How To (Not) Show Up

Life is made up of commitments. Our schedules are marked with them, our days are filled with them. Every person, every day shows up for them. Every day you show up for something, whether it is self imposed or thrusted on you.

The importance of showing up is evident in this Woody Allen statement, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” I cannot tell the exact extent to which showing up determines success, but I know that success is impossible without showing up.

There is more to Allen’s statement than meets the eye mind. A literal interpretation will only water it down, and miss the wisdom that is not immediately apparent.

Showing up is not just about being present. It is being present with intention, with a goal. A goal to add value to another or yourself. For instance, showing up for a student should be not attendance, but learning. Like an author A.D. Aliwat said, ‘Attendance means nothing, bodies are not minds.’ For a father, it isn’t just being at home, but bonding with the kids. Because, according to Tim Russert, the late American television journalist, ‘The most precious things a father can provide are time, attention, and love.’ For work, showing up isn’t just sitting through a meeting, but engaging with others meaningfully. Emily Axelrod, said, ‘No matter what role you play in a meeting, how you show up in that role is critical to the meeting’s success.’

You get rewarded for making a contribution, not for just showing up. That is why Frank Sonnenberg, one of America’s top 100 thought leaders asserts, ‘Recognize and reward people for excellence, not for just showing up.’

So you could show up, but

  • Late
  • In the wrong place
  • Shabby and sloppy
  • Unexcited (with a not-feeling-like-it mood)
  • Uninvited
  • Unfit
  • Unprepared and clueless etc

If you want a ‘how to’ for showing up foolish, the list above will work perfectly. However, there is no way showing up this way leads to success. Except in Utopia.

On the other hand, showing up:

  • Punctual
  • At the right place
  • Smart and organised
  • Motivated (even if you don’t feel like it)
  • Invited
  • Capable
  • Prepared and informed

Sets you up for success.

Whatever it is you have decided to do, keep at it. Keep showing up, in spite of circumstances and feelings. You will see will be worth it, in time. The task may be insignificant, the person involved may seem unimportant, the cause may not seem worthwhile. Still show up.

It may not come naturally, yet make a habit of showing up. More often than not, it is a struggle for me to keep showing up on this blog with a post every week. I strive to keep at it, in spite of failures, because I know it is worth the effort.

But remember, just showing up, is showing up foolish. Always show up with intention, and a goal to add value, to others and/or yourself.

You make the most of any day when you show up for your commitments, whether you feel like it or not.

5 thoughts on “How To (Not) Show Up

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