"Eighty percent of success is showing up." - Woody Allen
When I first left home to attend college, I took full advantage of the new-found autonomy that living at home and the rigid schedules of high school had never offered. Classes were “optional”? I could roll out of bed when I pleased, sleep in if I felt the need, and it was up to me to manage my own schedule? Freedom had never tasted so good.
My newfound responsibility quickly came back to bite me when, after my first 2 semesters, my GPA put me in danger of losing my scholarship and I was placed on academic probation. Because my school was prohibitively expensive, losing my scholarship meant I could no longer attend that institution. I had been a good student with pretty minimal effort in high school. Why was I faltering now?
When I returned for my third semester I made a small yet fundamental change to my approach that made all the difference; I simply decided to go to class. I didn’t focus more on homework or spend more time in studying for exams. In fact there was one 8AM class I must have fallen asleep in every single day. But I went – to that class and all the others.
The result? I was able to eek my GPA above the danger zone that semester and after prioritizing my attendance the next few years, I graduated with honors.
Why is “Showing Up” so important?
“Showing up” is probably the most important step to reach any goal. Whether it’s going to class, or actually sitting down to write, or opening your development environment, or simply going somewhere that inspires you, “showing up” makes every subsequent step of the process easier.
This isn’t because “showing up” is all that’s necessary to succeed – far from it. But without showing up, everything else is a whole lot harder.
Here’s an example: You need to do some design work for a creative project you’re spearheading. “Showing up” might simply involve sitting down, powering on your computer and opening Photoshop. Or better yet, you could “show up” by taking a sketchbook, your laptop, headphones, and some inspiring music to a local coffee shop. Just opening Photoshop or traveling to a coffee shop doesn’t guarantee your work gets done. But by showing up, you’re setting yourself up to make progress.
The benefits of “showing up”
The benefits of focusing your energy on “showing up” are too many to count, but the ones that have helped me the most are as follows:
It’s an easy win.
We’re often best motivated when we feel like we’re already making progress; it’s why checking an item off our to-do list gets us so amped to tackle the next item. Showing up starts that momentum with an easy win and sets the stage for you to really get in the zone.
You can use your environment as natural motivation.
“Showing up” often involves going somewhere that’s more conducive to focusing on your goals. Even if your only aim is to take 3 steps into your gym and sign in, being in that environment will probably be enough to make actually working out a reality. Taking the effort to actually go to that drawing or photography meetup can be enough to spark your creative juices and dive into your art. Show up and use your environment to your advantage.
You’ll get information and experience you wouldn’t have otherwise.
One of my bucket list items was to do a stand-up comedy open mic night, a proposition which frankly terrified me. I went to the open mic three times before I actually stepped on stage and told some jokes, but in those first three nights I learned how the list worked, the types of jokes that worked, and got comfortable with the venue. Even showing up and doing nothing else was valuable, and without it I probably would never have checked that item off my list.
It gets you moving and avoids paralysis.
The biggest benefit to focusing on simply showing up is avoiding the “paralysis by analysis” so many of us go through when starting or continuing a project. You’re much less likely to get overwhelmed by the 50 steps required to finish the project when you can first focus all your energy on step 1 – just showing up. It keeps you present in the current moment and takes away a lot of our self-inflicted pressure to succeed.
So the next time you’re searching for motivation or unsure of how to proceed on a project or goal, figure out what it means to “show up” and just worry about doing that. Once you’ve showed up, the next steps become infinitely easier.
Want another take?
After I wrote this article I did a quick search to find some other takes on the importance of showing up – and found some great ones. Check them out here:
Leave a comment below with a time you just resolved to “show up” and how it helped you make progress!