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 spent Mothers’ Day with Kyle Gulick. Dr. Gulick is the woman who will be our dentist for life.

Until Saturday, we didn’t know her.

If you’ve ever experienced the precursor symptoms to a root canal, you know how Colleen was feeling this weekend. By Saturday afternoon, we were calling around to see if we could find a dentist who could bring The Queen down from the ceiling.

A friend recommended Dan Gulick. He and his wife met in dental school and, for 27 years, have shared a practice together. Dan is a committed family man. He was watching his son play baseball far away, but took our call anyway.. and suggested we contact Kyle.

Long story short, we ended up meeting her at her office on Sunday morning. She spent four hours of her Mother’s Day making Colleen better.

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?

My boss at MSU Advancement, Bob Groves, likes to put it another way. “To the chicken, a ham and eggs breakfast requires only a small contribution, but to the Pig, a total commitment is required! ”

When NBA hall-of-famer Ervin 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.”

We didn’t know Dr. Kyle Gulick before this weekend. But she and her husband will be part of our lives from now on.

Her 9th grade passion for dentistry and her commitment to every patient is still as powerful today as it was when she first held a toothbrush.

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.