Showing Up is the Key to Success

“I have learned one thing. As Woody [Allen] says, ‘Showing up is 80 percent of life.’ Sometimes it’s easier to hide home in bed. I’ve done both.” — Marshall Brickman

Last week, I went to a concert. There’s nothing odd about that. A lot of people go to concerts in a given week. What was strange, though, is the headliner didn’t show up.

When I checked the venue’s website the night before, everything was still a go. Well…except for a tiny announcement: Beach Slang (the band I’d wanted to see) would be playing an acoustic show.

That seemed odd…a pop-punk band opting for a stripped down set. But I chose to look on the bright side — it implied the show would be more intimate.

On Wednesday night, my girlfriend and I arrived at the venue. We paid our $15. We grabbed seats in the back. The opener played, then the second act. It was 9:45. Beach Slang’s “acoustic set” was supposed to start at 10:30, so we wandered around as a guy took the stage, moving some equipment and setting out a mic and guitar.

I heard a few chords — not guitar tuning chords though. Chords to a song. And then, “Hi. My name is Adam. I’m from the band Beach Slang. The rest of my band didn’t come tonight. I had a bit too much to drink. I didn’t know if any of you would actually stay. But, hey, let’s do a show.” And with that, Beach Slang’s “acoustic” set began — the frontman, alone, with nothing but a loud electric guitar, playing the songs we’d come to hear.

Was it a fun set? Yes. Did Adam have a bit too much to drink? Perhaps. Was it the show I’d expected to see when I paid my $15 at the door? Not exactly…


As an improviser who performs in a group with six others, I know how hard it is to take the stage alone. My first and only five-minute stand up set (the one I’d spent weeks working on) was a hell of a lot scarier than any improv show I’ve ever made up on the spot. The reason — I was up there by myself. There was no one to catch me if I fell. It was me against the world.

And that solo performance was by choice. Based on Adam’s phrasing — that the rest of his band “didn’t come” — I assume there’s more to the story. I assume Adam didn’t choose to play alone. Maybe there was some inter-band drama? Maybe there was some sort of emergency? Or maybe a van broke down somewhere along the way. Who knows.

In spite of all that, in spite of the negative emotions and the fear I imagine were swirling around in Adam’s brain, he got up in front of the crowd, by himself, and played a killer set.


Wednesday night’s performance was not the show I wanted to see, all else being equal. But it was the show I got, and really, it was fun. It was different. It was intimate. And I respect Adam for showing up when he would have preferred to feel sorry for himself at the bar. When there were only 25 people in the audience at 10:00 on a Wednesday. When he was alone in a strange, midwestern city. When it would have been easier to just say “forget it, who really even cares?”

He did what he could to follow through on his promise to his fans. If anything, I have more respect for Beach Slang now than if they’d just show up and played the show as expected.

Showing up — or put another way, keeping your promise to your fans — really is 80% of life. As for the rest? Try giving it your all plus a little bit of luck.


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