Episode 17: Planning for when the music stops – with Jordan Tilton of Ballet to Business

Ballet dancer Jordan Tilton explains how she got into ballet, why she started a furniture restoration business on the side, and how she’s encouraging and supporting other ballet dancers as they start to think about what they can do once their career as a ballet dancer has come to its end.

Today’s guest

Jordan Tilton of Ballet to Business

Website: Ballet to Business

Pinterest: jordannicoleh

Instagram: Jordan Nicole Tilton

LinkedIn: Jordan Tilton

Contact: jordan@ballerinainbusiness.com

At sixteen, one (well actually two) of Jordan Tilton’s childhood dreams came true.

She moved to San Francisco to continue her training in classical ballet as a Trainee with the San Francisco Ballet School and went on to join the company as a corps de ballet member two years later. The other dream come true? Unbeknownst to Jordan, she had met her future husband that same year!

While dancing for San Francisco Ballet, Jordan discovered her love for restoring furniture. She’d walk around the city and run into gorgeous pieces of furniture, mirrors, and frames, just left on the sidewalk for the taking!  She started finding and flipping furniture for her friends and started her blog in 2014 to tell those stories. Hence, her side business, rénové, had begun!

After starting her own business, Jordan’s eyes were suddenly opened to dancers all over the world who were burgeoning entrepreneurs as well!  She wanted to recognize them, encourage them, and share their stories, which is what her blog has turned into today. #BallettoBusiness

Currently, Jordan and her husband are both professional ballet dancers with Diablo Ballet, as well as teachers at schools across the Bay Area.

What you’ll learn in this episode

  • Focusing on what you can do, rather than what you can’t
  • Trying to see yourself how others see you rather than concentrating on your “flaws”
  • Planning for the future when your career has a limited shelf-life
  • What to do when the “dream job” isn’t working out
  • The dangers of doing something purely out of duty
  • You don’t know if you’ll be good at something until you try
  • The value of patience

Resources mentioned in this episode

Please note that some of these are affiliate links and we may get a small commission in the event that you make a purchase.  This helps us to cover our expenses and is at no additional cost to you.

To see the resources recommended by all our guests, visit the Resources page.

Episode 17: Planning for when the music stops - with Jordan Tilton of Ballet to Business

Jeremy Cline
There are some careers where retirement happens way before what most of us would consider to be normal retirement age, particularly those that rely on peak physical shape and fitness. Think about any kind of professional athletes: footballers, rugby players and so on - most of whom have usually retired by the time they're 40. Well, what do they then do, what they go on to do? That's what we discuss in this episode. I'm Jeremy Cline. And this is Change Work Life.

Hello and welcome to Change Work Life, the podcast that's all about beating the Sunday evening blues and looking forward to Mondays. This is the first episode of the new year and I hope that 2020 is a great year for you. My guest this week is Jordan Tilton, as well as being a professional ballet dancer and a ballet teacher. She's the founder of Ballet to Business, which she's founded to help ballet dancers plan and manage their transition out of ballet once their career has come to an end. We cover a lot in this interview - from how Jordan got into her fantasy career, the questions of identity that came out when she was considering a change of career, and also the question of how to manage the transition once this career comes to an end. Here's the interview. Hi, Jordan, welcome to the show.

Jordan Tilton
Hi, Jeremy, thank you for having me.

Jeremy Cline
So first off, introduce yourself. Tell us a bit about what it is that you do.

Jordan Tilton
Great. So my name is Jordan Nicole, and I am a ballet dancer as well as a ballet teacher. And I have been a professional ballet dancer since I was 18 years old. So I moved from Southern California where I grew up to San Francisco Bay Area at 16 to train in classical ballet, and then I joined the San Francisco Ballet, which is a pretty renowned company in the United States - probably the biggest professional ballet company on the west coast. And I danced there for seven seasons as a corps de ballet member. So that's kind of my background. And now I dance in the East Bay of California, and I dance for a smaller company so our contract is not as extensive as where I was before. But that also gives me the opportunity to be able to teach ballet. So before about two years ago, I had never really taught ballet as much as I do now. So that's what I'm up to.

Jeremy Cline
Maybe you can talk a little bit about your new business, your side venture - Ballet to Business. Can you tell us a little bit about what that's about?

