The Pledge

When I was young and broke (and cheap and stubborn), I relied heavily on what I called, “Virtual Mentors.”

This meant reading every issue of the Early to Rise newsletter, and books, like Dan Kennedy’s autobiography, Unfinished Business. I also consulted a mental round-table of advisors, as Napolean Hill recommended in Think and Grow Rich.

My virtual mastermind included Kennedy, Yanik Silver, Bill Phillips, Ted Nicholas, and Michael Masterson.

Today’s book report is a fine example of having a virtual mentor give you the step-by-step success tools you need to stop spinning your wheels so you can get ahead on the fast track to success.

The book is called The Pledge.

It was written by Michael Masterson (aka Mark Ford) in 2011, just before he retired from True to its subtitle, the book delivers a Master Plan for an Abundant Life. Ford was (and is) a multi-millionaire, having already retired twice in his career, before returning to teaching and writing.

There are few men or women that could claim to be a greater expert in success than Ford.

He has done it all, not only building great businesses, but raising three successful young men with his wife of over 30 years, having great health and hobbies, becoming a published poet and amateur painter, and all while still getting home on time for dinner (and a cocktail and cigar).

Trust me, he’s been a tough act to follow.

But there’s no use in comparing ourselves to Mark Ford. What really matters is where we are today compared to three months ago, and where we’ll be in three months from now. We must focus on progression, not perfection. We must be dedicated to continual improvement, or kaizen, as the principle is known. Every day we must commit to getting better, every moment we must make the right decisions to take us there.

If you’ve held dreams of success and happiness that you’ve failed to fulfill, if you have an underlying sense that you are underachieving, then The Pledge will help you return to the path of success in your life.

“Your past failures have no bearing on your future,” Ford writes, “And if you can change the way you approach your work, you can change the way you live.”

I’m living proof, having followed Ford’s advice for years (even though sometimes it took me years to implement it).

For example, one of the rules I follow today, getting up and going to bed at the same time each day, was a Mark Ford suggestion that I ignored for years.

When I finally implemented this tip, it had the greatest impact on my all day energy of any habit in my life. It was like having a cup of coffee at 2 p.m. without any side effects. I no longer tossed-and-turned on Sunday evenings, and I wasn’t tired from the weekends on Monday and Tuesday mornings. I was a new man, and I have Ford to thank for this.

What I love about The Pledge is that it’s not a superficial book about setting vague goals, but instead it delivers a personal master plan for your life.

It expects a great deal of commitment on your part, but if you’re willing to hold up your end of the bargain, Ford is willing to show you the exact steps you must take to succeed.

With his advice, you’ll begin to experience results immediately and live a truly fulfilling life. This is not a book about chasing the elusive Four-Hour Work Week, although Ford shows us the practical Four Hour Work Day.

A four-hour work day is something I’ve enjoyed in cities such as Istanbul, Prague, Hong Kong, Sydney, Tokyo, and even Moscow.

One of Ford’s keys to success is the Principle of Accelerated Failure. It’s something I’ve experienced naturally and benefitted from as a young man.

“The principle of accelerated failure rests on the recognition that we learn the most – in any enterprise – by making mistakes along the way,” Ford says, “The faster we learn critical mistakes, the sooner we acquire the knowledge we need to succeed. In other words, don’t fear failure… seek it out!”

Too often, we allow fear to hold us back from buying our first rental property to starting an online business (where there’s practically no risk). It even holds us back in our personal lives, stopping us from starting an exercise program or talking to that pretty woman or handsome man across the room… and thus potentially missing out on meeting the love of your life.

It’s time to step up and do what is right for you. The Pledge shows you how. Ford asks you to sign a contract pledging your commitment to your Master Plan. This accountability — to your Virtual Mentor — sets you on the path to success.

Accountability was one of the success pillars that allowed me to achieve my dream of acquiring Early to Rise, and accountability will allow you to achieve your goals, too.

Signing the pledge is like committing to your Rules in the Perfect Day Formula. Don’t skip this step. It is far more important than you could ever imagine. Fear of obligation is natural, but Ford shares a powerful quote explaining why this responsibility actually frees you up to live the life you desire.

“The irony of commitment is that it’s deeply liberating — in work, in play, in love,” writes Anne Morris, “The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around like rational hesitation. To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life.”

My second favorite tool that Ford shares is his goal setting technique. After helping us build our Master Plan, he puts forth a breakthrough exercise that helps us build the foundation we need to support our journey.

It starts with sharing the 7-Year Goal that you created as part of your Master Plan. In the book, Ford uses the example of a client that wants to achieve a net worth of $4 million. In order to achieve this goal, the client must take action and can break down the success steps into four process goal timelines. It works like this:

7-Year Goal = $4 million

First-Year Goal = Eliminate $36,000 worth of debt

Monthly Objective = Land a part-time job netting $36,000 by year-end.

First Week’s Objective = Get my first job interview.

First Day’s Task = Write letters to CEOs of my top 10 “dream job” companies.

If this exercise reminds you of the old joke, “How do you eat an elephant?” (Answer: One bite at a time.), I’m not surprised.

Brian Tracy, another virtual mentor of mine, wrote a book about this idea called, Eat That Frog. His message was that no matter how big our goals, success starts with taking action. We must break down big (and sometimes seemingly impossible) tasks into smaller and smaller action items that we can accomplish this month, this week, and today. And then we must get started. It’s that simple.

“One of the most important actions you can take when you are master planning your life,” Ford writes, “is to monitor where you have been and where you are. The simple step can help you achieve practically any goal you have set for yourself.”

Mark adds, “A recent study from concluded that American workers with the highest incomes and most success in the workplace are those who have written goals. These superstars also have the habit of writing daily task lists prioritized in a way to help them achieve those goals.”

But Mark also issues a warning. “On the flip side, of the more than 70 percent of workers who don’t write down career or financial goals, only 9 percent accomplish what they set out to each day.”

That’s the power of making the pledge, signing the contract, writing out your goals, and carrying around your Rules. Don’t miss out on the importance of this simple, quick, cheap, and easy success tool. There’s no need to struggle. There’s no reason you can’t accomplish your big goals and live a life that leaves a legacy.

Read (or re-read) your copy of The Pledge today. Sign a contract of commitment to your future. If anything gets in the way of that objective, do not participate in these distractions. You have to stand up for what is right for you at this time, and that is how you will succeed.

Choose your actions wisely.