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Achieving Goals Like a Mad Klingon

Do you wish that your goals were on auto-pilot, and automatically finished themselves? Well, that is probably impossible, but what I’m going to talk about here is very, very close to it. Ladies and gentleman, I bring you yet another extremely powerful life-hack. Let’s rock and roll!

But let me make one thing straight first: This incredible goal achievement technique is not for the faint of heart. If you are scared yet, better go away now. There is no turning back ;-)

You’ve probably heard that the bad boys (or Klingons) always get the girl, and nice guys are left wallflowering on the sidelines.

Well, it’s the same with goals. Nice goals finish last.

The nice goals are rarely achieved, but bad-ass goals that will make your life hell, unless you accomplish them, will get accomplished. It’s not like that there is any other option, really (unless you like living in hell :-).

“Whoa, OK, buddy, wait a minute… What are you talking about?!”

I’m talking about my beautifully simple and scary-effective way of accomplishing worthy goals.

The truth is that whenever I’m fighting with my willpower, I usually lose. I have only precious little amount of willpower available to me every day, and I use it to outsmart myself. The technique described here gives me an incredible leverage.

When I want to get from nothing to something great, this is what I do. You just need to:

  1. Choose a worthy goal.
  2. Double-check that you really, really want it.
  3. Commit to it like a madman. (Read on!)
  4. Plow through like a Klingon. No looking back.
  5. Celebrate.

BUT! The tricky part is the point 3 – the commitment. I’ve discovered that’s where 99% of the trouble lies whenever I want to achieve any goal. I’ve been experimenting with various forms of commitment, and I’ve drawn a conclusion that it is the commitment will make or break your goal.

The “commitment” we usually do is something like „So, OK, I’m going to do this. Maybe. One day. Hopefully. Anyway, what’s on the TV?“

Sounds lame? It is. What works much, much better is: “Yes! I’m going to do this, no matter what. And I will make sure that my life will be a total hell if I won’t. That’s how committed I am! In your face, laziness!” (Following that by a raging Klingon battlecry and frantically throwing the TV from the window is entirely optional).

Whenever I use this technique, all I need is to want the goal badly enough, so I don’t mind that it is so freaking scary to commit to it like a madman. Once that little hurdle is solved, the rest will take care of itself.

Let’s go through the “5 rules of achieving goals like a mad Klingon” now. The rule 3 is the most important one, as it contains the super powerful “madman commitment” technique.

Rule 1: Worthy Royal Goals

Crappy goals should be dropped. How about the noblest blue-blooded audacious goals of the awesome breed? Now we are talking!

Worthy goals are goals that can change your life for the better, forever. Building a new business to the point it can provide you with a financial freedom, shedding weight, gaining weight, learning a new language (or two), writing a book and getting it published, creating a successful blog with 30.000 readers, making your first successful iPhone or Android app – you name it. No one else can name it for you, anyway. It’s your life we are talking about here.

Your goals must be worthy of you – your time, your effort, your energy, your mind.

For example, some goals that were worth my time in the past were: Achieving financial freedom by creating the best to-do list software for Windows and building a successful business around it, creating the habit of exercising daily, attaining excellent health by eating right, building and furnishing my dream home, learning to understand women (no easy task, trust me ;-), etc. And I’m freaking glad I’ve accomplished these goals. I’m getting a warm fuzzy feeling just thinking about them now.

I always make sure that the goal is a perfect match for me. It should be focused on the area where I need to grow the most.

And most importantly, the goal must make me happy. Just thinking and day-dreaming about it should make me happy. Remember: It’s our own happiness that should ultimately guide us.

Rule 2: Double-check that you really, really want it

Here is a quick mental check list that I always do before committing to any goal.

Quick checklist:

  • How badly I want it? (Nothing less than “Real bad” won’t cut it!)
  • Do I want it, or it’s my boss, spouse, or parents that want it? If it’s not I who wants it, full-stop! I’ve recently finished reading the great classic Atlas Shrugged, and I think it’s no coincidence everyone who wanted to live in the Atlantis valley (while the world was falling apart) had to make this oath: “I swear by my life, and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.
  • Do I actually want it, or do I want to want it? This happens to me when I’m scared to get out of my comfort zone in a particular area of my life in order to grow in it, so I’m choosing goals in safe areas where I’m already getting good results.
  • Can I accept the consequences? If it’s a big goal, my life will probably be quite different once I accomplish the goal. Am I ready to accept all the consequences?