Jordan Tilton
Absolutely. So let's see, in 2018 I actually started to feature ballet dancers who had their own businesses on my blog and through my Instagram. A lot of ballet dancers... I guess I was seeing that they had passions and interests that go beyond the ballet studio. And I thought that was really intriguing because for myself, every time I would either go through an injury or have to step away from ballet, I found myself painting furniture! And that was kind of my side business. Every time that I was not dancing, I would be painting dressers for friends, and finding things on Craigslist and then revamping them and putting them back on Craigslist and selling them. So I was really into exploring business and I found out I wasn't alone in that. However, in the ballet world, I guess sometimes recognition is hard to come by. And it's a small knit community. But oftentimes the spotlight goes toward the principal dancers. So the highest-ranking ballet dancers are the ones who are getting articles and magazines and covers and things like that. And I started becoming aware of dancers who were in the corps de ballet and in smaller regional companies who also had leotard businesses, so they'd make their own outfits for ballet. Or my friend in Utah, she is a baker, and she makes wedding cakes for dancers in the company, and I thought that was so intriguing. So I went along with this idea. Every week in the summer of 2018, I would feature or highlight one of these dancers on my Instagram and on my blog, but as I was telling their story, I felt like I was craving for them to be able to tell it themselves. So I got really into listening to podcasts. But I felt like for what I was trying to do, I wanted these dancers to be able to share their story for themselves rather than me write about them. So that's when the seed was planted for a podcast back in 2018. However, circumstances came up in my life. Back in February, I had a really hard injury on my right ankle and I found out I needed to have surgery. So I had surgery in April to reattach my ligament and shaved down some bone spurs and stuff. And I found myself out of ballet again. So I was like, Well, what can I do? I can focus on all the things I can't do right now, which is dance and do some of the things that I love, or I can focus on, okay, this is an opportunity for me to do something that's been on the back burner - and that was create a podcast. So I launched Ballet to Business in August - August sixth, so we're four episodes deep. But I spent about the past two months just conducting a lot of interviews and they ended up just being so nourishing to me and so inspiring to me hearing stories of these dancers starting their own businesses.

Jeremy Cline
I certainly want to talk a bit about the more unique challenges that someone in your line of work faces. But can we start by diving back into time - when did you first start dancing? I mean, I'm assuming about, you know, half of little girls, their mums take them to ballet classes as something to do, so when when did you start that, and when did it become something which you might actually do as a professional?

Jordan Tilton
That's a great question. I started pre-ballet at three years old. So that's kind of a typical story that you hear of these little girls who are dancing in the living room. And that was very much myself. So I started at three however, I stopped after that first year. I was very into academics as a child, and I liked ballet, but at the time, I just went on to do other things. I didn't pick back up again until I was about eight or nine and that was because one of my neighbours across the street was going to dance classes and I was intrigued again, and I think there was something in me that missed it. I really like to work hard, and I definitely at three years old still was the one in class who was positioning the other girls to make sure we're all doing the same thing, we're all doing the right thing at the right time. I'm kind of a perfectionist at three! And then I started dancing again at eight or nine and it was really serendipitous because I met the Dolly Dinkle Ballet School in a strip mall. It wasn't even a ballet school - it was an all kinds of dance school that I went to. And I met a teacher there who basically took me under her wing and started to guide me. She saw potential in me. And also - for ballet - not only is it about just having a desire to dance and a passion to really commit and dedicate to this art form that takes years to hone, it's also a facility situation - so having your hips being able to turn out and rotate and for your ankles to be flexible enough that you can go on point and create this certain kind of line. It's a very aesthetic art form too so my teacher saw that I had pretty archy feet - very flexible feet - so that's a draw for ballet. And she took me under her wing, took me to another ballet studio that she was teaching more frequently at and we started doing private lessons around 10 years old. So by 10 years old, I started to see okay, someone believes in me, someone sees something in me to be able to do this as a profession. And I do not know what that looks like. None of my parents danced, no one in my family was a professional ballet dancer in my history. So we were all learning together really what this was like, and learning from other people. And as I started going to - after that, I went to a bigger studio because she said, I think you need to be around dancers who are better than you and older than you - and I went to a bigger conservatory in Southern California to train when I was about 12. So, there I started being exposed to more of the ballet world. So when dancers are about 13 or 14 years old, they're making that commitment of going to classes after school at least four days, if not five days a week, and taking about two and a half to three hours of ballet every day. And they also audition to go away to Summer Intensive - so it's kind of like a summer camp for ballet. But you have to audition to get accepted into these schools that are across the United States. So when dancers start at a young age making a commitment like that, they are really trying to make this their profession. Because when you get older and ballet companies see your resume if you've gone away to San Francisco ballet for Summer Intensive or New York City as School of American Ballet for Summer Intensives, those are highly reputable in the ballet world. So you're starting to build your resume at 13, which is not quite like many other professions! And as I started just continuing more and more in my training, that's when I really set my sights on being with San Francisco Ballet because I saw them perform in New York when I was 13. And I thought the company was diverse. I thought the company was just really exquisite - and some of the repertoire that they were performing, I'd never seen before. So I was really intrigued. Plus, my parents were like, 'we would love for you to stay in California and not move!' You know, because there are dancers - honestly, when I was dancing for San Francisco Ballet - who were coming from all over the world. From Russia and China, and South America, and there are dancers who sacrifice just living in their own countries to do this art form. So I feel very thankful and grateful that I was able to have a career with San Francisco Ballet and kind of stay in California.

