Show Up and Do the Work

I’m trying a new experiment. I’m writing an article and publishing it today, whether I like it or not.

I apologize in advance for the five minutes of life you’ll never get back.

Sometimes we just have to show up and do the work.

Professional baseball players go through slumps. I can relate — I went through an 8-year long slump during my illustrious little league career, finishing with a lifetime batting average of .128. Including tee ball.

But these major leaguers are the best in the world at what they do, and they sometimes struggle. They have 1-for-30 stretches at the plate. Their batting average drops 80 points and they get sent down to the minors.

This is a big deal. Professional athletes get paid for their stats. An 80 point dip in batting average could cost them millions during their next contract negotiation.

At this level, the problem is usually mental, not physical. The player starts critiquing every little thing he does — every little nuance of his swing. He makes tiny changes in his approach. He starts lacing up his left shoe first instead of his right one. And when these small changes don’t work, his psyche takes another hit. So he looks for more things to change.

The players who break out of this cycle do so by showing up. They get in the batting cage and start swinging the bat. They get back to the basics and stop overanalyzing everything. Their foundation is strong from 20 years of dedicated practice. All they have to do is show up and work.

We all have our own “ballpark.”

Our professional settings aren’t that different from the ball field. We’re all motivated to do good work because of incentives. The better our stats, the better our chance at a promotion. On our own team, only a few big stars can have the big contract. And our competitors are motivated to beat us, because that means a bigger piece of the pie for them.

And sometimes we go through slumps. We feel inadequate or unqualified. We don’t receive the recognition we think we deserve. Or worse —  we think we’re doing a good job only to find out that we aren’t.

Sometimes we’re overwhelmed with the amount of work we have to do. Sometimes we’re underwhelmed by the importance of our work. But the way out of this rut is sometimes just to power through it.

To do the boring work. The hard work. The mind-numbingly easy work. The impossible work. Someone else’s work. Our boss’s work.

Because on the other side of “showing up” is something better.

By just doing the work, we improve. We hone existing skills and learn new ones. By showing up, maybe we impress one of our customers enough that they offer us something better. Or maybe someone does notice, we just don’t realize it. We could even have a spark of an idea for something new, because we discover a better way to solve a problem. But at worst, at least we tried.

Nothing bad happens by showing up and doing the work.

I’m still figuring this out.

Today I had to write. I haven’t published an article in almost three weeks. When I started out, I vowed to post weekly. I went through a slump, and I needed to get out of it.

It usually takes two full days to publish an article. After writing the rough draft, there’s the editing, formatting, graphics, SEO, email list, etc. And I’m a perfectionist to a fault, but I can’t blame it on that. Fear is the biggest factor.

I’m afraid people won’t like my work. That they’ll think it’s boring or unoriginal. Even worse — they’ll think it’s uninteresting.

Fear causes me to spend more time than I should on the rough draft. Rather than just dump my brain onto the screen, I nitpick along the way. Then I edit and edit and edit. And then I spend two hours trying to pick a crappy image, because “articles are opened more if they include images.”

These are all just excuses.

Excuses are tiring.

So today, I just had to show up and write. It’s 9:50 AM, and I’m finishing the rough draft of this article less than an hour after starting. I’m going to spend another hour or two editing and formatting, etc. And then I’m going to publish it in all its glory (or squalor).

If I follow through, I will have published a finished article in half of one day, instead two full days. If I do this, there’s no going back. I’ve proven to myself that I can do the work if I just show up.

Is the work any good? I don’t know. But I’ll keep doing it, knowing that “practice makes perfect” and all those other sports/life metaphors.

I’m sorry if there was nothing valuable in this article. I had to do it for me.

It’s 11:50 AM.


I'm Brandon.

I’m a dad who writes about being a dad. When I can find the time between wiping butts and breaking up fights and chauferring and working. 

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