Pat Flynn, American entrepreneur and author of Will It Fly? How to Test Your Next Business Idea So You Don't Waste Your Time and Money, is famous for publishing his monthly income on his website.
Proof that making yourself publicly accountable helps you reach goals.
Entrepreneur and educator Corbett Barr observed that, among his course students, those who kept an accountability journal (public to other students) significantly outperformed those who didn't. "Every one of the most successful people from those two programs regularly kept an accountability journal," he said.
LifeHack's founder, Danny O'Brien, said their research showed that "things you put on the web have a better chance of getting done."
Why is this so?
Psychologist and author Elizabeth Lombardo explains that accountability motivates us to do what we said we would: "Putting the task out there for others to see helps motivate us to get it done so we don't look bad to others. Crossing things off your list is a way to save face, so to speak."
But it could be false logic.
Is all that really proof of the power of public accountability and transparency?
Just because B happens after A doesn't mean A caused B. This faulty logic is so prevalent it has a name: post hoc, ergo propter hoc ("After this, therefore because of this") or post hoc fallacy. The rooster always crows before sunrise, but the rooster doesn't make the sun rise, does it?
Similarly, when somebody publishes their goals and then meets them, it looks like the act of publishing caused their success.
But did it? If you asked the person, they would probably say no. They would probably say their success was brought about by hard work, persistence, consistency, and applying the correct strategies.
It's just that the type of person who's likely to make their goals public is also the type of person who's likely to already have these qualities.
First off, they have a clear goal and it's probably a smart goal (so everyone will agree on whether or not they've reached it). Also, they're committed enough to the goal to subject themselves to public scrutiny. And they have probably identified strategies that have worked for others.
Should you use public accountability to peer pressure yourself?
I'm not saying you shouldn't use public accountability to help you achieve your goals. In some cases, it might be exactly what you need to finally hit an elusive target. For example, if you've tried everything to establish a regular exercise habit, maybe telling all your friends, family, and blog readers about it is what will finally push you to stick to it.
But don't think going public on your goals will be enough. All the other prerequisites for success still matter.
Public accountability can always be part of your strategy, especially when you need other people's help to achieve your goal. I once asked my team members to call me out on an undesirable behavior I wanted to eliminate. It was something I sometimes did unconsciously, so I needed other people to make me aware whenever I did. That situation was perfect for using public accountability.
The next time you're thinking of following the example of somebody who went public with their goals and succeeded spectacularly, go ahead. It's always a good idea to learn from those who've reached what you want to accomplish.
But realize there are probably higher-level lessons you need to learn from them. You just have to look harder. Dig deeper, beyond the specific tactics they used, and unpack their strengths, skills, personalities, relationships, backgrounds, and circumstances. That's where you'll find the true "secret" to their success.