The Secret to Getting What You Want: Show Up

February 26, 2014 in Education, Inspiration


I spend a lot of time talking with people about their dreams

We get email from people every day with “How to” type questions, as they embark on chasing a big dream of their own. I teach a class for people who are trying to affect a major life change. I write a lot about big time travel, outside the box education and family life, location independence and “off-the-expected-social-grid” living, all of which are common dreams that many of us share. A lot of the people that I consider friends are people who have been spectacularly successful in these sorts of lives and they are continually raising the bar for me in what is possible in this life.

Yesterday I was asked an unexpected question:

“How many of the people you’re working with towards their dreams do you think are really serious about it?

I thought about that for a second and then responded that I guessed approximately half of them were actually serious about pursuing their dreams. But if you were to ask them, I suspect that 100% would say that they are serious. Upon further reflection I came to the conclusion that 100% of people who contact us are serious about living the life they dream of, but only about half of those people actually understand what it means to be serious about pursuing a dream.

At least half of the people who can identify their dream will never get it.


Because they don’t understand what it takes to live a dream.

There are still people, perhaps the majority, who believe that it’s luck, or serendipity, or having enough time, or money, or family support, or intelligence, or resources that makes is possible for some people to live charmed lives while they continue in the daily grind.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

What separates the Dreamers from the Doers?

The Doers show up.

Those whose dream hangs just out of reach in a nebulous cloud of “someday” are those who are waiting for that big break. They’re wishing they had more time, grumbling about the lack of money, blaming their mothers, or their lack of education, or their blue collar upbringing, or something else entirely.

Those who actually get their dreams, they are the people out there creating their own luck, carving time out of the margins of already full lives because their passion is more important than the status quo. They’re squirreling money away by the penny and thinking big about how to create more in ways yet unheard of, taking responsibility for their own messes, failing lots and getting back up, educating themselves and celebrating work ethic over collar colour.

You say you want your dream? Learn to show up.

  • Stop making excuses and learn to show up.
  • Do the work.
  • Be there
  • Do the hard things, when you don’t feel like it.
  • Give up sleep.
  • Eat less.
  • Stretch your mind and your body.
  • Do the things that need to be done.

Is your dream an amazing family life? That doesn’t happen by default. Make sacrifices. Make time. Unplug yourself and your kids. Make your family more important than your career. Do the mundane. Don’t gloss over the uncomfortable. Get neck deep in candy sprinkles, play-dough, temper tantrums, read alouds and mismatched socks. You can’t expect great relationships with your big kids if you weren’t willing to show up and do the work of building the dream when they were little.

Is your dream long-term travel? Newsflash: you aren’t going to win the lottery, quit buying tickets and get on with creating your own luck! Downsize, live like you’re traveling, now. Save your money. Learn a language. Restructure life so that you’re living to work instead of working to live. Apply for a passport, that’s always a good start. Work with what you have right now and start small, with two week trips if that’s all you have.

You want the freedom to live and work anywhere? I’ve got news for you, your boss is not going to come in and offer you a work from home position in Paris tomorrow morning. Create the job you want. Be willing to step out and take a risk. Be willing to cut loose and do something completely new. You’re not qualified? Qualify yourself. Educate yourself. Build a new business. Build a new niche for yourself. Freelance. Contract. No one ever found freedom inside the cube wars. You don’t have time? You have exactly the same number of hours in a day as every other person on the planet, and guess what? You have a decision to make: stay stuck where you are, or find the time, make the time, to break free.

You want a writing career? You know what separates the real writers from the wannabes? They write. Stop treating your writing as a hobby, something you’ll do when and if you have time, and start treating it as your career. Show up, sit your butt in the chair, and write: every day, every week, every month, without fail, for a year. At the end of that time, you’ll be a writer. You don’t need more classes, or a writer’s group, or a better editor, or a solid freelance gig, what you need, is to show up and write. Period. Writers write. The writers who get paid, eventually, write. They don’t pretend to write, they don’t talk about writing, they actually show up and write. Stop making excuses.

Three tips for showing up and getting serious:

1. Start small
Too many people make the mistake of thinking that they have to have it all figured out before they can begin; consequently, they never get started. Don’t be afraid to start small, to build your dream in one hour increments over lunch and after kids are in bed at night. Your dream is a sustainable farm that’s off the grid, why not start with chickens this spring? Take baby steps. As long as you’re moving forward, you’re going to get there.

2. Get consistent
If you want to live your dream everyday later, then you need to be working your dream everyday now. Just get up and do it. Stop making excuses for why you’re letting the things that matter most to you slide and start showing up. Doing the research. Building the business. Making the plans. Training your mind. Training your body. Raise the bar on your life and become one of those revolutionary few who actually do what they say they’re going to do.

3. Fail
If you’re not failing, then your bar is not set high enough. The surest sign of moving forward on a dream is that gut wrenching, free falling, feeling of being out of your depth. If you aren’t quite sure how you’re going to pull it off, you’re much more likely to swim harder than you ever have in your life. Fear of failure is a powerful motivator. Raise the bar, go public, risk falling on your face in front of your friends and then work like you’ve never worked before to pull the rabbit out of the hat. When you fail… when you fail… cry if you must, but then laugh, get back up and slap a bandaid on the wound. Take step back to survey the height of the bar, retie your shoelaces and take another leap at an all out run. You might miss ten times, but the leap, the swing and the crowd going wild on the 11th try will be the stuff dreams are made of. In fact, that’s exactly what dreams are made of: ten parts failure, one part wild success.

Can I tell you a secret?

I’m tired of hearing how lucky we are to have the life of our dreams. You know why? Because there is no such thing as luck. We live the life we live precisely because it is our dream and we have shown up, every single day. We continue to show up. We continue to do the work. We continue to raise the bar. We continue to get discouraged and frustrated at the hard parts that we can’t figure out yet. We continue to buy bandaids. We continue to trade things that would be nice to have (like stuff and comfort, cable TV and walk in closet) for the things we can’t live without: a world full of memories with our kids, 100% control of our time so that we can raise them the way we see fit, lots of stamps in our passports, and homemade music and food.

Before you ask for rebuttal and point out that we have the advantage of a family legacy of travel, entrepreneurship, no college debt, familial support and career options that lend themselves to location independence, let me point out that only half of that is right, and we’ve both completely recreated our careers from the ground up. Then I’ll introduce you to some of our good friends who have none of those things and are still living their dreams. Stop making excuses.

What people don’t seem to “get” is that building a life on your dreams is not about what you have, it’s about what you create for yourself. It’s about what you can do once you stop focusing on what you do or do not have and instead focus on how to apply strategy towards the thing you most want in life. The people living epic lives are where they’re at because they show up. They do the work.

Half of my readers are annoyed now, and that’s okay.

If you’re part of the other half and you’re feeling determined and inspired, drop me a note, tell me what you want and let’s talk about what it would take for you to start showing up