Showing up is the foundation upon which all other habits and behaviors are built. It is key to every accomplishment we achieve, every change we make, and is especially important when we are rewriting our story.
In a recent podcast between Brene Brown and James Clear, author of Atomic Habits. James Clear was asked if you were to focus on one thing, what would it be?
James told the story of one of his greatest success stories. James describes, “…Mitch, I mention him in Atomic Habits. He lost over 100 pounds, he’s kept it off for more than a decade, and he had this crazy little rule, this funny little thing that he would do when he first started going to the gym, which is, he wouldn’t go to the gym for longer than five minutes, so he would get in the car, drive to the gym, get out, do half an exercise, get back in the car and drive home, and it sounds ridiculous, right? It sounds like silly, you’re like, obviously, this is not going to get the guy the results that he wants, but if you take a step back, what you realize is that he was mastering the art of showing up, he was becoming the type of person that went to the gym four days a week. Even if it was only for five minutes. And I think that this is kind of the deeper truth behind this, that people often overlook.”
In our pursuit of change, we struggle with being unable to establish a habit before shifting focus to stretching it, scaling it, or enhancing it. Our mind goes straight to efficiency mode rather than focusing on execution.
James continues “we’re so focused on optimizing that we don’t give ourselves permission to show up, even if it’s in a smaller way, we don’t give ourselves permission to do less than we had hoped, even if it was more consistent.”
A habit must be established before it can be improved.
Showing up is the Art of the Start
Looking at the greats, those we admire for mastery and accomplishment, we see this one rule emerge and made obvious.
Stephen King: King built a habit of writing at least 1,000 words every day. He has said that this daily habit has helped him to maintain his prolific output and become a master of the craft of writing.
Howard Stern: Stern built a habit of seeking new material and ideas, everyday. He said this habit helped him to stay relevant to his audience and to maintain his status as a master of his craft
J.K. Rowling: She described how she became a best selling author while she was a struggling single mother living on welfare. Despite her challenges, she made a habit of showing up at a local cafe every day to work on her writing.
Tim Ferris: Tim describes 5 minute Morning Pages, he quickly jots down thoughts in his mind that he uses primarily for getting unstuck or problem solving answering the question, “what should I do?”
Jerry Seinfeld: “The only way to write better jokes is to write every day”. To ensure this habit would stick, he would draw an X through every day he wrote new material. The chain of X’s will grow and then “your only job is to not break the chain.”
Elizabeth Gilbert: “I write nonstop until midmorning. Then I spend the rest of the day staring at a wall because my brain is like a fried egg. I’ll have an early dinner and an early bedtime, by 7 or 8 p.m., and I’ll do it again the next day and the next until the book’s finished.”
Andrew Huberman: Huberman starts each day with boosting energy by getting sunlight. “Getting sunlight in your eyes first thing in the morning is absolutely vital to mental and physical health. It is perhaps the most important thing that any and all of us can and should do in order to promote metabolic well-being, promote the positive function of your hormone system, get your mental health steering in the right direction.”
Woody Allen: Allen’s best known show up habit is that he writes every day for a fixed amount of time. He explained: “It’s the steadiness of it that counts. Getting to the typewriter every day is what makes productivity.” He is well known for the quote, “80% of success is showing up”.