Who Pushes You to Achieve More?

SergeantA little-known fact about me is that when it begins to get cold, the holiday season is over, and the New Year is on the horizon, I disappear into the woods for a sacred rite.

By “sacred rite”, I mean “crazy camping trip including a hard-core week-long workout hosted by my ridiculously fit friend”, but whatever. You have your sacred rites, I have mine.

Now, I bring this up because by the time you read this, I’ll have finished this year’s crazy extravaganza. I’ll be feeling pretty badass, and I’ll have done more pushups, sit-ups, and things that don’t have names (but trust me, are extremely painful) than anyone has any right to do in a week-long period unless (and only unless) they’re up for admittance into the Navy Seals.

I don’t do this sort of thing on my own. In my usual workouts, on an average weekday, I do not push myself that hard. But during Winter Camp (as this extravaganza is so innocuously called), I don’t have to push myself.

Casey pushes me instead.

And you know what? I do a lot more than I thought I could do because I’m not the one calling the shots.

It got me thinking that maybe what all of us need in our business is someone pushing us just a little bit harder to go further than we thought we could go.

Think about it. When you were still in school, you probably worked pretty hard. Not as hard as you were supposed to, naturally. But harder than you work now at acquiring new knowledge. You probably don’t get to the end of a long day and say, “Hey, I should read three chapters of Plato and be ready to discuss it in the morning.”

Why not? You used to do it in school. You might have even enjoyed it. You don’t do it anymore because no one assigns you the work. No one says you have to do it.

No one’s pushing you.

You have to self-motivate, and everyone knows self-motivation is some of the most difficult stuff in the world. Doesn’t matter what kind of work you do; getting yourself to do things is a lot harder than simply following someone else’s directions.

The good part about this is that you can voluntarily surrender yourself to someone else’s jurisdiction.

That’s what Winter Camp made me realize. I don’t have to attend it. It’s not required. I go because I like being pushed really, really hard now and then. It gets my New Year started off right.

When Casey says, “Give me five more push-ups!” and I’m about to do a nose-dive into the mud if I crank out even one more, I could stand up and walk away. Casey’s my age. He’s my friend. He has no authority over me, other than the fact that he is bigger and stronger than I am. Even though he is, he’s not going to chase after me and kick my butt if I walk away.

I could walk away at any time. But I don’t, because it’s really hard to walk away from a challenge someone else sets for you.

It’s easy to walk away from your own challenges. You’re the only one who witnesses your decision to turn your back on it all.

But when someone else sets challenges for you, you feel like you’ll disappoint them. You feel like you’re letting them down.
You feel kinda stupid, actually.

You should feel that way when you let yourself down by not achieving the goals you set for yourself. And you probably do, but you can also kind of pretend it didn’t happen, because no one else witnessed it.

So maybe it’s time you let someone else push you. Someone who isn’t you.

The fun part is that you can push each other. Team up with another person in the same situation as you, or pick someone who has big goals to achieve. Then hold each other accountable. Show up at each other’s houses and go all drill-sergeant on each other. Have meetings and booster sessions.

Trust me. Submitting to someone else’s authority, someone who believes you can do way more than you think you can, makes you decide you’re going to kick this problem’s ass. You’re going to show them.

You’re going to do it.

My arms bear witness to this. They won’t have recovered from what Casey had me do to them.

They will look awesome, though.

Now I just need a Casey for business. So do you.

Post by Taylor

Taylor Lindstrom (fondly known as Tei) is a twenty-something copywriter and journalist from Boulder, CO. She’s the team’s rogue woman who wowed us until our desire for her talents exceeded our desire for a good ol’ boys club. She loves the color green, micro-point Uniball pens, and medieval weaponry.

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  1. Hey Tei, I found myself nodding as I read through this.

    Who motivates me? James, although he probably doesn’t realise it. We chat and he mentors as a friend. My Coach doesn normally, although I don’t have one right this minute. Friends online in business forums. My Mastermind group – bunch of slave drivers that they are!

    Trying to motivate yourself is like trying to physically pick yourself up off the ground. You can’t do it. You can pick up a foot or an arm, or even both feet, but there’s always some part of you still on the ground.

    Accountability is such a huge part of success. Everyone needs someone to push them to do more and be more and try harder. Not just to pat them on the back and say nice things, but to be bluntly honest and challenging.
    .-= Melinda | SuperWAHM´s last blog ..Could FaceBook Ban You or Your Business? =-.

  2. Archan Mehta says:


    Thank you for this wonderful post. Your ideas are fabulous. Keep up the good work.

