Show up, dressed, and ready to play

When fresh out of grad school and starting my first teaching job, a motivational speaker was brought in for the faculty at the beginning of the school year. The speaker reminded me of a used car salesman. I strolled in thinking, “Why in the world do I have to sit here and listen to this guy when I have so much work to do?” Oh, the pride of youth; As it turns out, this presentation impacted my life in ways I could not have imagined. In fact, last week I told this same story to a young man I coach/mentor, about how to succeed in his workplace.

Photo by Gerd Altmann on

The presenter told the story of a conversation with a young man who once approached him after giving a motivational speech. The man asked him, “What do I need to do, to be successful?” He told of pausing a moment before giving his response: “Show up.”

Puzzled, the younger man said haltingly, “What do you mean?”

Smiling, he replied. “Just show up. That is all you need to do. You will have a delightful and successful life. People will appreciate you and acknowledge your contributions. I wish you well.”

“Okay…” the younger man nodded hesitantly. The motivational speaker continued, “Now, if you really want to get ahead, receive accolades, gain recognition, and have people talking about your traits and qualities then you might want to consider showing 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. How well you listen. Be attentive and ready to perform, as necessary. Be up to the task.”

The young man’s expression froze somewhere between incredulity and horror. These were not the answers he was looking for. Certainly, there had to be more to being successful. Finally, he said, “You mean… is that all there is to it?”

“Oh, no. There’s one more thing, particularly important.” He continued, “If you REALLY want to blow them away, take control of large companies, rise to the top of your field, maybe even have buildings named after you, find yourself in positions of influence and help change the world… 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. Do your research, talk to others, consider alternatives before you arrive, be ready to present your well-thought-out ideas. You might even have new insights on the topic. Maybe your handouts printed and the master plan in your mind. If you will do this simple thing, be ready to play, you will take the corporate world by storm. He paused and then said, “That is about all there is to it. Show up… show up dressed… and show up dressed and ready to play.

Real-Life Wisdom: Stories for the Road

There are times in life that the best you 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 and actually succeed at this thing called parenting.

My career in ministry and community organization has often put me in situations that are simply unpleasant. I have visited friends in jail, walked into hospitals, confronted tough situations, and find myself repeating to myself, just show up. I have danced on the precipice of panic and remembered this adage: settle down, just show up. This is helped me to get up after being knocked down. It is amazing how important it is to just show up in during the difficult times in people’s lives. Do not let uncertainty paralyze you, just push forward and do something. Start by simply showing up.

Second, become aware of your non-verbal communication, how you come across to others. Show up, dressed. Intentionally maintain a positive attitude about the opportunity of helping other people. If you have experienced a relationally rich life, full of hope; share the emotional and spiritual encouragement with others. Meet people where they are and walk beside them. Be willing to adapt your appearance to fit the situation. Dressing is so much more than what you wear, it is how you dress your attitude; how you perceive others. Do you see them as God does? Dress yourself in a mindset that allow you to see others through God’s eyes, their Creator. Look people in the eye, and recognize their inner beauty, even if they make you uncomfortable. Adorn yourself with integrity and respect. Dress yourself with class. Show up, dressed.

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 extremely difficult tasks and make them look easy. This only happens because the professional was preparing while others were watching television. Study each situation before entering it. Ask advice of others who have been there before. For me, prayer is a vital part of showing up ready to play. There is nothing magical about excellence; it is simply taking your responsibilities seriously enough to show up prepared. In Luke 14:28-29, Jesus spoke of the importance of estimating costs before beginning to build a tower… show up prepared. Show up ready to play.

Photo by The Lazy Artist Gallery on

Do you want to be successful in life’s endeavors? Show up. Do you want your life to “make a difference in this world?” Show up dressed. Do you want to leave a lasting legacy for others to carry on?

Show up.

Show up, dressed.

Show up, dressed, and ready to play.

Revised from Real-Life Wisdom: Stories for the Road, (Ayres, 2004)

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