Jeremy Cline
So aged 13 - was it at that point that you thought 'I'm going to shoot for this for my career?' Because that's pretty unusual for - I'd have thought - any 13 year old? I mean, some might think, Oh, yeah, I'd love to be a professional soccer player or professional dancer or professional singer, but very few actually think seriously in terms of, you know, beyond 'Oh, wouldn't that be nice' as in 'Yes, this is what I'm going to shoot for, for my career'. So is that was that what happened to you at age 13?

Jordan Tilton
Pretty much I would say. You know, I kind of went back and forth, just because I had no idea what it meant to be a professional dancer really. What what does the schedule look like? How do I even go about getting a job? It was this high in the sky, pie in the sky idea to me because I was still learning so much about the ballet world. But I think for me what kept me going a lot of times when I would either have really low self-confidence and think I'm not strong enough, I'm never going to be good enough, I'm not sure if I'm going to be able to make it - I had teachers who were really encouraging and they said you know, we know what this industry is like, and we see that you can you can make it as a professional, and we'll do everything that we can to train you up well. So I would say it really didn't become real to me that I could become a professional until I was able to move away from home at 16. So I struggled with a lot of doubt between those times because I don't have high self-confidence really. I think I'm the kind of person who is pretty hard on myself and so I see all the flaws. When I'm working on my technique or when I'm in the ballet studio, you have the mirror in front of you that oftentimes dancers have a little bit of... they can't see themselves the way that other people see them. It wasn't until I got an offer to become a trainee at San Francisco Ballet School, which was this really unique position between being a high-level student and being a professional company member where you're getting paid salary and benefits and stuff. It was right sandwiched in the middle. So there were only twelve of us - six boys and six girls - who were offered this position. And that's when I was like, 'This is the stepping stone I need - Mom and Dad, can I move?!' And that's when it really became real to me - was probably 16.

Jeremy Cline
So what kept you going in that intervening time between 13 and 16 where you've got all these doubts?

Jordan Tilton
I think one of the things that's so beautiful about ballet is that it is so structured and it is so regimented, that you have your classes laid out for you. And you commit to attending these classes for a whole school year basically. So I think sometimes - even though I had these doubts and complications about how I viewed myself - having to just show up every day regardless, and kind of leave whatever else might be going on outside of the studio, outside the studio - and show up. And ballet can be kind of meditative in a way that there's no room to think about other things once you're in class because you're listening to the music, you have to be in tune with your body, you have to memorise the combination that the teacher is telling you to do, and it's different every day. So she could say, we're going to do six tendu a la seconde and then take one tendu en croix or something. And the next day it could be a completely different combination for an exercise like tendu. So there's really - when you're in the studio - you have to have this laser focus that kind of eliminates... for me it eliminated... 'Okay, I can't mentally think about "Am I going to make it in this ballet world?" - I have to be present here right now. So I would say the regimen of ballet - just having to show up every day - really helped me to just continue going and then the encouragement of my teachers, who saw potential in me.

Jeremy Cline
So was the regimented way in which you were taught - was that something that actually kept you, that had a role in sort of retaining you? It was something that you kind of liked about it and made it worth you staying rather than quitting it? Because I'm sure you know, loads of people - especially in their teenage years - would start something and notwithstanding that they'd committed to something, would go 'Hey, Mom, Dad, I know that you've paid for this, but it's not for me, I want to quit.'

Jordan Tilton
Absolutely. I mean there was something in me though, that I just I love... I love ballet. I love the hard work and I love that you know you can never be perfect at this art form. There's always something to discover - there's always something to grow in. And I think because there's a never ending top to growth in this art form, it kept me intrigued. And I think that because I was committing so much of my time - also a lot of my friends were ballet dancers as well - so there's kind of this insular community that grows and people keep you accountable as well. And my parents - I would say my mom played a huge role in when I - especially in those times - when I had the doubt or maybe not as interested in taking class from this Russian teacher because she scared me and she kind of made me cry a little bit! But my mom knew it was good for me because she had - this one Russian teacher had - really extensive background and she was very highly esteemed in Los Angeles area, so sometimes my mom would drive me to LA, from Orange County to take class with this teacher. And it wasn't like I was saying, 'Mom, mom, mom, please take me!' But she saw that that would plant a seed in me that would grow, and she helped to push me out of my comfort zone a lot of times.

