Hard or Boring Goals: Force Multipliers, Threading the Needle

J.C. LaCroix Goal Setting, Motivation


A lot of times, people come to me with these common sets of goals – like loosing weight,  quitting smoking, eating healthier, getting more discipline, becoming more socially adept, getting more emotional control. Usually, people fail at these goals. They take time, most progress comes slowly, and that makes them really hard. How do we rally up and tackle these pesky little steps in our evolution? Can we use our natural tendency to be short-sighted and wimpy somehow to our advantage? In the words of Obama, “Yes, we can!”


But, before we do that just quite, I need to reframe your perspective a little, so lets jump into the awesome, ass-kicking kingdom of military metaphor.


In tactics, there is the concept of a force multiplier. These are military units or battlefield technologies which, while romanticized in many cases, are quite vulnerable on their own. Good examples are sniper teams, medics, anti-tank or rpg infantry, artillery, satellite imaging, drone engagement, detection, and infiltration, and so forth. Now, all these elements have one thing in common: Stand alone, they are relatively weak on the battlefield, but when operational in conjunction with regular forces (infantry, airborne, modern usage of tanks and air superiority) total combat effectiveness then increases dramatically. Why?


Because they provide a pivotal effect, that increases the effectiveness of all other forces.


For example, a medic is trained to engage the enemy. They have a rifle, and on the battlefield are expected to fire it – so we can think of them as having a basic combat contribution that is like a standard infantryman, but slightly reduced. Let’s just throw some pretend numbers in here — If we think of an infantryman as having a value of 1 then we can think of a medic as having a value of 0.5 or 0.6. However, the medic brings modern medicine on the battlefield. He or she treats blisters, foot rot, colds They weed out those who are ill or injured (having a combat rating that is effectively negative) and provide trauma medicine, speeding the return of soldiers to the fight and increasing the chance that they can come back at all. Effectively, we could hypothetically say that, on average, they increase the effectiveness of the average infantryman by 0.5. Now, in the average unit in the middle of a conflict, there are usually 12-20 active soldiers. Thus, the actual effective rating of the medic is 6.6 to 10.6 – that is, 0.6 for his little rifle, and 0.2 for every infantryman he services.




So if that’s the case, why don’t we flood the battlefield with force multipliers, and make the average infantryman have a cock-stomping threat rating?


Simple. Cost.


Most people don’t realize that a medic receives basic training (9 weeks), and then something like 9 months of training after that for combat medicine, and finally gets a refresher combat course, so a month more. That’s over a year’s worth of food, shelter, medical care, equipment, man-hours, drill-sergeant hours, technical-specialist hours, and equipment outfitting. I gave it a cursory glance – over the course of training, an individual combat medic has about 2.5 million dollars invested in him or her by the time training completes. Even then, there is still a learning-curve that has to be overcome for us to think of the little buddy as being “ready” to assume their role. By contrast, I think it takes about 3 or 4 months to train up your average infantryman – and by comparison, its dirt cheap.


So, their cost makes them more effective when spread out, but their effect makes them well worth it.


Now tie this back to your goals.


Lets think of some goals as standard forces, and some as force multipliers.


Loosing weight is an example. Lets say you want that, but you really want to loose weight so you can be prettier and get laid more (or by better quality partners).


Pretend you could freeze frame time and make yourself loose 30, 80, or 120 pounds.


What have you achieved?


Nothing. Why? Because loosing weight, on its own, is “weak on the battlefield”. All by itself it provides no inherent reward. It is dependent on other things.


You see some goals have no real reward standing on their own. For example, loosing weight in and of itself does nothing, but it does lead to a healthy body, which leads to more attractiveness, and if you don’t blow it, more sex. What you really want is attractiveness and/or the sex – what you actually get is day after day of salads and hours and hours of painful, sweaty, exercise, and progress that is so slow, you have to soak a lot of pain before you can really see results.


So loosing weight, like our medic, has a value of 0.6 on the sweetness scale.


