They sought out the advice of 15 best-selling authors (including John Gray, Ken Blanchard and Scott Peck), but as helpful as their advice was, Canfield and Hansen were left feeling overwhelmed with information.
In his book The Success Principles, Canfield recalls his experience:
“To tell the truth, we became a little crazy. We didn’t know where to start.”
The Trap We Fall Into
When you decide on a goal and want to take action, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with all the information that’s readily available to you.
The problem is, if you can’t decide which information to choose, it can cause analysis paralysis, decision fatigue and even inaction on your part. If you don’t know what to do, where do you even begin?
However, what if you applied everything you learnt by taking five actions every day to ascertain what works for you? How could this help you to achieve your goals faster?
The Rule of Five
Overwhelmed with choice, Canfield and Hansen eventually asked teacher Ron Scolastico for his advice. Scolastico used the analogy of a lumberjack cutting down a tree to simplify what they needed to do:
“If you would go every day to a very large tree and take five swings at it with a very sharp axe, eventually, no matter how large the tree, it would have to come down”.
With that advice, Canfield and Hansen created what they called “The Rule of Five”: A commitment to taking five actions – every day – that would quickly move their goal towards completion.
For Canfield and Hansen, that meant having five radio interviews every day; sending out five review copies to editors who would review their book; calling five network agencies and asking them to buy their book as a motivational tool for salespeople; and giving a seminar to at least five people and selling the book in the back of the room.
How You Can Use the Rule of Five
The beauty of the Rule of Five is it forces you to think outside the box and consider actions you wouldn’t have previously considered.
For example, if you want to go on a diet, what five actions could you take every day that would help you lose weight? The obvious would be exercising and eating healthily, but what other actions could you take that would contribute to your goal in the long-term? These could include learning a new healthy recipe, taking the stairs instead of the escalator, emailing a health professional for advice, reading an article on weight loss and adding a picture of your ideal clothing size to a vision board to motivate you when you feel challenged.
If you’re an entrepreneur and have a monetary goal, you could email five new prospects a day or take five unrelated actions, such as creating a finance tracker on Excel and updating it daily; making one cold call; writing copy; fixing a bug on your website or reading 10% of a Kindle book on marketing.
If you’re improving your love life and want to find a partner, why not begin a conversation with five new people every day? If you feel like you’re not ready for that, chunk it down and compliment five new people a day. That amounts to 140 interactions in a 28 day month! Imagine the possibilities.
Maybe you can’t always take five actions but it’s important to do something. For example if your goal is to run a marathon and your current daily action is to run 8 kilometres, if you’re pushed for time one day, run 4 kilometres instead. If you’re having trouble committing to your habits, try using The 20 Second Rule.
If you’re feeling really ambitious, you can track your five daily actions or even ideas for your five daily actions on an Excel spreadsheet. I’ve been doing this for 6 days now and I’ve already had a few personal wins I wouldn’t have otherwise had. (You can see my tracker here).
The Power of Persistence
Eventually, Canfield and Hansen’s persistence paid off:
“One day we sent copies of the book to the all the jurors in the O.J. Simpson trial. A week later, we received a nice letter from Judge Lance Ito thanking us for thinking of the jurors, who were sequestered and not allowed to watch television or read the newspaper. The next day, four of the jurors were spotted reading the book by the press, and that led to some valuable public relations for the book.”
Canfield and Hansen took five actions – every day – for over two years. The result? Chicken Soup for the Soul would go on to become a #1 The New York Times bestseller, sell over 10 million copies in 39 languages and be called “the publishing phenomenon of the century” by Time magazine.
To quote Robert Collier: “Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.”
What five efforts can you commit to now that will ensure your success?