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How do you stay motivated? How do you become the person you want to be? How do you keep commitments to yourself? How can you achieve the kinds of things the people you look up to have achieved?

You want all of these things, but you can’t seem to stick with something. You want to commit, but every time you try to start something it doesn’t really go anywhere and you just give up and move on.

These people you look up to seem to be prolific in their output. They’re successful, they’re consistent, and they’re constantly putting things out without fail.

If you feel like you’ve wanted to get to this point and you just aren’t there yet, accountability is what is missing.

Now the big question: how do you find someone?

Show Notes
  • 02:55 Recapping the plans for Small Scale Sabbaticals (Related: What if You Took a Week Off Every 7th Week?).
  • Why you need an Accountability partner
  • 09:32 We’ve touched on accountability partners here and there throughout the show, but everything is going to be consolidated in this one episode. We’ll be going over WHY you need an accountability partner, HOW to find one, and WHAT actually goes down in an accountability meeting.
  • 10:11 The primary reason you should have an accountability partner is because we’re not afraid to let ourselves down. What I mean by that is if we break a commitment to ourselves, it’s not a big deal to us. No one else knows, so it doesn’t carry much weight to us. This is why when we resolve to wake up early, when we often hit the snooze button and sleep in. Waking up early just never happens.
  • 11:22 For whatever reason, we tend to put more stock in the thoughts and opinions of others. The idea of letting someone else down carries more weight with us. It affects our relationship with that person. Similarly with public accountability, when you make a public commitment to do something or to stick with something, your reputation is now on the line.
  • 11:52 The three P’s of accountability:
    • Public Accountability
    • Partner Accountability
    • Personal Accountability
  • A three-fold cord is not easily broken.

  • 12:25 Now that last one might sound a bit weird—personal accountability. You might be thinking, “Wait a second, I thought he just said I don’t have much weight in my own personal commitments?” You don’t. That’s exactly why we’re bringing it in here. You’re already committing to these other sources that DO mean something to you (partner and public), so we’re piggybacking on the weight that you already give to those commitments. When you follow through with those commitments, you have the added bonus of also following through with your own personal commitment. Now you have more stock in your own word.
  • 13:38 The idea is that eventually your own word will actually mean something to you because you’re actually following through. We’re using the weight that the other two commitments have to back it up. It’s important to reflect on what you’re committing to and tell yourself that you are also committing to it personally. This brings you a step closer to being able to be self disciplined such that you can accomplish something on your own without an accountability partner if you want to.
  • 15:27 Ben: “As a person who has a difficult time following through with their own commitments, this can be a real catalyst for moving me toward where I want to be. I feel like I’m naturally more on the side of not following through with things as consistently as I would like to. So the idea of making public commitments and having an accountability partner as a motivator is really helpful while I’m building my own personal accountability.”
  • 16:17 Sean: Having it be this thing that you owe the other person is what really gives it weight. If you think of it as “I only owe this to myself and this other person is just here to see what I do,” it doesn’t really work.
  • 16:47 Consider the time that they’re investing in you. They’re giving time to you just like you’re giving time to them. Out of respect, you want to deliver and follow through. Thinking of it in terms of you owing this other person is what gives it weight to you.
  • 18:59 In case we haven’t really driven home the need for an accountability partner:
    • It’s to help you stay committed.
    • It’s to help you be able to show up consistently.
    • It’s to help you be regular about your output.
  • How to Find an Accountability Partner
  • 20:01 So at this point you’re thinking accountability sounds great. You want to be able to do this, you want to be able to commit to things, you want someone to hold you accountable, but how do you find someone?
  • 20:19 I’m going to break down the “how” into 3 sections: 1) Values, 2) Levels, and 3) Places.
  • 1) Values
  • 20:27 You first need to establish your values—your personal values. They could be similar to the principles you hear in this show, they could be those plus other things, those minus certain things—whatever. You need to establish your values, what you stand for, and what’s important to you.
  • 20:55 With this criteria, you can begin looking for people who share those values.
  • 2) Levels
  • 21:04 Once your values are established, you’ll start to notice the people that fit the bill. You’ll tend to initially think of people you’ve heard of. Naturally if you’ve already heard of them, they’re probably relatively well-known. This is somewhat of a problem.
  • 21:21 Let’s say on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being master), you are a level 2. You want to improve and you want to better yourself so you decide to position yourself around people who are more advanced than you (this is a wise move). The problem is, you can’t just jump to someone who is a level 10.
  • Accountability Partner vs Mentor
  • 21:49 The difference between an accountability partner and a mentor:
    • Accountability Partner: someone who is within two levels of you.
    • Mentor: someone who is more than two levels above you.
  • 22:19 If you go straight to the level 10 and ask them to be your mentor, it’s not going to work in most cases because those people have a lot of others that are vying for their attention. They’re going to be really hard to reach.
  • 22:32 Lower that threshold and don’t try to shoot so far when you’re a level 2. Look to a level 4 or 5 if you want someone to be a mentor. If you want someone to be an accountability partner, you can have someone who is the same level as you or even less. If you’re a 2, they could be a 1, 2, 3, or 4—someone who’s in your ballpark. You want someone who’s going in the same direction and has the same values. They have the kind of forward momentum that you want.
  • The main thing is finding someone else who has the characteristics of the person you want to be.

