P071: Streaks, Motivation and the Junkie Within

Struggling tonight. Strugg. Gull. Ling. I’m struggling to turn the letters into words and put the words into a certain order to send an email for the 71st consecutive week. Cursing myself for baking a rigid publishing schedule into the very brand of this newsletter. There’s so much going on right now, so much worthy of commentary. A million opportunities to take it and turn it, but it’s just not happening.

So I’m flipping aimlessly through today’s email to try and catch a spark and land on the latest from Dan Hon – he’s back, you know, and you really should subscribe if you’ve ignored my previous urgings – and Dan touches on Streaks, a new iOS app that’s a hybrid to-do list slash habit-forming device that seems engineered to goad you into succeeding in situations just like my current one. I’m just about to click through to check out the app when BOOM Dan nails it:

“Because that’s what the streak is like on its own: ascending a narrowing staircase, higher and higher until every single day is an opportunity not to continue the streak, but you being at risk of destroying it and setting everything back down to zero. See, yes, you might want to count streaks. They can feel great when you’re doing them. But you also might want percentage of goal hit. Not just how many days in a row you’ve flossed your teeth. But how many days out of the last 365 you’ve flossed your teeth at all. Because it’s the latter one that matters, in the long run.”

And then I realized

Dear readers, I truly, deeply value your time and attention, but I just need to confess: I’m writing this newsletter for me. I’m a junkie and independent publishing is my smack. Every time I send a newsletter I get my fix. Every time someone replies to the email or faves a tweet or shares the link on Facebook is a rush. This is me, every time you convince a friend to subscribe to this newsletter (hint, hint):


I’m here, sitting at this keyboard at this ungodly hour, because I want to be. Which is moderately interesting to myself and a legit breakthrough for my therapist but probably not all that compelling as a newsletter. In an effort to turn this typing session into something hopefully interesting and/or valuable, I’m going to take a tip from chapter one of the digital marketing playbook.

Caution: Audience Engagement Ahead

As a marketing professional I spend a huge chunk of my free brain cycles examining incentives and consumer decision making processes. By the looks of my subscriber list, I suspect I’m not alone in those types of activities. So I’ll spin this mirror around and ask: Why do you do what you do? What is your smack, what is your motivation? And what happens when you, the reader, ask those questions of yourself? Do those answers provide any clarity/direction/solace? Do the answers surprise you?

For me, “I’m here because I want to be” is a mantra that centers my focus on the task at hand and banishes thoughts of all of the other things I could or should be doing. Only by making a proactive decision to sit at this keyboard, can I forgive myself for the struggle that decision causes. And then after all this, I remember: this isn’t even 71 in a row. I took a week off, like, six weeks ago to work on that still-unfinished special project. Oh well, 71 out of 72 ain’t bad.

Periodically yours,

Bob Sherron