Last night I watched the semi-finals of Dancing with the Stars while lying in bed eating dinner with my husband and my three cats. Tease me all you want, but it was a whole lot more fun to watch people in satin and sequins mamboing and fox-trotting than, say, watching doom and gloom on the TV news, or a blood and guts flick on the Spike channel.
In any event, Lance Bass, a contestant who used to perform with the boy-band, N Sync, did something unusual to help him get a leg-up on the competition: He brought his beloved granddad to the show and dedicated his performance to him. Lance was going to do a foxtrot, and figured since his granddad had grown up dancing this particular dance, some of his grandfather’s latent abilities might rub off on him.
As it happened, Lance nailed his foxtrot, even after one of his dancing shoes fell off (!!) halfway through his dance number. His grandfather was jubilant. Lance was ecstatic: He got the highest points he’d ever received on any dance routine thus far.
Here’s my point: By dedicating his performance to his granddad, who was sitting in the audience, cheering him on, Lance imbued his performance with a meaning greater and deeper than usual. He danced, this time, not just for himself, but to honor another. And, as a result, he danced better, with more focus and abandon than he had ever done before.
Authors dedicate their work to others all the time: Open up just about any book, and you’ll notice a dedication at the very beginning. Actors do this, too: They’ll dedicate a particular show to someone they love or admire—their mother, a person who is sick or ailing, the ghost of Sir Lawrence Olivier, whatever works for them. And when they do, the act of dedicating their work in another’s honor gives their performance greater focus, meaning and purpose, and often elevates the quality of their work.
According to Daniel H. Pink, the author or a wonderful book I’m currently reading called A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future, dedicating your life or your work to someone you admire or something greater than/outside of yourself gives it a richer and more fulfilling meaning and purpose. So why not give it a try? The next time you have a difficult task to perform—a tricky presentation to give, a tough phone call to make– dedicate your task to someone you love and admire. If it worked for Lance Bass last night on Dancing With the Stars, it can work for you.