Risking It All To Show Up – Is It Worth It? Asks Kerry Morris

I’m an over-achiever by nature. I’m a leader and I’m a CEO. I’m the first one in the office, and I’m the last one to leave. 

I travel for business – a lot – and I head up on average eight meetings per day, every day, notwithstanding the international ones at night. This is me showing up.  

Often at times as Leaders of a business, we’re portrayed as superheroes: we’re bulletproof, unshakeable, unbreakable. 

The Leader in a comic strip is always the big nose with a tight suit and a flip chart, calling the shots; or she’s the badass in killer heels and a die-hard attitude. 

But where’s the portrayal of the leader that’s tired, deadbeat, wants to sleep until 9 am, crawling to the finish line with her frayed pompoms and a dying dream of a one-way ticket to Timbuktu? 

As Leaders, we grow weary too, because we’re human – and being human means you’ve got to do things, lots of things, hard things, for yourself and others. 

For all of us, life doesn’t stop at the office; it continues to our homes where we’re building our lives, taking care of loved ones, fretting about grocery bills, taking out the trash, and doing homework with the kids.

The going is tough and, pompoms or not, we’re called to show up every day. All of us. 

The reality though? Not all of us want to.   

With the rise of burnout, economic downturns, load-shedding, war, illness, fear of failure, and an undercurrent of restlessness, our society is quickly becoming a mud pool of exhaustion and complacency – even worse, apathy. 

Leaders are tired, employees are tired; we’re all ‘gatvol, and as a result, many of us are slowly giving up. 

We’re choosing a life less lived, and a path that requires us to “not show up” because we’re “tired” and we’re demotivated and most of us have become fine with, well, just getting by. 

Somehow, over time, we’ve come to reward the notion of “doing okay” as a good enough reason to just be in the world. It’s not.  

“Doing okay” is simply”doing okay”. 

It’s not high and it’s not low. It’s in-between, it’s uncertain, it’s mediocre, it’s “I’m getting by” and “I’m alright”; it’s everything else but showing up. What’s more, it’s everything else but living. 

This sideline life is a sad truth for many of us; it’s living life from the bare bones of our existence, not from the source of why we’ve come. 

We’ve stopped showing up for our work, for our loved ones, for our people and we’ve made another choice instead – to quietly quit.

Yes, it’s easier to hit snooze on our lives than to face another day of the grind; easier to call in sick, cancel the meeting, or cancel the doctor’s appointment than to pitch for the play – and play full out. It’s easy, because ‘easy’ means less risk. 

Let’s be honest, showing up will cost you: it’ll cost you your laziness, your dishonesty, your prison walls, and your exhaustion. 

It’ll cost you your excuses. 

Making excuses has become a habit. We’re finding excuses why it won’t work, why we needn’t try harder, or why we can’t do better. 

The more we make “not showing up” okay, the more we’re to blame for cultivating an economy of numbness, a society of lethargy and self-destruction.

Whether you’re leading a team, working for a boss, being a mom, being a dad, or holding space for others – you have a choice. 

You always have the choice to get up and show up or to back down and stay down.

Showing up means we need to go the hard yards, we need to get curious, we need to get radically honest with our people and with ourselves. 

Showing up is a choice. And we can choose it every single day. 

Showing up is a discipline, it’s a muscle we all need to flex. 

The more we do it, the easier it gets. Marcy Axelrod calls it “conscious preparation” – the ability to consciously prepare your life. 

She says: “Showing up brings agency to our lives,” and it does. It also makes room for hope, and optimism makes room for opportunity, solution, and reverence.

Perhaps it’s time we make ‘not showing up’ not okay, and we pay attention to the deeper truth of our excuses. 

Perhaps it’s time we believe we belong to our communities and our teams and our families not because we came to merely exist, but because we came to contribute.

Deciding to be a conscious player in your own life is a scary place to be. It means you get to be seen in all your shine. 

That’s pretty scary. 

It means you’ll risk finding those parts of yourself that turn the lights on; that make you come alive; that make you feel loved and valued. Frightening! 

Heck, showing up might just come with the biggest risk of all – the risk of being happy. 

And yes friend, it’s worth it.  

* The writer of this article Kerry Morris is the CEO of South African Recruitment Agency, The Tower Group. She’s no stranger to the long-haul grind of the Leader. However, the views expressed by Kerry Morris are not necessarily those of The Bulrushes