The other day someone that I used to work with at a local digital marketing agency posted a really beautiful picture of the sun rising over Halifax Harbour on Instagram. She commented that this was one of the “things work waking up early for.” As a full time stay at home dad of two, one of who regularly says things like, “Dad, I’m pretty sure I see the sun rising…” before you can see the actual sun, I’m familiar with the sunrise but I rarely enjoy it and I never take a picture of it. I’m too busy making breakfasts and watching terrible kids television shows on Netflix. I told her that it was a beautiful shot and she responded that, “all she had to do was show up.” That’s true. But not everybody shows up.
I think it’s fair to suggest that in a large number of positions, a big part of the job is literally just showing up. Most businesses expect the bare minimum of their employees. If you’re there, and you’re awake and not throwing feces at the customers, then you’re halfway there. But that’s not the kind of showing up that I’m talking about.
I’m talking about the kind of showing up where you actively seek out something great. I’m talking about where you walk an extra block because there’s a better coffee shop just a bit further. Maybe it’s better because it’s local or because the baristas are really nice or maybe it’s because it’s McDonald’s and you’ve come to realize that McDonald’s makes a damned fine cup of coffee. Whatever the reason, you showed up.
When it comes to writing, showing up is the name of the game. I’ve written some awful tripe but working my through that has made me a better writer. It’s provided me with some scaffolding that I can use to turn something from mediocre to magnificent. Also, some of that showing up and writing grew into something bigger than I would have expected; a published novel. There were a lot of days where I sat in front of my laptop writing that manuscript when I thought, “this is awful…why am I doing this…?” But I showed up. And when I was finished, I was generally happy with the experience.
My friend was absolutely right. She just showed up. The sunrise was there. Her phone was in her hand. She “captured” the picture. If I know her, she was probably on her way to the gym, somewhere that many of us fail to “show up.” She’s an incredible example of what is possible when you “show up.” She’s mastered several skills but showing up. So have I. If I can offer you one piece of advice, for those days that you feel like quitting, going back to bed, cracking a beer, and turning on Netflix…don’t. Instead, show up. Whenever you can, show up.
I have a friend who is paralyzed from the sternum down. I didn’t know him before his paralysis set in from a rare and mysterious degenerative muscle condition. His favorite activities before the disease set in included hiking. He’d participated in some pretty crazy hikes and when his disease took his ability to walk, he decided that the best thing he could do was show up. We headed to Kaninaskis together and he forged ahead of me on the incredible accessible paved paths that they have throughout the mountains on his amazing hand powered bike. (I tried the bike by the way…if you’re ever looking for a workout, I’d strongly suggest it.) It would have been easy for him to feel sorry for himself and collapse in on himself and his extensive He-Man action figure collection (and I MEAN extensive) but instead he decided to “show up” and keep doing what he wanted to do.
It’s people like this that inspire me to be better. They inspire me to figure out a way not to let the arthritis in my knee beat me. They inspire me to take inventory of the incredible things that are around me and act accordingly. They inspire me to take more pictures, make use of the legs I have, enjoy a sunrise even if I don’t want to be up that early and above all else, share my passions with others. They inspire me to “show up.” What inspires you?