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Don’t break the chain

Chain Link

Chain Link (Photo credit: small world)

Scrolling through my instapaper feed this past weekend I came across this post way back on April 25th titled “366 or How I tricked myself into being awesome.”  It’s an awesome post and well worth a read, but I’ll give you the meat here:

How did I do it?

Blogged every, single day. For one full year. 366 days. Every day. No matter what.

This, which I’m sure is not an accident, reminds me of what I’ve heard about off and on the last few years as “Seinfeld’s productivity secret.”  When a young comic asked Seinfeld if he had any tips, he provided some great advice:

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.

It’s funny because I also recently read an article about high achievers, “If you’re busy, you are doing something wrong,” which emphasizes the importance and power of deliberate practice.  Deliberate practice is defined as the work that truly stretches your ability, and this is exactly what Seinfeld is describing here.  He’s devised a system that motivates him to stretch his ability every single day, no matter what.  Deliberate practice.

So the questions is: What should and could you do everyday to stretch your ability?  I’ve been struggling with this, trying and exploring a few things.  Sometimes I wonder if writing is pretty much always involved here, unless you are working on something physical (athlete) or something very specific (chess player, pianist). I think there’s something about writing, especially public reading (even if very few people read it like on my blog) that really does crystallize and clarify your thoughts.

For me I have several things I’m trying on, and I’m using to track my chains.  So far, about 6 days in, I’m holding up and enjoying it.  More about what my chains are and why in another post.

What could you do everyday trick yourself to being more awesome?  What could you do everyday to make you a little better at what you want to do?


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2 comments on “Don’t break the chain

  1. Great post. I look forward to seeing where your “chains” lead you. I was thinking this morning… what is it about the “chain” that enables us to be awesome? I think all of us want to accomplish some kind of awesome goal (e.g. start a business, lose weight, write a book, etc.). But, the “awesomeness” of this goal can be overwhelming. In matter of fact, usually this goal can ONLY be reached by small, incremental steps. It’s the “chain” that links us from where we currently are… to where we want to go. So, keep the chain going!


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