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Why I’m quitting my business to build software 

It’s time to come clean and tell you what’s really going on.

There are two parts to this update: The “What” and the “Why”. Let’s start with Why:

I’m really fed up and frustrated.

Productivity Software is utterly broken. It doesn’t work. It doesn’t get results.

Aspiring entrepreneurs are desperate. They’re frantically searching for breakthroughs. Hunting for anything that promises to boost their personal effectiveness.

They wage constant internal battles with themselves, where one part of them has unbelievably huge expectations and ambitions for their success… while the other part just wants to surf Facebook and watch Netflix. They hype themselves up and then beat themselves up… all in the same afternoon!

Meanwhile, their actual business is the refugee caught in the psychological crossfire. 

There are a ton of industries that prey on entrepreneurs and their self-inflicted mental torture:

Personal development gurus will promise to fix you. Countless books pitch themselves as “the one truth path” to success. Courses, webinars, trainings… it’s all the same.

And now thousands of software tools will tell you that you’re not organized properly. That you need to do things their way – color code your tasks just so – if you want to have any hope of accomplishing your dreams.

Millions of productivity apps are downloaded every month by people hoping to make a breakthrough and finally take action on their boldest dreams.

I can’t help but think it’s all just a distraction. A smartphone age equivalent of re-organizing your desk and tidying your office while your biggest opportunities gather dust.

This isn’t just a hunch of mine either.

User retention of productivity apps is a joke.

No one sticks with the groovy new to-do list app they downloaded, because it doesn’t work! It’s just another task – another whiteboard to write on and forget about.

Productivity apps don’t change anything – fundamentally – about how a user thinks or acts.

This is something a few psychology and technology researchers are starting to figure out. They believe that software alone cannot drive meaningful behavior change. 

Simple example: If you’re a photographer who’s spending hundreds of hours developing and manually editing photos in your dark room, Adobe Photoshop is going to revolutionize your life. It’s software that will help you do what you already do, tremendously faster and insanely better.

You’ll never stop using it. This is what software is great at.

Meanwhile…If you’re a super effective entrepreneur who uses paper planning to maintain a highly organized set of priorities which you regularly update and measure progress against… almost any of the top 100 productivity apps in the iPhone app store will blow your mind.

In other words, software helps us do the things we already do… better.

But how about if you’re an aspiring entrepreneur who struggles to take action on the things you know you should?

What if you’re the kind of entrepreneur who has so many scraps of paper – or Evernote files – with forgotten goals on them, you can barely remember what you were thinking when you set some of them?

How about if you’re the kind of entrepreneur who only takes massive action when a client is breathing down your neck? You have hundreds of ideas for things that’ll grow your business… but you always get caught up in something more “urgent” in the meantime?

In other words, what if you’re a typical entrepreneur?

You can download apps and color code your tasks until you’re blue in the face. Nothing will change. 

This is the lie of the productivity software industry. It won’t change your behavior. It’s just a tool.

Buying a better hammer won’t make you a better carpenter. Likewise, a better to-do list won’t make you a better entrepreneur. It’s still just a tool.

This is why our research shows that – despite wasting hundreds of hours searching for and discussing productivity tools – the average entrepreneur will use an app for about two weeks before abandoning it completely. 

The whole industry is broken. Because it’s software, it’s exciting. People don’t see how these apps are peddling an empty, totally unscientific promise of improvement that can never be kept.

The big news: I’m doing something about it.

A few years ago, I started a company called Commit Action to try to build something that’s never been done before.

We’re turning the personal development industry on it’s head by offering low-cost personal development coaching where we train our clients in self-initiated action taking. 

We build huge confidence and self-reliance in entrepreneurs by helping them do the things they know they should… building a massive habit of relentless execution. Our clients rocket ahead by iteratively testing their best ideas in the real world, refining and learning and improving the whole time.

There are no miracles and it isn’t remotely sexy. It’s just incremental and unstoppable progress.

We’ve had over ten thousand one-on-one conversations with entrepreneurs.

We’ve collaborated with psychology professors and neuroscience researchers from Harvard and NYU.

We’ve dug deep into the actual (deeply unsexy) science of behavior change.

And what we’ve emerged with is something that just works. Our coaches act as concierge goal setting consultants, adding a layer of pro level accountability that actually makes entrepreneurs do huge things. 

And that’s not all. In fact, we’re just getting started!

We’re launching our OWN software

The team and I at Commit Action have created something – again – which has never been done before.

We’ve built a software application that isn’t just another pointless piece of busy-work for entrepreneurs. It’s not an empty promise that somehow the right category system will revolutionize your business.

What we’ve created is a powerful, friction-free way to do the one thing that we’ve proven to work: Set clear committed goals each week with the help of a professional… and follow up on them. 
Our productivity software will help you build lists of goals and todos. It’ll even let you categorize them with pretty colors.

