Monday, October 24, 2011

"90 Percent Of Life Is...

Just Showing Up."

I treat all gigs the same, no matter what they look like. You never know who's listening. It might be a weird little podcast with two viewers, both of whom are the host's cousins....and one of them might book people on a major stage or be looking for music for a movie. You just never know.

I focus on the work at hand, which is the one thing I have a little control over. I've seen bands give half-hearted performances because "no one" showed up, and I always think, Gee, I hope you guys have day jobs…

I once played a benefit show at a friend of mine’s kid’s school. I was playing in a room with a bake sale going on, coffee, kids running around, games and face painting in the halls…I had anywhere from no one to 6 or 7 people listening at any one time. This was the kind of gig a lot of musicians wouldn't even take, but I didn’t care. It was a chance to play and I showed up to see what might happen. I played my best, had some fun, made a few bucks in tips and, as I was packing up to leave, the sound guy, whose kids happened to go to that school, came over to tell me that he booked the Main Stage at our premiere venue here in the Rogue Valley and that we should talk about me playing there sometime. (!) I had auditioned for him for two hours without even knowing it. Two years later this connection led to the best and biggest show of my entire musical career.

I think Woody Allen said it first, that 90% of life is just showing up and I totally concur. A character in the Dilbert comic strip put it this way: Success is attendance plus luck. Thomas Edison supposedly said: The harder I work, the luckier I get. The way I see it, opportunities to connect with people who will like what I do are shooting around all the time, kind of like bullets. The more I show up, the better my chances of being “hit” by one of these bullets. It may not be the best tactic for someone who’s young, ambitious, impatient with perhaps a limited shelf life, but for someone like me who’s older, not so ambitious, very patient and not even on the shelf, “showing up” has been working great.

And by showing up, I don't mean doing the bare minimum and dragging your ass to things. I mean being out in the world doing what you do in the places where what you do is being done. If you're a musician, that means playing music wherever and whenever you can, in places where people might hear you. If you're an actor, that means auditioning and being in the places where people who might be looking for actors are looking. If you're looking for work that means having a resumé and applying for jobs, maybe even volunteering somewhere until one comes through.

Showing up means making connections, being seen, being around when someone needs what you offer or is offering what you need. I can't tell you how many private lessons I got from my T'ai-Chi teacher over the 13 years I trained with him, simply because the weather was bad or whatever, and I was the only one who showed up for class.


  1. Gene, I've had many instances in my life where just putting in a bit of effort in an unlikely place wound up paying huge unexpected rewards.

    And here's that Woody Allen quote: "Eighty percent of success is showing up."

  2. Me too John. I looked around at several versions of the Woody Allen quote and chose the one I liked best. Where'd you get yours?