    Self-motivation is sort of like an oxymoron as far as I am concerned. It can work, but usually does not. And I am sailing in the same boat with the majority of mankind.

    Life is really tough when you are as casual and easygoing as I tend to be. Even waking up at the crack of dawn is a challenge. Heck, it is easier to beat your alarm clock over the head with your great-grandmas soup ladle. School days were much better.

    My mom would pour a glass of water over this sleepy-head, and I would be up up and away like superman. Off to school and no excuses. Nothing like a kick on the butt cheeks to make you a real man. That, and the fear of the unemployment line. Cheers!

  3. As to blogging, invitations to write for from big sites is what pushes
    and inspires me most -sites like DailyBlogTips and Bloggers Unite.
    I enjoy being forced to write unique contents 🙂
    .-= poch´s last blog ..New and Better CPR Method =-.

  4. Totally agree. I push myself far enough, but when my fiancée does it – I do a lot more, and I do these things much faster. More than that – I enjoy it more, because I know she’s proud of me then.
    .-= Michal Kozak´s last blog ..michalkozak: gonna watch Sherlock Holmes today – for the third time! it’s awesome ;D =-.

  5. I think I push myself enough that I probably need someone to remind me that it’s okay not to push so hard instead of someone to push me into self-implosion. 🙂

  6. Tei,

    So true! Though I do sometimes push myself to get on the treadmill while studying this week’s French and then play guitar for an hour before diving into real work, it’s a lot harder than when a friend gives me just a small tease about the promise I made to do XYZ in the new year. I’m instantly in another zone—the I’m-not-gonna-be-a-quitter zone. That push to achieve more is sometimes a big help.

    For some reason if I slack off when only I know it, I can call that prioritizing. But unless something serious comes up, when someone else knows I swore I’d conquer a new project, letting up is called quitting.

    Casey would be a bit much for me, though. ‘Fraid I’d dig in my heels if I heard Sarge instead of a light tease!


    .-= Kelly´s last blog ..Bonjour-Hello! =-.

  7. Thanks for the post. I was smiling as I read because I totally agree with you. My blog post today at The Invisible Mentor Blog is titled Going for the Gold and in it I ask the question who is in your support network to help you show up as your best self most of the time. I also wrote, “Who do you have in your support network to coach, mentor, motivate, inspire, challenge and question you, so that you reach deep within to draw on your reserves to eke out a little bit more even when you think you have nothing more to give?”

    You are absolutely right, we often need someone to push us to give just a little bit more.

    Thanks for writing this post.

    .-= Avil Beckford´s last blog ..Going for Gold =-.

  8. I think you’re right. It’s easy to slack off when you don’t have someone pushing you or a deadline to meet… My spouse pushes me usually, but I am in need of more of that, so I’m on the hunt for someone to hold me accountable! Someone who will call me on it and demand more of me.

  9. Good post.

    If you work for yourself it can be particularly hard to find the balance between enough pushing and too much.

    Finding people who push you and encourage you is an indirect way of you pushing yourself. you might not go to your fitness retreat and work so hard if you’re on your own, but with encouragement you will put in the work to do what needs to be done.

    If you’re in a creative field, there’s a good article to different approaches of encouragement at Lateral Action looking at a drill sergeant vs a buddy.
    .-= Amy Harrison´s last blog ..Goals Day Five: Don’t Miss The Gold For The Goal =-.

  10. I’m really big on motivation and inspiration. Like Archan said above, self motivation is like an oxymoron. I know this from personal experiences. I have huge goals that I’ve been trying to achieve, but I’ve only been able to push myself only so far. That’s when I hired the help of a personal trainer. Before that, I worked with a life coach. Both, I value and have a lot of respect for because they were able to see something in me that I didn’t see in myself. So yes, it is important to have self motivation to at least get started, but outside motivation is imperative to make it to the next step. Thanks.

  11. My cousin and I are both the same age, and we’re both aspiring entrepreneurs who are trying to figure out exactly what we want and what we have to offer the world. The only small snag is that she currently lives 2,000 miles away.

    Through the marvel of the interet, we’ve been unofficially holding each other accountable for years, but recently we’ve started a wave on Google Wave that we’re calling the “Aspiring Entrepreneur Support Group.” It’s good times.

    Every week we put up a list of things that we want to accomplish towards our respective businesses, and then we break it down day-by-day, what we’re each going to do. And then we cross something off if we’ve done it, and/or send it to the other person for review. It works really well, and we’ve both been at least twice as productive because the other person is pushing us to keep at it and do the next thing, even when we really don’t want to because it’s hard or it’s scary or it’s frustrating.

