Book Summary: The Pledge by Michael Masterson

The Pledge by Michael Masterson
Book title: The Pledge
Author: Michael Mortenson aka Mark Ford
ISBN 10: 0470922400
ISBN 13: 978-0470922408
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What this book is about

If you have been unsatisfied with your life or you are happy but feel that you can do more, then Michael Mortenson (his real name is Mark Ford, so I use the name Mark in all references to him from this point forward), the owner of several multi-million dollar business, teaches you a technique to get back on track with a process that helped him get his own life back on track. The process helps you approach your life deliberately planning each day of your life upto the next seven years. The seven years comes from the fact that Mark has observed repeatedly that the said period of time is perfect for making major changes in your life and be highly successful. The method approach will transform you as a person for years to come. After reading this book and the methods described in it, you and solely you will be responsible for how your life shapes up. The process is hard work and requires plenty of discipline, but that is the secret of successful people.

What this book is not about

If you are looking for a shortcut to success and are not willing to work your socks off for it, then this book won’t be worth your time. This book gives you a long process for someone who is ready to play the long game. It does not give you an overnight formula for success. This book expects you to be responsible for your actions and your future, while giving you a blueprint to lay out your future in a way you want it. If you simply consume the information and do not take action, then you will see no change and this book will just be a checkmark on your reading list.


Mark starts the book by helping you identify what is it that you want out of your life. You are to answer three questions.

  • What do you want to do?
  • Where do you want to do it?
  • With whom do you want to do it?
    E.g. I want to travel to south east Asia on a motorbike with my wife.

Next, he talks about identifying what your core values are by imagining that your funeral and what the people would be remembering about you and talking. From these you identify your core values. From each of these core values you set a specific goal that you aspire to achieve within the next 7 years. Goals should be specific and obey the following rules.

  • Specific: You should use concrete numbers such as net worth, bicep size, bicycling distance instead of saying, “I want to be rich”, “I want to increase my muscles”. Also, use specific places such as “I want to surf in the Carribean sea” instead of “I want a holiday in the sea”.
  • Measurable: Your goals should be measurable so that you can check the progress. E.g. your networth, your weight and your muscle sizes are all measurable.
  • Actionable: You should be able to break the goal down into actions that you can take and move you in concrete steps towards the goal. The actions cannot be vague and their outcomes cannot depend on luck. E.g. ‘I will raise $1000 by selling mayonnaise sandwiches that I will make in my kitchen’ is actionable, whereas ‘I will win $1000 in lottery’ is not, since winning a lottery is a gamble and does not have a certain outcome.
  • Realistic: The target has to be realistic. Making $1000 in a week or even a day is realistic, but one billion dollars in the same time period is not.
  • Time bound: All your goals should have a deadline. The deadline moves you to your feet and forces you to take action.

Mark then explains the difference between dreams, goals, jobs, objectives and tasks. He suggests that you break down your 7-year goals into yearly goals, then into monthly and weekly objectives and down to daily tasks. Some of the tasks will need to be repeated everyday on a recurring basis. It is important that you record your goals somewhere in writing. It can be in your notebook or in your favourite app, but your goals, objectives and tasks must be put in words for reference, motivation and commitment. Always make your daily tasks the day before you are to perform them. This gives you a clear head start in the morning.

Prioritisation is the next topic covered, where Mark takes a leaf out of Stephen Covey’s methods. Tasks should be classified into urgent and important, urgent and not important, not urgent and important and not urgent and not important. He goes on to explain that you should leave have any tasks in the urgent sections, since urgency means that you have delayed finding a solution for something when it was not urgent. There shouldn’t be any unimportant tasks either. If there are, then you have a filtering problem with what you agree to work on. The most important are those that are important, but not urgent. These tasks should get the highest priority as they take you towards who you want to be in a steady, methodical manner.

You should maintain a daily journal in which you record your daily tasks, progress, any facts that you come across and notes to yourself about ideas for your future.

Mark has a seperate service named where he talks about the importance of waking up early, setting a daily routine and winning the day. He has analysed the daily routines of successful people like Benjamin Franklin and Donald Trump. He has compared those routines to his own and concluded that a successful person has the following average breakup for his/her day: 8-9 hours of work, 7-8 hours of sleep, 4-5 hours of planning and 4-5 hours of leisure & recreation. He encourages you to spend as much time as possible in actions that directly lead to your success. 80% of the time should be spent in action, only 10% percent in learning and research and another 10% in planning. Do not study too much and become an information junkie. Likewise do not overplan and suffer from analysis paralysis. Only actions take you forward.

Mark talks about a system using just two folders using which you can stay on top of what you assign to others and where you need to get involved. These two folders represent what you must do every month and every day in a month, so that you are in sync with those who work with you.

Mark argues that inspiration is just a myth and that the only way to get work done is by consistent action, the will power to show up for the daily tasks and take action whether you feel inspired to do them or not. Likewise, positive thinking is just a myth and that you need a string of successes to gain confidence, of which positive thinking is a side effect. The formula for success is to work hard and long, stay focused on your goals and to sacrifice some pleasures here and there so that you can give your fullest to what you want most.

