Just Show Up

It's the only thing you can control.

Unsure woman, showing up for herself Timothy Yiadom | Canva

You can control exactly one thing: that you show up. Every day. That’s about it. Showing up isn’t a silver bullet. It’s not an easy win. It’s not a life hack. It’s not a shortcut. But it’s the only way to build anything.

The truth is — we’re too focused on instant wins. Instant gratification. We’re too focused on breaking out. We expect every single piece of content we make to spread like wildfire, and we get discouraged when that doesn’t happen. But it’s such a nonsensical way to think about what we do. As makers, writers, and creatives, we can’t be chasing flash-in-the-pan, overnight success. That’s the kind of short-term approach that never pays off. 


There is no way to predict viral success, and anyone who thinks they can reach for it in any kind of repeatable format is going to be wrong. No algorithm can predict it. In my experience making content, writing stories, and producing work online, I have learned one thing. You can’t count on much more than the power of consistency. You can’t count on much more than just showing up, day after day, and organically, faithfully building your audience.

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Showing up gives you the chance to grow

Stagnation happens to the best of us, it happens to the worst of us and it happens to everyone in between. Stagnation is the death of the creator. It means that your audience is going to get bored of you, get bored of how you create, and start to lose interest in your pursuit of mundanity. And when all you’re doing is trying to push for instant success, there is just no way you’ll be able to avoid that stagnation because you aren’t listening to your audience. You aren’t listening to their passions and their needs. You’re just watching the numbers. Watching them rise and fall, and sacrificing any creative spark you ever had to the data.


If you build a slow, long-term, dedicated relationship with the people who actively care about what you do — that’s something else. That’s where you create a career of worth and a body of work that matters. The way to do that? Showing up. Showing up with your whole self, showing up with your values and beliefs, showing up with what makes you unique, but above all — showing up with consistency.

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Consistency lets people understand what you’re about

The first time someone interacts with you, they don’t know who you are. The first time someone consumes a piece of content that you’ve made, they don’t know what you’re about. You can’t communicate that in one piece of work, no matter how good it is. It can’t sum up the texture and the unique approach of how you make what you make. By consistently working on creating regular content, you can provide context to your audience that takes them on a journey. 


Does that sound like BS? It’s the truth. Your role as a maker and a storyteller is to create a hero’s journey that allows someone to forge an emotional link to your message, your ideas, and your creative brand. There is no way to do that if you can’t maintain a steady output of work.

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When I look at how I’ve been able to grow my network, grow my audience, to write for publications from Wired to the San Francisco Chronicle, the act of showing up regularly is what has always made the difference. If I hadn’t done that, if I’d been laser-focused on trying to break through instead of build, there’s no way I could be where I am today.

The key to building an audience is showing up. Showing up will give you the foundation you need to have a career and a craft. Anything else is a distraction.


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Joan Westenberg is a writer, investor, philosopher, and founder. She has been published by Wired, the AFR, The Next Web, TIME, etc. Through @Westenberg, Joan covers tech, economics, and humans.