  12. What a great friend you have, Taylor! Mentors and coaches are indeed a wonderful thing, especially when they are friends, too.

    Today, most major corporations have internal programs to ensure their up and coming work force have positive roll models to push them along faster and more efficiently than they could make it on their own. If bean counters happily invest in mentoring programs, you know it provides measurable results.

    My hubby keeps tabs on my productivity and gives me a “how’s it going?” when he thinks I might be slacking off. I’d love to find someone to race with, like what Megan has, though. Thanks for the article. It reminds me to keep my eyes open 🙂
    .-= Joani Edens´s last blog ..Twitter Chat Tools =-.

  13. I’m usually the one who pushes other people. I wish I did have someone yelling, “Come on!” now and then. But since I’m mostly on my own, my big motivator is pretty simple. I say to myself, “You chose this.” It stops any lame excuse in its tracks.

    It doesn’t necessarily make it easier to do the work, but it takes the whining away.
    .-= Stacey Cornelius´s last blog ..The truth about self-doubt =-.

  14. This is SO true. I hadn’t really thought of it this way, but when I’m motivated by someone else – when someone is guiding me or pushing me to reach higher and do better, I almost always have better results. I’m pretty good at motivating myself, but I think having another person to hold me accountable would be even better. I’m off to figure out who that person should be! Thanks for the post.

  15. Melinda – Glad you liked it. I find a group to be not quite as motivating, because they all have their own stuff, and the rest of the group’s stuff, to keep track of. When it’s just you and the other person, it’s a lot easier to keep your eyes on each other, and remember to push.

    Archan – Thanks for the kind words. It’s true, self-motivation is hard. School days were only better if you had a parent in charge of your alarm clock, but then of course there were punishments if you didn’t get to school on time. Detention, that sort of thing.

    Poch – Yeah, working for someone else does tend to motivate you to do better.

    Michal – Pride! Pride is something we’ll all fight for. We like to feel we’re doing well in someone else’s eyes, if that someone else’s opinion is deeply important to us.

    James – You need a push now and then. 🙂

    Kelly – Well, it’s all about what you sign up for. I think we tend to pick the friends who push us just the right amount for us to get motivated about whatever we’re doing. For some of us, we need a harder push!

    Avil – It’s hard to find that person, isn’t it? Not a lot of people have the time to be your full-time coach.

    Amie – Good luck with that hunt! I hope you find that perfect mentor.

    Amy – That’s true, it’s definitely a way of pushing yourself. You wouldn’t sign up to get prodded if you didn’t want it. I think we all start out with good intentions for ourselves, but the minute it starts to hurt, we need someone behind us egging us on.

    Patrice – Anytime. 🙂

    Megan – That sounds like a fantastic system. I had something similar going on with a writer’s group for awhile. It tends to work much better if you have a friend going through the same things.

    Joani – That’s true, though I’ve found the corporate coaches aren’t as good as they might be at figuring out what each individual person is capable of and pushing them. It tends to be either a lowest or highest common denominator thing. They’ll figure out how much they want from the whole team and pressure them all to hit it, even if it might work better to push someone to do one thing really well, another person to do another thing consistently but not at stellar capacity, and so forth.

    Stacey – Whining elimination is good, but I think getting yourself to actually do the thing is a little harder than simply stopping all the bad feelings. You have to go past that and get to the part where nothing is going to stop you, where whining isn’t even a possibility. And that’s so hard. I’m with you, though – I’m usually the motivator among my friends, too.
    .-= Taylor – Men with Pens´s last blog ..Who Pushes You to Achieve More? =-.

  16. Spell sergeant right next time. I see that, it turns me off the article, no matter how good it may be.

    Research and proper spelling push me to achieve more.

  17. Mary E. Ulrich says:

    Taylor you are wise beyond your years. Congrats to you for knowing what motivates you and making it happen. Congrats again, for giving us all an interesting idea to think about.

    I used to make a lot more plans and deadlines for myself. But life just kept getting in the way and then I would get depressed or beat myself up. So I’ve resigned myself to rolling with the punches and not getting ulcers about things outside my control.

    One thing I can control is my wonderful writing group. I get the best of both worlds–friends to guide and encourage, and monthly meetings where I have to take responsibility for meeting my goals/deadlines. I wish everyone such a support group.

  18. @ Incognito – if you actually looked at the picture you’d realise it was a nametag and dogtags, not a rank badge. “Sargeant” is the surname, not their rank.
    .-= Melinda | SuperWAHM´s last blog ..Are You a Delusional Work at Home Mum? =-.