Rule 3: Commit to it like a madman

When I complete the two previous steps, I am 100% sure that I want to achieve my goal. Time to bring the heat up. The goal is on fire, we don’t need no water!

I can now fully commit to it. The word “fully” here probably means so monstrous commitment, that all other commitments you have ever made to yourself look tiny, like the human-ants running around the Discworld on the back of a giant turtle Great A’Tuin. *Gulp*, indeed.

What doesn’t work

Just before I give you the ultimate madman commitment technique, I would like to pin-point what doesn’t work. The usual ways we commit to goals just don’t work. All of the following is not a bad advice, but it’s not very effective:

  • Make the commitment to yourself. Tell yourself that you will achieve the goal, and that you are ready to pay the price.
  • Print the goal in a huge font to a sheet of a paper, and post it to a prominent place at home.
  • Edit your PC wallpaper in MS Paint (or other graphical editor), and write your goal all over it.
  • Create a small card with your goal, and place it in your wallet as a constant reminder.
  • Publicly announce that you will work on your goal, and that you are going to post regular daily or weekly updates regarding your goal. Announce it on Facebook, Twitter, and tell this to everyone you see regularly, etc.

All of these points make sense, and I usually do them anyway, but they are nothing compared to:


The madman commitment works like this:

  1. You make a deal with a partner you can trust. It can be your friend, your roommate, one of your parents or grand-parents, or one of your other family relatives.
  2. You tell them exactly what goal you want to achieve, by what deadline (if applicable), how are you going to measure the progress, and how are you going report to them (eg. by sending them a text message every day, by messaging them on Facebook or emailing them every day, or by calling them once a week, etc).
  3. If you fail to work on your goal the way you plan to, promise that you will do something that is going to be hell for you – like giving them $5000, or cleaning their toilet once a week for a year. Be creative – it should be something great for them, and hell for you.
  4. Their duty is to hold you accountable and demand that you fulfill your end of the deal, shall you fail to work on your goal as planned.
  5. If you ever forget to report to them as you’ve agreed, they should call you to check your progress.

Before I tell you why it works so well, let me give you an example:

Let’s say that you want to build a new online business selling Android apps. You want to release your first app and have it in the Android Market in the next 6 months. You might not know much about the development of Android apps, but you know if you put in the effort, you can definitely make it. So you make a deal with your best friend:

“I will work on my Android app at least 2 hours every single day for 6 months, or until the app is released. Every day, I will send you an email report of what I’ve learned or accomplished that day, and how many hours I’ve roughly worked. If I skip a day, it’s OK, but if I ever skip two days in a row, I will give you $2000, and do your laundry and clean your windows every week for the next 12 months. You are to hold me accountable, and demand that I hold my end of the deal. If I ever forget to send you an email, you are to call me and ask me about my progress.”

Want to make it extra serious? Put that in writing, and both sign it.

Suddenly, there is no place for excuses. Hell or achievement. Pick one.

Why it works so well?

Just imagine that you made the example deal above, and that you’ve additionally decided to work on your app in the morning.

Your typical day will look like this: You wake up. You think: Should I work on my Android app for 2 hours, or wire my friend $2000 and be his housemaid for a year? Achievement or hell? You will always choose to put the work in.

You even do not have to think about it! It doesn’t even require your willpower! It is a done deal! You are simply choosing the more pleasant option, like we humans tend to.

Now imagine that you have not made that deal with your friend, and made a commitment only to yourself. Your typical day will look like this:

You wake up, and you think: Should I work on my Android app, or sleep some more? Well, I guess I will sleep some more. It can’t hurt. 45 minutes later, you get up, and think: Should I work on that Android app, or check the Facebooks, the Twitters, and the Wonderful Worlds Of The Internets first? I guess that Facebooks it is! And so on.

Without the madman commitment, your choice will always be: Work or some random pleasure? You will tend to choose the more pleasant option. A lot. Yes, sometimes, you might work on your app a bit, because you really want to or it’s fun, but you won’t push yourself too hard. You will take it easy. Time will fly by, days will get wasted, time lost, and in 6 months, you might not have more than a crude prototype, when you could already had an awesome polished app released, first sales, and another app under-way, thanks to the ultimate power of the madman commitment.

