Julius Caesar Self-Motivation Hack

Force yourself to succeed with the ‘No Turning Pact’

Photo by York Minster

This post was originally published on March 14, 2017 in the Replayz blog.

This is a follow-up post to The Terrible Truth About Modafinil: Five reasons why Modafinil and me are fini. It’s one in a series of upcoming posts on how I’m redesigning my life and work habits after a long dependency on the drug.

It’s January 10, 49 BC. A man on horseback approached the edge of a river that defined the northern border of Italy. He paused briefly before advancing. He could see his future empire before him, almost an arm’s reach. He felt a rush of power.

He also felt a rush of fear. Fear that if he crossed that river, he would be handily defeated, then paraded about the city in chains before meeting an ignominious death. With one single legion, greatly reduced in number, he was to march as a rogue general against the world’s greatest empire.

His pause was brief. He gave the word. The hooves of his horse splashed into the water, and in a few minutes he arrived to the other side. He was past the point of no return.

On the other side of the river, the man paused again and, turning to his soldiers behind him, said, “Alea iacta est.” This is often translated as, “The die has been cast,” but is closer in meaning to, “Let the games begin.”

Thus began of one of the greatest dynasties ever in the world.

Juice it like Julius

This man, of course, was Julius Caesar. Caesar did what any ambitious person must do — put himself in a position where he‘d have no choice but to succeed. He intentionally crossed the point of no return. Once he crossed the river Rubicon, the stakes were so high that failure was unimaginable.

I’ve taken a similar approach with a number of projects and personal goals that I couldn’t summon the motivation to get started. It’s a push that puts me to the point of no return, and where failure isn’t an option.

For example, the push to get this particular article you’re reading now published by 9pm EST today is the threat of a cold shower. I promised myself a cold shower if I don’t make the deadline. I intend to follow through with it too.

If your verbal decree is the same as law, this kind of self governance is a simple and effective way to juice your motivation.

However, if your likely to shirk the shower, you may need to bust out the heavy artillery and enter into a (potentially) legally-binding agreement with someone who will hold you to it. I call this kind of agreement a No Turning Pact.

Here’s an example of a No Turning Pact. I gave it to my friend to sign it. In doing so, she’d be legally bound to take my money if I didn’t meet the deadline.



I, ___________ agree to hold ___________ accountable to deliver the following items by ________________ at __ am/pm:

A completed _________________________ which contains the following:

a) ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

b) ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

If ____________ should fail to meet said requirements, I expect to receive and promise to accept $150 from ___________as a penalty.



Cross Your River Rubicon

The pacts you make in imitation of Caesar’s bold crossing are scary because you quickly find out what you’re made of, but heck are they motivating. Embrace the rush and heightened sense of purpose a No Turning Pact can give you.

Cross the river boldly and face your fears. Charge fiercely into the battle to claim the victory that is yours.

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