Jeremy Cline
I wanted to ask you about sort of the way that your parents approached this so you know when you're age 10 and you're first, you know, having being identified as someone who could actually make a go of this. I mean, you've got to be born of a very small minority of kids who start doing ballet classes who actually are then sort of tapped on the shoulder, 'Hey, this might be something you consider.' I guess the reaction of parents could go a number of ways. I mean, it could be 'Oh, wow, amazing. Our little girl could do this' or it could be 'Come on, I mean, this is all very nice, but you know, I mean, what are the odds? You know, she's not going to make it as a professional, she needs to have a steady job' or whatever. So do you remember how your parents reacted at the time as you were going through this oh you know, this might be a possibility, or have you spoken to them about how they sort of saw the world as this was happening?

Jordan Tilton
Yeah. I would say it was definitely terrifying in some regard just because it was an unknown frontier. It's not like becoming a doctor or, you know, my father's a firefighter. So there are these careers that are very steady. And for, you know, a ballet dancer, we came to learn that it's a one year at a time contract. You don't get a 10 year position and you don't get 'Okay, we're going to hire you for the next, you know, five seasons'. It's one year at a time. So I think that there was some grace in that we all kind of were naive, but then again, there were so many teachers that I had, who had been professional ballet dancers. And I think the encouragement that they gave my parents in saying, like you mentioned, it is rare that someone gets tapped on the shoulder to say, 'your daughter can pursue this', 'she has what it takes to do it'. But I mean, my parents just had to have a lot of faith as well to let me go. But I think once they were able to see me in San Francisco and come to a performance where I'm on the Opera House stage it became very real that 'Wow, she's doing it and it's happening and she got a corps de ballet contract', but since then you know now I'm not quite in the same position and I think now it's more just trusting in me that I can put in the work to make a living and to make my career what it is, but also my parents really highly encouraged me to continue academics. That was also kind of the backbone, is ballet dancers in professional companies have the opportunity to get their bachelor's degree through this programme called Leap, and they partner with St. Mary's, a university here in California, and we can get college credit because a lot of dancers are people who go to college to get a major in dance. And they thought Why can't these dancers who dance from 10am to 11pm get college credit for the knowledge they have in ballet? So I have been pursuing my education for the past eight years as well. And that was really important to my parents that that could kind of be something that I have one foot in because, like I mentioned, this career is full of injuries and twists and turns and it's subjective. Our directors are are subjective. You might be the type of dancer they're looking for, and you might not be - so there there are a lot of unknowns.

Jeremy Cline
Leaving aside career ending injury, and what's the sort of typical length of career of professional ballet dancer?

Jordan Tilton
Yeah, great question. What I'm learning is it all depends on I think, where you are, and what kind of workload you have. So, for example, with a major ballet company like San Francisco ballet, there are different ranks: apprentice, corps de ballet, soloist, and principal. So if you are, let's say, in the corps de ballet, so that means that you are one of 30 swans in Swan Lake, you are on the sides, you're doing the peasant dances, the group dances, you're on stage every night. If we're doing 12 shows of Swan Lake, you are on stage every night versus a principal dancer. They have maybe their two performances where they are the main role, but they don't have to do it every night. So I think that takes a toll on your body when you are in the position of a corps de ballet member. So a lot of those dancers don't typically continue past their early 30s, because it's so taxing. However, a principal dancer, some of them have danced into their early 40s. So they can get another 10 years out of their career because of the position that they're in. Now I'm dancing for a company where our contract - we don't do as many performances. However, we are all in positions of being soloist or principles. So we perform those kinds of roles. However, we have maybe max four shows in a weekend. So I think in where I am now, if injury doesn't, you know, keep me from dancing, I could potentially dance into my 30s - but it all depends on the wear and tear of your own body and everyone's body so unique and everyone has different struggles. So, for me, the flexible feet situation has been a blessing and a curse in the ballet world because oftentimes when your feet are very flexible, you lack strength or just this awareness. So, I've definitely been plagued with repetitive ankle sprains which caused me to have this surgery in April. It's one of those things that it's a day to day situation. I can't really have a five year career plan with what I do, because I just never know what's going to happen - and I think that's definitely why I wanted to create my podcast as well. Everyone has a unique story with coming in and out of this career and either having to put it aside because of injury or even just realising that the ballet world is incredibly competitive, and maybe they just didn't want to continue with that kind of schedule and kind of lifestyle, because it can be an all-consuming lifestyle.

