Comedian Jerry Seinfeld pins a calendar on a prominent wall in his apartment office that has the entire year on one page. On days when he writes new material, no matter how little, he draws a red “X” over that day. Ultimately a chain of crossed off days develops. His goal is not to write brilliant comedy; his goal is to not break the chain. He indicates, “Just keep it at and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing the chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.”

This application of shrinking the change to the next best step addresses the most basic motivation we have as human beings: to be effective. Marking a series of micro-successes no matter how insignificant they seem creates a structure of daily effectiveness and mastery.

Rather than viewing success as big events—a job promotion, completing a manuscript, signing a big account—micro-successes create the release of testosterone and dopamine for both men and women, which build confidence. Micro-successes happen in our lives much more frequently than the big victories, and can assume greater importance in terms of confidence building.

The small victories begin with the framework of how we set goals. Rather than sitting down to write your book, consider a goal of scheduling an hour a day or to write a page each day. Not perfect, not editing it, just writing. Achieving this small goal can create a winner effect to gain momentum toward a bigger goal.

Teresa Amabile at Harvard Business School analyzed more than 12,000 diary entries of white-collar knowledge workers and found that it was not incentives, recognition, or interpersonal support that mattered the most. It was the small wins, simply the experience of making progress that had the most positive effect on emotions, perception, and motivation. Obviously the daily small wins occur more frequently than the big breakthroughs and large goals. According to Amabile, The more frequently people experience that sense of progress…can make all the difference in how they feel and perform.

Micro-successes celebrate the small victory, no matter how insignificant it seems. The more frequently we experience this sense of effectiveness and progress, the more it fuels creative productivity.


The Art, Craft, Science, and Business of Writing Your First Book
by David Krueger MD is available on CDs with Workbook