And we can guarantee that NONE of that will change anything in your life.

Our software is built to do one thing that none of the others can: It facilitates a live conversation between you and your accountability coach. 

This changes everything.

Instead of a software tool dictating how you ought to plan your business, your Commit Action coach will take the part of productivity you’re perhaps not so good at – and god knows we could all be better – and do it for you. 

They’ll build your to-do list, they’ll challenge you to better prioritize your tasks, they’ll ensure you commit to something meaningful each week… and they’ll follow up to make sure you do it, or are strategically reflecting on – and learning from – why you couldn’t.

We’ve build a software tool to facilitate a collaborative approach to your personal effectiveness.

Human interaction – good therapy or coaching – DOES drive behavior change where software alone can’t. So we’re fusing the two together to make it faster, more frictionless and effective than ever.

Version 1.0 of our tool is queued up to go live to existing Commit Action members in the next few days. I’ll be posting an actual “launch” announcement where you can get a look at the actual features of this incredible service (it’s not just a tool!) very soon.

What does this mean for the Shrink for Entrepreneurs?

Increasingly, my focus is on this phenomenal thing we’re building over at Commit Action.

I think we have a shot at making a dent. I think we can change the conversation about productivity. What we’re launching now pales in comparison to what we’re planning for the future.

We want to wage war on procrastination, and with over 40% of the US white-collar workforce predicted to “go freelance” in the next five years… it’s never been more important to help folks figure out how to be ultra-effective while captaining their own ships.

In 2015, I halved my consulting hours as The Shrink for Entrepreneurs. In 2016, my intention is to switch to referrals-only for new clients. Strangers won’t be able to sign up to work with me anymore. Existing clients have nothing to worry about – you guys will always have the support you need –  but know that an end to that part of my career is approaching the horizon.

I’m super excited about the future of technology, but I think it’s the real opportunities lie in combining tech and human-powered services. That will really revolutionize things. The age of the app is a temporary stepping stone to the human-driven-tech-augmented future.

Stay tuned. More coming on very soon.


+ Add Comment
  1. Great news. Congrats Peter.
    I have to admit though, that I couldnt extract much value out of my previous subscription of commit action. I am sure its just something within me that caused it.
    I think the commit action program is more effective if the person resolved the deep seated internal conflicts first. And since you dont do one on one sessions with regular commit action users, there seems to be a lack of on-boarding/warm-up phase for commit action aspirants.

    The idea of software plus human aspect is a great one. All the very best for it.

  2. Peter’s idea is excellent – and he is bringing it to fruition which is the crucial piece. Pranjal perhaps CA isn’t for everyone. Actually – it definitely isn’t for everybody. Peter has identified his niche – and his app will serve that niche.

  3. Sounds fantastic. I’ve been thrilled with my Commit Action coach for quite a while now. Can’t wait to have software that makes us even more effective together. Looking forward to it.

  4. As long as there are REAL and PAINFUL consequences for NOT taking action, people will most likely take action. Have them put in at least 2 debit cards and then unlock the app/software. “If action is not taken BAM! we take an extra $100 from your and we keep it for good if you don’t deliver.” Do that!

      1. This only works if money motivates or demotivates you. For many of us, while money is a necessity, it’s not our primary, or even secondary motivator.

  5. This sounds very exciting Peter!
    And it is my experience also that new productivity apps don’t last more than a few weeks…
    The only one I’ve repeatedly gone back to is Simpleology from Mark Joyner, but it’s a bit unwieldy with all its whizz-bang features… And it is also lacking in the most important aspect of Commit Action for me, Accountability!
    Looking forward to the announcements!

  6. Your ambition is inspiring and I think you’ve nailed the core of personal development “…combining tech and human-powered services…”

  7. Fantastic idea! It certainly seems like a good use of your time to focus on this side of the business – I truly think that people will get so much more from this! Well done!

  8. Yay! A shocking subject for exciting news 😀 Sounds a bit like the connection between Google Keep (The only thing I’m using daily) and CA. Can’t wait to see what you guys tinkered in the background 🙂

  9. Making new life choices and changes can be exciting and effective if not easy. I believe that hope and trust are critical to change. We hope that we can make our lives better, and we have to develop trust in ourselves and our social supports. We can use live, recorded media, and on-line resources and support persons to motivate and achieve. Family, friends, teachers, counselors, and coaches may help us make positive changes, IF they have our best interests at heart.

    It is important to know who our support persons are (life and work experience, professional background, and personal integrity) before we follow their lead.

    All credible helpers need to share such information with those they seek to help from the very beginning of the helping relationship Credible helpers also need to provide potential clients with an independent resource/grievance agency (e.g., the professional association that the helper is a member of) for handling any concerns/complaints about helper service that cannot be resolved by direct client-helper communication. May we enjoy the results of our good choices in life, work, and social support network! Sandy

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