Talking about commitment usually evokes various responses. The compassionate samurai believes that it means doing what he says he’s going to do. The average person believes in this concept . . . some of the time. He believes that he should do what he says he’s going to when conditions are optimal or conducive for keeping his word. But honestly, commitment doesn’t have conditions. A compassionate samurai follows through whether it feels good or not; average people do what they feel like doing.
The historical samurai kept their commitments even if it cost them their lives. It isn’t that they didn’t value themselves; it’s just that they treasured keeping their word and principles more. Samurai were committed to uphold the tradition of honor, one of the ten traits I mentioned earlier. If one was killed because he upheld a principle such as keeping his word, then his death was honorable. To a compassionate samurai, death isn’t the worst thing that could happen. The greatest tragedy is to live either an unfulfilled life or one that lacks principles. The historical samurai would rather die than dishonor his name and the name of his calling.
Times have changed. For the most part, the average person today doesn’t follow this line of thought. We live in a society that travels in practically the opposite direction. My goal-and that of this book and our Klemmer & Associates seminars-is to change the prevailing mind-set of our day.
The average person doesn’t care about keeping his commitments, and the value of his word has become so cheap that he breaks it almost every day. Average salespeople promise things they can’t deliver just to make a sale; average parents promise their children that they’ll tuck them in or take them to the park, yet feel no remorse when they fail to follow through. Too many home-based entrepreneurs make unrealistic promises just to get clients-and as a result, the reputation of the whole industry suffers.
When average people are late for an appointment, they don’t consider their tardiness to be a broken commitment. Divorce rates are extremely high. Corporate scandals are front-page news, long-standing friendships dissolve, personal debt forces many into bankruptcy, trust is lost forever, and people are afraid to do business with those who solicit them-all because of broken commitments. This list could go on for the rest of the chapter, but I think you’ve gotten the point: Commitment is the basis for trust, which is the foundation of all relationships. Therefore, breaking it equates to destroying trust.
When trust is broken, relationships inevitably become shaky. More than that, when commitments aren’t valued and honored, the healthy process of both personal and business interactions and connections is turned upside down. When a person doesn’t keep his promises, others don’t want to do business with him or engage in personal relationships with him-and the “commitment breaker” becomes isolated. This costs huge amounts of money and time, destroying friendships, health, and pretty much anything else that really matters.
Quit Making Excuses-Just Say It and Do It
Many people make ridiculous excuses for why they don’t want to commit. They are the John Average Man and the Marianne Mediocre of life. In a nutshell, commitment is doing what we say we’re going to do. It’s that simple. However, maybe we’re getting ahead of ourselves. The average person doesn’t have a problem doing what he says he’s going to do-because he never says anything! He never commits himself.
Just think about the number of people you know who never make New Year’s resolutions. Why do they shy away from it? It’s because they’re already invested in looking good by not breaking any promises. They’re leading lives of convenience. However, the high price they pay is that they’re never going to accomplish much of anything. They’re giving up all their power because nothing happens without agreement. Unfortunately, there are a lot of individuals who enjoy this arrangement.
Do you want to be a compassionate samurai? If you do, you must make large agreements and keep your word. Life seems to work in proportion to the size of the promises we make and our ability to make good on them. If you’re thinking about how you’re going to follow through and be able to keep your word, bear with me; we’ll get to that momentarily. First, you’ve got to say what you’re going to do. Declare it without fear or doubt-or say it with fear and doubt, but make the statement anyway.
Now there are millions of people who resolve every New Year’s Eve to lose weight, begin a new relationship, or even land a better-paying job. The majority of these well-wishers who wind up failing themselves aren’t compassionate samurai. Those who are compassionate samurai get results and continue to stay motivated. Instead, discouragement settles in for the average people who fail to keep their New Year’s resolutions.
Say what you’re going to do. Declare it without fear or doubt-or say it with fear and doubt, but make the statement anyway.
When they don’t lose weight, find that special someone, or get their promotion or raise, they throw in the towel. Instead of honestly reviewing the reason why they didn’t achieve the goal (which is what a compassionate samurai would do), they trade in their positive confession and commitment for trite excuses. You’ve heard the average folks’ lists of excuses exempting themselves from the possibility of winning in life. Maybe you’ve even used some of them a time or two.
- “I don’t really need all that.”
- “I’m not into having a lot of ‘things.’”
- “People who want the finest things in life are simply materialistic.”
