Personal Legend Project: Betsy Callahan


Betsy Callahan, Ballroom Dancer

When I first started taking Betsy’s photos for this project, I sensed she was a little nervous.  Later she told me that I was the first in the family to be invited into the studio.  Betsy is my wife’s sister.  A number of people in the family said she’d be a great fit for this project.  I agreed.

Something inspiring about Betsy’s dancing is that its goal is one of personal growth.  It’s not a path to make money or gain outside recognition.  The pursuit itself is the reward.


The following set of six questions will be answered by each of the subjects.

1)  Some people call it a “true calling” or their “life’s work.”  In the book The Alchemist, author Paulo Coelho calls it your Personal Legend. What do you consider to be your true calling, or Personal Legend?

My passion is competitive ballroom dancing. I love the training, learning the techniques and exploring how to express music with a partner. In short, I love the process.


2)  When did you first realize that this was your calling?


I have always done some form of dance since I was a little girl. When I went back to college at the age of 32 my school was offering a minor in ballroom dancing. I enrolled in my first class and a new door was opened up to me. I found my “home”. My soul sang. I have been studying it ever since. Right now I have an instructor who is so talented and has a wealth of knowledge that he is willing to share. Learning the art is an ongoing process. I have been doing it now for 20 years.


3)  People often become completely engrossed, losing track of time or outside concerns while performing tasks related to their calling.  This might be referred to as being “in the zone” or “flow.”  When do you experience this most often?

Every day that I walk through the studio door I try to leave my other self behind. This 3-4 hours is my time. The ritual I follow to get ready for a lesson helps prepare me to focus. Sometimes it works better than others but most of the time I’m in the zone until I change clothes and head back home. I’m working on being in the zone during competitions. I get sooo nervous.


4)  What is the greatest challenge or obstacle you’ve faced in pursuit of your life’s work?

My biggest challenge is accepting my limitations. I have asthma so sometimes my body will not do what I want it to.


5)  What has pursuing your Personal Legend taught you?

It has taught me that I’m stronger than I thought I was, that my mind can be my enemy or my friend, and that battling the nay-sayers is a battle worth fighting. I’ve learned to be brave and step out of my safety zone. I’m constantly saying to myself, “Face the fear and walk into it”.


6)  What piece of advice can you offer to others seeking their true calling?

I encourage everyone to discover their gifts and not to give up until they do. Following “the path of the heart” isn’t easy but living your passion makes you see and experience life differently.

Are you following your Personal Legend?  Tell us about it in the comments below.

Subscribe to the blog, or add us to your RSS feed to follow along as we post a new set of images each day for the next 30 days.   For background on this project, check out our first post in the series.

Author: Zach Dobson

Zach Dobson is a documentary and commercial photographer based in Indianapolis. He holds a degree in journalism from Indiana University with a concentration in photography. Since starting his business in 2006, Zach has focused on documenting people’s lives and businesses in action. Zach’s client list includes the Indiana Pacers, Coca-Cola, the AARP, ZipCar, Indiana University, Visit Bloomington, Hamilton County Tourism, Land O’Lakes, RIOT LA Comedy Festival, Indianapolis Public Schools, Indiana High School Athletic Association. Zach is a Professional Member of the American Society of Media Photographers [ASMP]. He resides in Carmel, Ind. with his wife and business partner, Courtney, and their five children.

3 thoughts on “Personal Legend Project: Betsy Callahan

  1. Jan says:

    Congratulations on excellent interview and beautiful pictures!??

  2. Mary Lou Schooley Peden says:

    I am so impressed by your truthfulness. and I admire your recognizing that you are never too old to take up something new. You are a true inspiration to all women!


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