Jeremy Cline
And how much is it part of the profession that you are encouraged to make plans for what you're going to do afterwards? I mean, I guess it's not just your profession, but professional athletes as well. I mean, you talked about, you know, being able to potentially go on to early 40s. I mean, in the UK, most soccer players are probably, you know, late 30s. Very few go into their 40s. And then they've got this potential of 30, 40 plus years to think about what they're going to do next. Is this something which is part of the profession - that you know, it's recognised as a thing, there's lots of knowledge about it, you're taught to have a plan and how you might come up with it - or are you just left to fend for yourself?

Jordan Tilton
I would say unfortunately, oftentimes dancers in America are left to fend for themselves, which is disheartening to me because I think that dancers are also not aware of how much more they are capable of and all of the character traits that they have built, being dedicated to pursuing this art form with, you know, resilience and tenacity and persistence and all of these character traits that would really help them go on into another field. However, I think within the ballet world, it's very much the focus is is almost too much on where you are now in your career, and kind of rising through the ranks. There's not much preventative talk. I think that it's starting to grow a little bit more though. I would say that at some major ballet companies I've heard of them bringing in speakers to talk about transition. There are some organisations that are trying to help dancers in transition, but I think the underlying thing is that it's hard for a lot of dancers to think about them being anything more than a ballet dancer simply because they have been referred as their identity as a dancer since they were so young. So that's all they know. It's kind of like those stories of athletes who, when they have to transition from being a football player or something it's incredibly difficult because it's an identity issue. If I'm not a ballet dancer, who am I because that's who people refer to me as, that's how I see myself, that's how my lifestyle is structured. So it can be a complete upheaval. But that's why I wanted to start my podcasts because I do want to encourage people that they can use what they've learned from ballet to either create an incredibly successful business as I've come to find out, or use their skills of hard work and dedication and find another passion - it is possible to find another passion, but you may not feel as passionate as you did about ballet and that's okay. I think a lot of times when it comes to work, we think like 'Oh I just have to love it, love it, love it so much'. But then maybe we are not actually opening ourselves up to what we could potentially grow in and get good at. Because we feel like oh well I probably shouldn't do that because I don't love it. That's how I felt about teaching. Honestly, learning to teach from having just danced in... you know, being in a ballet classroom - as a dancer, you don't talk much and then having to become a teacher, I'm conducting the circus! I'm telling people what to do, I am the one who is giving corrections verbally and showing, and it's a completely different position. And when I started transitioning into more teaching, I didn't have this burning desire to teach. There are some people who do have that, but I didn't. And I think that made me really nervous because I also thought, I am I even going to be good at this. I don't feel like I'm good at teaching ballet. I can do ballet, but I don't think I'm good at teaching it. And it wasn't until I started - the doors kept opening for opportunities for me to teach. I couldn't ignore them anymore.

Jeremy Cline
I was going to ask you how you did come to start teaching when you weren't that excited about it to begin with. So can you talk a bit about how - you talked about the doors opening - so how did those doors open and what convinced you that actually teaching was something you should do as well?

Jordan Tilton
Yeah, I would say it's kind of a couple things that came into the mix. So, in 2017, I had been in a cycle of repetitive injury while dancing for San Francisco Ballet. So dancing as a corps de ballet member was my full time job. I had no time for anything else, except possibly, you know, the school work I was doing - so school and ballet. And I got married in 2015 to a fellow dancer, and he also struggled with injuries while he was dancing for San Francisco Ballet. So the year that we got married, he started dancing for a company in the East Bay, Diablo Ballet. So I was dancing for San Francisco Ballet. He was commuting out to the East Bay. He'd come home and his schedule at Diablo ballet is he would dance from 10 to 3:30 because it's a smaller company, versus I was dancing from 10 to 6:30 and then if I had a performance like 8 to 11, so our hours were just completely different. But he came home I started saying 'Wow', he's healthy. He's dancing more than he ever had before, because he was healthy. And he was really happy in this environment and with our director who's just a really kind woman and highly respectable. So that kind of planted seeds in me like, I'm not healthy, and he's healthy. He used to not be healthy! So I want what he has. And then when I got injured, I said, Okay, something's got to change. This environment that I'm currently in is not changing. My workload is going to continue to stay the same. Or I can make the change and seeing my husband dance so much and be so happy and healthy - that's what I wanted. So I talked to my director at San Francisco Ballet and said I had to leave. It was a very, very tough decision. Because on the outskirts, people could look at my job and say you have the dream job, you're getting benefits. You have a really great salary. And you're going to leave that, you're going to leave that behind? And I knew that I needed to change even though a lot of people were like, Are you sure? Are you going to regret this? But I had to, I had to make a change. So I reached out to my husband's director, and she graciously offered me a position with the company. And so since my schedule now was dancing from 10 to 3:30 that meant I had the evenings open. That's the time in which ballet classes start for kids after school is the evenings. And a lot of my colleagues who dance for Diablo ballet also teach ballet as well. That's just the norm. And my husband started doing a lot more teaching when he started dancing for that company. So I had a feeling that Okay, I will probably start to teach a little bit, but that kind of makes me nervous at the same time, because I've never done it before!

