Like any well adjusted individual, I had my first existential crisis around age 6.
It was induced by a well meaning teacher who decided we should come to school dressed as what we wanted to be when we grew up. I’m pretty sure I believed this event would determine my entire life’s path. On the table were: doctor, female Catholic priest (yes, I was a 6 year old feminist), painter, gymnast. I agonized. I cried. I tormented my mother. This was a BIG deal, ya know?
Eventually I settled on gymnast with my mother’s reassurance that I could, in fact, change my mind down the road.
So when I found myself at age 19 trying to figure out what to do with my life, again, it was a familiar scenario. I’d been down this path a dozen times. At least. It had become my consistent state of being, marked by ebbs of certainty that I’d found my path, followed by dam bursting flows of feeling utterly lost.
What was my purpose?
What would be my career?
Why could other people show up day after day at the same job while I kept getting bored and frustrated 3 months in?
Why did everything interest me and yet nothing hold my attention for long?
I wanted to do something meaningful and yet everything felt so… so… disconnected.
It was all very Reality Bites — 90’s, brooding, melodrama.
And so it was that I found myself back home after a year of art school. Back in the little ski town in Western New York I’d grown up next door to, working in a coffee shop by day, schmoozing my way into bars at night.
It was during this time that I found yoga, Ayurveda, and a number of books that would shape my life profoundly – Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom, The Celestine Prophecy, The Profit.
Over the course of that year I also spent a lot of time snowboarding, mountain biking, hiking and traveling.
And I did most of it alone.
Not because I didn’t have friends. I had plenty.
I had confidants I could laugh and cry with, I had drinking buddies I could throw a few back with, dance on a bar with, or sneak into an unattended hot tub in the middle of the night with.
I also spent a fair amount of time with my mother and her friends. I used to joke that I was really a middle aged divorced woman, living in a 19 year old’s body. The truth was I got those ladies. I was having a midlife crisis too. I was just having mine a little early…
For the most part, my friends were also into snowboarding or skiing, mountain biking, hiking and traveling. They all had the swag and the gear and the lingo down pat. They spent plenty of time playing snowboarding video games and talking about travel.
The thing was though — very few of them actually got out and did the stuff, like, for real.
But I was restless. Always. I wanted to do everything. I wanted to experience life.
It didn’t take me long to realize that if I wanted to have adventures and live an exceptional life, not just sit around and talk about one, that I’d have to go it alone. And that’s what I did. I hit the slopes and the trails and the road on my own. And had some great experiences — and a handful of mishaps — along the way.
Around that time I embarked on my most epic road trip to date, complete with my Rand McNally road atlas and a shiny new copy of Let’s Go USA. About halfway through my 2 month tour around the US in my little, turquoise Geo Metro, I found myself bunked up at a hostel in Austin, TX.
On my first morning there I asked the gray haired, 50-something hostel manager what he suggested I check out while I was in town. He excitedly told me about all of his favorite places and things to do in and around Austin. Clearly he was a fan of the city.
Over the next couple of days I biked around town, swam in Barton Springs pool, hiked Enchanted Rock, lunched in Fredericksburg, went out dancing on 6th street, ate at Magnolia Cafe (pre Diners Drive-ins and Dives fame), and had a beer at a bar/barn in a one-horse town that some country singer had once written a song about.
When I was checking out of the hostel, about to hit the road to New Mexico, the same gentleman asked me what I’d done during my stay.
“Everything you told me to,” I responded.
He looked surprised. “You get the award for the most ambitious traveler, “ he said.
“Most of these kids just sit around here and play cards all day.”
Funny thing was, when I’d spent an hour hanging out with those “kids” they had all had big, big stories to tell about all the things they did and had and were. It was a familiar scenario — lot’s of people talking big, but apparently most of them actually not doing anything.
Almost 20 years later as an entrepreneur, a naturopath, a business and lifestyle strategist, I have found that I still encounter lots of people who are talking big, and just a handful of people who are doing big.
Over the years, lots of people have expressed to me their desire to quit their job, change careers, go all in on their dream business, improve their health, fall in love, try something new.
Some of them have been telling me for years that they want to make a change. But they don’t.
Most of them quietly slip away, back into the old, comfortable, familiar life they claim to desperately desire to ditch.
Ready for some profound wisdom?
If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.
– Tony Robbins
In other words —
If you want to experience something different, you have to do something different.
And the most important thing you can do? Just show up.
I mean REALLY show up. Fully. Authentically. Messily. Show up.
Be present. Put yourself out there. Stop hiding. Take risks.
Stop sitting around talking about doing things and start showing up to do them.
As far as I can see the most important (and maybe only) difference between people who talk about living an exceptional life and those who actually do, is that the doers show up. They don’t necessarily have a better plan, more resources, some innate ability or learned skill.
They just show up.
They put themselves out there. They try new things. Even if they don’t know what the hell they’re doing. Or what the hell they want to do.
They go for it. They risk failure. They risk embarrassment. They risk the discomfort of not knowing.
They put one foot in front of the other, even if they don’t know where the path will lead.
They embrace vulnerability.
They’re willing to risk that they might get lost, they may look foolish, they may waste a few bucks.
They know that opportunity isn’t going to come knocking on their apartment door. Clarity isn’t going to come while they’re sitting on the couch watching American Idol. (Is American Idol even a thing anymore? Haven’t watched tv in years…)
They know their chances of having a great time go up substantially if they get off the bar stool and go dance.
So, where are you not showing up?
If you’re sitting at the end of the bar waiting to be noticed, your chances of meeting the partner of your dreams are pretty slim. If, on the other hand, you’re out on the dance floor living it up, reveling in the enjoyment of who you are and what you have to offer, you’re way more likely to attract an audience. And you’ll have the pick of the litter.
Same goes for business. All the wishing and hoping and waiting in the world is not going to help you find your purpose, clarify your vision, or grow your client base. The only way you’re going to find your way is to put one shaky foot in front of the other and trust that the path will unfold before you.
Get out there and try some stuff.
Take a risk.
Just show up.
Your sister in Pleasure & Profits™,
* I first published a version of this article several years back. It’s been edited, added to, and updated and here it is again, because it’s more relevant than ever.