A Story About Giving Up

I gave up. And then things started to work.

It was six years of pain I was at the end of all my ropes. Completely broke and in debt, we had to make massive changes to the school for it - and us - to survive.

We had read business books and hired consultants. Spent hours brainstorming and calculating, analyzing reports. Marketing. Pricing. More marketing. We changed and tinkered but our numbers never changed.

Setting prices was one of the most freakin' complicated - and, advisors told us - most important parts of running a good business. I don't know if you have every tried to make prices for Tango but it is mindbogglingly complex. I won't bore you with the grisly details but trust me it is not worth the ink that still drying on my poor sad collection of interlinked, formula-weary and overcaffeinated Google Sheets.

One morning while trying to crank around with that collection, I realized something strange. I realized that I really didn’t care what people paid us for a class or a practica. I didn’t want to think about prices and price rules at all anymore. I wanted to focus on Tango. I wanted to focus on teaching and learning, on dancing, on creativity.

I realized I had never CHOSEN to be in charge of prices. I had just starting doing it as if there was not any other way to do things. But now I saw another way: I could let our students decide to give whatever they wanted. And I realized that I actually without exception trust our community to pay whatever they think is fair for what they are experiencing through Oxygen.

So I gave up. It was an intuitive leap. Overnight we became a donation-based Tango community.

Sometimes the thing you have to give up is an assumption that is so deeply embedded that it is invisible, a worldview that distorts your view of what is possible and okay.

Sometimes all the struggle is there just to point toward freedom, toward opening our minds in ways we may never have found otherwise.

I never give up on people, on relationships, on the projects I have chosen.

But with this experience I am readier than ever to give up on any idea that is constricting my view of what's possible in this magical world.


Mitra Martin

Mitra Martin is Program Director at the Oxygen Tango where her focus is developing an interconnected community learning experience, and facilitating conversation around excellence in Tango as a portal to personal and social transformation.