September 2, 2015

How I will get you to do stuff


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For many years already I’m subscribed to a service that sends me abstracts of book that might interest me. This service is called and they claim they have the largest library of business book summaries. Often I don’t take the time to even read the abstract, either because the title doesn’t intrigue me, or because I think I have enough books that I want to read first.

Not so last week when I received the abstract of a book that immediately caught my attention. The book is called

“How to get people to do Stuff”

by Susan M. Weinschenk PhD. Susan is a psychologist and behavioral scientist and shares in this book how to master the art and science of persuasion and motivation.


Now that is a topic that is of great interest to me 🙂


Why you are not willing to do something

As an accountant and controller serving clients for over 20 years, I know, that a lot of you business owners have a huge paper problem and are desperate to solve your financial puzzle. But even though your struggles can range from irritation, frustration, overwhelm to chaos and despair, most of you are not willing to do something about it.


when there is no “magic Pill”

Instead, you invest your energy in searching for that magic pill, hoping that there is something out there that prevents you from having to deal with papers and finances. So here I am again, the bearer of the bad News:


Just like that Chocolate/Cake/Muffin/fill-in-your-favorite-food-here diet that keeps you slim, fit, and healthy doesn’t exist, an I-don’t-have-to-deal-with-papers-and-finances-solution isn’t out there to be discovered either.


It does not have to be hard

Now the good news is, even though there is no magic pill for the paper problem and financial puzzle, it does not have to be hard or very time consuming either, IF I can convince you to have a system in place.


Unfortunately so far Nike’s slogan “Just do it” never motivated any of you really, so I eagerly dived into the abstract of Susan Weinschenk’s book to learn what it is, that will motivate you. The take-away is, that there are

“seven drives” that motivate people to do stuff.


The need to belong

It is about building social connections and then evoking a sense of belonging to the group. Most people want to be insiders. One of the actions we can take to do that according to Susan Weinschenk is engaging in synchronous activities like laughing or celebrating together. Apparently that releases oxytocin in our brain and gets us to be more trusting and empathetic. So this means for me, I could start a group where we laugh about our paper chaos and celebrate solving our financial puzzles on our way to peace. Who is in?


This is something I talked about before, it’s best to transform useful actions into automatic behaviors, I called it routines can be lifesavers (read more here). What seems important is to have a cycle of “cue-routine-reward” to trigger and reinforce the habits. Susan mentions the “Couch to 5K” (C5K for short) jogging app that cues you to get moving, guides you through an exercise routine and rewards you with a progress chart. I used this app to run my first 5K this year  and I am determined to work out a similar system to help you solve your paper problem and financial puzzle, I could call it C2P, from Chaos to Peace.


The power of stories
In short, if you start to believe a different story of yourself, your persona changes. Susan claims that story editing can fix even the most difficult self-stories, such as those involving post-traumatic stress disorder. So clearly, if it helps PTSD patients changing their story, your story of being bad with papers and numbers should be a breeze to change.


Carrots and sticks
Most of us know of this one, we have heard of Ivan Pavlov’s experiment with dogs. Pavlov trained dogs to associate a ringing bell with food. So according to this “carrots and sticks” drive I only have to find the right stimulus for the response I would like to get from you, then add a new stimulus to make your response automatic. I will get back with you on this one, I do have carrots in the fridge.


Fear motivates. Research confirms, that we should make people worry they might lose something they value. Apparently the prospect of gain motivates only to a degree, while fear of loss is much more potent. In my last post I threatened you that your business could be dying without you knowing it, did that scare you at all?


The desire of mastery
Susan states that people seek expertise in skills that matter to them and that self-motivation trumps inducement. People also learn better with the right kind of feedback at the right time. So if I find a way to tell you at the right time that you are getting it right, I can motivate you to “just do it”


Tricks of the mind
Here Susan introduces Nobel economics laureate Daniel Kahneman who changed the way we think about thinking. He says that there are two distinct aspects of human thinking: System1I is automatic and makes quick judgments while System 2 takes effort and is energy-hungry. System 1 almost always trumps system 2 because our brains are lazy. They don’t want to work hard. Ha! Now I know why you are searching for the “magic Pill” .


Reading this abstract motivates me to read the whole book and learn to find ways to get you guys to do stuff. Not just any stuff of course, but the necessary actions to tame your paper monster and solve your financial puzzle. I will report back with my findings here on my blog,


I hope you could join the conversation. What exactly keeps you from tackling your paper mess and finances and which one of these 7 drives resonates the most with you? I look forward to read your responses.


