“You get what you repeat”

Don’t break the chain

James Clear, Atomic Habits

Streaks are so powerful. Fred Wilson has a great quote in his blog post on Streaks from Seth Godin, who recently celebrated his 11th anniversary of writing every day on his personal blog:

Streaks are their own reward.
Streaks create internal pressure that keeps streaks going.
Streaks require commitment at first, but then the commitment turns into a practice, and the practice into a habit.
Habits are much easier to maintain than commitments.

Once a commitment is made to a streak, the question shifts from, “should I blog tomorrow,” to, “what will tomorrow’s blog say?”

In my opinion IF you are maintaining a streak THEN you have a system in place which allows you to do so. Thats why goals are important but I’ve recently tried to focus way more on my systems. Because at the end at the end of the day:

You do not rise to the level of your goals, you fall to the level of your systems

James Clear, Atomic Habits

This applies for everything and everyone. Even my favorite athlete Tom Brady who

Brady’s systems are why at 42 years old (which is ancient in the NFL) he is showing no signs of slowing down. As his trainer says:

… as athletes age, their understanding of the game improves but their bodies start to betray them. “… if we can figure out a way to make Tom’s body keep up with his brain, he’ll be able to play a long time.”

Eating the same healthy food over and over and daily Pliability is the system Brady uses to help his body keep up with his mind.

This doesn’t only apply for athletes or health and fitness. It works for comedy. Here is Jerry Seinfeld‘s system that he uses to motivate himself to write jokes, even on the days he doesn’t feel like it:

He [Jerry] 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.

But what happens if you break the chain? This will inevitably happen at some point. Why? Because life happens. You might get sick. There might be a family emergency. Or for whatever reason you might just have one off day. The word one is key because if you “break the chain”:

Never miss twice

James Clear, Atomic Habits

Start a new streak the next day and don’t let one off day become two.

To try to create a mathematical analogy, I think of the difference between one off day and two off days like the difference between a point and a vector:

  • Points (breaking a streak for one day) are locations in space
  • Vectors (breaking a streak for two days) are displacements in space

Tom Brady and Jerry Seinfeld are two of the 🐐’s in their field and the truth is, the greats in any field have systems in place. @david_perell notes we can learn from LeBron James writing:

Knowledge workers should train like LeBron, and implement strict “learning plans.

And lastly, @tylercowen asks a great question which any of us trying to build any system should ask ourselves:

Recently, one of my favorite questions to bug people with has been “What is it you do to train that is comparable to a pianist practicing scales?”  If you don’t know the answer to that one, maybe you are doing something wrong or not doing enough.

At the end of the day, if you can focus on repeating good habits over and over again, it can go a long way:

In the beginning, there is basically no difference between making a choice that is 1 percent better or 1 percent worse. (In other words, it won’t impact you very much today.) But as time goes on, these small improvements or declines compound and you suddenly find a very big gap between people who make slightly better dcisions on a daily basis and those who don’t.

James Clear, Atomic Habits

Getting better by 1% each day for one year means you’ll be 37X better by the time you’re done. As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words:


In summary: Don’t break the chain because you get what you repeat

Your outcomes are a lagging measure of your habits

Your clutter is a lagging measure of your cleaning habits

Your weight is a lagging measure of your eating habits

Your net worth is a lagging measure of your financial habits

Your knowledge is a lagging measure of your learning habits

You get what you repeat

James Clear, Atomic Habits

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