It’s Time To Blackmail Yourself

It’s Time To Blackmail Yourself

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Over the last three years, I’ve worked tirelessly to improve my city (Fargo, North Dakota), to shift its global image and create something special for my community of friends. We’ve had a tremendous amount of success, with glowing local and national attention, plenty of nights with the fondest of memories to fill a scrapbook, and fun. Lots of it. Through it all, one simple strategy – important for everyone to know – has propelled me.

It is imperative that you blackmail yourself.

Whether you are a procrastinator who always assumes that you have enough time, or you believe that a perfect moment to launch will miraculously come along – you must resist the urge to listen to the voice in your head that pushes fear forward. Announce your intention, loud and clear. I’d encourage you to bet even bigger by publicly exaggerating your vision, too, even if you think it’s a long shot.

During the early days of Students Today Leaders Forever in college, we sent our first Pay It Forward Tour on the road in March of 2004. The Star Tribune, Minneapolis MN’s largest newspaper, interviewed me on the project and asked me how many Pay It Forward Tours we would send out in 2005. I enthusiastically said ‘25’.

In 2005, we sent out four. Failure? I believe it was a success, since we quadrupled our impact. It took four years to send out 25 tours. Yet, now, 11 years into the organization, Students Today Leaders Forever has sent out 582 tours, with close to 23,000 students. The impact has scaled up and the vision remains strong.

One year ago this month, I sent out a heartfelt message to over 100 community leaders in my region after reading the book For the Love of Cities. I shared my hopes for our community and some bold goals. I shared my desire for a radically inclusive community that would focus on healthy food options at events, a more robust support system for entrepreneurs, and a commitment to celebrating the risk takers. I proclaimed the role I would play and listed some key steps that I would hold myself accountable to. I remember hitting that little ‘send’ button, filled with nerves and fear.

One of the biggest drivers for me is not letting my community down, and failing to follow through. I find that when I announce bold ideas to those I care about, I’m more afraid of letting them down than of the task at hand. Why does it work? Shame. It really motivates me.

How did these folks respond? Incredibly. Offering ideas, resources and belief. They serve to hold me accountable to produce what I promised, and push me to create the greatest impact possible. My fear of letting them down was replaced with support that I could never have imagined.

Three quick ways to apply the principle:

  1. Write down that crazy idea you’ve been sitting on for weeks / months / years.
  2. Pick a social media outlet to proclaim your vision to the world (doubling your goals!)
  3. Send an email explaining the why (your motivations and hopes) to a small group of trusted friends, asking them for encouragement and accountability.

As 2015 kicks off, and you’ve got a full year ahead of you, it’s your time to shine. There is no need for procrastination or fear, as this simple technique can work for projects, or for anything in your life: a commitment to getting fit, re-establishing an important relationship, or launching that new company you’ve always dreamed of.

It’s time to blackmail yourself…

Notes from Marc

Greg Tehven is a force of nature and a great friend. Every community can learn from his work in Fargo, North Dakota. He inspired me to stand up in my own community and declare that we were going to make it the best place to live on earth by 2020. Watch Greg’s TEDxStPeterPort talk from the last time he came to my town.

The fourth quick way to apply this principle is to declare your intention in the comments section below.

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  1. Norman Jackson says


    A happy new year to you.

    Your article about Greg Tehven and blackmailing himself to achieve big things has struck a chord.

    When we lunched before Christmas, I mentioned that I had met an Irishman named John Richardson, who had set himself the challenge of shooting a par round of golf within one year.

    When he started, he couldn’t break 100, he had a business to run, a wife and daughter to keep happy and most people told him it was “mission impossible”. Even legendary golfer Sam Torrance told him to “Dream On”.

    At the outset, he decided to announce to the golfing world what he was trying to achieve. He did this by posting regular blogs on the internet, engaging in on-line golfing forums and having articles published in the golfing press. Although some supported him, most thought he was “bonkers”.

    But 362 days later and having struck around 70,000 golf balls, he shot an one under par round at his local course. He admits that a significant reason for his success was that he had gone public, he had put his head on the line, he had blackmailed himself. Although many times during the year, he thought of jacking it in, he knew to do so would be too humiliating.

