commitment We view the organization’s purpose, vision, mission, strategies, and values as a promise we make to our customers and we are collectively dedicated to delivering what we have promised. A wise man once said, “Without vision, people cast off restraint.” What he was saying is that only a clear vision of our future has the power to restrain us to the path that will get us there. When we lack this kind of vision, one of the first things to go out the window is commitment, and the reason is because commitment is rarely convenient. Commitment battles with adages like, “Opportunity knocks but once,” forcing us to decide whether we will deliver on promises already given or break them for what appear to be better opportunities. But, to use another adage, appearances can be deceiving, for commitment is so powerful that the immediate payoff for broken promises rarely, if ever, outweighs the benefit of commitments fulfilled over time. The secret behind this is that commitment is the glue in relationship, the force of choice that gives loyalty value. Customers want to have a relationship, to feel valued and needed. They want your full attention and concentration. Only commitment satisfies these desires. I won’t pretend that commitment is easy. It’s not. In fact, commitment requires intentional choice and sacrifice, being willing to give up self-interests, comfort, and convenience for the sake of keeping our word. It requires us to take a handshake as seriously as we would a contract. When commitment is this difficult, even painful sometimes, we need to understand more clearly the long-term benefits of it so that we will stay true to our word even when it’s hard. And, really, examples are all around us of why commitment is so important. Consider the world of investments, where we all know that staying in for the long haul is the way to actually make money. One story to illustrate this comes from someone I know who attended college with twin brothers. These twin brothers had a grandmother who, when they were young, bought them a little bit of stock in a small company called Microsoft. By the time my acquaintance knew them in college, they were both millionaires, having earned their entire fortune through payments of commitment. Or consider the natural world all around us. Did you know that if you keep uprooting and replanting a tree, its root system becomes dwarfed and will not grow out into the ground as it would if it were left planted in one place? This lack of root system prevents the tree from getting adequate nutrition from the soil and leaves it vulnerable to disease and wind. Only when a tree is “committed” to one spot in the ground can it flourish and become all it can possibly be. Og Mandino, in his book, “Og Mandino’s University of Success,” describes the benefits of long-term commitment. Mandino tells the story of Raphael Solano and his companions who were looking for diamonds in a Venezuela river bed. Solano claims he had picked up about 999,999 rocks and was ready give up on this pursuit—his only opportunity to bring financial benefit to his very poor family. His companions said, “Pick up one more and make it an even million.” That “millionth” rock was “The Liberator,” the largest and purest diamond ever found. Mandino writes, “I think he (Solano) must have known a happiness that went beyond the financial. He had set his course; the odds were against him; he had persevered; he had won. He had not only done what he had set out to do—which is a reward in itself—but he had done it in the face of failure and obscurity.” Commitment has its own reward of fulfillment, bringing significance (which is more than mere achievement) and stability to a world that is paying the price of unpredictability and change for the sake of convenience. Imagine for a moment what our culture would be like if everyone held commitment in higher esteem. What would business look like if you knew that you could rely on your partners 100 percent of the time? What would government look like if you actually trusted the words politicians said? What would family look like if divorce were the rarity instead of being so common? What would the impact of this be on children a generation from now who grew up with confidence and security because everyone at home, school, and work demonstrated commitment in everything they did? Listen, I know this sounds outlandish, but if we discount it as impossible then we certainly won’t ever have this as our future. However, if we believe that this vision is possible if we simply choose to be committed, then let’s create this future by choosing to be committed in our own lives. We don’t want to make a law out of commitment. There are times that unforeseen events happen and we have to adjust our schedules. But if we understand the future that commitment produces, it will help us make the right adjustments when necessary and hold to our commitments when adjustments are merely convenient. Tom Landry once said, “Leadership is getting someone to do what they don’t want to do, to achieve what they want to achieve. Commitment is the only way to get there! If you’re looking for a practical way to cultivate commitment, consider the following progression: “Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become character. Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.” Worldwide Copyright TJ Associates, LLC Diane Kucala, October 2012. Co-authored by Nathanael White. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Og Mandino’s University of Success (New York: Bantam Books, 1982), pp. 44-45 Discovery Press.