Success breeds success

A boiling frog

A boiling frog
Courtesy of Wikipedia

I wholeheartedly recommend that you listen to Ramit Sethi’s fascinating interview of BJ Fogg, director of Stanford’s Persuasive Tech Lab.

His basic message: we can all be persuaded to do anything, as long as it’s done in baby steps. It’s the old story of the boiling frog, describing a frog slowly being boiled alive.

People will not change their behavior through information delivery. In other words, telling people that smoking is bad for their health may motivate, but, will not make them quit smoking. What a waste of taxpayer dollars.

On the other hand, if you ask people to make a small commitment which they can easily achieve, the small success will breed more successes, one baby step at a time. E.g., in order to get into the habit of flossing his teeth, BJ Fogg would leave the dental floss beside his tooth brush, and commit to floss one single tooth —an easy to do small commitment. After a while, his small successes had him flossing all his teeth every day.

To put it bluntly, a dog trainer can do a great job at changing our behavior.

Three things need to be present to change a behavior: motivation, ability and a trigger.

You may be motivated to help a charity, but, you will not contribute unless they have removed the barriers to make it easy to trigger your donation. For instance, it’s a lot easier to give to the Salvation Army when a Walgreen’s cashier asks you to add a donation at the checkout line. You’re able, and a simple “yes” will trigger the donation.

In the case of your employees, get them to commit to a small increase in productivity, where they may feel proud of their achievement, and use the energy from the success to continue their baby steps. A good way to start their motivation is to encourage their suggestions, which appeals to our universal desire to work with autonomy, or on our own ideas.

Or, offer your client the solution to a small problem for free, and deliver on your commitment, leveraging your trust to ask to solve their next small problem. In time, before you realize, you will be flossing all their teeth. As in the previous case, in order to learn what to offer, first, research and inquire your client about his needs.

A very hygienic post. I’ll go get an apple to eat.

One Comment to “Success breeds success”

  1. […] pre­vi­ous posts (about hap­pi­ness, suc­cess and enthu­si­asm) we learned the ben­e­fits of start­ing our chores in a hap­pier frame of […]


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