30: Day after day.
- June 11, 2017 -
For a while, there was a certain ‘productivity secret’ being attributed to the comedian Jerry Seinfeld.
You see, at one point, he had mentioned something about marking an ‘X’ on the calendar for each day that he worked on his comedy routine. The idea, he said, was that seeing a string of Xs on his calendar would help keep him motivated: if he didn’t do the work, he couldn’t put an X on the calendar that day, and, as a result, the chain would be broken.
Interestingly, though, once this ‘secret’ started becoming popular, he was quick to dismiss its significance. “[It’s] hilarious to me,” he wrote in a 2014 Reddit AMA, “that somehow I am getting credit for making an X on a calendar with the Seinfeld productivity program.” He went on to call it a “non-idea,” insisting that it didn’t originate with him.
His response can be interpreted in a number of ways, but, to me, it’s most telling when considered in the context of the original calendar-marking exercise. The way I see it, he wasn’t dismissing the idea itself: he was dismissing the notion that anybody would take it so seriously.
It was “hilarious to [him]” that he was being given the credit for the idea, I think, because this “productivity program” had wrongly been elevated to a position of importance. As he suggests, the purpose of this idea was never to celebrate the marker of the work — i.e., a by-product of the work — but, rather, the work itself.
In other words, the X on the calendar (and the sense of accomplishment which came with it) was never meant to be the reason for doing the work. At best, perhaps, it was intended as a kind of shorthand journal, a reminder that, yes, the work had been done on this day and on that one. To take it more seriously, however, would be to lose sight of the real goal.
Beyond that, though, I wonder if there might also be another explanation for Seinfeld’s response. Perhaps, quite simply, the reason why this was all so laughable to him was because it just seemed like the most obvious thing in the world, this supposed ‘productivity secret.’ After all, is it really so surprising that someone who was serious about getting better at their craft, who was serious about their commitment, would have to be consistent about doing the work, day after day, for an extended period of time?