Yellowstone Productivity and Audacious Motivation Contracts

Welcome to edition #5 of The Action Digest, where we turn the impossible into the inevitable.

Here’s your agenda of action for this week:

  • 🏞️ The powerful yet dangerous tactic used by the showrunner of Yellowstone to achieve prolific creative output.

  • 🧬 A world record breaking journalist reveals the extreme motivational technique he relies on in order to accomplish audacious challenges.

P.s., you can check out editions 1-4 here in case you missed them.

1. Bind your future self to success through the power of commitments.

Making a promise is a dangerous game: you can lose trust, relationships, and opportunities if you are unable to deliver on a commitment. But this makes the fear of a broken promise a powerful motivator. Holding yourself to a commitment can unlock depths of effort and creativity that you may not have touched otherwise. By making tactical pledges today, we can endow our future selves with unparalleled focus, grit, and resourcefulness.

Taylor Sheridan, the showrunner of Yellowstone, has broken numerous television viewing records with his hit Western drama. Managing and writing this flagship show demands a huge amount of time and energy. Yet, Sheridan recently disclosed that he is writing and running over 10 additional unique shows—all at once.

What secret technique could account for so much creative output pouring from one individual? Well, the real secret is that Sheridan doesn’t have a choice.

In 2020, the famous “Four Sixes” ranch went up for sale in Texas for $350 million. Sheridan was captivated by the prospect of owning the iconic estate for himself. The problem, however, was that his bank balance was about $330 million shy of the asking price.

So in 2021 Sheridan signed a $200 million deal with Paramount. But in exchange for the 200 million, Sheridan put himself on the hook for at least five cycles of production each year until 2028. From there, investors were willing to give Sheridan the remaining $130m to secure the ranch.

Sheridan’s Paramount deal is an extreme example of what psychologists call a “precommitment device:” a promise that locks your future self into taking a desirable course of action. In Sheridan’s case, he’s contractually obligated to be a hit-drama making machine.

Whether it’s purchasing a 350 million dollar ranch or simply committing to a deadline in public, precommitment devices can be a powerful forcing function for producing prolific results.

2. Commit in public to turn the daunting into the doable.

A.J. Jacobs embarks on extreme challenges for a living.

He once spent 18 months reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica in a quest to consume all the world’s knowledge. He then followed the Bible as literally as possible for an entire year. But it was while delving into the burgeoning field of genealogy that A.J.’s next major challenge crystallized in his mind.

He had just discovered the World Family Tree—a collaborative project that, at the time, linked the ancestry of 70 million humans to a single familial network. Every last one of us humans can be linked on the tree—a feat made possible, A.J. learned, due to the fact that everyone on Earth descends from the same two ancestors. He also learned that this technically makes all of us cousins.

So one night in 2014, after putting their kids to bed, A.J. turned to his wife, Julie, and floated an idea: “What if I threw a reunion for my seventy million relatives?” he asked. Julie gave him a look. In truth, A.J. didn’t believe that all seventy million of his known relatives would attend, but maybe enough of his cousins would show up to beat the world record for the largest family reunion in history.

“Maybe make a list of the pros and the cons,” Julie finally suggested.

And so A.J. did.

The pros included connecting with his distant relatives and possibly even uniting humanity. But the cons were substantial:

  • The project would require an intense amount of work that A.J. was ill-prepared for.

  • He suffered from a lack of experience—never having organized anything larger than a twenty-person birthday party for Julie.

  • The party would be expensive and A.J. had no idea how to budget or how to pay for it.

  • The risk of public humiliation would be high because maybe no one would show up.

It was clear that enormous effort would be required to pull his project off. But A.J. knew just the trick to supply himself with all of the motivation he’d need for his journey.

🔐 This insight, which reveals the evidence-backed technique A.J. used to muster the strength for his audacious goal is for premium subscribers. Yep, for the price of one fancy coffee per month our research team will agonize over the lessons learned from world class creative leaders and teams who make ideas happen, and send their tightly summarized conclusions directly to your inbox on a weekly basis. What a proposition, huh?! ☕️ Join us and help make this weekly action catalyst for creative minds a sustainable project.  

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If you want to stay sharp and immerse yourself in the discipline of taking action and making ideas happen on a weekly basis (and unlock the third section of today’s digest - the extreme motivational technique A.J. Jacobs uses to tackle audacious challenges), join us for the price of one fancy coffee. ☕️

Upcoming insights and hacks for subscribers:

  • What does it mean when the critics start laughing at you? J.K. Rowling, The Beatles, and Jeff Bezos show us how to respond when smart people laughing at our ideas.

  • Why are strongly divided reactions the first sign of a brilliant idea? A counter explosives expert teaches us why our greatest ideas die and how to save them.

  • Why do the best ideas often fail? The controversial story of DNA’s discovery reveals some essential ingredients for innovation.

  • So much more… Making ideas happen is a form of fitness, and we are your trainer. ;-)

We’ll leave you with this…

“I decided that I am going to tell my stories my way, period. If you don’t want me to tell them, fine. Give them back and I’ll find someone who does.” 

Taylor Sheridan

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