How to create awesome habits for success

Today we take a look at how to create awesome habits for success.

It’s all about hard work

I’m a firm believer that success at most things in life is about 80% hard work, 10% natural talent and 10% pure luck. Hard work is the bit most of us struggle with. Many of us talk the talk but we don’t walk the walk. We want to leave our ‘stable’ but boring jobs to follow our passion – but the harsh reality for many of us is that we’re too damn comfortable to get off our asses and anything about it.

The brute force of hard work is what is required to break out of the rut of comfort that blights the ambitions of millions of us. I’ll let Gary summarize it for you.

On one hand, we are fortunate enough to live at a time of unlimited opportunities for success. On the other hand, we are unfortunate enough to live at a time where most of us have been misguided on how to achieve success. 

Our media is filled with stories about overnight success stories. About how such and such literally got rich quick. And understandably so. Everyone loves a good luck story. But we hear so many of these that the perception of a lot of people is that the path to success should be pretty much instant.

This wonderful infographic from Sylvia Duckworth pretty much sums it up.

The Iceberg Illusion - Credit to @sylviaduckworth
The Iceberg Illusion – Credit to @sylviaduckworth

It’s rare that our media focus on the failures. And why would they? Our own lives can be depressing enough without hearing tales of everyone else’s failures. Which would be perfectly fine if the narrative had not become so much about expecting to get rick quick.

If you want to throw your hand at getting rick quick go do the fucking lottery. It’s more fun, less work and your odds are probably slightly better.

If you want to dramatically shorten your odds of success you need to get used to doing hard work. I have no shortage of great ideas. My phone is full of half baked ideas – some which never make it any further than the phone and some which get a short burst of activity of a couple of days or weeks. But inevitably the distractions of a reasonably comfortable and busy life come roaring back and I’m back watching the latest Netflix show or doing anything other than what I should be doing to shorten my odds of success – consistent, hard work. Comfort and a lack of discipline have destroyed many a good idea.

This post is not about the why. Why we want to succeed is a whole other series of blog posts. That’s different for everyone. This is about the how.

How do we break out of the rut of comfort and procrastination to finally start on the long road to success?

The web is filled with productivity gurus telling us how we can set ourselves up to maximize our chances of success. Let me save you a couple of years of procrastinating on productivity blogs to give you the one and only way that’s worked for me. It’s a productivity habit strategy from one of the most successful comedians of all time, Jerry Seinfeld.

The Seinfeld Strategy

Simply put The Seinfeld Strategy can be summarized as daily action builds habits.

Brad Isaac was a young comedian starting out on the comedy circuit. One fateful night, he found himself in a club where Jerry Seinfeld was performing. In an interview on Lifehacker, Isaac shared what happened when he caught Seinfeld backstage and asked if he had “any tips for a young comic.”

This is what Jerry had to say.

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.

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 is to not break the chain.

Don’t break the chain.

For whatever reason, this strategy works wonders for me in eliminating the distractions of a comfortable life. By gamifying your daily work habits you take the focus off what you’re trying to achieve – to simply ensuring your turn up every day and do something – anything. I remember listening a podcast a few years who where Merlin Mann was talking about writers block on the Back to Work podcast. Merlin spoke about how it common for writers who struggled with writers block to simply sit in front of keyboard and start banging on keys. The simple act of typing anything was a brute force attack on procrastination that helped to build the momentum necessary to get over the block. For me, what I have found works best for me is to create a chain that goes from Monday to Friday. When I have a new project that needs to get off the ground my chain that I dare not break is 1 hour a day, Monday to Friday – every week for as long as it takes. That’s 20 hours per month that I might otherwise have spent watching fucking Lost was Gary would say.  You can pretty sure by hour 15 the motivation to make it to 20 hours by the end of the month is really strong no matter whether I’m on track to deliver what it is I’m working on.

The simple act of not breaking a chain gives me the discipline I need to create consistent habits for success. So get moving and don’t break that chain!

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