We’re continuing into the third part of my five-part series about developing an academic mindset to get you through your four years of college, regardless of your major. So far, we’ve discussed the importance of trying in whatever you do, and we’ve also talked about the importance of making your work pretty, essentially, giving your all in whatever you’re setting your mind to. Now, we’re going to talk about one of the most important skills I’ve learned in undergrad: The art of showing up.
Just show up. Show up to anything and everything, from school stuff to club stuff. I’ve found that showing up puts you ahead of almost everyone in college, because no one realizes how much power is found in showing up. When you get to college, you’ll find out that no one really requires you to do anything. You don’t have to go to any club meetings, you don’t have to go to office hours, you don’t have to go to sporting events, or class, or help sessions, or study groups. The only thing you really have to show up to are exams. That’s basically it. What I’m telling you is to show up to everything that I just mentioned you don’t have to show up to.
Show up to help sessions, office hours, and every class. Even if you spend the whole class looking at ESPN, the discipline of showing up keeps your head in the fight. It gets you in a frame of thinking that allows you to accomplish huge goals by completing smaller, simpler tasks. Whenever you show up, you are essentially disciplining yourself. You need to be relentless if you want to do anything of worth in college. Understanding complex biological mechanisms will not magically come to you one evening. The first paper you write will be unbelievably bad. What we’re trying to get started with this academic mindset is a way of approaching work that can translate to skills you can use effectively when you enter the workforce. Showing up, day after day, week after week, month after month, is the way you build skills that make you effective. Simply by waking up in the morning and making it to the 8 a.m. lecture where attendance isn’t mandatory, you are teaching yourself to show up.
Showing up gives you a huge advantage in developing yourself socially and mentally, as well. This really can’t be overstated. Showing up gives you a psychological edge, and it gives you solid evidence you can point to and tell yourself “I’m working toward something.” Showing up is the secret power in college. When you think about it, it sort of makes sense: you’re constantly looking for new experiences that you can learn from. Show up to club meetings. Want to know the secret to being an effective leader in an organization? Consistent attendance. You prove yourself to be a dependable member of the organizaation, aand someone whom leadership can trust with incrementally larger responsibilities.
Showing up is hard. It’s not glamorous at all. If anything, it’s costly, and it’s painful. When I was taking organic chemistry, office hours were pretty brutal. I was constantly confronted with my lack of understanding of the material, while everyone else who attenteded seemed to have everything under control. There were countless times where I aggressively did not want to ever return to office hours and have the professor look at me like the fraud I was. Nevertheless, I kept going. I even played pump-up songs before heading into the office just to keep myself from leaving! Did all of that pay off? You bet it did.
Show up. Show up. Show up. All you have to do. Just show up.