Monday, April 25, 2011

Putting Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

A week ago, I got an email invitation from a friend via At first, I didn't know what to make of it. The email said that this friend needed my support. Ummmm...I'm glad I seem like the supportive type, but with what? After an interesting discussion with this friend about, I gladly joined the weight loss "support team."

So what's the deal with this site anyways? Well, have you ever had a goal that you'd love to achieve but can never actually find enough motivation to go through with it? I'm sure we've all encountered this. (I've been meaning to do a triathlon for over a year now...) Well, this site gives you that extra kick in the behind you may need to accomplish this goal.

Here's how it works: after registering for the site for free, you'll publish your goal. Then comes the incentive part. You'll have to decide on an amount of money to lose if you don't accomplish this goal. For example, my friend has a weight loss goal of losing 1lb a week for 11 straight weeks. For each week this doesn't happen, it'll cost 10 bucks. In addition, you can name a referee to keep you honest and recruit supporters to cheer you on.

And where does the money you lose go to? It can be paid to friends and family or even a charity. But by far the worst thing that can happen to your hard earned cash (and perhaps the best thing for accomplishing your goal) is to have it go to an anti-charity. What's that you say? It's a cause that you feel strongly against. For example, if an avid supporter of walking barefoot can designate his money to be donated to American Soles*, a shoe charity, if he slips up.

Interesting concept. I recently listened to a Radiolab podcast about psyching yourself into not doing something by committing to a cause that you absolutely cannot stand. On the show, a woman quit smoking cold turkey by telling her friend that if she ever smokes again, she'll have to donate money to the KKK. She hasn't smoked since. StickK offers something similar: an announcement of the goal, a referee and supporters (the smoker's friend), as well as financial incentives and an anti-charity (donation to the KKK).

According to StickK's own website, people are 3X more likely to achieve what they set out to do using this method. They should know. The company was started by 3 Yale professors familiar to the field of behavioral economics. The last I checked over $7 million are currently on the line through the site. For now, I'll stay a "supporter" of my friend. But maybe in the near future, I'll jump on the bandwagon in order to get things done!

*American Soles is not an actual far as I know.


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