  • What level am I?
  • 23:40 “How do you know what level you’re at?”
  • 23:56 Ben: “Without gauging yourself against other people’s proficiency in a given field, it’s difficult to say. You have to account for all of the various levels of talent that are out, so it can only be a subjective idea.”
  • 24:18 Sean: Maybe we can kind of box this in a little bit to provide some reference points. Let’s use the 10,000 hours idea not as a rule, but as a tool for the sake of illustration here: If we call 10,000 hours a master, that makes it really easy. Each thousand hours that lead up to master would then essentially be a level. So if you have one or two thousand hours in something, you’re probably a level 1 or 2.
  • 25:00 Ben: “I’ll say this too: You have your own perception of what level you’re at, and the person you’re approaching might have their own perception of what level you’re at. You have to allow for the possibility that this person values their expertise differently than you do and they may value your expertise differently than you do. That’s going to affect the dynamic of the relationship.”
  • 27:18 You have to consider the factors that play into people’s perception of your expertise level:
    • Have you written blog posts on this topic for X number of years?
    • Are you podcasting every month, or every week, or twice a week on this topic?
    • Is this person you’re looking to position yourself around also doing those things?
  • 28:49 Make sure you’re not thinking of yourself as more advanced than you really are. If you have an inflated sense of ego, you might think you’re a level 5 when really everyone else around you perceives you as a level 1. What’s going on here? Well, you could actually be a level 1, but in some cases it’s a matter of your projection catching up with what you actually know. How you project your expertise plays into the level at which you’re perceived. How can you make it catch up?
    • By projecting what you know.
    • By writing.
    • By podcasting.
    • By making videos.
    • By creating case studies.
    • By having a bunch of work on your website.
  • 30:02 Bottom Line: The whole “thousand hours = 1 level” thing is just a guideline. It’s to give you an idea. It’s not some magic test, it’s just a reference or an analogy if you need something tangible to be able to grasp this concept. Here are the two main points:
    1. Find someone who is comparable to you as an accountability partner.
    2. If you’re looking for a mentor, then find someone who is a bit beyond you but they don’t necessarily have to be a level 10.
  • 3) Places
  • 30:53 “Where do I go to find this type of person?”
  • 31:02 It’s not unlike dating in that you have certain values that mean something to you. If someone else is not on board with those value, then the two of you are not going to be a good fit. Also, if you’re not putting yourself out there in places where the people you want to meet are, you’re going to have a hard time.
  • No one knows that you’re sitting in your house.

    Oh, you’re tweeting? Big deal. You have to GO places, BE places—people connect with people.

  • 31:25 If your avatar is an illustration or something, people can’t connect with that. It’s not the same as a photo. You’re not being a person. If you’re writing but you’re not doing videos, it’s not the same. All of these things are facets that give people a better idea of your personality. The best possible way to convey your personality is by being in person.
  • 32:05 How do I be in person with other people? What do those places look like? Where are the places I should go to make connections? Where should I be if I want to meet people like myself? (Related: e073 The Struggles of Networking)
    • Conferences
    • Meetups
    • Local groups
    • Speaking events
  • Online Chats
  • 34:21 I’m not just talking about one-off chats here. Those happen a lot: you chat with someone, have a good conversation, and then it’s over and you don’t ever end up talking again. You tend to not connect back up.
  • 34:58 The idea is not to just have a one-time thing, but more of a “water cooler” concept. It’s a regular meeting with other people. I’m talking daily. Somewhere you can check in with people every day. It’s another form of accountability.
  • 35:20 The perfect example of this is the Community. Every single day, throughout the day, there are people there. A lot of regulars check in every day and we have really enriching conversations like the we one are having now. A lot of people listen to this podcast, and continue to tune in to each episode, and nod their head as these things resonate with them. If what we’re talking about is resonating with you, you are the type of person we have in the Community!
  • 36:10 Do you end up telling your friends about what you hear in the show? Have the values and principles resonated with you or impacted you in some way?
  • The people in the Community are those types of people.

    You get to skip past the entire first step of ensuring someone is on the same page with you because everyone there is already on the same page.

