Lessons in motivation from Dirty Dancing

Baby looks at Penny and says, “I envy you.”

Why? Because Penny is beautiful, she’s an amazing dancer, and she seems to have this amazing boyfriend Johnny.

Yes, I’m talking about Dirty Dancing, one of my top favourite films. 

Couple dancing ballet

Use your envy and turn it into something positive. Let it spur you on to greater things.


Of course, Penny’s life isn’t particularly charmed as Baby later finds out, and she and Johnny are just good friends.

But Baby doesn’t know that, and really she’s talking about the amazing dancing. Baby wants to dance, you see.

And later, she does. Brilliantly.

You often hear people talking about how you should always think positive, banish negative thoughts, and so on.

That’s great as far as it goes.

But here’s what I think: negativity can be a powerful driver to do better.

Take envy, for example. Not jealousy; jealousy is an ugly emotion and really has no useful purpose. But envy… envy is great. It drives you to want to be a better person, to have a better standard of living, and sometimes to want what you don’t yet have.

And that’s not a bad thing.

I’m not really talking about material stuff here, but there’s nothing inherently wrong with wanting something that’s perhaps a little shallow (I bought a rolling pin with dinosaurs etched onto it the other day, so I could make dinosaur biscuits. Yes, it is awesome.)

I’m thinking more about when you see somebody’s great writing and think, “I’d love to write like that!”

Or you see somebody’s amazing cartoons and think, “I wish I could do that!”

The answer, of course, is to go and learn. Practise. Do it. Get better.

It’s our first day of proper climbing out here in Kalymnos. We met up with all our friends last night – 11 of us for dinner – and shortly we’re all meeting at the crag. There are some very good climbers among us and I know I’ll be watching with envy.

I also know that envy will drive me to push myself that little bit harder, climb that little bit better, and watch them to see how they do what they do.

Without that envy, I wouldn’t be motivated to be better than I am now.

So, for sure think positive when it suits you, and banish the type of “negative” thoughts and emotions that are simply destructive. But if you’re angry for some reason, use it to spur you on to do better. If you’re envious of someone for something, use that envy to motivate you to achieve what they have.

Instead of, “Why is Penny such an amazing dancer, when I have two left feet? That’s so unfair!” reframe it into, “I’m going to learn to dance like that.” Just as Baby did in Dirty Dancing.

That’s what I did when I encountered somebody I massively admire. She’s just an awesome writer. And I decided that rather than whine and mope, I’d get off my arse and make it happen.

As myself. Not as an inferior copy of her.

And that’s how I wrote my book, Business For Superheroes.



Vicky Fraser is a copywriter, author, and entrepreneur. She really did run away with the circus… but when she’s not swinging from a trapeze, she’s showing other copywriters and small business owners how to work with better clients, make more money, and stop missing bathtimes, first words, and dinners with angry partners. In fact, she wrote the book on it. Get your copy here.

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