Take good care


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  • Thanks for sharing this summary of the book! I have added it to my list of books to read! It’s amazing how those 7 drives seem to be applicable to all situations. Very valuable post!

  • I really get the “story” part! So many things you can just start believing about yourself if you’re not careful, stuff that probably isn’t (or doesn’t have to be) true! When I was young and first learning long division, I struggled with it and because of it started believing that I “just wasn’t good at math”. It wasn’t until college that I had an amazing teacher that de-mystified it all (yes, it went on for that many years!) and actually made it fun, and I began to succeed with numbers. It was a metaphorical moment when I realized that this change in my perception was hardly just about math in the classroom but also could be applied to other things that I might’ve believed about myself…and I’ve stuck by it ever since! So yes, stories are HUGE! Thanks for sharing this. 🙂

  • I am definitely interested in this book! For me, I’m a sucker for mastery. I’m cheap, I want to do things on my own, and I’m extremely stubborn. It’s often why I’m given way more work in an office then I should have to do. I’m that woman who works beyond the job description all the time. Learning to be a bookkeeper for a fledgling law firm? I just kept telling myself that I HAD to learn it and master it so I didn’t fail. You know what? Our accountant said I was one of the best bookkeepers she had ever dealt with. Rarely did she have to make corrections because I had caught most of them already! Now if I can just translate all that into our home finances that would be great. We’re getting there, we’ve had a long and unusual journey for the our first ten years of marriage, so it will just take time.

    • Thanks for your feedback, very interesting.
      That is actually how I got into bookkeeping first and then accounting. I was working as an Allrounder office person in a small electrician company. Like answering phone calls, opening letters, paying bills, writing invoices and that sort of stuff. Because I am a very organized person very quickly I was bored half the day because everything was done that needed to be done. My boss did not want to loose me so he said, well, why don’t you take over payroll that should keep you busy. I had no idea about payroll but sure, why not. After only a few months, even with payroll I had again too much time and not enough work. So my boss said, ok, you take over bookkeeping and the accountant will just do year end bookings and the taxes. So I took over bookkeeping, we bought a program, and I did the whole set up myself and started to do the bookkeeping. Again after a few months I had too much time and not enough work even with these added jobs, so I knew it was time to move on to a different job and that’s how my career as an Accountant and later Controller started 🙂
      And yes, I am also extremely stubborn and maybe not cheap but possibly a control freak and I want to do a lot myself and always want to know how things work.

  • What a great summary. Thanks for sharing the take-aways from the book. They definitely resonate with me. I’m actually doing well with my financial organization. I think it’s because of the “story” element that you reference. I wanted to feel differently about my money, and I wanted to create a new story for myself about my capability and skill around money. I did a massive amount of reading about my relationship to money (Suze Orman, Barbara Stanny, Kate Northup), and after I shed many of the scripts that weren’t working well for me, I moved into a new era with weekly Quicken dates. It’s really served me well.

  • Interesting. I think our need for connection underlies a lot of our behaviors … even the ones that seem counter-productive. Of the seven, I’d say I’m a bundle of Instincts and Habits. My paper stacks get cleaned only to a certain point, then life creeps in and they build back up. I don’t have a complete system. Files are overflowing, plenty with stuff I don’t need any more. It is not that unusual for me to misplace something or “remember” something I was supposed to do … after the time has past. If it’s just about motivation, I would like to see the benefits of getting it together paperwork-wise, and how they outweigh the alternative.

    • Exactly, it’s all about motivation. Why we are motivated to do certain things but not others, even if the result would be of great benefit, is something I’d love to find out. I know that new habits can be learned and implemented, and certain habits are easier to implement than others, again the why would be very interesting to understand.

  • I have a huge paper mess and unorganied finances. For me, the reason I don’t deal with it is that it is so overwhelming (and scary, for the finances). However, I am committing a certain amount of time each week to start to deal with this stuff so I can clean things up and make it better!

    • Congratulations Holli for being willing to deal with your paperwork and finances. A lot of people find finances scary and I can understand, I do too at times. I learned though that ignoring the scary does not make it go away. And often when we stand up and face the scary it turns out to not be so scary after all. I wish you good luck with the clean up, one step at the time.

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