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Streakonomics: Turning Everyday Efforts into Epic Wins 

Raise your hand if you’ve heard the story about Jerry Seinfeld’s famous productivity hack… 

I had been using streaks in my life for a while before it caught my attention. But Seinfeld’s story did what a good story does by sticking in my head and giving shape to something that lived in abstract before that. 

When starting out as a comedian, Seinfeld committed to writing one new joke every day, no matter what. He hung a large calendar on his wall and put a big red X over the day’s square after writing. After a few days, he had a chain of red X’s and a new goal: to never break the chain.

That simple reframe had a significant impact on my life. I went from playing a contest with myself that asked How long can I keep this streak going? to the much higher stakes statement of Keep this streak going as long as you can, no matter what! 

The simplicity of that method instantly clicked for me. I’ve been subscribed to the Personal Challenges Newsletter (there’s not really a newsletter) for decades now, racking up thousands of pushups and miles and words and minutes read and yada, yada, yada, because consistency is the key to making shit happen over time. 

Because our brains are better at guarding what we fear losing than chasing after victories. Understanding the obvious dramatically amplified the benefits of my streaks ever since.

There’s Science to Streaks!

Most of what makes streaks so effective comes down to the science of habit formation. When we constantly repeat a behavior, our brains start to automate the process, making it easier and more natural over time, until it becomes routine. 

Starting small is important. Try to overhaul your entire life overnight and you’ll set yourself up for burnout and failure. Focus on one small, achievable habit at a time, you’re much more likely to stick with it. 

Progress and consistency will give you a motivational boost. Small wins compound, and soon enough you’ve made significant progress toward your goals.

Accountability is another accelerant. When we publicly commit to a goal or a daily action, we’re much more likely to follow through. We don’t want to let ourselves (or others) down, so we show up and do the work, even when it’s tough. 

Starting a streak is like planting a seed, but announcing it to the world is letting in the sunlight to help it to grow. Consider sharing your intentions with someone who will hold you accountable. 

I have multiple streaks going at any given time, but a few are public, like creating a new story idea for Sterling & Stone every day. I’m sure it’s hardly a plot twist to hear that my track record for maintaining public streaks is much better than those only I know about.

Streakonomics 

Specificity will help you to harness the power of streaks in own life and work. Getting clear on your goals is the only way to know if you’ve achieved them. 

Ask yourself, What daily action moves me closer to my target? 

The answer should be concrete and achievable. Like writing 500 words, coming up with one new idea, walking 10,000 steps, making five sales calls, or reading for 20 minutes.

Meticulous tracking and measurement are the unsung heroes of any streak, but the specifics there are dependent on the nature of your streak and grander aspirations. It might be enough to know that yes, you walked your minimum number of steps. But you might also want to see how many steps you walk over a period of time so you can also measure your growth. 

Tools and apps can be super helpful here. Seinfeld used a simple calendar. If starting his first streak today, he might or might not use an app. Regardless of what Jerry would do, you need some way to celebrate small wins so you can use them as fuel to keep going.

Falling Forward

You are going to fuck up your streaks. There’s no way around that.

Life happens. You might get sick, have a family emergency, or one of those days where life goes all Jackie Chan on your face. I was on a streak of more than 1,500 days in a row of walking 10,000 steps when I pulled my groin. 

I felt it that morning, held my streak, injured myself something fierce, and spent several days getting double-digit steps while moving only between my bed and the couch. 

The key is not in avoiding the inevitable slip, it’s about not allowing that stumble to derail your entire streak. Acknowledge what happened without beating yourself up. Recognize that you’re human, and that setbacks are a normal part of the process. 

Falling into the trap of all-or-nothing thinking and focusing on the fact that your streak is ruined will always be the wrong move. Get back on track as soon as possible.

I follow the “never miss twice” rule. If I miss a day, I make sure to not miss the next one. This helps me avoid the slippery slope of letting one missed day turn into a week, a month, or longer.

Keep on Streaking

Motivation can sometimes slog over time, after the novelty has worn off and the daily grind starts to dominate. Gamification and rewards can be killer in these instances. 

Try setting milestones for your streak (like 30 days, 60 days, 90 days) and give yourself a small reward after hitting them. The reward itself doesn’t matter, and can be anything from a new sweater to a day off, but it should be something you want but would never get for yourself otherwise. 

Build variety and flexibility into your streak to prevent burnout and boredom. If your daily action is writing, try experimenting with different genres, styles, or topics. If it’s exercise, mix up your routines or try new activities.

Of course life will throw curveballs: a major project, family crisis, alien invasion. Contingency plans and a resilient mindset will help you maneuver through anything, though you might have to be cool with losing your streaks in the face of an alien invasion, especially if the aliens kill us all. Same goes for robots, zombies, and meteors.  

Life is a choose-your-own-adventure (hyphenated and not capitalized because the company who owns the trademark might legit come after me otherwise), and your streak is the trusty companion guiding you through every plot twist. 

Our culture loves to celebrate the overnight successes, but streaks remind us of the raw power in consistent behavior over time. That greatness is forged from the fires of dedication and discipline, not simply born. 

Whether you’re pursuing a creative dream, a business goal, or a personal aspiration, the path to success is paved with daily action. And every streak, no matter how small, is a step in the right direction.