As you go through life, you’ll meet the people who have it all figured out. The girl who, in 8th grade, starting taking zoology classes at the local junior college because she knew she wanted to be a Giraffe veterinarian. The kid who practiced the clarinet for 8 hours a day since 3rd grade, not because his parents made him, but because he loved it and knew he wanted to be in the New York Philharmonic. The college freshman with a 20-year plan to become a senator. The guy in the next cubicle who has mapped out every step to become the next CEO.
This can be debilitatingly intimidating. It can make you feel like a failure just because you don’t have your entire life planned out. But the truth is, almost nobody knows what they want to do with their life. Even fewer people have any idea what steps they should take to accomplish their goals. So how do successful people end up being successful, without having some grand plan for their lives?
Successful People Show Up
Woody Allen said 80% of success is showing up (http://quoteinvestigator.com/2013/06/10/showing-up/). This never really made sense to me. Doesn’t everyone show up? Well, no. They don’t.
At the most basic level, some people never show up at all. They don’t show up for school. They take dead end jobs. They lose those jobs, or get stuck in them, because they literally fail to show up for work. If you’re reading this, you’re hopefully beyond this.
But a lot of intelligent, educated people still aren’t showing up in the way Woody Allen meant. They’re taking “gap years” and traveling the world. They’re taking jobs as bartenders and waitresses, while they “figure out what their passion is” or what they “really want to do with their lives.” These people look like they’re having WAY more fun. They post photos of themselves on the beach at noon on a Tuesday.
Why is this a problem? What’s wrong with taking some time to “find yourself” or figure out what you want to do with your life? First, it’s ass-backwards since it assumes your “true self” or your “passion” is out there in the world somewhere, just waiting to be found. (It’s not.)
Second, this is the exact worst time to not show up. The most important time to show up is when you don’t know what the fuck is going on. Nobody that’s graduating from Harvard and Yale knows what the fuck is going on. They’re just as scared and clueless as you are. The difference is, they look around and say “Well, I don’t know what the fuck is going on. I might as well make some money and learn a skill until I do know what’s going on.” So they take a consulting job. They show up. They earn a living, even though they have no fucking clue what’s going on. But they keep showing up. They might be miserable. They’re probably miserable for a few years. But because they show up every day, they start to figure out what the fuck is going on, and life goes from kinda miserable to kinda great. All because they showed up and did their job.
One of the reasons this isn’t talked about more is because it feels embarrassing. Many people who got successful without planning out their lives feel like their success must have been the result of dumb luck. Their success feels like an accident. But it’s not. They didn’t hit the lottery. They showed up. Even when they had no fucking clue what was going on. Even when it sucked. Even when it looked like their friends were having more fun. They decided to show up, and they kept showing up, until they got good.
So show up. Then, when you get good at something, move on to a new area where you have no idea what the fuck is going on. Keep showing up until until you figure it out and get good. Repeat this over and over, and you are guaranteed to be successful.