When Showing Up Is Not Enough

For a good part of my high school days and even into college I strongly believed in the Woody Allen quote: “80% of life is just showing up.”

Showing up means being there, attending the meetings and events we are supposed to.

Today, I still think the quote is true, but I have a different interpretation of it. You see, for high school and my first year of college, I did show up, but sometimes that is all I did. And at the University of Michigan and everywhere else in life, I realized you cannot just show up.

Think about this in the context of a cause or a project we care deeply about. If we only show up, then we’re holding back, we’re going through the motions. Doing that, when it’s something that matters to us, is called being complacent. However, it might not actually be our fault. Many times, we are taught to hold a little back…to keep it in reserve for when we’re asked for more. Check out an example and explanation of this:

Watch (3:56–4:30)

Holding back will not give you what you want though. What’s the other 20% of the equation then? Executing. If we want to be great at something, we have to do more than show up. We have to bring it! We have to put in the work!

Here’s how I think about it for this month of Good Health in particular:

Just going to the gym isn’t going to get us results. When we’re there, we have to do stuff like lift heavy objects, run in circles, and throw, catch, and dribble balls. We can’t just show up to a race and head straight to the finish line. That’s not “working smart.” That’s cutting corners, and we’re not going to win, we’re not going to have fun that way.

The whole point of the race is to finish something that we start, to get that feeling during the race like we’re flying — like we are Elliott in the movie E.T. pedaling our bicycle as fast as we can, until all of a sudden we take off, and the ground beneath becomes a distant memory.

I think this is the feeling we are seeking, but instead of finding it, we are left dumbfounded when we don’t. The truth is, we will never reach this feeling if we are holding back and all we do is show up.

In March of last year, I received some really wise advice. A friend said to me:

“Don’t hold anything back. You have to bring everything you have to the table and allow your sheer energy and passion to convince everyone that you’re going to make something happen.”

What would it look like if we did more than show up? If we didn’t hold anything back?

Do you think I’m holding back with the Awesome Initiative? What more should I or could I be doing?


Originally published at www.awesomeinitiative.org on April 24, 2015.

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