Show Up In A Different Way

We know that long-term success requires showing up, day in and day out. What we often don’t think about is that there are two kinds of showing up. Let’s call them Level 1 showing up and Level 2 showing up.

Level 1 showing up is showing up, going through the motions, and tracking your time in. We show up in this way when we attend classes and do the homework the way it’s prescribed. We show up this way when we sit in our offices and wait for something to react to or to motivate us. We show up this way when we hear the people around us and do what we need to to keep the peace.

Level 2 showing up is different in kind. When we show up this way, we understand that the prescribed homework is a springboard to new applications and understanding. When we show up this way, we show up to our offices ready to make something happen whether the winds are favorable or whether we’ll be rowing. When we show up this way, we listen for what’s really going on with others and move beyond keeping the peace.

It’s frightening how much of our lives we can coast by showing up in a Level 1 way. (Click to tweet – thanks!)

What’s even more disturbing is that we know at a gut level that we’re showing up that way and we have a love/hate relationship with the people who show up in a Level 2 way.

It’s more comforting for us to call those who are having a lot of success lucky, fortunate, or gifted rather than pointing out their tenacity, hard work, or risk-taking. We could cultivate those traits, but it’d require putting some skin in the game. It’d require failing, letting good enough be good enough, or having no clue as to what the hell we’re doing but doing it anyway. Not to mention spending most of our days being uncomfortable in some way or the other.

We’re each capable of showing up in a Level 2 way, in both big and small ways.

Lori Jordan showed up in a Level 2 way when she quit her nice gig to start Red Staple.

Seth Godin showed up in a Level 2 way by starting the Domino Project rather than waiting on the traditional publishing industry to figure out a better option for getting great ideas out to the public.

Kyle Durand showed up in a Level 2 way when he got fed up with the cumbersome document-signing process and started developing Our Deal.

Barbara Stafford showed up in a Level 2 way when she saw that she started helping people by providing a soup-to-nuts service instead of just doing their copywriting.

Jo VanEvery showed up in a Level 2 by taking career coaching to academics, an audience who has historically been skeptical about coaching but who desperately need it.

Chris Guillebeau showed up in a Level 2 way by doing the World Domination Summit despite having zero experience at pulling something like that off.

Andre Blackman showed up in a Level 2 way by creating a job board for public health change agents and organizations.

Mark Silver showed up in a Level 2 way by starting Heart of Business and having the audacity to put spiritual teachings at the forefront of the business guidance he gives.

Every member of Team PF got selected because they show up in a Level 2 way and make things happen.

It’s unfortunate that “showing up” covers both types of showing up because they’re totally different attitudes and behaviors. It’s unfortunate because, at the same time I want to encourage you to stop showing up (in a Level 1 way), I want to encourage you to show up (in a Level 2 way).

Luckily, you don’t need coaching on this one. You know where you’re showing up (in a Level 1 way) and where you could show up (in a Level 2 way). You have it within you to show up in a different way. Will you?

p.s. Remember, every moment is a chance to practice.

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  1. says

    Charlie – thank you for this post and the reminder for me to show up at level 2 in a consistent way. I like how you say that we don’t need coaching on this. I know exactly what I am not doing to avoid being uncomfortable.

  2. Al Pittampalli says

    Love this. It’s amazing what we can accomplish when we show up in a Level 2 way. It absolutely requires looking the resistance in the eyes, and moving forward with courage. Not easy, but the universe rewards it.

  3. says

    I definitely needed to hear this today as I gaze out the window in my office and let my mind trail off instead of tackling my list of 10 things to do.

    At other times, I am totally in at Level 2 and always see great results when I am. I think its has a lot to do with motivation and timing. Some days (like today) I go into my office in the morning to work while tired and with a lack of direction. Why do I do this? Why don’t I just get some more sleep, have some coffee, perhaps read or listen to something motivational and then go into my office to work? I’m guessing I’d have more Level 2 days if I did.

  4. says

    This has always bothered me when I read something that references “showing up” — I think many of us have realized that there’s a difference between “showing up” and *showing up*, but it can be hard to sort out the difference between the two. Thank you for bringing such excellent clarity to it!

  5. says

    Charlie – I like this idea of “showing up”

    It kind of fit right in with my day. I bartend on the side, and lately I’ve just been showing up, going through the motions, and leaving. Today, I got in and brought a new attitude. Motivated by nothing else then my own decision to be happy and show up, I had one of the quickest and enjoyable shifts.

    There really is something to said about the decision to “show up”!


  6. says

    Great post, Charlie! You made my heart sing by painting the contrast so vividly. More often than not I’ve gotten nothing but flack for striving for Level 2 while surrounded by a Level 1 crowd – but finally, after all these years – suddenly – I’ve found my way into a Level 2 crowd and, best yet, they appreciate it in me as much as I appreciate it in them!

  7. says

    YES! I showed up at Level 2 this morning for some reason (wish I knew what sometimes just spontaneously makes that happen) and got a whole bunch done in very little time. It’s about FOCUS, I think.

  8. says

    Great stuff as usual Charlie. I know for me, there is a slight mixture of both levels in showing up (that I’ve been discovering this year). I am most definitely showing up more in the Level 2 way by taking ideas I’ve had marinating for a while and making them into a reality – then AFTER that happens, do I need to show up in a level 1 way. That is to say, once I set things into motion, I need to stay focused on doing the stuff each day to make sure it all gets done. If that makes any sense. Thanks for the nod to the Job Board!

  9. says

    Yes! THAT is the difference. *I* didn’t see the difference, but I did notice I wasn’t on the same wavelength as other people (Level 1ers). THEY would assert that they were “showing up” and I would be all like, “And this is the best you can do?” Because I see Level 1 as ‘phoning it in’, regardless of your actual physical presence. But I was giving them the benefit of the doubt about Level-2-type commitment because we were using the same jargon but had our wires crossed about the meaning.

  10. Archan Mehta says


    Woody Allen made it clear that just showing up is hugely important to success.

    However, level one is about compliance, whereas level two is about commitment.

    Compliance is about punching in and going through the motions. By contrast, level two is about entrepreneurship. Innovation springs from those willing to go out on a limb rather than those who are only willing and able to follow marching orders.

    You have made this clear in your own way–in your own language and in your own, unique style.

    In this new age, if you want to remain on the cutting-edge, it is necessary to be a pioneer.You need to find the voice within that shows you the way. Thought leaders are those who blaze their own trail. Thank you for contributing such a great post.


    • says

      “Compliance is about punching in and going through the motions. By contrast, level two is about entrepreneurship. Innovation springs from those willing to go out on a limb rather than those who are only willing and able to follow marching orders.”

      Perfectly stated, Archan.

      Charlie, I love this post. I never thought of level 1 vs. level 2 in this light, but it’s true. And like MEM said, there is a huge difference between “showing up” and *showing up*. :)

  11. says

    Great article. Most people are content to live a Level 1 existence. That is why meritocracy is the norm.
    I try to perform at a level 2, and I have noticed it does pay off. Maybe not immediately, but eventually the results and rewards will be there!

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