In 1993, a bank in Abbotsford, Canada hired a 23-year-old stockbroker named Desmed. Abbotsford is a small city in the suburbs, with large commercial transactions taking place in neighboring Vancouver. Considering the location of the bank, plus Desmed is a newbie, no one has high hopes for him. But he is progressing fast, thanks to a simple daily habit.
First, the paper clip strategy
Every morning, Desmed started his work from two glass jars on his desk. One of the cans was filled with 120 paper clips and the other was empty. After sitting at work every day, Desmed will make a sales call. Then immediately move a paper clip from the full jar to the empty jar, and repeat the process over and over again. He told me: “Every morning, I start with the jar filled with 120 paper clips and keep calling until I put all the paper clips in the second jar.” Within 18 months, Desmed Created $5 million in revenue for the company. At the age of 24, his annual income reached $75,000, equivalent to $125,000 today. Not long after, he found a job with a six-figure salary in another company.
Second, stick to the good habits of the end and the habit of not getting it
When I asked Desmed about this habit in detail, he said, “I started calling at 8 am every morning. I never looked at stock quotes or analyst reports, and I never read newspapers. If there is any news. So important, it will find me in other ways.” The story of Desmid’s proves the simple fact that success is often the result of tempering the basics.
Compare the scores you get with Desmet to the dilemma you and I often fall into. We hope to carry out the fitness in the end, but we can’t enter the gym after a few struggles. We know that we should write more thank you cards, eat healthier foods, or read more books, but we can’t find the motivation to start doing it. We want to achieve our goals, but we have to delay. What caused two different situations? Why do some good habits persist and some do not? Why is Desmid’s paperclip strategy so effective? What can we learn from?
Third, the power of visual cue
I think the “paper clip strategy” is so effective because it can act as a visual trigger and help motivate you to cultivate your habits consistently. Some readers have told me that they use this strategy in a variety of different ways. When a woman writes a book, every time she writes a page, she will move one hairpin from one container to another; a man will put a marble ball every time he completes a set of push-ups. Move from one box to another. Progress makes people feel contented, and intuitive measures (such as moving paper clips, hair clips, or marbles) make your progress clear, consolidating your habits and giving you a sense of satisfaction right away.
Visual cues can help you develop new good habits for several reasons:
Visual cues will remind you to start developing a habit. We often think that we can make up our minds to develop a new habit. For example: “I want to start a healthy diet, this time is true.” But the good times are not long, after a few days, the power is gradually disappearing, and your plan is once again in the busy life. This is why visual stimuli are so effective. When the environment pushes you in the right direction, it will be much easier to stick to the habit.
Visual cues give you an intuitive understanding of the progress you’ve made when cultivating a habit. Everyone knows that perseverance is the key to success, but few people actually measure whether they have done it consistently in real life. The paperclip strategy can avoid this problem because it is itself a measurement system. Just look at the paper clip and you will know how it is going.
Visual cues can have an additive effect on power. As you continue to see your progress, nature is more motivated to continue the habit. The more paper clips you put into the container, the more motivated you are to complete the task. Many popular behavioral economics studies call it the “human advancement effect”, which essentially means that once we have something, we will value it more. In other words, the more paper clips you put into the “completed” container, the more valuable it will be for you to complete this habit.
Fourth, develop your own paper clip strategy
There are different ways to achieve your own goals with a paperclip strategy. I hope to do 100 push-ups every day. You can start with 10 paper clips. Move 1 paper clip for each one, 10 for 1 group, and 1 group for each day. Need to send 25 sales emails per day? You can start with 25 paper clips and press one of the paper clips to the other side each time you press Send. Want to drink 8 glasses of water a day? Then start with 8 paper clips and move a paper clip every time you drink 1 cup of water. Can you tell me if you have taken 3 medicines a day? Take out 3 paper clips and put a paper clip into the box each time you take the medicine. Most importantly, the entire strategy does not cost much. 1. Buy 1 box of standard paper clips. 2. Prepare 2 paper clip storage boxes. 3. Select the habit you want to cultivate and start moving the paper clip from side to side.
Desmide believes that his success in this line comes down to a core task: to make more sales calls. He found that mastering basic skills is the key to achieving your goals. There are no secret weapons and panacea, and basic skills are cultivated. It is a panacea to develop good habits.