into your own practice.

“Do not try to dance better than anyone else; only try to dance better than yourself.”

—Mikhail Baryshnikov

5) Manage Your Energy

Whether dancing a 7-minute solo where every muscle is actively firing all at once or standing on the side in B+ for what feels like an eternity before gracefully walking to center stage to join the corp de ballet (while ignoring a cramping calf,) you have to manage your energy. Lasting until the curtain comes down means knowing when to hold back, when to let someone else take over, and when it’s your moment to go all in and hold nothing back. 

6) Strengthen Your Weaknesses

Grande allegro was my jam. I’m a long-limbed frog who can burst out of the wings with sky-high jetés (split jumps). But when it came to pirouettes (turning on one leg) I had to work, and work, and fight against the fact that my center of gravity always worked against me. While I wanted to phone it in during center practice because “I suck at turning”, I knew I needed to double down on strengthening my weaknesses so I could bust out a triple turn on stage when the stage lights were on and the audience was watching.  

7) Every Day Starts Right Back At The Barre

It doesn’t matter how good you are, every morning everyone starts at the beginning and relies on the same fundamental frameworks. Without a solid foundation underneath you, you risk injury and are likely to give a sh*tty performance later. 

Grand Finale

If you struggle to piece together your story, whether it be for your About page, brand story, bio, or LinkedIn profile, think about how each stop in your journey contributed to the perspectives you hold now and the skills you never would have learned had you not taken that path.

So here’s my perspective:

Entrepreneurs are resilient. They have grit. They’re able to look at change and failure, not as a negative, but as an opportunity. To try again. To experiment. To do it, just because they wanted to see what happened. A lot like a choreographer putting together a new piece.

If you remain in one place too long, if you don’t challenge yourself, learn new skills, seek new experiences, and find new outlets to live into your purpose (or what lights you up) you stunt your growth and miss out on what could be. Much like a dancer standing at the barre striving to get their leg a little higher.

Everything I learned about entrepreneurship I learned from ballet. Even though I laced my pointe shoes up for the last time well over a decade ago, I carry the lessons I learned like muscle memory. I follow a different rhythm these days, but in many ways, it’s still the same.



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