Jeremy Cline
So why do it? I mean, I don't know whether there is a sort of correlation between the hours that you work and the amount that you get paid. I mean, is it is it just something that ballet dancers who do the less hours, they do the teaching just to kind of make up the income? Why do that as well?

Jordan Tilton
Yeah, so it is to make up the income definitely. But I also think that there's something really unique about still being a professional dancer, and teaching ballet versus having retired and then teaching ballet, you're not as physically in it. But when you are taking class every morning, and then you teach someone a class, and then the next day you take your own class, I would hear my own voice in my head of I just told these students yesterday, this correction, and now I have to apply it to myself! It's very humbling. But I would say that because you already have the knowledge as a ballet dancer, and this art form is passed down from generation to generation - it's not just something you can take a course online and learn how to do. So I did feel this responsibility. I felt like at one point, I thought, I remembered my teacher and how much she invested in me, and how much she poured her, you know, all of her knowledge into me and I thought Wow - from what I've experienced being able to dance at San Francisco Ballet and train at that school, am I just not going to pass on my knowledge? And that definitely was a humbling question to ask myself!

Jeremy Cline
This is really interesting, the difference between being able to can the difference between can I do it and should I do it? So you've talked a lot about having the responsibility to pass on the knowledge - that its what professional dancers do. They've got this duty to go out and teach the next generation of ballet dancers. I sometimes wonder whether people do things solely out of duty, but not necessarily because it's what they want to do and that it's right for them? Is that something that that you've felt, and now that you've been teaching for a while have you kind of crossed that, and now it's something that you love, or is it still duty?

Jordan Tilton
Yeah, I mean, that's such a good point. Because I think a lot of times with duty, you can lose heart, or a passion for something. And I think that's what I was scared of - teaching was an unknown world to me that I wasn't sure if I did have the capacity for it in terms of passion. And I also just had a lot of limiting beliefs. I'm not great with my words, how am I going to communicate to a seven year old, like, but I think that honestly that it was because these doors were opening for me. So for example, after I was leaving San Francisco Ballet, the school director reached out to me and said, Hey, I heard that you have worked with kids before, which I had while I was dancing for San Francisco Ballet - I was helping with a ministry in the Tenderloin where they were offering dance classes for young girls in that neighbourhood of San Francisco. That is a hard neighbourhood to live in. And my friend was running the programme so I would come and help her occasionally, but not consistently enough to say that I was a teacher! But he said, Well, we need a pre-ballet teacher and we would love to have you. So here I am. I'm like, but can I even be a pre ballet teacher? Am I even going to be good at this? But my philosophy is you don't know until you try. I can believe all I want that I'm not going to be good at something but I don't even think you should judge yourself on the basis of if you're going to be good at it. I think you just don't know until you try. And so I couldn't resist this opportunity, even though I didn't feel incredibly qualified. But once I got into the studio, it really pushed me out of my comfort zone in the best way. These skills that I didn't realise that I had started to arise and I would have never known that about myself, had I not been given that opportunity. I think once I started and continued, then my passion grew. So I wouldn't say that I started with these feelings of 'I'm so excited, I can't wait - it's gonna be a great school year!' You know, I just was so nervous, I didn't know what I was doing - it was brand new to me. But as I continued, and as I saw the kids progress, that growth made me excited about the work. And now I love it, but I didn't start with the love of it if that makes sense!

Jeremy Cline
And so now you're talking to all these entrepreneurs, so people, professional dancers who have gone on to start their own businesses and that sort of thing. Are there any particular traits or characteristics which you're noticing which gives them an edge in terms of starting their own business?