- “The key to happiness is to have no desires.”
- “It’s just God’s will.”
- “You can’t be spiritual and have success.”
- “Rich folks are greedy and don’t have a heart of compassion for anyone.”
The bottom line is that these are all excuses for not being where you want to be in life, not going to the places you were destined to go, and abandoning your responsibility to society. Mediocrity is the height of selfishness, and excuses are simply another way of being dishonest. Think about it: Yes, maybe there was traffic. But you could have gotten up earlier, or you could have told your mother that you didn’t have time to talk with her at that moment because you had a commitment. Perhaps the truth wouldn’t fly too well with the boss (or with yourself, really), so you make up an excuse.
Mediocrity is the height of selfishness.
Usually the excuse makes sense; it’s reasonable. But now you’re a slave to the tyranny of reason instead of enjoying the liberty brought about by results. Vince Lombardi, a famous American football coach, frequently told his players before a game: “In a few hours we’ll all be back in here and you’ll either have reasons or results. What is it going to be?” It’s no accident that he coached Super Bowl championship teams. It didn’t matter if it snowed or if their star quarterback broke his arm-those were just reasons. The players became compassionate samurai and were committed to results instead
of being average and being reasonable.
Which are you going to choose? Average people make reasonable excuses for pretty much everything they fail to accomplish. This helps them gain acceptance, approval, understanding, and an exemption from ever having to try again. Sad to say, they give up the extraordinary life and results of a compassionate samurai. Commit to things that are meaningful to you because you were born to make a difference in life. The only way you’ll ever see that coming to pass is when you start to make commitments.
In 1972 I graduated from the United States Military Academy, West Point. Within the first five minutes of entering the academy, we began to learn a valuable lesson. Our leaders taught us that we had only four answers to any question. No other response would be accepted or admissible. We were allowed to say:
- “Yes, sir.”
- “No, sir.”
- “No excuse, sir.”
- “Sir, I do not understand.”
If I was late to class, I could only give one of those four answers. It didn’t matter if there was a car accident or I woke up late, the only response was “No excuse, sir.” I didn’t realize what was happening at the time, but they were training us to eliminate all excuses. Even if the reason was a “good one”-for example, if I stopped to save the life of a person who was having a heart attack-the response was still “No excuse, sir.”
That’s not to say that another decision should not have been made. On occasion it might have been the compassionate samurai thing to do, to save someone’s life and break your commitment. Still, we didn’t give in to having reasons. We simply lived with the choice.
Most people reading this haven’t been trained by the military, and many aren’t accustomed to the discipline I’m talking about. Realize now that you’re in training for something big. Making excuses and being reasonable won’t get you to the extraordinary level you desire.
Average people try hard or give it a good effort, whereas compassionate samurai do well regardless. Learn the language of a compassionate samurai: Make big commitments, keep them, and never offer reasons when you don’t make things happen. Jim Stovall is a friend who frequently speaks in our Heart of the Samurai Seminar and who is a living compassionate samurai. He’s the author of the best-selling book The Ultimate Gift, which became a major motion picture. Jim owns satellite TV stations, has won an Emmy, earned a gold medal as an Olympic weight lifter, and won Entrepreneur of the Year from the President’s Committee on Equal Opportunity.
He’s the only person I personally know who was also chosen as the International Humanitarian of the Year award (an honor also given to Mother Teresa). Knowing all this, it’s hard to believe that Jim went blind in his early 20s. He had a very good reason to be an underachiever-at least a better one than most people have. He could have used his condition as a crutch; instead he used it to strengthen others, becoming a compassionate samurai and positively impacting hundreds of thousands of lives. You can read more about his story online at www.theultimategift.com. Jim is committed to making a difference.
This isn’t to say that you should commit to buying out the Four Seasons hotel chain or owning a dozen McDonald’s franchises (although those aren’t bad ideas). Start from where you are and stretch. Maybe you can commit to being on time all the time for your boss or family. Perhaps you can decide to take some night classes or a weekend seminar to help better manage your time and money. Maybe you can promise yourself that you’ll go out on some dates if you’re widowed or have just been out of the dating game for a time.
Wherever you are, that’s the place to start. Say it and begin taking steps. When you put your thoughts into words, you set wheels in motion that are moving you toward your goal. Consciously, you don’t know what they are, but your subconscious is responding.
It will look like this: Commitment – The Foundation of All Relationships