Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Commitment: Breakfast of Champions

Most folks who know me know that I’ve pretty much ridden the same inspirational phrases for the past fifteen or twenty years. Some of my favorites are:

If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem
It’s not the choices in life that decide what you do, it’s the lack of choice… you got no choice, you know what you’re gonna do.
If I can’t do great things, I’ll do small things in a great way.
A man that’s always looking for a job doesn’t have time to work.
A setback is just a setup for a comeback; tough times don’t last, tough people do.

They’ve worked pretty well for me, and they seem to have inspired others a little bit too. But my cyber-buddy Kinika had one that really let me understand why I succeed at some things and not at others, and why sometimes I feel more of a sense of pride in failures than I do in successes. It’s all about commitment. It’s about doing the best you can whatever the circumstances. It’s about leaving it all out on the battlefield, playing field, crop field, field of dreams, etc. In the past, I had often confused my involvement with things and people with a commitment to them. But Kinika’s insight let me know the difference. She said:

“The difference between commitment and involvement is like a ham and egg breakfast. The chicken was involved, but the pig was committed.”

For some of you, I have to ask you to look past your hatred of all things swine-related to see the analogy. Many people believe they are committed to something or someone because of intense or long-term involvement or feeeling. But just like this analogy, they have the ability to walk away from the situation. The chicken can stay up all night giving eggs, and give the best eggs anyone has ever eaten… but it can walk out of the house the same way it walked in. The pig, on the other hand, sacrificed everything it had to make the breakfast work. Even if the pig was still alive, it’s commitment to making breakfast work would have meant it could have walked away… but it would never have been the same. It sacrificed past the level of it’s own comfort.

Folks say they are committed to a cause, a person, a goal, even a God. But they somehow find a way to walk away when things don’t go their way. I hear about people backsliding in church. Being committed is like being in a car going downhill… you can’t just slide backward… you have to make a conscious decision to stop first. People who “backslide” were either just involved with God, or they are lying to themselves, ‘cause if they were committed, they would be like Job in the Bible who said he would rather die than walked away.. You can apply that attitude to a lot of relationships. Martin Luther King and Malcolm X were committed to their movements. When they were told they were going to be killed, they said what Job said.

Sometimes you commit yourself to something, and eventually you realize it’s never gonna work. At that point, walking away is the best thing to do. But if you committed yourself, as the pig did, you will still be changed forever by the experience. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be worse off, ‘cause the pig is a little more aerodynamic than it used to be. Whether you are better off or worse off is all in how you choose to deal with the experience. Actually, when you’ve given all you had, you get a sense of peace and pride that makes you feel stronger when you walk away. Some people confuse commitment to the process or path with commitment to the goal. There are times when success means doing things some other way, or heaven forbid, somebody else’s way. Now if your goal is to find a new process or path, then of course you need to see it through to the end. But you need to understand what your goal is so that you don’t commit yourself to the wrong goal..

When I think of true commitment, I think of a football game I saw Kellen Winslow play (Sr., not Jr.). He was sick and injured and still played what many consider the greatest game ever by a tight end. The special thing about the game was, when he decided to play, he knew it would take an effort he never committed to before. Although he was a future Hall of Famer, he knew he had never given 100% on every play before, and he wanted to see what would happen if he tried. In the end, his teammates carried him off the field, not because he won the game for them, but because he couldn’t walk. There is nothing wrong with involvement because that is the basis for most relationships, whether with people or ideals. The issue comes down to how much you are willing to sacrifice to get the most out of the situation. Like Kellen Winslow Senior, are you willing to put your own bacon in the fire… or are you chicken?


Mark Hancock said...

Thanks, Dwane,

Dropped in on your blog and enjoyed it.

Try on the expression, "This generation is over-involved, but under-committed."

Keep up the thinking.

Grace and Peace,

jjbrock said...

This is a powerful post..thanks. Let me add this...It's impossible to succeed without going through adversity..Impossible!

If you're successful and haven't experienced adversity, you can be sure that someone else has experienced it for you.

Dwane T. said...

Thanks for stopping by my brother, and Amen my sister.

"If you're successful and haven't experienced adversity, you can be sure that someone else has experienced it for you."

That is a blogpost/sermon in and of itself right there. Powerful!

Anonymous said...

That post makes me think "Easier said than done". I think most people like the accolades one gets from being committed but when those accolades are gone they see no reason to truly commit.

I always liken commitment to "Deciding to Go Anyway". People just always think about the worse case scenario, they think they don't know enough to try, they think somehow it has to be their calling or they hope others will join. Commitment is a personal choice and thus like anything else in life you only can let yourself down. With that harsh reality of being a liar to yourself most people bow out early.


Walt Bennett said...

A phrase I grew up with is "paying lip service."

What I take from this post is that there is talking the talk and there is walking the walk.

I just need to say that I believe in spiritual commitment, but I have a real problem with committing to a specific religion, church or preacher. I believe there is too much danger that we can be led astray, because there are no perfect humans. In other words, sometimes commitment means walking away not because the commitment was a bad one, but because the people we followed were bad leaders for our commitment.

I don't know if that makes any sense.

And to the extent that this means a person can end up not acting at all because they don't know who to follow, I say: maybe it isn't time yet.

Dwane T. said...

Freeman, we agree on the basics. Committment definitely is doing it anyway. It's not about adulation. My brother used to play basketball in any weather. In the winter, he would carry his ball and a snow shovel to the park a mile away, and clear a foot of snow from a large enough area to practice. No addulation, no accolades. When accolades are needed, that's not committment, that's performance. But committment leads to others being affected by your actions. An uncommitted worker screws up the company. A father who goes out for bread and never comes home can mess up generations. They should have done it anyway... but since they didn't, they were the first person they let down, but not the only ones.

Walt, committment to religion, church, or a preacher are examples of confusing the process with the goal more often than not. People confuse those things with committment to God. Still, I agree with you. If you've seen my 360 page, you know my welcome line is, "More important than knowing how to lead is knowing who to follow". I could have put that one in the blog with my other sayings, but I've only been using it for about three years.

Demon Hunter said...

Uh-oh, you need to update like I do. :-)

Anonymous said...

Well done.

I was looking for something else when I ran across this.

However, You forgot to mention it sucks being the pig. One is often in the inenviable position of being rewarded and punished for the exact same event.

Often within minutes of each other.

Not to mention the times you get punished for being and/or doing the correct thing.


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Cousin Joey said...

Interesting blog. Thank you :)

To Walt Bennett;

you wrote, "I just need to say that I believe in spiritual commitment, but I have a real problem with committing to a specific religion, church or preacher." Maybe therein poses the problem: the preacher and/or the religion. Instead why not commit to God through Christ Jesus. Not man - but God. Consider perhaps Revelation 12:17, and find fellow believers who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus. Religion is a by-product of the Relationship. Establish that first with Him, and the religion will find you :) Proverbs 3:5&6, my friend

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