The Jerry Seinfeld and John Grisham Productivity Hack
Are you curious about the productivity hacks of someone worth approximately $800,000,000? Jerry Seinfeld is hailed as one of the most successful comedians of all time. As a co-writer and creator of the hit sitcom Seinfeld, he is also one of the most successful writers and actors of a generation.
So what’s the secret formula he’s tapped into that even 6 years after completing the show Seinfeld he still raked in a cool $267,000,000? He already has the money and the fame, yet year after year he still consistently delivers entertainment to the world.
How about John Grisham who has released at least 1 book per year for the last 24 years? All this even while, at the beginning of his writing career, he was pulling 70 hour weeks at his job as a lawyer in a small Mississippi law practice.
Do you ever look at people like Seinfeld or Grisham and wonder how they do it? What are they doing that you aren’t? What do they have that you need? What’s the secret sauce to success that you haven’t been given?
Maybe you think people at his level of success have just gotten lucky.
On an article in Lifehacker, Brad Isaac talks about the night, many years ago, that he found himself face-to-face with Jerry Seinfeld at a comedy club. Brad asked for advice for young comedians starting out. Jerry Seinfeld gave him an answer that is the key to success in any industry.
Here's an excerpt of how Brad describes the interaction in his own words:
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 is to not break the chain.”
In case you didn’t notice, Seinfeld didn’t talk about how good the jokes he wrote were or anything about the results of what writing these jokes meant for him professionally. That was already evident in his success. His only job and priority everyday was “not breaking the chain.”
Did you know John Grisham build his career as a bestselling author by harnessing the power of momentum by writing one page a day?
When he first started writing he was still working as a lawyer at his day job. Despite the long hours he created space for writing every day. Each morning he would wake at 5am and be at his desk at work, only 5 minutes from his home, with a yellow legal pad and a cup of coffee writing his page.
As of 2015, he’s published 33 books in only 25 years, averaging out to 1.3 books per year.
Pretty incredible. Yet he set himself a simple target:
Write one page each day.
Sometimes that one page was completed in mere minutes, while other times it took hours. Regardless of the time it took, he stuck with his commitment and wrote one page every day and the power of momentum and compounding interest has led him to become America’s favorite storyteller.
Persistence creates luck. Persistence creates experience.
The power of marginal gains and incremental improvements compound over time into large advancement. I’m a believer in Alan Weiss’ “One Percent Solution” — the concept that if you aim to improve your business (or yourself) by 1% each day, in only 70 days you’ll be twice as good as you are now. This begins with small steps. Pick one thing you want to get better at, and do it every day.
Seinfeld didn’t sit down and decide to write 500 jokes in a day. That would be overwhelming, not to mention unachievable over the long run. It’s comparable to someone never working out to deciding they’re going to the gym everyday. Instead, you can sit down and write one joke a day, or do 10 pushups in the morning when you wake up, and start creating a chain.
Nathan Barry made a commitment to writing 1,000 words per day in 2012 that skyrocketed his blog and led him to making $30,000 in only 6 weeks.
Consider the one thing that would make the most profound difference to your life if you practiced it everyday.
For Seinfeld, it was writing a joke. For Grisham it was writing one page. For you, it could be writing poetry, drawing, or a multitude of other things. It just has to be something you’re passionate about improving on.
For myself, I wanted to improve my writing and learn to express myself better, so I started writing 750 words, approximately 3 pages, in the morning. Now I’m on day 39 of my morning pages. Yesterday I was feeling lazy and didn’t want to write anything. But I knew I had to. I’m on a roll! So I wrote 150 words about how I couldn’t be bothered writing (yes seriously), and the other 600 words ended up being ideas that led to writing this post.
“The most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying.”
– Steven Pressfield, The War of Art