Why, yes! I did actually pull together some real-life career lessons from disco – the age of platform shoes on men and white polyester suits with lapels so wide you could park a car on them.
In no particular order:
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Dress the part
One of the most iconic scenes to come out of the classic disco movie Saturday Night Fever was Tony Manero (played by John Travolta) dressing for a big night out dancing and romancing.
Inspired by both Bruce Lee and a poster of Farrah Fawcett, Tony slips into his best slinky Qiana shirt and some extra snug Millennial pink pants, all the while admiring his own fine form and boogying along to Night Fever by The Bee Gees. While the scene was played for maximum excess — if not chuckles — the underlying message is a good one.
Before Manero could become king of the disco dance floor, he had to get into the right mindset, and a big part of that involved his clothes.
Disco era takeaway: If your clothes don’t speak volumes about your position, you’re probably dressing wrong. While you might not need a full makeover, it’s a good idea to regularly reassess what you wear and what it says about you. (Here are some tips on some new pieces to pick up for spring).
Take some downtime
If you’ve never heard the term “disco nap” before, today’s your lucky day.
It seems that once upon a time, serious disco dancers would head home after work and nap for a few hours, so they’d be fresh and ready to hustle the night away. If you find that you become exhausted at the same time every day, consider taking a break during the day for a quick refresher.
This will work especially well if you have a work event that will drag on into the evening hours like a mixer or cocktail party.
Disco era takeaway: According to the National Sleep Foundation website: “Naps can restore alertness, enhance performance, and reduce mistakes and accidents. A study at NASA on sleepy military pilots and astronauts found that a 40-minute nap improved performance by 34% and alertness 100%.”
And don’t worry that sleeping during the day will ruin your nighttime sleep since the site also advises that “a short nap is usually recommended (20-30 minutes) for short-term alertness. This type of nap provides significant benefit for improved alertness and performance without leaving you feeling groggy or interfering with nighttime sleep.”
If you can’t actually zone out at the office, consider heading to one of the back rooms and listening to a meditation app before a big meeting or using a meditation device like the Muse headband; it’s easy to keep in your desk and can add some downtime to even the busiest day.
Find your crew
Lest you think that disco dancing is all fun and games and buttons open to the navel, some of it included a serious level of coordination. In the age of The Hustle, people lined up to dance together in a very specific formation.
Sure, everyone followed the same steps and made the same hand gestures (clap, clap), but some people added their own special touches as well (hip bump, anyone?).
Disco era takeaway: Unless you’re absolutely sure that you’re the top guy or gal in your field, consider having a group of people you can trust and work well with. Not backup dancers, but those who you’re proud to walk — and shimmy — with as well.
Face your vulnerability
Sure, a majority of the most popular disco anthems were about classic themes like love and lust and ruling the Boogie Wonderland, but the ones that lasted beyond the days of disco had something extra as well. “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor started off by revealing the abject fear of being alone after a failed relationship.
The song then built to a crescendo of pure independence and a proud sense of moving on. Both Don’t Leave Me This Way by Thelma Houston and Shame by Evelyn “Champagne” King were ostensibly about highlighting negative aspects of a relationship.
One seemed to be about a partner leaving while another seemed to be about feelings about shame, but in true disco fashion, they were really about something else entirely – highlighting the desirability of the singers to a funky disco beat.
Disco era takeaway: If you ever have to prostrate yourself publicly because you’ve messed up in the workplace, be sure to follow up with an anthem to the wonders of you.
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