Coach Lou Holtz once told me a story that is a good illustration of one of my favorite philosophies:
One night in a small town in Kansas, a fire broke out in a local factory. The town firemen couldn’t get it out, and before long the blaze threatened to engulf the whole town.
The fire chief told the mayor that they needed to bring in outside forces to control the blaze, so the mayor sent out a proclamation declaring that anyone who could put out the fire would receive a $100,000 prize from the town.
Firemen seemed to come from all around, but try as they might, none of them could put out the fire.
Then, one day, with the fire still raging, the townspeople noticed a small red dot coming into view on the mountain road just beyond the town.
The dot kept getting larger until everyone saw that it was a fire truck, with a team of firemen no one had ever seen before.
The townspeople watched in amazement as the truck only seemed to gain speed as it approached the town, and then the fire. Then, instead of stopping, the truck went straight into the fire. The firemen jumped out, and went to work with their hoses, fighting the blaze. After an hour, the mysterious team of firemen had extinguished the whole thing.
Grateful and amazed, the mayor presented the head fireman the $100,000 prize. Then he asked what the firemen would do with all the money.
“The first thing we’re gonna do,” the fireman said, “Is fix the brakes on our truck!”
To me, the moral of the story is clear: Commitment is not always convenient.
The firemen were committed to putting out fires, wherever and whenever they found them. Even when they knew their brakes were shot, and they’d risk life and limb trying to put out a fire, it didn’t matter. They had to do it. They were committed to doing it. Everything else was secondary.
People like to use the word “committed,” but for a lot of them, if the timing's not right or the thing they’re committed to turns into an “incovenience,” they're off it.
For instance – was there ever a time when you needed to do something at work, and you should have stayed late at the office to complete it, but you left because you had some social plans to attend to?
Or – have you ever thought you were committed to a relationship, but you let some nonessential distraction steal your focus, causing you to neglect the other person?
Were you actually committed - like the firemen - or maybe not so much?
Mark Messier says people like to win, but not everyone likes to put in all the work necessary to win.
I think it’s the same thing with commitment.