Show up and do something

I used to want to be a zoologist. I would spend hours watching episodes of The Crocodile Hunter, dreaming about getting paid to hang out with cool animals all day. The one problem? I have no aptitude for biology. I just wanted someone to recognize my dream and hand me the job without having to work for it.

I don’t think I’m the only one who has fallen prey to the dreaming-not-doing trap. Many of us are subconsciously holding out for that perfect moment when everything we’ve dreamed about magically materializes in front of us. When that moment comes, we tell ourselves, we can start doing the things that matter. We preoccupy ourselves with the question, What am I really passionate about? When really, we should be asking, Where are the opportunities to make my life matter today?

I heard a variation of that second question in a presentation by Seth Godin around the time I turned 20, and it changed everything for me. It forced me to stop looking inward for answers about where I should be and what I should be doing. Instead, it urged my gaze outward, allowing me to see the world for what it truly is: not a place that owes me something I muse about, but a place filled with countless possibilities, waiting to be explored and discovered. All I need to do is have the grit and the focus and the joy to open that door, walk across that room, talk to that person, share that idea, deliver on the project, make that piece of art, or pay for that stranger’s coffee. And to wait and see what happens next.

I’ve heard it said that 70 per cent of success in life is showing up. I didn’t hear what the other 30 per cent is, but I like to think it has something to do with being open enough to stick around and get your hands dirty, instead of standing with your arms at your sides. 

Most of us have traded in this wisdom for the apathy-generating myth that everything we dream about in between lunch and second shift is owed to us. And that it’s OK if we remain complacent until our far-fetched dreams become a reality.

You might find your job boring. You might not even be able to land a job right now. You might be single. You might be married. You might be rich, you might poor, or you might be somewhere in between. Whatever your circumstances, don’t waste time dreaming about a day when your situation will make a 180 degree turn. 

Here’s a game changing idea: maybe what you dream about isn’t the best dream for you. 

Maybe it’s a distraction. Maybe it has made you stationary. Maybe there’s another dream out there, in the actual world, that you can discover and seize and grow, only by showing up and doing something.

Photo (Flickr CC) by jonathan lopez.