Sometimes you fear certain things, such as speaking to a client or selling to an audience. You have to expose yourself to your fears so that eventually you are not afraid of them anymore. You show up, make mistakes and get better every time. To learn more, you should be able to admit that you don’t know something and ask questions like a child even if it makes you appear foolish sometimes.

Mark also warns against the phase of ‘becoming’ and encourages you to ‘be’. For instance, if you want to be a painter, you cannot keep going to drawing and painting courses one after another pretending to be on the way to ‘becoming’ a painter. Your painting lesson cannot be confined to the courses alone. Instead, get out your canvas and easel and express yourself everyday even at home. Show your painting to everyone and ask for feedback. Get better everyday. A title of painter should only be enjoyed by someone who paints and not by someone who makes excuses that he/she will start painting only after having learnt painting competently.

Mark compares your business to dancing with a partner. Here he discusses three steps that are practised in dancing, but are also applicable to business. While dancing, you have to know the next move before you actually step into it. In business, you need to know your mission and vision in advance. Next, you have to signal your intentions to your dancing partner clearly. In business, your colleagues, business partners and clients must know what your intentions are. Communication is imporatant. Third, while dancing, it is important to be a good leader to demostrate the strongest moves of your dancing partner, rather than those of yourself. Likewise, in business, you must lead to use the strengths of your colleagues to their best abilities. You must create an environment that helps your colleagues put their best foot forward.

Whatever skill you have, the one skill that you cannot lack is the ability to speak, communicate and negotiate well. You have to be a good communicator and negotiator. You should also be able to address concerns and be able to clearly communicate what the other party has to gain from your negotiation.

Mark suggests that instead of taking a really short vacation such as a weekend where you do not work at all, take a longer vacation such as for a month or two, but set aside four hours every day to work a little. You should be clearly able to identify your most important tasks that need your contribution, i.e. the 20% of your tasks that gets 80% of your work done.

Next, Mark encourages you to read more and gain more knowledge everyday, that you can put to use from that moment onwards. Books are written long, but if you learn the art of skimming, you will find some ‘Useful Big Idea’ that you can read in more detail and start putting into practice for the next three days. If the idea helps you, then you continue, otherwise you drop it in favour of other ideas.

Mark urges you to prepare for the first. Any action you take will have either a successful result or perhaps a drastic failure. To prepare for the worst, you need to ask yourself two questions. What positive outcome am I couting on? What if it doesn’t happen?

The next topic covered is that of your wealth. You should calculate your hourly worth by using the income that you earned last year. If you divide it by 50 weeks and further by 8 hours, you get your hourly worth. If there is a task that must be done, you must ask yourself two questions. Do you enjoy doing it? If not, can you hire someone for less that your hourly worth to do it? If you answer NO to the first question and YES to the second, then you should find someone else to do that task for you, rather than doing it yourself. Remember that your personal time or the time you spend at leisure or with your family is worth 3 times more than your regular hourly rates. If you are having to work at the expense of your family time or leisure time, then price accordingly.

Always pay yourself first. A part of every income you earn must first go into your personal kitty for saving and investing for the future and then towards paying bills. You can live your lifestyle of whatever is left after paying for your savings and your bills.

Successful people resist change, but do not deny it. They always invest a tiny part of their wealth to validate if the change is profitable, while sticking most of their wealth into tried and tested methods. If the experiment fails, they refuse to accept the change, but if it succeeds, they are willing to embrace change fully.

Having talked so much about work, Mark also talks about how to use your recreation time. He talks about activities that are golden, vapour and acid. Golden activities are highly creative and are extremely hard to choose when you are tired and running low on will power. But choosing them ove the other activities leaves you energised and your brain boosted. Vapour activities seem natural to choose when you are tired, but do not stimulate your senses. They just give you a temporary distraction. You feel empty when the activity is over. The feeling is neither invigorating, nor depressing. Finally there are acid activities, which inflict more harm than good. We choose these activities when we are in depression, often at the encouragement of someone who is bad company. These activities are addictive as they numb our pain and even deliver a quick does of pleasure. But in the long run, there are long term or even permanent damages. That described, Mark lists examples of all three types of activities.


So what are you waiting for? Do you want to take control of your life and be the person you always wanted to be and what you wanted for others to see in yourself? You should start with this book and take the pledge to be responsible and take actions to change the course of your life to where you see yourself 7 years from now.

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Published by

Harikrishna Natrajan

Unleashing life's full potential

2 thoughts on “Book Summary: The Pledge by Michael Masterson”

  1. This is certainly a book that can help that has shattered the myths of thinking and visualizing your way to success to working your butt off and provided a framework. It is easier and more effective to work towards success, than magically change the way we think about ourselves.

  2. Awesome!!! Loved the goal setting ideas. Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Time Bounded were icing on the cake.

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