Show up, dressed and ready to play

Back when I was teaching middle and high school, a motivational speaker was brought in at the beginning of the school year to inspire the teachers. The entire faculty was gathered for a required training event in the middle school cafeteria. It was my first year of teaching and I had plenty of work waiting for me. I took my seat, slouched a bit and kept one eye on the clock. But then, he went on to say one of the more significant things I’ve heard in my life.

The motivational speaker (whose name I have long since forgotten) told the story of a conversation he had with a young man who approached him after he had given a previous speech:

The young man asked, “What do I need to do to be successful?” This speaker said he thought for a moment and then responded plainly, “Show up.” There was a brief silence and then the young man said, “What do you mean?”

“Just show up. That’s all you need to do. You will have a delightful and successful life. People will appreciate you and acknowledge your contributions.”

Okay… the young man nodded hesitantly. The speaker continued, “Now, if you really want to get ahead, receive accolades and have people remark about your impressive qualities, then… show up, dressed.


“Yes, dressed. Not only clean and in pleasant attire but with your mind dressed. Your attitude dressed. Give attention to the details of how you present yourself. Be ready to perform.”

The young man was incredulous. These were not the answers he expected to hear. “You mean, that’s all there is to it?”

“Oh, no. There’s one more thing” he continued. “If you REALLY want to blow them away, take control, have buildings named after you, find yourself in positions of influence and power, then show up… dressed… and ready to play.

“Ready to play?”

“Yes, ready to play.”


“Show up prepared. Study the issue before the meeting. Think of alternatives and solutions before you walk in the door. Be ready to play; ready to present your ideas. Have your handouts printed and the master plan in your mind. If you will do this simple thing, you will control the world. That’s about all there is to it.

Show up… show up dressed… and be ready to play.

I didn’t really get it at first. My mind was busy and distracted. The wisdom of these words dawned on me over the next few months as I had to show up, show up dressed, and show up, dressed and ready to play as a secondary school teacher. Over the past several decades, it has become a mantra of mine as I face each day.

Show up… show up dressed… and be ready to play.

Show up.

There are times in life when the best we can do is show up. Anyone who has raised children understands this adage. Show up for doctor’s appointments. Show up for teacher conferences. Show up for housework. Show up for your spouse. Show up for dinner. Show up for conversations with your children. Show up and you will survive.

As a minister, there are many situations faced that are nerve-racking. I have visited friends in jails and hospitals, and found myself repeating to myself as I walked in the door, just show up. Ministers who never put themselves in uncomfortable situations are actually mostly entertainers. They only perform for appreciative crowds. It is amazing how important it is to show up in during the difficult times in people’s lives. Don’t let uncertainty paralyze you, respond. Start by simply showing up.

Show up, dressed.

Have a positive attitude about the opportunity to love other people. God has given us lives full of hope and potential. Share the wealth by embracing your best self. Meet people on their level. Be willing to adapt your appearance to fit the situation. This may mean wearing a nice outfit to a business lunch or jeans and a t-shirt when you are hanging out with teenagers. But it is much more than just what you wear, it is how you dress your mind; how you view the other person. Dress yourself in garments that allow you to see others through God’s eyes. Look people in the eye even if they make you uncomfortable. Adorn yourself with respect for others. Dress yourself with class.

Finally, show up, dressed and ready to play.

It takes a tremendous amount of planning to make something look spontaneous and fresh. The mark of a professional is someone who can accomplish incredible feats and make it look easy. This only happens because the professional was preparing while others were out wasting time. Study the situation before entering into it. Ask advice of others who have been there before. As believers, prayer is a vital part of showing up ready to play. There is nothing magical about excellence. It is simply a matter of taking your responsibilities seriously enough to prepare. In Luke 14:28-29, Jesus spoke of the importance of estimating costs before beginning to build… show up prepared.

Are you a person who wants to make the best of each day? Do you want to have the full positive impact on the lives of others? Do you want to be an effective in your work and life? Do you want to “make a difference in this world?”

Show up.

Show up dressed.

Show up dressed and ready to play.


Excerpt from my book Real-Life Wisdom: Stories from the Road.

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