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Let's do a small recap.

Taking action is about REWARD and PUNISHMENT at both the BEGINNING and the END of a behavior slide.

Rewards and punishment can be both intrinsic 

  • punishment: physical pain, etc.
  • reward: discovery, etc.

and extrinsic 

  • punishment: lose money, etc.
  • reward: win money, etc.

but the moral of the story is that the punishment, in some way, is outweighing the rewards.

And, keep in mind: punishment is subjective.

Someone might dislike the physical “discomfort” that comes alongside strength training. Other people, like Arnold, thought it was

So a few things to note…


You can rig the deck in your favor by using extrinsic rewards and punishments. This would be like, “If you go talk to that girl, I'll give you $100.”

But extrinsic motivators are tricky.

I can't remember the details, but I think I first heard read this story in Freakonomics. It's a popular story, anyhow, so forgive my butchering of it below.

People ran a daycare center. They got tired of parents picking up their kids later than scheduled, so they decided to enforce a late fee. Meaning, if you didn't pick up your kid by 5:00PM, you were charged.

Turns out, more people started picking up their kids late. Because prior to the late fee they were motivated to arrive on time from intrinsic feelings, like guilt.

An extrinsic punishment (money loss) turned out to be an intrinsic reward (not feeling guilt).

There's more on this slippery slope in Daniel Pink's book, Drive. The overwhelming conclusion being that true motivation and drive is something that comes from within more than without.

But if you want to rig the deck in your favor, the best way (that I know) is this:


Add a social element, something where you're held accountable. Like a weight loss challenge with your coworkers.


Be punished instead of rewarded. Humans are risk averse and we weigh the prospect of loss much more than we weigh the value of gain. Meaning we'd be more motivated if losing $100 was on the line rather than gaining $100.

So the challenge could be this: if you don't eat a salad at lunch in the break room for lunch every day, you lose ‘x' number of dollars.


Anchor the loss in an intrinsic trigger; make it truly disgusting and painful. It's one thing to have to throw $5 into a jar that your friends get to keep at the end of the challenge.

It's another thing to give the $5 to the KKK every time you don't eat a salad. AJ Jacobs did this (used the prospect of having to give money to the KKK as motivation).

Imagine the stakes!

If you don't follow through with your intended behaviors, you support the KKK. That's intense. Would you flake?


This sounds wonderful and will probably work, but the nature of any similar challenge is such that it will end. All challenges end. And when they do, well…what happens?

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Trying to lose fat, build muscle, and build a body you’re proud of?

Maybe you’re a little lost right now.

Maybe you don’t have much motivation.

Maybe you don’t what program or diet to use.

I don’t know…

But what I do know is this:

Everything you need is inside of you.

You’re capable of more than know.

You just have to open your eyes.

My weekly column can help.

Just a small little honest note from me sent every Sunday.

Unless I’m hungover.

And then it comes Monday.

What I’m trying to say is that it’ll come Monday.

(These weekly columns don’t get posted to the site.)

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