Monetizing personal failure

For a while there, I was doing pretty well. I was going to bed early, waking up at 4 am(!), hitting the gym, and getting back home before my son woke up. Then I pulled a muscle, my daughter was born, and BAM a year and a half later I’m 15 pounds overweight. Other parents will recognize the pattern. Anyway, the kids’ sleep schedules have finally settled down, and there are no more excuses.

I’m not normally one for New Year’s resolutions, but the timing lined up, so what the hell. I don’t believe in setting year-long goals, so I’m going to start small and iterate. For the next month, I pledge to start getting back into shape. And since vague goals made in private don’t work, here are the rules:

  • For the month of January, I will work out three days a week: Monday, Wednesday, Friday
  • I can “bank” workouts (i.e., exercise Sunday and skip Monday)
  • Any workout is fine – 20 minutes on the elliptical machine, a trip to the gym, etc.
  • I can skip workouts if injured, or on vacation

But the most important thing is this:

  • Every time I miss a workout, I will make a $100 donation to charity

There are three keys to the pledge. First, the definition of “workout” is lenient enough that there’s no excuse not to. Second, a hundred bucks per failure is enough for me to want to avoid it, but not enough that I’ll start cheating. And third, if I fail, the punishment does some good in the world.

I’ve been thinking about this for a long time, and I’m feeling pretty good about it – depending on how things go, I hope to extend into a second, third, tenth month. And, to keep myself honest, I’ll be keeping a running tally on this page to document progress.

Happy New Year!

Update (1/2/14): As I’ve gotten started, I’ve realized that a key danger is to get to the night of a workout, and then to eat too much, have something to drink, have a childcare issue come up (children screaming for hours will put a serious damper on your plans), or just be too exhausted to follow through. As such, I’ve come up with two strategies – first, to start banking workouts (i.e., doing some extra ones early on), and second, to try to work out on Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday – that way, I get two chances to get it right. In any case, off to a good start with a session on the elliptical yesterday morning, and another tonight!

Update (3/15/14): I’ve created a new page to track updates and stats.

5 thoughts on “Monetizing personal failure

    • Definitely not an original idea – Marshall Goldsmith also mentions it in What Got You Here Won’t Get You There. In the end, the hard part is actually getting to the point that you’re willing to go through with it (I started a couple of days early, but I can already feel inertia kicking in – the monetary incentive is turning out to be very helpful). Anyway, Happy New Year to you, too!

  1. i decided to eat less. no greed only necessity. not only for food but for everything that i need to live on.
    when i decided to try hard to shed out greed, anger and super-ego, i started feeling relieved, lighter.

  2. I love the idea of significant public financial commitment for each missed step – this is a wonderful system. The aim is to be healthy – but that is too vague at the moment of total kid meltdown and overwork… the concrete $100 and public humiliation is what will matter in that moment. Unless you are Warren Buffett when $100 is pocket change, and the public humiliation is a route to even more homey publicity for your brand ;-)

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