Seinfeld’s Secret to Success


A young comedian once asked Jerry Seinfeld to share his secret to being so successful. Seinfeld explained that a comedian is successful because he has funny jokes, and the key to having funny jokes is to work on them as much as possible.

To enforce this habit, Seinfeld set up a big calendar on the wall in his house. Each day that he wrote or worked on jokes, he would mark a big X. Any day that he did not would remain blank. So, when he was regularly writing jokes it would form a chain of X’s across the days. The trick, he explained to the young comedian, was “Don’t Break the Chain!!!!”

After hearing about “Don’t Break the Chain”, I wrote in my journal something like “try to run, write, read or code every day”. Because those are things I enjoy and want to improve on. It’s been a really effective technique and it’s one of the reasons I’ve been blogging so much (which may be good or bad depending on your perspective 😉 ).

I didn’t know that the productivity gurus had picked up on this idea and given it a cool name until I was recently reading A Year of Change by Peter Clemens and he mentioned the “Every Day Mindset”:

What is this mindset? Put simply, it is a mindset that remembers that this day you are currently living will only ever happen once, and it therefore encourages you to make the most of it.

He expanded on Seinfeld’s basic calendar with X’s and outlined it this way:

  • Enjoy Each Day: Don’t get so obsessed with time management or end goals that you don’t make sure and enjoy each day.
  • Take Small Steps: Try to improve by 1% each day.
  • Make Your Habits Daily: If you only do something 3 or 4 times a week, it’s easy to skip it, but daily habits (like brushing teeth) stay with you.

I agree with the majority of his points, and the fact that time is our most limited resource — I don’t want to waste a single day.

Sunday, July 27th 2008 will never happen again. Make sure you don’t break the chain!!!

If I miss one day of practice, I notice it. If I miss two days, the critics notice it. If I miss three days, the audience notices it. -Ignacy (Jan) Paderewski, Polish Pianist & Composer