Another part of the magic is that what gets measured, gets done. Just the fact that you are systematically tracking your progress (and reporting it to someone) will make you infinitely more likely to accomplish your goal.

Rule 4: Plow through like a Klingon

Putting in the actual work is usually the hard part, but the funny thing with Mad Klingon Goals is that this is the easiest part. As illustrated in the example above, doing the actual work will be ridiculously easy. The hard part is making the commitment.

Every day, you are like an angry Klingon that is choosing between a glorious battle or exuberant humiliation. You just don’t have to think about it. It’s a done deal. Glorious battle it is, from the moment you wake up.

Rule 5: Celebrate

Once your goal is achieved, throw hell of a party. Or don’t. You can now bend matter to your will. You deserve it all. The reality is your oyster.

Think about the possibilities…

Powerful, powerful stuff, right?

A tiny bit of willpower to make the madman commitment is much more effective that battling yourself every day to do the work. You can just pre-decide all the battles – all that is needed is the madman commitment.

Leave a reply below. What has helped you the most when achieving your goals? Has this inspired you? Can you imagine making such a commitment? Have you ever made any similar deal with someone?

If you have a business, would you be scared if your competitors were using this technique?

Shameless plug: I’m the author of Swift To-Do List for Windows. If you want to get your stuff organized and have all your notes, tasks and reminders in one place, Swift To-Do List is the tool for you. I use it myself every day. I love it, and I’m not alone.

You might also enjoy my post 10 best tricks of fooling myself to work. And if you do not know what goal to set, then the post Raise your awareness of your life might help.

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Swift To-Do List 11

The ultimate to-do list and notes software for Windows.

12 Responses to “Achieving Goals Like a Mad Klingon”

  1. [...] March 29, 2011: There is a new post Achieving Goals Like a Mad Klingon if you want to trick yourself into achieving goals [...]

  2. Anders says:

    “Publicly announce that you will work on your goal….. Announce it on Facebook, Twitter, and tell this to everyone you see regularly, etc.”

    This works for me! Helped me to do two master degrees, to complet a marathon, to complet a ski marathon, to clime kilimanjaro, to quit my job and start own company two times.

  3. Jiri Novotny says:

    Wow, good for you! Thanks for sharing. The thing about this is that it works only for some people (like yourself), but it can have even a negative opposite effect on some people.

    But the madman commitment technique? Works for everyone :)

  4. [...] Pen and paper (or a word processor) is the best friend of your sanity. Use them. Think on paper. Resolve all the lingering issues and insecurities, then recommit fully to your goal. [...]

  5. how amazing are you!!!!

    really really u inspire me to the peek and i am starting now to plan my way according to madman commitment

    • Jiri Novotny says:

      Great! Thanks.

      So, what is your commitment going to be? Want to send me some money if you fail, by any chance? ;-)

      • firstly i have to lose some weight :-D :-D

        and i think that my time is come to reach my technical dreams by increasing my self-motivation and knowledge

        and about your money question.. i won’t send you any money, just because i won’t fail ;-)

        tank u for the article and for reply :-)

  6. There are (at least) two websites devoted to the Madman Commitment idea: StickK.com and Beeminder.com. (The latter is mine.)

    I also have a blog post that makes a similar point to this one about how to decide what you should commit (like a mad klingon) to: http://blog.beeminder.com/wantcanwill

  7. [...] finish something: Using someone else to make sure that you will keep putting effort into it (the Mad Klingon way), or making sure you will keep putting effort in yourself. I’m going to talk about the later, as [...]

  8. [...] finish something: using someone else to make sure that you will keep putting effort into it (the Mad Klingon way), or making sure you will keep putting effort in yourself. I’m going to talk about the [...]

  9. This is a pretty sweet metaphor for a goal-achievement method.

    If you like this, we think you’ll love http://www.moteevate.com, a site geared to keep people moteevated and get them closer to their goals, even if they have to think like mad klingons.

    go be great, moteevate.

  10. [...] example, as I described in Achieving goals like a Mad Klingon, you can promise your best buddy that you will give him $1000 if you won’t do X. Talk about [...]

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