First, Show up.


4 min read

When I first started this blog a little over two years ago, I could not have predicted that it would turn into a reliable $1,000+ monthly income stream or blossom into a platform that would allow me to meet and interact with a plethora of interesting people all across the web.

I attribute the growth of this blog almost exclusively to the fact that I have been publishing at least three articles per week without missing a week since I started.

Readers often email me and ask how I’m able to consistently come up with new and interesting things to write about.

I always respond by saying that I’m not actually that creative. I don’t have a ton of interesting ideas that naturally come to me. I’m not a particularly great writer. Often, many of my ideas aren’t even that original. But if there’s one “secret” to any of this blog’s success, it’s that I have an uncanny ability to just show up each morning to write. 

I don’t always know what I’m going to write about when I sit down and I don’t always feel motivated to write, but I don’t let that stop me. I just show up.

Related: Ed Latimore has some practical tips on how to actually motivate yourself when you aren’t feeling particularly inspired.

As the adage goes, showing up is half the battle. But that doesn’t seem accurate. I’d say it’s more like 80% of the battle.

The thing about showing up each morning to write is that it’s a habit for me. I’ve been doing it so consistently for over two years that it doesn’t require willpower or motivation. It’s simply second nature.

Gary Keller, author of The One Thing, wrote:

“Success is actually a short race—a sprint fueled by discipline just long enough for habit to kick in and take over.”

Based on my own experience with blogging, I find this to be true. The true growth of this blog was born in the first few weeks of daily writing. Once I made writing a daily habit, the rest was history. 

I think the real “secret” of success in any area, if there is one, is in developing the uncanny ability to show up every single day to work on the same thing. Not just for a few days or weeks at a time, but for months and years.

Twyla Tharp, one of the greatest dance choreographers of all time, once shared what she considered to be the secret to her success:

I begin each day of my life with a ritual; I wake up at 5:30 A.M., put on my workout clothes, my leg warmers, my sweatshirts, and my hat. I walk outside my Manhattan home, hail a taxi, and tell the driver to take me to the Pumping Iron gym at 91st street and First Avenue, where I workout for two hours. The ritual is not the stretching and weight training I put my body through each morning at the gym; the ritual is the cab. The moment I tell the driver where to go I have completed the ritual.

 

It’s a simple act, but doing it the same way each morning habitualizes it — makes it repeatable, easy to do. It reduces the chance that I would skip it or do it differently. It is one more item in my arsenal of routines, and one less thing to think about.

The foundation of her success was built on a simple ritual of getting in a cab each morning. Once she was in the cab and told her driver where to go, there was no choice for her but to do the work that followed.

Writer Anne Lamott echoed the importance of showing up in her book Bird by Bird:

‘But how?’ my students ask. ‘How do you actually do it?’

 

You sit down, I say. You try to sit down at approximately the same time every day. This is how you train your unconscious to kick in for you creatively. So you sit down at, say, nine every morning, or ten every night. You put a piece of paper in the typewriter, or you turn on the computer and bring up the right file, and then you stare at it for an hour or so. You begin rocking, just a little at first, and then like a huge autistic child. You look at the ceiling, and over at the clock, yawn, and stare at the paper again. Then, with your fingers poised on the keyboard, you squint at an image that is forming in your mind — a scene, a locale, a character, whatever — and you try to quiet your mind so you can hear what that landscape or character has to say above the other voices in your mind.

Instead of looking for the next hack, trick, or shortcut that will help you achieve success in your particular field, perhaps prioritize showing up each day first. Once you have built that habit, your odds of achieving success increase substantially.

Writer Stephen King also echoed eerily similar advice in his book On Writing:

Don’t wait for the muse. As I’ve said, he’s a hardheaded guy who’s not susceptible to a lot of creative fluttering. This isn’t the Ouija board or the spirit-world we’re talking about here, but just another job like laying pipe or driving long-haul trucks. Your job is to make sure the muse knows where you’re going to be every day from nine ’til noon. or seven ’til three. If he does know, I assure you that sooner or later he’ll start showing up.

Don’t wait for inspiration, motivation, or a lightning strike of creativity. Just show up. Simply give yourself an opportunity to create something.

Steven Pressfield once said:

“The most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying.”

Sometimes the path to success does involve increasing your knowledge, taking a course, finding a mentor, or buying better tools.

But more often than not, success simply comes from repetitions. The more you do something, the better you get. And the secret to doing more reps is to show up more often. 

As Art Williams said:

“Remember, before you can be great, you’ve got to be good. Before you can be good, you’ve got to be bad. But before you can even be bad, you’ve got to try.”

Zach

Zach is the author behind Four Pillar Freedom, a blog that teaches you how to build wealth and gain freedom in life.

Zach's favorite free financial tool he's been using since 2015 to manage his net worth is Personal Capital. Each month he uses their free Investment Checkup tool and Retirement Planner to track his investments and ensure that he's on the fast track to financial freedom.

Although the bulk of his net worth is invested in index funds, his favorite place to invest in individual stocks is M1 Finance, a site that allows you to build a custom portfolio of stocks for free.

His favorite way to save money each month on his recurring bills is by using Trim, a free financial app that negotiates lower cable, internet, and phone bills with any provider on your behalf.

His favorite micro-investing app is Acorns, a free financial app that takes just 5 minutes to set up and allows you to invest your spare change in a diversified portfolio.

His favorite place to find new personal finance articles to read is Collecting Wisdom, a site that collects the best personal finance articles floating around the web on a daily basis.

Zach

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