Hey there, Dean here. I run content and SEO at AppSumo. Here, I write and share about productivity, leadership, money, psychology, marketing, and more.
Never Break the Chain
Jerry Seinfeld, an American comedian, actor, writer, producer, and director who is best known for the sitcom Seinfeld, where he is basically portraying a semi-functional version of himself. Seinfeld was born in Brooklyn, New York, later attended the State University of New York and transferred to Queens College, City University of New York in his second year, graduating with a degree in communications and theater.
Seinfeld developed an interest in stand-up comedy after brief stints in college productions. And the rest is history.
According to Forbes magazine, Seinfeld's annual earning from Seinfeld in 2004 was $267 million, placing him at the top of the celebrity "money rank" that year. Seinfeld then earned $85 million between June 2008 and June 2009, making him the world's highest-paid comedian during that 12-month period. In 2013, Forbes documented Seinfeld's annual income as $32 million. Seinfeld was listed number 1 in the Forbes Highest-Paid Comedians for 2015.
Besides achieving extraordinary success financially, Jerry Seinfeld is also well recognized by his works. In 2005, Comedy Central named Seinfeld their "12th Greatest Stand-up Comedian of All Time."
Do you ever look at people like Seinfeld and wonder why he was able to produce great works and accomplish great results years after years, while some other just can't do it? What is something he is doing that you aren't? What is the secret sauce that Seinfeld are having that you haven't been given?
Years ago when Seinfeld was a new television show, Jerry Seinfeld was still a touring comic. That was the time when the software developer, Brad Isaac, was hanging around comedy clubs to learn the rope. One night, he found himself face-to-face with Jerry Seinfeld before Seinfeld went on stage. Brad saw the chance and reached out to Seinfeld for advice for young comedian starting out.
Jerry Seinfeld gave Brad an answer that is the key to success, not just in becoming a comedian, but success in any industry.
On an article in LifeHack, Brad describes his interaction with Seinfeld in his own words:
He said the way to be a better comic was to create better jokes and the way to create better jokes was to write every day. But his advice was better than that. He had a gem of a leverage technique he used on himself and you can use it to motivate yourself—even when you don't feel like it.He revealed a unique calendar system he uses to pressure himself to write. Here's how it works.He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker.He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day. "After a few days, you'll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You'll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.""Don't break the chain," he said again for emphasis.
Over the year, I have been using this simple technique to improve many areas in my life. I make it a routine to read and write every single day. I workout three times a week - every Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday - without a miss. And I meditate daily.
This works because it isn't any magical one-push tactic to get you the place you want to be, it's the consistent daily action that leads you to extraordinary outcomes. This consistent action forms habits, it may seem tiny and useless at the moment, however, it generates a compounding effect by small improvements over time.
Skipping a day makes skipping the next day easier. If you really have to break the chain and skip a day, set up a backup plan or get an accountability partner to make sure you don't skip the next. By each day you put in the work (and the big red X), your confidence grows, as do your skills, and most important your willpower for sticking to your work.
In case you haven't noticed yet, Seinfeld never talks about how to write a good joke in his advice to Brad. That's not because he was trying to keep his success as a secret, that is because his secret of success is by not putting the outcome as his main focus. Focusing on not breaking the chain are what professional comedians, writers, athletes, artists, developers, salesperson (and many others) do.
Because great works are the results of the consistency in creating bad and average works.