When you’re surrounded by people who share a passionate commitment around a common purpose, anything is possible. ~Howard Schultz
I am writing this as I sit inside the cabin of a Boeing 767-400ER passenger jet on my way to facilitate a 4-day strategy alignment workshop. It still amazes me, after more than 35 years as a frequent flier, that this massive amount of metal can leap off the ground and stay aloft for over 8 hours while inside the cabin we go about our lives, reading, watching movies, talking to each other, even having a meal.
I wonder, did Orville and Wilbur Wright visualize all this? Better yet, did they really know what they were doing at all? They weren’t aeronautical engineers; they ran a bicycle shop in Dayton, Ohio. They fixed motors on the side. They weren’t successful serial entrepreneurs. They didn’t have MBA degrees from MIT or Harvard.
So if they didn’t have advanced degrees or aeronautical know-how, just what did they have that allowed them to build the first airplane capable of sustained maned flight and ultimately change the world?
They had commitment.
Tenacity, gumption, stick-to-it’ness, singular focus, burning desire, pig-headedness. Whatever you call it, they had it, and they applied their commitment against some pretty big difficulties. For one, there were no test facilities, so they built their own wind tunnel, and their own models to test in it. There were no blueprints for guaranteed success. Only a burning desire to fly and a commitment to do whatever it took to solve the problems of sustained human flight.
Knowledge vs Commitment
Today we have all of kinds of access to knowledge; computer models, business models, knowledge at the click of a keyboard, mentors, coaches, teachers, best-selling books on leadership secrets of the great and the good. We have more than enough stuff, except the “Wright” stuff. Commitment.
I am talking about the commitment to attack a persistent, challenging problem, even though we don’t have a clue how to solve it when we start. I contend that too many worthy challenges go unsolved not because we don’t have the knowledge or tools, but through lack of real commitment. Many people back off from big problems saying they don’t have the right skills, the time, the experience, the education, the money. The Wright brothers didn’t have knowledge in aeronautics, but they did have commitment. And that made all the difference!
Commitment is an act, not a word. ~Jean-Paul Sartre
Every time I see costly project overruns or abandoned strategic initiatives, I usually find lack of commitment, lack of desire, lack of burning passion. As the Wright Brothers taught us, real problem solving takes a little know-how and a great deal of raw commitment.
Next time you find a project with costly overruns, a strategy failing to be implemented, good project plans lying abandoned on a shelf, or a myriad of excuses as to why we can’t get it done, take a look at the Commitment Ladder™. Where are you now? What will it take to get “above the line”? Success in any endeavour is simple: There are only excuses or results. Nothing else matters.
Written and Posted by:
John R. Childress
Senior Advisor on Corporate Culture, Leadership and Strategy Execution
Author of LEVERAGE: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture and FASTBREAK: The CEO’s Guide to Strategy Execution
Visiting Professor, IE Business School, Madrid
PS: John also writes thriller novels