Eighty percent of success is showing up. – Woody Allen
Psychologists believe that the more you avoid or prolong meeting with the source of your fear, the more it will get intensified. That is why a number of phobias are treated with what is called exposure therapy, where, under controlled conditions with guidance from your therapist, you confront your fear gradually until you, hopefully, overcome it. Though this is a procedure only applied in more intensive cases, most of us have this avoidance = intensification scenario in most things we do.
I have a pair of slippers that need to be repaired. Every Sunday, I forget about them. There are a couple of pairs of jeans I have that I wish to donate, but I have to get the zippers fixed first. They have been lying around, gathering dust, for over one and a half years. Now, these are hardly matters I’d raise with a therapist (though my experiences with therapists are made of stuff you would not, and certainly not I at the time, expect). But, they bug me to no end everyday, making me think something is wrong with me, intensifying the lousiness I feel at forgetting about them. Maybe, one of these days when I do show up, at the cobbler’s and the tailor’s respectively, what I will feel is not just the eighty percent of success in showing up, but the rest twenty percent of absolute joy in doing so.
Success isn’t enough of a reason to show up. It isn’t an appealing enough incentive. It is nowhere near the relief you feel when you have showed up for what makes you feel something greater than mild discomfort and, hopefully, less than genuine-horror-I-may-have-a-panic-attack. For anxious people, a comforting sandwich with a side of fries is more celebratory than an award. I’d even prefer nibbling at that sandwich while I show up, though most scenarios that require showing up won’t allow it. Even the tailor would find it very, very weird of me to be eating a sandwich nervously while telling him, way too fast, that I need to get a couple of jeans repaired or I might have a nervous breakdown. However, the sandwich would actually lessen my embarrassment, as my mouth would be too full of food to speak. I think that is why eating was invented. Not just for pleasure and nourishment, but also to substitute the foot in your mouth that will inevitably happen when you show up.
The novelist Ian McEwan has talked about the importance of showing up – for him, sitting at his computer in the morning. Lee Child has a separate flat for it in his building without internet or people. Dan Brown has a separate building on his property. McEwan’s setting seems more affordable for a broke aspiring writer, but even as I have more resources than I’d like to give credit for – i.e., a laptop, internet access, books, pen, paper, time, capability to buy all of these except time – showing up is still a scary, scary thing. Probably because I’ve let not showing up grow, by whatever life had to offer instead. It isn’t a fear, because I love writing. It’s a bit like not watching a TV show you haven’t seen yet that you know you are going to like, like it is for Game of Thrones and myself.
There are mysterious reasons why we don’t show up even for things we love. Maybe, because we are scared of loving it too much. Maybe we are scared of losing ourselves in it, and thus losing a sense of the life we’ve built for ourselves. Maybe, because we are more scared of change than we are in love with our potential loves. And yet, success in anything, personal and professional, is often the result of chaos, broken promises, a life of disorder and ignorance of responsibility. No one says success has to be perfect. But, it wouldn’t hurt to show up and see if it’s worth it.