Start Before You’re Ready

13 April 2019

START BEFORE YOU’RE READY, an article for aspiring DJs

When learning anything new, there comes a time when you must go from learning to putting that learning into a live performance. You will never be ready for this. All your ducks will never be in a row enough for you to feel secure. And, if they are, it means you’re not stretching yourself enough. You must have courage and be willing to fail in order to learn in real time. Six years ago, I played my first and only Ecstatic Dance (so far). I was dancing at the Yoga Barn in Bali. The person running the dance knew I ran Ecstatic Dance Oakland. He would be away while I was there and asked if I could sub for him. Before I knew what I was doing, I said, “Yeah, sure.” I had no clue what to do, but wanted to seize the opportunity in front of me. I was terrified. I spent the next week creating a playlist in iTunes. The next week, I went to the dance, plugged in my computer, and hit play on the playlist. It wasn’t a disaster, but it wasn’t great by any stretch of the imagination. I knew this. But I had to do it anyway.

I have learned to say yes before I’m ready. It’s how I create anything. In July 2018, Bernice and I were swimming in the Ionian Sea in Corfu, Greece when the idea for this training came to us. We brainstormed, talked about it, and then told everyone at the festival we were attending that we were producing an Ecstatic DJ Training. We invited them to give us their email address so we could let them know about it. This happened in 24 hours. We got 16 email addresses of people interested in the training less than 24 hours after we conceived it. Ten months later, the Ecstatic DJ Training is a reality.


1.Set a date and tell people about it.

Commit to keeping this date no matter what. You will bust your butt to be ready for it, especially if all your friends know.

2. Get support.

I cannot stress how much of a game changer this has been for me. When I’m stretching myself, I need to know there are people who will love me and support me no matter what. They are my cheerleaders and help me to see my own brilliance. Gather your support systems like you are gathering a small army. Ask them for help, and reciprocate and give them help when they ask for it. DO NOT try to get the non-supporters on board. There are people who will never support you, no matter how hard you try. Or people who are really good at finding fault in any idea. These are not the people to work with now. You are nursing a young and tender sapling (your new identity as a DJ). It is precious, and you must take care to only share it with those who can nurture it and help it grow.

3. Celebrate the tiny wins.

Did you just master a new transition technique? Did you book your first gig? Did you get home and set up your home system? Celebrate these wins! It’s easy to gloss over them and focus on the next thing… on what you still don’t know. But it’s important to celebrate each step toward success. When I told my friend Nina about completing the Ecstatic DJ Training manual, and that we’re celebrating by going to dinner and then to see Beats Antique, she paused and teared up, reminding me what a milestone this is. And then she said, “Hell yes we’re going to celebrate!”. And it gave me motivation and filled my heart with pride.

4. Do anything else you can think of to make it more real.

Create a logo for yourself as a DJ. Make yourself some stickers with your logo and DJ name on it and give them to your friends. I like to create postcards. Then it always feels real to me. Or buy yourself a new DJ outfit and hang it where you can see it every day. At a party, talk about how you’re a DJ and why it matters to you (even if you haven’t played out yet). Every day, envision yourself DJing exactly how you want to be. Really feel it as if you were at the venue playing live. Do anything you can think of that will help you stretch into this new identity. It will help make it happen more quickly.

5. Remember growing pains are real, normal, and part of the process.

Growing pains are not mistakes. Growing pains are not wrong. Growing pains are right! They mean you’re learning something new and stretching yourself. Growing pains are something to celebrate, even though it may not feel like it in the moment.

Donna Carroll

Donna Carroll is the founder of Ecstatic Dance International and cofounder of Ecstatic Dance Oakland. She is a social entrepreneur who believes dance and music transform lives.

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