Likewise, in the case of force multipliers, loosing weight provides an additional benefit in the form of increased energy levels, boosted immune system, more confidence, higher discipline levels from the working out regularly, etc. What this does is increase your ability to achieve all other goals, across the board (and yes, it even does help you survive a famine, because while all the fat people are laying around laughing and burning their fat stores, you will be building the spike and tar pit to trap them all in and have a much higher chance of long-term survival, plus, you can just run them down).


So, like our medic, our loosing weight increases all our other efforts by 0.2.


This is the real reason for the failure – there is a slight disconnect, a missing step between loosing weight and getting what you actually want in the form of a high cost.


In other words, the way to unlock the power of your force multiplier goals is to integrate them into your regular force goals. It’s the only way to get the force multiplier cost to make sense.


This is called “Threading the Needle” – and the idea is simple, the execution can take some planning and soul searching. The regular force goal, i.e. being hotter and getting laid more becomes the needle, and the force multiplier goal, i.e. loosing weight, is the thread – it becomes dependent upon and follows the needle wherever it goes.


Now, the trick is to force it, or to, well, stitch and then sow…


In other words, our real goal is to get laid more or better, so we deny it to ourselves.


What? Yes.


Look, that’s where the needle actually attaches to the thread – you say, no sex at all until I loose the weight. You deny yourself the dependent goal until you have achieved the force multiplier goal. You are in effect, tying what you really want and what you have to do together, so they work as one.


After all, would you send yourself out as an infantryman, into combat, if you had no medics?


Course not.


Once you have done this, you are doing two things – you are creating a stress-tension energy that is focusing your efforts, and you are recreating a new motivational pathway.


Now, you drive the needle.


This is the important part, you set bench-marks up before you even begin to pursue the goal and only then do you allow yourself a partial taste of the final goal. In our example, you could allow yourself to kiss someone when you’ve gotten to two-miles on the treadmill. Or to masturbate when you’ve lost 3 pounds (making sure its an additional three pounds from your previous lowest weight).


Try it before you knock it.


Now, this example is straight forward, but sometimes you will have to be creative in how you stitch the two goals together, but that’s the fun of it. Also, you don’t have to use two goals that are so mutually intertwined (loosing weight just inherently means more sex).


I’ll share a personal example.


Many years ago I decided it was time to get my awesome abs back, and I had tried a couple times without much success. Well, there was also this completely unrelated goal I had which was to date an artsy girl – specifically, a pottery girl (yeah, this was shortly after the movie Ghost came out). Judge however you want, but the goal was really motivating to me, really exciting. So, I hunted around, hanging out at pottery workshops, and met a lovely lady I really clicked with – I knew I could fall for her. One day, leaving class, I ask her out, we have good times, and kind settle into each other pretty quickly. After a while, I tell her about my goal, and of course, she thinks it’s a fabulous idea. I ask her if she would help me – I ask her if she won’t hang out with me if I haven’t done my crunch routine in front of her for that day. She says yeah, and I also ask her if she will, when I reach certain benchmarks for number of crunches…indulge certain fantasies I’ve had hanging around. Now, at first, we hung out a lot, and then didn’t see each other for two weeks – and I freaked the hell out with dreadlock withdrawl. God, she had such pretty eyes. Mmmmmmmmm. Hmmmmmm.


People, I was washboard in six months. I crap you not.


So the steps are simple:


1) Identify your force multiplier goal.


2) Identify your regular force goal you want to tie-in. Cut it off for a couple weeks while you persue the force multiplier (riding the newness wave).


3) Reward yourself with small tastes of the regular force goal, as you hit benchmarks.


Now, don’t forget to combine this with other forms of leverage you may have – and you can tie-in more than one goal if you’d like (but not too many).


And, don’t forget – much like our medic, the cost is high, so spread out how many force multiplier goals you persue. Start small, with one or two a year. Then take on two or three. Like this, in three years you are more powerful than 90% of the people you meet.


I’d definitely advise against doing more than one per quarter.


Happy cross-stitching!