    His next challenge was to write a book about what he had achieved – so he spent the next year doing so. After being turned down by 83 publishers and agents, one local publisher agreed to give his book a go and “Dream On” became the runaway best selling golf book in the UK for a full 18 months.

    To me it is the best sports book I have ever read and what can be achieved over and above normal thinking (till recently it had been Lance Armstrong’s book “It’s Not About the Bike” – but after he admitting taking drugs, I quickly changed my mind).

    On not a dissimilar tack, I remember reading one of Sir Ranulph Fiennes book, “Mind Over Matter”, which is a death-defying and bone-chilling account of one of his most remarkable achievements. For 1,350 miles at a rate of 14 miles a day, he and his partner Dr. Michael Stroud trudged across Antarctica. But the expedition’s world records for both the longest unsupported polar journey and the first unsupported crossing of Antarctica came at an incredible cost. Each pulling a 500-pound sled while encountering cavernous crevasses and bitter blizzards with temperatures at -86[degree]F, the two men faced gangrene, altitude sickness, starvation, hypothermia, and equipment failure that nearly claimed their lives long before they reached the South Pole. The tortuous trek took a mental toll as well. Tensions turned to frustrations that were taken out on each other, and by journey’s end the two good friends were deeply antagonistic. In his book describes what it takes to survive a monumental physical and mental challenge.

    In the final page, he quotes the Scots Philosopher, William Murray:

    “Until one is committed there is hesitancy – the chance to draw back – always ineffectiveness.
    The moment one definitely commits oneself – then providence moves too – all sorts of things happen to help one that would otherwise never have occurred”.

    Ranulph Fiennes was committed because the world was watching him, John Richardson was committed because he had gone public, and the same with Greg Tehven.

    Not that I could be compared with the achievements of Sir Ranulp or John Richardson, it is now my turn.

    For the last 25 years, I have been involved with owners of SMEs (small medium sized enterprises) as an Adviser, Mentor, Corporate Financier and Non-Executive Director. Over the years, I have advised over 1,000 companies.

    Along the way, I have picked up numerous tips of how and how not to run a business. So I have decided to put pen to paper and am now writing my own book.

    It will be entitled along the lines of “100 Quotations to help you run your Business”. It will be aimed primarily at those who run their own SME business (start-ups to turnover of £25 million).

    The quotations will lead into anecdotes and tips base on my varied experiences. The intention is for it to be light reading, where readers can “dip in” and “dip out” of various sections including How to Plan, How to Get Things Done, Avoiding Procrastination, Working with Others, Listening Techniques, Networking etc. etc. I am telling everyone on purpose to blackmail myself, to put my head on the line.

    I estimate it will take me 18 months to achieve – so a completion date of 30th June 2016 – so watch this space !

    And what’s the latest with John Richardson ?

    John is a motivational speaker and most recently has created “The Top 1% Blueprint” to enable anyone who would like to reach the top 1% in any area of their lives to do so in 20 hours a week as part of a 12 month online programme.

    Meanwhile, “Dream On” is currently being filmed at Elstree Studios – see for progress.

    Onwards & Upwards – Have a Mega 2015 – Regards – Norman

    Norman Jackson (

  2. “Shame” or as the Chinese put it, “losing face” is a darn good motivator for me!

  3. I think this article is great. It really shows you how we as human beings are wired. We always short change ourselves. We only want to do certain things in our time. If it isn’t to much trouble. Well if you are like me I am somewhat of a procrastinator. Which is not a good attribute. When are like this you are subtly just short changing yourself not only physically but most importantly spiritually. Because this is where your creativity and diverse thinking comes from.
    We as human beings lets admit, like things to come easy in life. In fact we as a society have gotten worse at this and not better. What we do is really short change ourselves as creators and not allowing ourselves to become fully engaged with our spirit side.
    When we put ourselves out there, there is a accountability factor and it makes us as human beings become more responsible. Not only to others but to ourselves, which really is more important.
    We need to enrich our own lives before we can enrich others. We need to be more true to ourselves and then we can tap into that creativity that is waiting to be opened.

  4. Norman Jackson says

    Jill – nicely put – I concur with your comments- Norman

  5. What’s up Dear, are you truly visiting this web page regularly,
    if so then you will without doubt get nice know-how.

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