  19. @Incognito – You know what turns me off? Commentators who focus only what they can pick on and not the message of the posts. Especially in stock images where the spelling is, as Melinda pointed out, intentional.

    But then again, some people only want perfection. Lucky for me and all the readers here, we’re all about being human, not perfect. And being human and kind to people instead of critical is what pushes me to achieve more.

    Cheers! And have a great, great day 😀

  20. James, you know what turns me off? The fact that I am this good looking and still have not become your logo. Taylor, you’re a way better writer than James, never change! (James, don’t read that previous sentence).
    .-= Josh Hanagarne´s last blog ..How To Be As Confident As This Pig =-.

  21. An eccentric, private writer scribbles furiously from his home in the Great White North…

    Dear Josh,

    Taylor says you like her better. I thought we had a THING, man. A THING.

    It’s over now. I have to move on.

    Yours in angst,


  22. James, I’m just pushing you to achieve more. Now funnel that angst into a maudlin first novel. (assuming you haven’t already written a bunch)
    .-= Josh Hanagarne´s last blog ..How To Be As Confident As This Pig =-.

  23. I always wanted to go camping. I’ve been on like when when I was little but that was barely called camping. But then again I’m not what you call an outdoorsy person anyways.

  24. It’s funny how when someone says you can’t, it’s exactly why you can.

    It’s also funny how sometimes when someone says you can, when you think you really can’t, is exactly why you can.

    When somebody that you believe in believes in you, you can move mountains. When you’re the only one who believes in you, it’s time to let’er rip … The Little Engine that Could style.
    .-= J.D. Meier´s last blog ..Sites I Follow for Insight and Inspiration =-.

  25. I’m a big self motivator, but there are always times when I could use that drill sergeant – especially on those rare days that I want to procrastinate. 🙂
    .-= Heather Villa´s last blog ..“What should I do?” – New Series – Social Media Mindmeister =-.

  26. J.D.:

    That comment just hit me so right. That is an awesome life philosophy right there—kick it with help or kick it anyway! I’m going to print your comment and stick it on a wall here.

    Also reminds me of a post I wrote recently about my friends at Creative Copy Challenge, who mix I-bet-you-can’t with I-know-you-can perfectly… (link below)
    .-= Kelly´s last blog ..Recreate This! What Creative Copy Challenge Gets Right =-.

  27. @JD – Reminds me of my guitar coach this week. He whipped out a score, set it down on the stand and said, “There you go – play that!”

    “I can’t play that…” I peered closer and fumbled with my strings. “No way. That’s too hard.”

    He stared at me for a second with a flat face, then started riffling through my sheet music collection. “That’s exactly what you said about THIS one last week.” He slapped a score on the stand. “And THIS one the week before. And THIS one. What about THIS one?”

    I stared at the pages. “Yes, but…”

    But he wasn’t done.

    “Every single week I give you something new and you always say you can’t. Then we start to play and within 15 minutes you’ve gone through the whole song. So don’t tell me you can’t, because you can, and you do. Now stop putting so much energy into denying that you can do this, and play.”

    Uh. Yessir.

    And I did.

  28. @Tei – Hey, lookee!! I found someone who pushes me after all, you were right!

  29. Mary E. Ulrich says:

    So James, when are we going to give us an audio sample of your music? The hard songs!

    BTW: For those of you who have followed my goal of getting a coat rack in my son’s day program–it arrived yesterday! Woot Woot!

    It took 6 months and a ridiculous amount of work. But you should have seen their smiles and pride as they took their coats off the floor and hung them on the hooks.

    Sometimes our love for our children drives and motivates our actions. Their need pushes us to action-no matter the battle.

    “The measure of success is not whether you have a tough problem to deal with, but whether it is the same problem you had last year.” John Foster Dulles

  30. I get things done by attending toddler boot camp.

    I get woken up at all hours of the night to change one or other of the drill sergeants diapers, or give them a bottle. Man, they’re always in my face, yelling and crying at me, and I’m always tired. But I get heaps more done then I used to in my pre-kids sleep-pampered life.

  31. @Dave – I’m… so sorry to hear that. My sincere sympathies – and I speak from experience here. Twice. It… does get better, they tell me. I can’t say that’s been the case here (yet), but I’m hoping. HARD.

  32. I think that would be my friends. When I see them do better than be I have to strive that much harder.

  33. thanks for this post – so basic & obvious yet so elusive .. i’m now on the quest for my own personal pusher 🙂


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  2. […] Who Pushes You to Achieve More? – The drill sergeant analogy in this is spot on.  How much more productive would you be if someone was pushing you to your limits everyday? […]

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