  • 36:36 Ben: “I was in the Community chat room yesterday. I was sitting in my home and just pulled up the chat because I was trying to work through some issues and had some questions. Not only were you there helping me work through some of these things but some of the other Community members were also chiming in and offering their own voice. It was cool because it’s all coming from the same mindset. It’s all coming from the same heart of wanting to be helpful and provide value, but from different and unique individual perspectives.”
  • 37:16 Sean: That is so cool. It’s great because it’s people from different cities, states, countries, continents, backgrounds, industries, job situations, and family situations. You’re going to find people with something in common with you who are coming from the same place that you can relate to.
  • 40:19 To give you an idea of the connections that can be being made: I met the guy who is now the developer of our chat system, iOS app, and Mac app within the Community! It’s awesome because he’s already invested in this place and wants to be here. What better person to build out the system than someone who has personally chosen to be here and not only wants to create an amazing experience for me as his client, but for himself as a user!
  • 42:15 We have a number of people that have been recently pairing off as accountability partners with people they’ve met in the Community. They’re saying, “I have no idea how I would have found people like this had it not been for being a part of this Community.” Because you don’t have to worry about that first step: the values. Finding people that align with your values is the super hard part and that step is already done for you within the Community.
  • What goes down in an accountability meeting?
  • 44:43 This is a mutually beneficial thing. It’s not just for one person’s benefit—that’s only the case with a mentorship. In an accountability partnership, it’s going to be a trade off.
  • 45:44 Ben: “Can I interject real quick? On the note of mentors or situations where someone is a number of levels above you, it may not be germane to simply approach that person and assume they would be willing to offer you their time for free. I should approach them with the assumption that this is probably going to cost me some money because this person has expertise that I don’t have but am wanting. That’s valuable to me so it’s a worthwhile investment.”
  • 46:20 That’s a really great point (Related: e071 Positioning Yourself Around Success). People always want the person who is way ahead of them to give them free advice. “I want to pick your brain.” That’s the worst! It’s the most offensive thing you can say to someone that you look up to or want to be around. “Can I pick your brain?” or “Can I buy you coffee?” You’re basically saying:
  • “Can I pay you $4 for your advice?”

  • 47:05 If you can find a mentor, good for you! That is really hard to do. It’s really hard to find a mentor. You’re basically asking for someone who has been-there-done-that and has spent years learning what they’ve learned to give you what they know for free. That’s huge. That has to come from within for a mentor. In most cases, these things tend to happen naturally where there’s already somewhat of a relationship or connection and the mentor feels like giving or outpouring what they know for the benefit of this one particular person.
  • 47:42 If you seek that out and it happens to work, again, good for you! But in most cases, what you’re wanting is legitimate coaching. You’re wanting consultation. That is a paid service.
  • 47:59 Ben: “Justin says, ‘Mentors get benefits by going through the process of articulating and clarifying things they wouldn’t otherwise, giving them valuable insights.’ I agree that there is some value in being a mentor. But I believe that’s a value that the mentor has to determine and bring into the relationship at their will. That’s not something that the mentee can project into that relationship.”
  • 48:49 Sean: 100% agree. That’s a really good observation, Ben. Similarly, you can do pro-bono work and there’s nothing wrong with that. But the initiation of that pro-bono work is coming from you. Where it’s wrong is when a client comes to you and asks for free work and says “It’ll be good exposure.” The one giving the value must be the one who initiates.
  • 50:32 Accountability meeting breakdown:
    • It has to be regular.
    • It has to be scheduled.
    • The meeting needs to be structured.
    • You absolutely need to TAKE NOTES.
    • Be friendly, be human, but don’t waste time.
    • Recap last week: how did it go with the thing you said you’d have completed by this meeting?
    • What are you struggling with right now?
    • What are you working on?
    • What will you have done by the next time we talk?
    • Take turns.
    • Write down the commitments you both made.
  • What if you pair up with a slacker?
  • 53:09 Ben: “What happens when you get to the next meeting, and you’re going through the list of things and somebody hasn’t completed or fulfilled their commitment?”
  • 54:26 Sean: For the most part in an accountability meeting, you want to just reset. Evaluate what went wrong, but it’s all forward movement from here. We’re resetting right here. “What do we do next time? Okay, you messed up. Forget that. We’re past that. We’re done. What are you going to do next time? Let’s reset. Let’s be realistic about it, but what can you have done by the next time we meet?”
  • 55:04 Now with more mentorship-type situations, I have said, “Look, you need to have 10 days on the log out of the next 14 or we’re done here.” I’m being serious. This is my time and I’m giving it to you. My time is valuable. Other people want my time and I could be giving it to them and they could be using it. So if it doesn’t mean something to you, then there’s no point in continuing. That is a little bit of #harshsean but it’s more from a mentorship perspective. Mentorship has an implied value. It’s a free thing of value being given and if this person is not valuing that, there’s no point in continuing.
  • 56:00 I would say on an accountability level, you want to be more encouraging. That’s because it’s a more mutually-beneficial arrangement. Possibly leverage the fact that this other person showed up. They made their commitments to you and you didn’t make your commitment to them. Again, you’re owing that other person. It’s like if you have a gym buddy and they’re expecting you to pick them up at six in the morning to go to the gym. If you’re sleeping in and don’t show up, they’re going to be standing outside on their porch with their gym clothes in their bag ready to go. Just yesterday, they were the one to pick you up. They didn’t let you down. You can leverage that in an accountability relationship.
  • 1:02:45 “How should you react if your accountability partner consistently doesn’t meet their commitments?”
  • 1:05:30 You have to eventually come to terms with the fact that this person is not committed. Maybe they’re not in the right place right now, or maybe they’re making certain choices, but when they’re consistently not meeting their commitments, what they’re saying with their actions is your time doesn’t matter. You have to find someone who is on board with the values that you have. That means being consistent and showing up. You can’t afford to continue with someone that doesn’t.