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Tag-teaming off of Jeff Brown: Daily action builds habits, so don’t break the chain.

I had a short sale get to approval this morning, which puts us one tiny deal away from a million-dollar September. We haven’t seen many million-dollar months since 2005, and it’s a harder target to hit than it was in those days. I’m loving where our business is going, and I feel like we might be just that close to the glide path. It’s been a hard road since the market turned, but it has been the dedicated — driven — dogged — pursuit of sales fundamentals that has put us back on the road to financial recovery.

Meanwhile, I’m loving the hardy souls who have taken up Jeff Brown’s prospecting challenge. Quoted below is a snip from a Lifehacker post we have talked about privately for a couple of years. The topic? If you want to master something, do it every day and don’t break the chain:

Years ago when Seinfeld was a new television show, Jerry Seinfeld was still 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 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 next is to not break the chain.”

“Don’t break the chain,” he said again for emphasis.

Over the years I’ve used his technique in many different areas. I’ve used it for exercise, to learn programming, to learn network administration, to build successful websites and build successful businesses.

It works because it isn’t the one-shot pushes that get us where we want to go, it is the consistent daily action that builds extraordinary outcomes. You may have heard “inch by inch anything’s a cinch.” Inch by inch does work if you can move an inch every day.

Daily action builds habits. It gives you practice and will make you an expert in a short time. If you don’t break the chain, you’ll start to spot opportunities you otherwise wouldn’t. Small improvements accumulate into large improvements rapidly because daily action provides “compounding interest.”

Before Teri Lussier became a recovering Twitaholic, she reTweeted a remark to the effect that, once you’ve made a habit of exercise, it’s hard to quit. To this I say: Bullshit. Exercising is the second easiest activity in the world to quit. What’s first? My guess would be prospecting — and getting yelled at and hung up on — every day.

But: Whether it’s exercise or prospecting or some other burdensome chore, if you fall in love with the idea of an unbroken chain of red X’s, you’ll find the time and the determination to get the job done. When you hear that first compliment or cash that first pay-check, things will get easier. But you know you want this job done, and the only obstacle between you and having done it is digging in and doing it.

Good hunting!

Related posts:
  • A kinder, gentler Jeff Brown challenge: Catch yourself doing something worthwhile — for every day in September.
  • The Goal-Getters Game: Yes, you want to set goals for 2009, but here’s a game to make sure you actually follow through on them
  • Daisy-chained source-tracking with the Universal Contact Form

  • 12 comments

    12 Comments so far

    1. Teri Lussier August 30th, 2010 12:33 pm

      >once you’ve made a habit of exercise, it’s hard to quit. To this I say: Bullshit.

      :-D

      Thank you for reminding me how much I love dancing, moving, training my muscles to move exactly how I want, when I want. Every day I climb out of bed I’m reminded of how far and how fast I allowed my body to decline.

      I got up this morning and took a walk- my first in a very very long time. I have a long way to go to get to where I want to be, but little red X’s are mine to string together at will.

    2. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Real Estate Feeds, My REALTY. My REALTY said: Tag-teaming off of Jeff Brown: Daily action builds habits, so don’t break the chain.: I had a short sale get to ap… http://bit.ly/9eYMT7 [...]

    3. Greg Swann August 30th, 2010 12:46 pm

      On my lat tower, just where my eyes hit when I’m facing it, there’s a tiny little note to myself: “Don’t be a pussy!” It’s not my intention to offend envaginated persons, but it makes the last few sets of exercises easier to get through.

    4. Jeff Brown August 30th, 2010 1:09 pm

      Lovin’ the chain idea, as I did it mentally when I was farming houses through knocking on their doors. The mere thought of missing a day of prospecting filled me with self loathing. Probably not healthy in the long run — unless, of course, you never break the chain. :) It sure worked though.

      I’ve always wondered whether exercising is the positive side of the coin — the other being, for example, smoking. We’ve all heard about the so many minutes of life lost per cigarette health warning. How many minutes/hours of life and/or its quality are added each day of exercise? Something to ponder.

    5. Mark Jacobs August 30th, 2010 5:52 pm

      Great post, loved the post

    6. Greg Swann August 30th, 2010 8:15 pm

      > How many minutes/hours of life and/or its quality are added each day of exercise?

      Definitely improves both your attitude and your productivity. Everyone taking Jeff’s challenge in any form should add a commitment to doing 30 minutes of hard exercise every day — aerobic at a serious heart rate or isometric to the point of muscle fatigue. It’ll suck at first, but it gets easier very quickly, and the salutary benefits add up in no time. Your heart will slow down, your respiration will improve, you will sleep more restfully and you will find yourself bouncing and skipping around more than you have in years. Pump iron on alternate days and you’ll see a new you in the mirror in no time, too. Prospecting will make you prosperous. Working out will make you gorgeous. The two together should make you feel ten years younger.

    7. Jeff Brown August 30th, 2010 8:29 pm

      So happy to see you’re workin’ out and takin’ such good care of yourself. I was a tad worried there for awhile.

    8. Greg Swann August 30th, 2010 9:03 pm

      > So happy to see you’re workin’ out and takin’ such good care of yourself.

      Bless you, sir. Thank you. It’s very easy for me to do nothing but work. But between sleeping poorly and making too many orbits around the Realtor’s buffet (Yo quiero Taco Bell!), I realized I was getting in my own way — working more slowly and more stupidly and dreading two-story homes. My chain of X’s is not unbroken, even now, but I’m doing 30 minutes of free weights most days. We have a vertical rowing machine that I am mostly successfully avoiding, so far, but I want to work that in every other day. One day on the bench, one day rowing, maybe one day every once in a while on the mountain bike, just for fun. I’ve been in very good shape in the past, so I know how easy it is to get there, it’s just a matter of working up the will power to get the job done.

    9. Joe August 31st, 2010 7:15 am

      I use this principle for exercise. I try to exercise every day and often times I look back and see 40-50 days without a miss. It keeps me going.

    10. Dave Kinkade August 31st, 2010 6:45 pm

      What a cool, perspective-building post! Jerry offered some incredibly sage advice. As we all know; good advice is very easy to appreciate but much more difficult to put into practice. Jerry’s visual red ‘x’ method sounds like a real gem. I’m going to use that to help me keep my eyes on the prize.

    11. John Clark September 1st, 2010 11:34 am

      Exercise has a direct effect on mental power. The more in shape your body is, the more in shape your mind is. It’s about a healthy, powerful lifestyle more than just exercising 3 times a week. It’ll have a direct effect on your business and personal life, guaranteed.

    12. [...] a day I was really responding to how I felt emotionally when I read a few posts by Jeff Brown and Greg Swann over at Bloodhound Blog. So I spoke up, I climbed up on the online soapbox of the Internet and said [...]