Recently, I shared a deep life-long struggle with my coach. In the process of our conversation—coaching—he related a story told by Jerry Seinfeld to a young aspiring comedian. In the story, Jerry shared that his key to becoming a successful comedian was, “Don’t break the chain.”
Here’s the story in the young aspiring comedian’s words:
Years ago … Jerry Seinfeld was … a touring comic. At the time, I was hanging around clubs doing open mic nights and trying to learn the ropes. One night I was in the club where Seinfeld was working, and before he went on stage, I saw my chance. I had to ask Seinfeld if he had any tips for a young comic. What he told me was something that would benefit me a lifetime…
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 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.”
As crazy as this sounds, it’s actually a simple life hack.
A physical reminder to keep taking the next step.
For the past three weeks, I’ve not broken the chain. In my case, I chose to use a real paper chain—it’s visual, it forces me to add the link every day, it’s colorful, it’s playful. A friend of mine is using the same concept with paperclips.
The results aren’t instantly dramatic; but my mindset change is. Because I don’t want to break that chain and start over.
What are you struggling with today that needs a physical reminder to keep you focused on the goal? It’s a simple trick, but a powerful one. Don’t break the chain! Just keep doing what you know you need to do, one step at a time. And when you do, add a link to your chain.
Here’s my chain as it is today:
If you take up this challenge, please post a picture of your chain in the comments below. It will encourage all of us.
If you need help, please reach out. I promise to listen without judgment and help you take the next step.