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"Showing Up"

Page created: 2022-09-10

"80 percent of success is showing up" --Woody Allen

For years, I’d heard about the benefits of consistently working on things. But it wasn’t until my assembly nights that I really "got it" deep down in my bones.

For the first time ever, I got in a project habit that was truly consistent. Every single night for months on end. No matter how tired I was, I opened up that netbook computer and turned it on. I’ve lost count of the number of times I fell asleep at the login prompt.*

I joked for a while that my LOC (lines of code) per day was about 1. (Then I actually checked, and it was closer to 4. But these are assembly instructions, so that’s probably less that one line in a higher level language.)

I had gaps. I had a bad month where I didn’t even turn on the little computer. And I’d left it in a bad state where starting up again meant figuring out a difficult problem. That was sad and I feared the project was over since I had never managed to restart one after such a hiatus.

But one night I turned it on again, read a little bit of the code, then fell asleep.

I turned it on again the next night and read a little more.

The next morning I had some ideas and wrote down some notes. I tried it that night and it worked. I was back!

I kept showing up. I split hard tasks over many nights. I made text logs of where I was, which helped me get right back to my previous state immediately.

Eventually, the project couldn’t help but to get finished. I mean, everything does eventually, if you just keep working on it. The speed doesn’t matter. Just showing up matters.

My email friend Salman wrote a great post about this effect:

"When I showed up, I didn’t have to make a big impact each time. I just had to show up. And that changed everything."

That’s exactly it.

Related: Personal Projects vs. Time and PTV and Commit!.

*As someone with a "busy brain" who has always needed a fiction book to fall asleep, I would never have previously thought that was possible. (Also, parenthood has taught me that I can fall asleep while reading a story out loud, which is a bizarre experience for both the reader and listener.)