A few weeks ago I got yet another e-mail from Michael Simmons, author of The Student Success Manifesto and entrepreneur extraordinaire (Michael has been the winner of three entrepreneur of the year awards from the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship, Fleet, and the National Coalition for Empowering Youth Entrepreneurship).
While I congratulate him for his success at such a young age, I typically hate his spammed e-mails he sends me which are always self-serving. However, the last e-mail he sent me was about a new website he launched, and it peaked my interest.
The website is JourneyPage.com. The idea behind it is for people to set goals to complete in a certain period of time. They then put up a certain amount of cash. If they don’t complete their goal by the specified date, the cash they put up will be sent to charity. The idea being to provide a scare-incentive to complete the goal. This is the basic premise of the site.
Now, this is not exactly an original idea, but I absolutely believe in the idea. I first really heard and thought about the idea when I saw a program on TV about a year ago. It was some show like Dateline or 20/20, I forget, but they had a professor from some Ivy League university state how “scare tactics” or being scared into completing your goal is the single best motivator. To prove this, the show did a test. What better test subject than weight loss?
The show went around the city and invited a dozen obese women to see if they’d like to participate in a weight-loss experiment. Once they had agreed, the show had each of them put on a two-piece bathing suit and privately took photos of them in it. The participants agreed, reluctantly, that if they didn’t lose X amount of pounds in the given timeframe (I believe it was like 3 months)
that the show could publicly display those photos on network TV and on their website. What better incentive to a woman than to provide embarrasement on a national scale?
The results were pretty astounding. From what I can remember, 11/12 of the women cleared their goals. They had said after the experiment that they were absolutely terrified of not meeting it and so did everything in their power to meet it. The one woman who didn’t make it? Well, the show said they weren’t going to show the picture after all. And why bother? The scare tactic had done it’s job already.
I’m a stern-believer in this scare-tactic incentive.
Unfortunately JourneyPage.com fails to deliver, in my eyes, on a useful website for this purpose. For one, it’s done on a honor system basis and you can get your money back at any time. This alone defeats the whole purprose in my eyes as it provides a clear excuse not to finish the goal. The whole idea is that if the goal is not met, that there is a punishment, in this case, a monetary punishment.
Then there’s the whole thing of the e-bookishness (yes, that’s a word) of the site, with many links and ads to the authors’ books and such. But it’s definitely a good idea. It just needs to be done better.
If I wanted to set a goal, such as my 40-hour-week challenge, and provide a punishment/scare-tactic incentive, the best way I could do that would be to publicly announce on my blog that I’d give out $500 to a random commenter on my blog or something. That way I have public/social pressure to keep my word, as opposed to just making the promise with myself, which doesn’t hold as much water. And the punishment has to be decently bad. For example, for somebody making $10,000 a month, a $250 punishment will not work as well as a $1,500 one.
But money doesn’t have to be the incentive; one could argue that such a tactic is actuallly hurting the person since they are putting themselves in a situation where they may possibly lose money. Thus, it could be anything. It could be that you agree to wash dishes every day for a month for your spouse, for example.
It’s really the best incentive. And even if you don’t make the goal, at least you worked hard and got something done! So give it a try. If you really want to get a specific goal done that you’ve been putting off for a long time, try this tactic. You may be surprised how well it works.
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