It’s hard to dance like nobody’s watching, as the old saying suggests, when you’re filming yourself. By doing so, though, designer Karen X. Cheng documented her attempt to learn how to dance over the course of 100 days—and went viral in the process. Now she wants to help others apply the same incremental progress strategy to learning how to do anything.
The advent of social media has led lots of people to use their friends and family for accountability purposes. Anyone trying to lose weight for instance, can share their weight each day on Twitter, or take pictures of each meal on Instagram. Looping in an audience turns a formerly private struggle into a public challenge. As Cheng has discovered, though, this same tactic can also be used to build new habits, rather than getting rid of old ones. Her new app, Give It 100, is designed to do just that.
"I saw people on YouTube dancing, and they looked so cool—I just had to learn it," Cheng says, of her project’s origination. "I started recording myself dancing, to help me improve faster. When I practice dancing, I record videos, and look back at them, figure out how I could make it look better, try again, and record again. Then, when I looked back at old clips, I found I had improved a lot. I want more people to be able to see themselves improve."
Cheng’s self-improvement quest culminated in a video of her letting loose on the subway, which you may have seen. (It has over 3 million views and counting.) Afterward, the designer was bombarded with hundreds of emails from people wanting to learn her dancing secrets. That's how she got the idea for Give It 100, the site she created with software developer Finbarr Taylor.
Give It 100 offers a 100-day challenge: get better at anything in the world (within legal limits, of course) for 100 days, and share a 10-second video of your progress every step of the way. Some of the people using the site include a guy building a racecar, a lady learning to unicycle, and something called "canine freestyling." Unlike on Facebook, where people typically tout their accomplishments after they’ve achieved them, this website gives people a chance to see how much effort actually goes into doing so.
"A child doesn't notice when she's growing taller. It's the same way when you're learning something," Cheng says. "It happens so gradually, you hardly notice you're getting better. We made Give It 100 for people to capture the moment they start out, and every moment after that."
As eager as the creator of the site seems to be about helping others, though, she also practices what she preaches.
"I'm a first-time entrepreneur, so the main thing I’m teaching myself to do now is to build 100," Cheng says. "I still dance every day, though."