New website lets you gamble on meeting your goals

Half the battle of success is following through with your goals. A new site on the web Success…Or Else! is offering to be your personal motivational coach for a price if you fail. What is their take on the key to success? Punishment.
Using three simple steps Success..Or Else! aims to help people succeed at completing their personal goals.

Step one: Tell the site what you want to do and your deadline for that. The owners of the site will review your case and set a fine for incompleteness of your goal. They will also inform you of how to prove to them that you have accomplished your goal.

With the goal and potential fine set it’s time for the next step.

Step Two: It’s time to ante up the pot. You send the site money to hold until you have completed your task by your deadline. They will send you a nagging email once in a while to let you know how they will spend your money if you don’t finish your goal.

Step Three: If you have done your work you get your money back. If you have failed they laugh all the way to the bank.

The Management has announced that due to an influx of cash half of all money users lose will got to charity.

I signed up to get an interview with the founder, Sevaan Franks and was told I had to pay $20 if I didn’t meet a deadline by April 30, 2009.

If you don’t interview the Succeed or Else crew by April 30th, 2009, you lose $20! If you do get the interview, you get to keep your money and probably be short-listed for a Pulitzer. Think how good that will make you feel!

In order to prove that you interviewed us, I will require a URL to read the article online by no later than 12:00am on May 1st, 2009. Otherwise I will probably spend my $10 on lunch (the other $10 goes to charity…so even if you fail, you are still a success!)

In an email interview with owner Sevaan Franks of Toronto I got the scoop of where the idea to start this site came from.

What was your motivation for starting the site?

For the past few years, whenever I would chat with friends and they would tell me about a goal they had, or something they wanted to accomplish in a certain amount of time, I would immediately throw out a punishment. Something like, “Ok, if you don’t complete that screenplay, you owe me a big expensive dinner.” And occasionally I would have some takers, and more often than not, I wouldn’t. Out of those who took me up on it, most would accomplish their goal, and those that didn’t would take me out to dinner and then accomplish what they wanted to do. It’s sort of like negative reinforcement, as oppose to positive reinforcement that everyone talks about. Once they were punished for failing, they weren’t likely to do it again. One of my friends who decided not to take me up on it teasingly said “I’d rather give my money to a stranger than to you”. And then the thought of making it a website came to me like a light bulb going off in my head

Mind you, this was years ago. I have the same problem as most people I know where I talk about getting things done, but don’t actually follow-through. However, this year, one of my new years resolutions was to bring to life all the crazy business ideas and concepts that I come up with. So this is the first on the list. And to ensure that I would do it, I decided to put some money on the line myself. So just like the Hairclub for Men…not only am I president of Succeed…Or Else!, I’m also a client!

I had a bit of an epiphany earlier this week when I was sorting through some of the goal requests that were coming into the site. There are really people out there who need help and I realized that this site I set up, sort of as a lark, if I’m being honest, was actually helping people more than I initially thought. It’s touching to see the goals that people want to accomplish. There are the standards ones, such as losing weight, scoring high on tests or quitting smoking, then there are the ones that I just know people are embarrassed about slightly…that they can’t go to their friends for motivation. One guy wants to learn how to swim so he won’t be embarrassed at a holiday he is going to. Someone else wants to be a better husband to his wife. And another person wants to stop looking at adult websites. These are really personal goals. I feel privileged to hear about them.

Have people actually sent you money?

Yes. Not as many people have sent money as have sent in goals, but there have been a few people who have been serious enough about accomplishing their goals, and fed up enough with not having the motivation to, that have sent in money. I really believe in this concept of external motivation, and I think it’s going to work for them.

How much money have you kept and given back?

No money has been given back yet because none of the deadlines have been reached. But I’m sure they will get their money back. One person didn’t finish an essay in time, however, so I got to keep $40. I’m sure he’ll finish it next time now!

One issues everyone asks me about is proof, and how do I know when someone has accomplished their goal. I usually ask for something cursory, like a photo or testimony from a friend. And yes, I realize that any of these can be easily faked, but to be honest I’m not doing this to make the money. It’s out of a genuine interest in helping people. So really, if they want their money back, they will get it. I just hope they realize that the point of losing the money is to reinforce that failing is not okay. So I hope that if they didn’t genuinely accomplish their goal that they accept the loss and try again for another date.

What is the success rate for your clients?

It’s too early to tell. However, I did have one failure already. I think the real key will be whether he succeeds next time, knowing what it feels like to fail a goal and be punished for it. I will be following up with him.

How long as the web site been in place?

The website has only been online for a couple weeks! I starting making it and finished it on one Tuesday evening while watching TV, and by the next evening I already had 5,000 unique visitors. It’s the kind of idea that people talk about at the water cooler. It seems to market itself.

The feedback has been interesting too. The majority of people like it and say it’s something they wish they had thought of, or that it’s the funniest and cleverest business model they have ever seen (which gives me confidence for my other ideas!). However, some people hate it. I think because it’s so new and doesn’t have an established record many people are concerned (and rightly so, I guess) that it is a scam. I’ve received a few threats through the goal submission form too. People whose goals it is to hack my site by a certain date, or do bad things to me or even my family! Nothing serious, I’m sure.

As for the future, the site will be changing a lot in the coming months too, allowing users to better take control of their goals and respective punishments. I really think there is something to this idea of punishment motivation and negative reinforcement, and I have some interesting plans up my sleeves. We’ll see where it goes!

The concept is a good one, in fact I wish I had thought it up before Mr. Franks. I wish him success and success for his clients. And I did met my deadline before I had a chance to send my money in. Not bad for a day’s work.


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