Money shock

I imagine this has probably been covered before, but I couldn’t find it just now.

In my enthusiasm about beeminder and the ideas behind it, when I explain it to people I always notice that they nod along apparently with some level of interest (dependent on whether they have the same “akrasia” problems as you and me, perhaps, or how seriously they’ve learned to take their own limitations) – until it comes to the part about the money.

At that point, you can see all the other ideas drop straight out of their head right away at… the thrill and the cheek of the thing. It’s not that they’d necessarily disagree that it’s a good idea. It just seems to be the most salient thing for everybody.

I think this is a shame, because it makes it harder to get it to sink in what else it’s really about and why beeminder is different in important ways from similar apps/services I’ve seen (like using cumulative counts, the “akrasia horizon”, “precommit to recommit” etc.).

(of course the money thing is both a good idea in itself, and a necessary and good thing to support the company – but it’s the emotional response I’m talking about, not the logical one)

I’ve tried to explicitly head this off by warning people about their own likely response and pointing out that the money isn’t even the most interesting part (in my opinion) and certainly not the only part. I don’t think it worked.

I don’t have the solution, I just thought I’d bring it up and see if other people have something to say ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


“If you don’t skimp on the important stuff you will not lose any money” :grimacing:

Nah, I had that conversation a couple of times. And every single time people figure I’m crazy.

I like to think the beehive is a bit of a self-selecting group, putting their money where their mouth is.


I hear you. Same here. I like to counter this by saying something along the lines of “you won’t pay a single cent if you do what you yourself set out to do. So what are you afraid of?”.
And then I giggle internally at how uncomfortable it makes them. I guess some people just aren’t ready.

My personal first reaction to Beeminder was “oh shit this sounds like it would actually work for me. But also scary. But really it sounds like it would work. But this is gonna be my last option. I ma try other things first”. And I did. And they didn’t work. I mean they partially did but nowhere near good enough. So here I am.


Reminds me of what Freud was reputed to have said in response to why he charged high fees for his patients: if they weren’t paying the money, they wouldn’t be taking it seriously.


I’ll admit I don’t really “get” the money part of Beeminder.

I dislike derailing on goals whether I’ve got $0 or $10 at stake. There are higher numbers where I’d be looking at living off beans for a while, or really really high numbers that would involve bankruptcy (I can’t say I find the idea of paying a thousand times more than I’ve made in my life realistic or motivating) - but while that sounds stressful and unpleasant, I remain unconvinced that there’s some amount of money at stake that would be massively more motivating for me.

I used Beeminder for around half a year before I derailed on a goal that required me to pay for anything. I’ve derailed on a few $5/$10 things by now (I think) - but frankly, I basically shrugged when it happened, and it was a lot like derailing on a $0 goal.

I like Beeminder, and the people who work on Beeminder. I like setting measurable goals, and having flexibility in the day to day work while not falling below a threshold that keeps me on track with them. It’s great for getting rid of both “I absolutely need to do 3 hours of this today, even though something else major is happening today” and “I’ll start this next week…” And it’s pretty good at being a reminder of how close to the minimum threshold I happen to be on any particular goal.

I’ll admit I remain pleasantly surprised that Beeminder is so focused on the long-term goal of helping its users achieve their goals rather than short-term failures driving immediate revenue to them.

The money part had me inclined to stay away at first - all else aside, it sounds like a huge conflict of interest for Beeminder, and it’s not instantly obvious from the outside that they really do take the high road.

Have you tried asking people what else they think might motivate them? I’d be curious to hear what they’d say!

I’ll admit I really underestimated the power of Beeminder-style “pre-commit to recommit”; either it’s undersold, or I was looking in the wrong places. :slight_smile:

TL;DR I entirely agree about what’s interesting about Beeminder.


I remember this vividly in context of language-acquisition. One particular colleague asked me a few times about how to learn another language, and beeminding his activity was always part of my answer. He never did, and guess how many more languages he speaks now than he did 7 years ago…

"Beeminder is for your important goals". If it’s truly important to you, you’ll beemind it. If it’s not, you can let it slip. As @phi says, try other things first before invoking what @dreev calls the nuclear option.

On my premium plan, I can have $0 pledge goals, so I’ve got a lot of them. And they don’t work as well for making progress, because the derailments are just kinks in the graph. So I’ve flattened all of those roads to zero, which was scary because I know I’ll make even less progress on them now. The important ones warrant some careful thinking about how to measure them, and then I’ll put back both slopes and pledges…