Today marks my three year anniversary of writing—no, scratch that—today marks three years of showing up. You may have heard of the term “show up” before. You may have heard the advice that all you need to do is show up. But there’s an ambiguity surrounding such advice which makes it appear magical. What is often failed to be told when dishing such advice is that showing up requires much more than your mere attendance, it requires consistency and persistence. I want to shed light on a more concrete example of what it means to “show up.”
Outside of what I do as a designer, I run competitively. I ran in high school, I ran in college, and now I’m pursuing the daunting task of running post-collegiately. While I was in college, I developed the routine of waking up at 4:30 AM so I could get some work done before starting my run at 7 AM. Everyday is the same routine, and everyday I show up. I first became familiar with the idea of showing up from Sean McCabe’s philosophy of Show Up Everyday for Two Years. I bring up running because it is the most tangible way I experience this concept.
I wake up every morning to go for a run, but there will be no given morning or no given workout that’ll directly push me over the edge to set a new personal record, win a race, or qualify for a national meet. Instead, it has been that act of showing up everyday over the course of the past 6 years that has gotten me to where I am today. With running, all of the evidence and all of the work is laid out in front of you—there is no becoming impatient or looking for shortcuts, and that’s what I love about it. Not many people have this first hand experience though, and so the advice of showing up for two years can be daunting and you may find yourself seeking out distractions. This is just a reminder that there are no short cuts. There is no easy way out. There are no quick guides to becoming rich, famous or experienced. Like running, you have to practice everyday, for it’s the accumulation of that work overtime which becomes your success.
If I were to take a few months off from running or even just a couple of weeks, I’d begin to lose some of my fitness. So if I were to take that time off, I couldn’t expect to come back and immediately be in the shape I was in prior to taking the break. It’s physically not possible. This concept translates the same in the creative industry. If you aren’t consistently producing anything then you can’t expect to be getting client inquiries, press, etc., and if you aren’t creating then you can’t be progressing. It’s the consistency of showing up which enables growth.
Although, consistency alone doesn’t suffice. If you were to run everyday, you’d certainly see progress, however, it’d be asymptotic meaning progress would diminish over time and you’d eventually plateau. Because you don’t get faster by running the same pace everyday. You have to routinely push yourself, build new obstacles, and be persistent. Tracksmith’s head of marketing, Josh Rowe recently said, “People often ask me, ‘How do I run faster? How do I improve my 5K time, my 10K time, my half-marathon time?’ And one of the things I tell them is: Just run faster. You jog the same pace every day, so at some point run a little faster, try to push it up a little bit. And the only way you can run a faster race is if you train a little faster.” Persistence requires some form of adversity, and often times we need to create our own. It is the catalyst of growth and gives purpose to your consistency.
Showing up isn’t easy. Most people fail at it. As you take on your own challenge of showing up, you too will face your own difficulties and have to overcome your own struggles. It’s only by making a wholehearted commitment to the process, by understanding the importance of consistency and persistence, and being in it for the long run that you will succeed. If you aren’t seeing results, think like a runner. Take a step back, evaluate your training, and create a game plan.