Jordan Tilton
Yeah. There are kind of the obvious ones of grit, for example. I may get a lot of 'No's but I'm going to stand up anyway. Or if I fall, I'm going to get back up - and just that resilience to continue on and perseverance through obstacles and that persistence. I think that those are kind of the more known traits that someone could also discipline that someone can attribute to a ballet dancer. However, I think the most special one is patience. It still perplexes me because I think that patience is this quality of knowing that it's not going to happen right away. And I think as an entrepreneur, in order to build something, you have to be patient with it taking the time to grow. And as a ballet dancer, you have to be patient in your growth. You start when you're 10, right? Nine. But you're not going to be on point until you've had that patient continuance in that direction of saying, Okay, I'm going to wait until my teacher says I'm strong enough'. And then when you're injured it forces you to be patient. I think patience is this virtue that we say, oh, patience, it's so great to have it. But you have to be put in a situation where it's demanded of you. And ballet... you know, you have to be patient to get certain roles. There might be someone who's danced that role for years, and it's just not your time yet, so you have to be patient. And you have to be patient in all aspects of training. And I think that for entrepreneurs, when they have patience with themselves in saying, I have so much to learn, and that's okay. But I need to be patient with myself in this process that I'm not just going to jump from career to career or opportunity to lily pad opportunity - there might be that time in which you have to sit and wait. But it doesn't have to be a fruitless time. I think that with patience, the other qualities do start to grow. I think the grit and tenacity - they have to stem from patience in some capacity.

Jeremy Cline
I love that. And this is interesting because I think if you're looking at stereotypical entrepreneur I think you wouldn't necessarily describe them as patient, you know, they often seem to be this, you know, buzz of activity, everything's going on - can't sit still for any time. But when you drill down it's interesting what you say, you know, patience to stick at something rather than jumping from opportunity to opportunity. And I think that's something that people just don't see in entrepreneurs - that stickability that even though they're this bundle of energy who drive going on to do things - there's still this structure behind. So I think that's really interesting. And so in terms of where you might go personally - you're still dancing, you're teaching, you're restoring furniture. You're talking to all these business owners, where might you go next?

Jordan Tilton
I ask myself the same question! [Laughs] I mean, I do I think for many entrepreneurs, you can come up with so many ideas, right? And it's what are you going to commit to and what are you going to patiently endure to get to see that idea come to fruition? So for me, kind of going back to what we talked about, if dancers do have plan B's and it's not talked about in the ballet world, I want Ballet to Business to become a resource where dancers who are curious about business can come and either learn from other people's stories or in the future I would love to be able to host a conference or a workshop in which dancers can come and hear keynotes and get resources, learning about marketing and branding and all of these tools for business. A lot of dancers that I've talked to, it's like, "I don't know how to do my taxes!" "I don't know how to structure my business in a way with my business plan". I think that these are skills that if I were able to host some sort of conference and bring people who are incredibly knowledgeable in those areas of business, that dancers could get confidence because they have those tools to be able to make the ideas or the dreams that they have become a reality. And I would love for Ballet to Business to grow into a resource like that. It's so scary when you say your dream, because it's out there! [Laughs] But at the same time, I find that that's when people will come alongside you. I'm a huge advocate for community and for teams, and I want Ballet to Business to be a community because entrepreneurship can be an incredibly lonely profession. And we grow up with ballet being such a tight knit community - your ballet friends are your best friends. And they are the ones who get you. And I think that having this level of understanding of hey, we've all been through the trenches of ballet together, we all know what it's like to commit to this training. And now we all understand how hard transition is for us, how hard it is to be able to identify as being something other than a ballet dancer. But knowing that being a dancer will always be something that you can resonate with. It may not be in the same capacity, but it's always going to be a part of you. I think that's really special. And I want to help dancers in transition. But I also want to help dancers who are currently dancers, who maybe just are on the edge of burnout. You know, they've been so laser-focused on ballet. And I think that people have multi gifts, I guess! And I think that when you're younger, you see all these things that you're interested in, you're good at. And then once you start to laser in on ballet, all those things fall to the wayside. So for me, I love scrapbooking, I love to write, I love to read, and those things kind of fell to the wayside. But now that I feel like I have the time - I could have found that time I think while I was dancing for San Francisco ballet - those passions are starting to arise again. And so I want people to just be aware that they can and they do, I think, have other things that they're passionate about but they are just kind of buried a little bit deeper under the surface.

Jeremy Cline
There's absolutely going to be a market for that - there's going to be people who need what you have to say. So yeah, good luck with that. I think it's tremendous. Jordan, this has been an absolutely brilliant interview. I've loved every minute of this. Before I let you go, do you have a resource, a tool, a quote, a book, something either that's helped you in your journey to becoming a professional dancer or that has helped you with the challenges or to transition to looking at what else is out there - anything that the listeners can maybe take a look at and think, Okay, I'll take a look at that.

