The Ulysses contract is an ancient concept, but also a useful tool in the modern decision-maker’s toolbelt.
In the Odyssey epic, Ulysses, the legendary Greek hero knew he would be tempted by the siren’s eerily beautiful song, so he ordered his crew to tie him to the main mast, and not listen to his commands until they sailed to safety. This ensured that while the ear-plugged crew and ship would be safe, he could become the first mortal to hear the siren’s song and live to tell the tale._**
In today’s world, it’s a freely made decision designed to bind or hinder your future self’s choices in some way.
For example, you could:
1) Publish your prices online, in a way that is deliberately hard for you to edit. This will limit you from commuting to a last-second “silent discount” in future negotiations.
2) Decide to put your one-sentence value proposition in the signature template of your email. This will make you assign enough resources to make a good one, as everyone will see it.
3) Pre-commit to limiting pro-bono or discounted work to a set number of hours per year. This will make you think twice before deciding that a client merits special treatment.
Or, call 50 people and tell them that you are starting a newsletter and that if they subscribe they are free to pester you if you ever skip a week. And I did that, 104 weeks ago, and never skipped one newsletter. Thanks, Ulysses.