Sunday, March 29, 2009

James Bond, Himalayan Expedition and you...

The ridiculous…
Some months back I was watching James Bond on cable (Casino Royal). I must admit that I loved that movie for many reasons but one of them was the unwavering determination showed by the actor Daniel Craig. He was ready to kill or be killed for his country. I asked my wife, "What does it take, what is it that happens, that makes anyone so committed to a cause. It's not for the paycheck. It's something bigger!" She looked at me and said, "It' s a movie."

The Sublime…
Some months back we had to evacuate our home and neighborhood because of the Porter Ranch fires. A surreal situation to say the least (I will blog about that at a later time). We parked our family and irreplaceable in my in-law's home. The whole day, going into the wee hours of the next morning, I was glued to the TV watching waiting to see what would happen to our home. Then they showed the firefighters. And suddenly I felt guilty. I wanted my home saved but not the cost of a lost firefighter. I prayed that they all got a chance to get back home. The footage was unreal. In one shot the firefighter was fighting an enormous blaze with a hose. He was in the gazebo of one of the homes he was attempting to save. A faceless man against the wall of inferno. I eventually fell asleep and when I awoke hours later the news had a segment on that very thing I was watching. The firefighters had won this round. And I thought as I drove back home, what does it take, what is it that happens, that makes anyone so committed to a cause. It's not for the paycheck. It's something bigger. This time it wasn't a movie. No actors. But the same spirit.

What kind of company would you have if everyone there was driven by an unstoppable commitment to make a difference. Not only to win (against the competitors, etc) but to transform a process such that what is left after you are done will alter everything?

Look around the office and read people's faces. What are they up to? What are they ready to cause? Are they just going through the motions? Are they creating something? Then find a mirror and look carefully at yourself. If today was your last day, will you be able to say that you were committed to something so great that you can go in peace?

The concept of commitment is tightly coupled with integrity. You cannot be committed without integrity. Your claim to integrity is empty without committing. Think about the founding fathers of the United States that signed their name on the Declaration of Independence. They mad a commitment to a liberated people… you can bet the British Crown had a different perspective. And they lay down they lives for the cause. They embodied integrity:

"And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

Not a movie, no actors. Just courage.

This next excerpt cemented for me what commitment can do. It was given to me when I was enrolled in the Landmark Forum:

"But when I said that nothing had been done I erred in one important matter. We had definitely committed ourselves and were halfway out of our ruts. We had put down our passage money— booked a sailing to Bombay. This may sound too simple, but is great in consequence.

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too.

A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. I learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets:

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!
- W. H. Murray, from The Scottish Himalayan Expedition (1951)

Think about the commitments that you've made in your life. Think about what led up to them (marriage, your job, education, last project at work, …). I would bet that you weren't sure how things would turn out, but when you committed, really committed, providence did step in.

Question: is your job a paycheck, or can you commit to creating something that's bigger than you?

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