By Scott Westerman
“There’s a difference between interest and commitment. When you’re interested in doing something, you do it only when circumstance permit. When you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses, only results.” Unknown

“An ounce of performance is worth pounds of promises.” Mae West

We live in a world where people are increasingly choosing careers that suit a 9 to 5 schedule. Gen Y kids are said to switch jobs in a heartbeat, if it doesn’t fit their lifestyle. And everybody knows about the uncomfortably high divorce rate.

It’s easily forgotten that the single most important behavior that leads to achievement is commitment.

My mentor, Jim Collins of Good to Great fame, writes, “The kind of commitment I find among the best performers across virtually every field is a single-minded passion for what they do, an unwavering desire for excellence in the way they think and the way they work. Genuine confidence is what launches you out of bed in the morning, and through your day with a spring in your step.”

Jim speaks as much to my continuing sermon about doing what you love, and loving what you do. But his words remind us that the habit of excellence is based on the foundation of commitment.

Stan Stein, Executive Vice President at Weber Shandwick, the powerhouse PR firm that specializes in advising Fortune 50 companies, tells a story about how a Natural Science class at Michigan State University stood in the way of his matriculation. After receiving a failing grade on his first exam, he did what most students don’t do.

He approached his professor for help.

Teachers recognize and reward commitment, and Stan’s encouraged him to attend all three sections of the class. The professor offered to stay 30 minutes after each class to answer Stan’s questions. The 2010 MSU Communications Arts and Sciences Distinguished Alumnus said he didn’t get a four point, but he passed the course. He’s been committed to excellence ever since.

In the elite world of high performance you always need to be on your A-game. The difference between leading the field and getting stuck in the pack is the work you’re willing to do on the extra mile.

Commitment is taking the time to figure out what happiness really means.
Commitment is due diligence before decision.
Commitment is an inoculation against distraction.
Commitment on both sides is the steel that forges a lasting relationship.
Commitment refines and transforms dreams as they come closer to reality.
Commitment is malleable but unbreakable.
Commitment overcomes fear.
Commitment repels negativity.
Commitment is the fuel that recharges energy.

How many of these definitions fit your outlook, your goals, your behavior.

When NBA hall-of-famer Earvin Johnson used to come by WVIC in the days when we were both in East Lansing, it was clear, even then, that Magic was focused. “I was able to see what I wanted to do,” he wrote later. “I could see the opportunity, even when others could not. I stay committed to doing it and doing it well, no matter what.”

How about you? How do you feel today about that central dream that drives you?

If we expect excellence, we tend find it. But, like all things in life, it has a way of being attracted to people who are committed to it.