Wisdom//

How Committed Are You?

Too often in life we give ourselves a way out. Maybe it's time to commit.

Malte Mueller/ Getty Images
Malte Mueller/ Getty Images

We went to satisfy nostalgic curiosity. Having grown up in the 80s, even though we were raised on opposite ends of the country, my husband and I share memories of big hair, Van Halen, and the Lake Placid Olympics. So when we lived in New York, we seized the opportunity to explore. I will never look at the ski jump the same way again.

We started at the bottom, looking up. Lake Placid has two ski jumps, the taller of the two loomed 120 meters high. To be honest, it didn’t look real. Without snow, without the crowds, and without seeing it from the safety of my television, I had no frame of reference for the behemoth I was seeing. I couldn’t get my mind wrapped around the reality that there are some human beings in the world who would make their way to the top of this thing, willingly point themselves downhill, and go…

And that was before I took the elevator up the 22 stories to the top.

Now I’m not sure what would possess someone to take on this sport. No amount of breathing or wiggling my toes could release me from the anxiety I was feeling as I peered down from the top of the clouds. What became absolutely clear as I absorbed my surroundings, is that once you went for it, there was no turning back. You were committed.

And then I understood, in a microscopic way, why someone might find that appealing.

Because we don’t commit like that in life. We give ourselves a way out.

We hold back our best, until we know it’s safe. We don’t force ourselves to have the tough conversations — to say what’s real. We say we’ll do anything and work with anyone, without having the courage to declare what we do best and with whom we wish to work. We go through employees like Kleenex in a box — if one doesn’t work out, we just go on to the next. We don’t fully commit. Not to our businesses. Not to our colleagues, or employees. And maybe most importantly, not to ourselves.

In the theatre, one of the most dangerous things you can do as an actor, is to not fully commit. If you’re not 100 percent committed, quite honestly, you stink. Your performance is phony or boring, which means you’re often unemployed. But to fully commit, is scary. You have to be vulnerable, to play full-out, to be completely present in the moment. If you stand outside yourself, worried about looking foolish, or making a mistake — if you’re focusing on what others think, on their judgements — you’ve lost. The magic is gone.

In the ski jump, it seems to me the stakes are higher. If you’re jumping and you don’t commit, unemployment is likely the least of your worries…

What if we were to fully commit ourselves like that? Like there is no out. Like our life depended on it?

If we’re really committing to being our best, what would that look like? Who would we spend our time with? What would we be doing? What messages would we send ourselves?

If we’re committing to providing the best service, what would that look like? Who would our partners be? What kind environment makes it possible for people to bring their best? What kind of clients find value in the best we bring?

If we’re committing to building a world-class organization, what would that look like? How would we hire? How would we show up in meetings? How would we develop our people? How would we treat one another, if we were to treat everyone in the organization as if they were world-class?

Because maybe we live under a false sense of security. Maybe the stakes really are that high. For if we do life with one foot out, should we be surprised to find our results in a heap at the base of our mountainous effort?

Perhaps the uncomfortable truth is that we cannot soar if we don’t fully commit. How committed are you?

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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