Jordan Tilton
Well, I would say, you know, for me on a more personal level, there's one psalm that I refer to and have referred to ever since I was young, and it's Psalm 23. And within that psalm, I used to actually recite it to myself when I was standing on this side of the corps de ballet, and I had to be super still when I was one of the swans - and oftentimes when you're having to stand super still, your mind can just go crazy. But I would recite this psalm to myself and for me, faith is a huge part in my decision-making. And there's one part of Psalm 23 where it's 'even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me'. And I think that no matter what I go through in life, I really rely on God and knowing that I do trust him as my shepherd, to lead me - that helps give me freedom in not having to have it all together all the time. So on a personal note, Psalm 23 has definitely been a guiding passage for me. And then I would say in terms of resources, I am really loving all things! There's a woman named Jasmine Star and she is always pouring out value in terms of utilising Instagram and social media for business. And I think that the the knowledge that she gives in terms of marketing is unlike anything I've ever heard before. So she has a Facebook page where she'll go live every Wednesday and answer questions about business, how to build an email list, how to show up on social media and on Instagram every day, how to communicate and build an audience. I have learned so much from her and I value that knowledge that she freely gives. She does have her business called Social Curator where you can sign up for a monthly kind of subscription of captions and images, stock images that you can post on your Instagram because her philosophy is just to continue to show up to this cocktail party of Instagram - that Instagram is a cocktail party and you have to introduce yourself, you have to shake hands with people, you have to be curious about others - and I love that approach, because I think a lot of times we get so stuck in wanting to sell, come and listen to my podcasts, you know, or 'come and buy my product!' that we show up on the internet and we just say 'come and buy my product!' but we don't understand how to interact with people on a social level. It is social media after all, right? It's a social interaction. So I would highly encourage anyone out there who is interested in learning more about how to utilise Instagram for your business to check out Jasmine Star. She's also on Instagram and it's really cool because every week on Instagram, she invites business owners to come on live with her and she'll answer their questions. So she's always open to answering questions. And I had the honour of her answering my question twice. And I was just like, what?! This is crazy because I admire her a lot! She answered my question twice, which was pretty cool. So she is someone I would recommend as a resource.

Jeremy Cline
And where can people find you if they want to know a bit more about you?

Jordan Tilton
Oh, well, thank you so much. My podcast Ballet to Business is on iTunes and Spotify, Google Play, and there I do have an introduction episode where you can really hear some other stories within my overall story, and also my website is jordannicoleh.com. And there are show notes as well as personal blog posts that I have put out there. And then there's Instagram, which is @Jordannicoleh. And I love Instagram! I think it's such a fun platform. I love talking to people on Instagram. And that's actually where I find and connect with a lot of these dancers who are now entrepreneurs - through Instagram. And it's been really fun because people will also will say, Hey, this is my friend and kind of introduce me to them through Instagram. They have an amazing business! So I think Instagram is such a fun social platform. So if you like Instagram too, and you want to chat with me there, that's a fun one.

Jeremy Cline
I will put links to all of those in the show notes. Jordan, thank you so much for joining me on the show.

Jordan Tilton
Thank you so much. It was an honour and I look forward to listening to your podcast as well.

Jeremy Cline
Considering how old ballet is, is an art form, I was amazed that there's really very little in the way of formal support to help ballet dancers once they've finished their careers. I love the fact that Jordan has identified this gap, you can tell it's something that she feels really strongly about, and she's doing something to address it. It was also really interesting to hear what Jordan had to say about her dream job. She was at the San Francisco Ballet, a position that most ballet dancers would clearly be extremely envious of. But it turned out that it wasn't right for her. It wasn't her dream job. She described how she saw her husband, keeping healthy, dancing more than ever. And Jordan knew that that was what she needed much more than just dancing for an admittedly very prestigious ballet company. The show notes and links to all the resources for this episode are at changeworklife.com/17. That's number one seven. And don't forget to leave a review on Apple podcasts. It really does help other people find the show. Also, if you've got any of your own questions about career change, then do check out the Facebook group. You'll find it at changeworklife.com/Facebook. Next week's episode is for anyone who's ever thought about starting a side business either maybe it's a way to bring in extra income or perhaps its a way ultimately to transition out of your current career. Its going to be a really interesting episode, one that I think you're going to want to listen to and I can't wait to see you then. Cheers. Bye.

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