Showing Up Is The Secret to Meaningful Progress at Just About Everything

“Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying” — Steven Pressfield
Photo Credit: <a href=”">iansand</a> Flickr via <a href=”">Compfight</a> <a href=”">cc</a>

In the process of writing my current book, I’ve learned quite a bit about incremental progress. If we do a little bit, over time it starts to add up. As it starts to add up, you reach a point where things get easier and momentum kicks in.

Many people think that the effort you put in has to be herculean. But consistent effort is much more effective than herculean effort. Not only that, consistent effort is actually sustainable.

Video Games

I don’t know much about professional sports, but I play sports video games, specifically Madden Football. When you run the ball, there are plays on which you might gain 2–3 yards. But if you run the ball consistently, there are plays when you get 10–12 yards. It turns out this is the secret to beating good teams with really shitty ones.

Sidenote: To keep the game interesting, I usually will attempt to beat the best team in the game with every team. By continually choosing lower ranked teams, it keeps getting more challenging. Eventually, it all adds up and you find yourself in on the goal line or in the end zone.


A few weeks ago I purchased a one-month yoga membership and resumed my practice after more than a year away. The first few days were a struggle. I felt weak, clumsy, and out of balance. By showing up, I started to make progress and found myself able to do the same poses that were a struggle when I started.

Writing a Book

Writing a book works in a similar way. You have days when you might make a dent that’s only a paragraph and you might come back tomorrow and make a dent that’s an entire chapter or 10 pages. If you keep showing up, it’s inevitable that you’ll make progress. In the process, you’ll also become a better writer.

Surfing and Snowboarding

Surfing and snowboarding work in the same manner. If you want to make progress, you have to show up. With surfing the conditions are always changing. The only thing that is really in your control is getting in the water. The more water time you put in, the more familiar you get with the rhythm of the ocean. Anytime I’ve been in the water for multiple days in a row, my skill level increases exponentially. Up until this year, I would only snowboard twice a season. As a result, my progress was quite sporadic. This year I decided to buy my own gear along with a season pass. Not surprisingly, I’ve progressed quite a bit. I even managed to hit a small jump once the last time I was out.

Schedule Activities that are Meaningful

As I’ve said before, calendars are more effective than to do lists, and good things happen you spend the first hour of your day on activities that add meaning to your life. Whether you want to write, exercise, learn a language or pick up an instrument, schedule a consistent time for it.

Have a System

Having a system of some sort is essential to increasing your creative output. By having a system you’re able to do more deep work and reduce decision fatigue. With a system, your effort also becomes more sustainable.

When we get into the habit of showing up, we make incremental progress. That creates momentum. With enough momentum, you’re able to experience exponential increases in skill level and progress.

Showing up isn’t glamorous or sexy. It’s a simple daily grind. You put one foot in front of the other. But if you just keep going, eventually you’ll arrive. And sometimes your ship will sail off course and you’ll arrive at a destination far greater than the one you initially set out to reach.

Before You Go…

If doing the best work of your life is important to you, check out my free guide: “Optimizing Productivity & Creativity.

The tactics I’ve packed into this guide allowed me to write over 1 million words in the last 2 years. What could it do for your life’s work? Don’t miss it.

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