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Showing Up

“70% of success in life is showing up.”  Woody Allen

Despite its comic intent, when I returned to college after a 5-year hiatus, I took that statement to heart.

During my first two years in college, showing up was not one of my strengths. I skipped a lot of classes, thinking if I read the books, studied for the tests, and wrote the papers, I could get some extra beauty sleep or spend a sunny afternoon lying in the grass with my friends instead of sitting in a lecture hall. Sometimes I had some really good excuses, like when I smoked an unfiltered cigarette and got a little dizzy. I certainly couldn’t go to class in that state. Needless to say, this was not an approach to academics I would recommend to anyone. It wasn’t just that I missed out on important information by skipping class. My casual approach to class attendance infected my approach to everything else. I didn’t show up to the library to study. I didn’t show up to my typewriter (it was the mid 80s) to write my papers until the night before they were due. You can imagine how that turned out. I still have nightmares about it!

After five years of working and personal growth, I was determined to finish college, and this time I wanted to succeed. I knew I needed to do things differently this time. I needed to show up. My first experience drifting through college took a toll on my confidence. I wasn’t sure I could write brilliant papers or offer great insights in class, but I knew I could attend all my classes and be on time. I could do the assignments to the best of my ability and turn them in on time. I didn’t know it then, but I was doing something I now recommend to anyone who will listen. Focus on the process, and the outcomes will follow. Just show up.

To my surprise, the professors noticed that I showed up. Apparently, a lot of versions of my younger self were haunting the hallowed halls of Yale in the early 90s, maybe they still are. It was amazing how just showing up set me apart and gave me access to opportunities. My confidence grew, and I began to feel that I could do more than just show up.

So when you’re not feeling motivated, or your confidence is low, or you’re sad or anxious or tired, just show up for life anyway. Don’t demand excellence from yourself, just demand that you be present. Muddle through, do what you need to do. You may surprise yourself and be excellent after all.




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