I always thought that the top 1 percent of elite performers in their fields were able to achieve a lot more than the rest of us because they had some sort of X-factor that allowed them to work harder, longer and better than the rest of us. . Then it occurred to me – maybe it’s not the will to work here.
Maybe these people are not “pushing” themselves to be stronger, faster, smarter or more successful.
Maybe it goes too deep.
Perhaps the most productive people in the world are so productive because their whole lives are designed to be good at their job.
In 1998, Jerry Seinfeld earned $ 267 million from the ninth and final season of his hit show Seinfeld.
Yes, that’s a quarter of a billion dollars. No, it’s not a typo. NBC asked him to do the 10th season for 22 5 million per episode for 22 episodes. He refuses.
Needless to say, it was a great decade for him. But the 2000s were even better for him – his current classic show syndication deals bring in a fixed salary of about $ 32 million a year. Not bad, Jerry. Not bad at all.
But let’s take it back. Back then, he was previously a Borderline Billionaire comedian. Before he even had a family name.
How can one’s talent, skill and productivity be to write at such a high level year after year, jokes after jokes, shows after shows?
Comedian Brad Isaac shares the story of one of his encounters with Seinfeld backstage. He asked Jerry if he had “tips for a young comic”.
Here’s how Brad described the conversation:
“The way to be a good comic is to make better jokes and the way to make better jokes is to write every day,” he said.
He asked me to get a large wall calendar that had the 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 writing work, I can put a big red X on that day.
After a few days you will get a chain. Just keep it up and the chain will get longer every day. You’ll love looking at that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job is to break the chain. “
Take note here.
You will notice that Jerry did not mention anything about making good jokes. He did not even mention how long the activity lasted. The task is very simple: write something every day, put an X in the calendar and do not break the chain.
It’s almost enough to be the easy opponent – but let’s think about what’s happening here. A few highly sophisticated processes are underway. Think about how you can use this model with the skill or process you are trying to be more productive with:
1. Doing something every day makes it a default behavior.
Most of us have a laid back attitude when it comes to brushing our teeth. There is no stress or cognitive incompatibility with brushing your teeth. You just do it … because that’s you. Seinfeld was able to integrate comedy writing into his routine day after day. Over time, he has added his identity to the writing and from there it is much easier to follow.
2. Daily repetitive default behavior becomes habit.
Practical pursuits almost always improve because of the frequency. In Jerry’s case, writing every day confirms that he is forced to stumble upon some fun stuff. After 365 days of straight writing you will be assured of some nuggets of knowledge by the sheer amount of material created over time.
In fact, you are using your own human tendency to create habits to work against your natural tendency to be late, stagnant and otherwise unproductive. Instead of setting vague goals and expecting that you have the ability to push, you are actively installing new software (aka habit) on your brain computer to run the program (aka target).
Over time, new software will be installed. You will literally have no choice but to complete the daily routine. From there, success cruises to control.
All you have to do is break the chain.
That’s how it worked for me.
I’ve had tremendous success in my daily routine with new habits. The best part about creating a new habit is that after a while, you forget that it is a “new” habit. It’s so normal you don’t have to keep track. It’s just you. I did it with a few different things which was a struggle for me to do consistently. Now I manage to do them every day without a second thought:
Making my bed (I was on a 67-day routine before I stopped tracking. My mom would be shocked)
Meditate (I don’t need to track anymore, there was a 70+ day streak before)
Reading (40+ days and counting)
And four or five habits
But here’s the catch.
Some days I was only able to throw the bed together.
Sometimes my meditation was not good.
Often I read only a few pages.
But it doesn’t matter because, above all, I do it every day. Consistently. And I did not stop.
These may not seem like a huge challenge, but imagine what it was like to string weeks and weeks together into everything you’ve fought before. How do you think I’ve posted over 100 in a few years? Like compound interest, it adds effort over time to create something much larger than the sum of its parts.
This is the secret sauce. Thus the top 1 percent of all performers are productive at a level that seems impossible to us.
Before Michael Phelps won the most gold medals in history, he did not miss a planned training day at the exciting 10+ year streak. Don’t be fooled, some days his training was not good. But still he appeared. It’s that simple.
Do not break the chain.
Suppose you want to learn programming for your startup, but are overwhelmed by what you need to know. It’s just perfectly normal. Start with small bites. If you study programming, rain or shine, hell or high water, without breaking a 365 day chain, you can improve. Duration. Even if you consider yourself less than average in the beginning. At just one hour per day, it’s about 400 hours of continuous programming a year later. How much better can you get with 400 hours?
It does not matter what the field, pursuit or project is. Consistency over time is mastery.