Show up daily and do the work

A couple of months ago, I was chatting to a colleague who’s about the same age as me. We were looking back on our twenty-odd year careers since university and how many different experiences we’d each had in that time. Some good, many hard and some a real drudge, but all of which had helped to shape us into the people that we are today.

We both found that a little career planning had helped and also that we’d had some luck along the way too. Overwhelmingly though, the common theme was that we’ve got to this point by simply showing up daily and doing the work. No great secret or magic sauce. Just coming to work, day after day, year after year and doing our best to do a good job of the tasks before us.

Step by step. Little by little.

It reminded me of the times as a young person when we’d go hill-walking as a family. How, when climbing a hill, I’d often have my head down trudging step after step, in what often felt like a hard and endless slog. But then would come a magical moment when I’d stop to catch my breath and look back. I’d be hit by the sudden realisation that each of those small, sometimes difficult, steps had added up to a breathtaking view and a general amazement at how high we’d climbed!

Step by step. Little by little.

I think if I could give my 20 year old self (or any young person starting out) some advice, it would be just that. To have a plan for sure, at least for the next couple of years – having your sights set on the next rung on the ladder is no bad thing. But overall and most importantly, to work on understanding your vision, then just to show up daily and do the work. To build a solid track record of tasks completed and experiences banked. Experiences (good and bad) which will shape you into the person you’re going to become.

Step by step. Little by little.

There’s a tendency to see famous people who are performing at the top of their game, particularly in sport or entertainment, and to assume that success for them has come overnight. TV shows like X Factor really don’t help in this regard. We live in a culture of the instant. But what we don’t often see are the years and years of hard, relentless effort that most successful people have had to put in to get good at the thing they are famous for. We don’t see all of the sacrifices and failures. The thousands of sessions in the gym, screwed-up drafts of manuscripts, failed inventions – all of the steps along the way. But rest assured that they’ve often got to where they are through hard years of simply showing up and doing the work.

Step by step. Little by little.

I’ve found this to be true in other areas of life as well. My fitness increased tremendously though lots of short, but very regular cycle commutes to work. With calisthenics too, the same thing holds. I’ve been amazed by the impact that a simple yet frequent exercise programme can have. Fifteen minutes of reading each day will equate to many books read over a year.

There are no real shortcuts in life. No secret formula or magic pill to get better at anything overnight. But simply this:

Show up daily and do the work.

Step by step.

Little by little.

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