I remember nearly three decades ago when I first asked my friend, and boss at the time, Terry Adams, when he knew he wanted to marry Lindsay. “I just knew”, is what Terry told me back then. And thirty years later, I can honestly say that of all my married friends around the world, Terry and Lindsay are the best parents and the most devoted husband and wife I’ve been blessed to know. I remember asking Terry, “How do you know if she is THE one?” I’ll never forget Terry’s answer. “Love is a feeling. Marriage is a commitment”, he replied.
The world knows Frank DeAngelis as the infamous principal of Columbine High School – especially after the April 20, 1999 massacre. I know Frank DeAngelis as one of my best friends. Do you know what separates Frank from just about any of my other friends? Every morning, for years, Frank texts me a personal note telling me how much he loves me. Every morning. He has never missed. Never. I once asked Frank why he does it? “You tell me ‘I love you’ more than my own wife,” I tease him. “Why? Because I’m committed to our friendship,” he replied.
My weight fluctuates like Baskin Robbins changes their 31 flavors each month. I have three sets of suit pants in my closet: 34-inch waist, 35 and 36. When I hit the 36-inch pants, I call my trainer, Adam Baca. I texted Adam over the weekend. Told him that I’m 195 pounds and it is time to get back to 175. He texted me right back and asked, “Where is this motivation coming from?” I thought that was a weird question. There is nothing motivating about not eating pasta for a month. Or running on a treadmill! I texted Adam back, “I’m not motivated. I’m just committed to try and find motivation!”
When I was CEO of Up with People, I hired and fired a lot of people – the name of the game when you are leading a turn around. Not fun. But one of the best people that I ever hired in my career was a woman named Colleen Eastman. She had worked for Up with People on and off since 1987. I’m old school. I believe the CEO needs to be the first one in the office and the last to leave – to set an example of work ethic. I was never able to do this because Colleen Eastman always beat me to the office. Always. And the Up with People staff, students, donors and volunteers all loved Colleen – more than any other employee – more than me! I once asked Colleen back in 2005 when I hired her back to the organization, “Why do you love Up with People so much?” Her response, “I’m committed to its’ mission.”
When people describe my profession, some refer to me as a “motivational speaker”. I have come to hate that term. I don’t consider myself motivational. I consider myself a full-time student and teacher of leadership – particularly heart-led leadership. And all the “motivation” in the world can’t change a person’s leadership style.
I believe there are two types of leaders in the world: Self-serving leaders and servant-leaders. Leaders that serve themselves before serving others. And leaders that serve others before they serve themselves. Leadership is a choice. Then your choice is followed by a commitment. Just like Terry has committed to Lindsay for the past thirty years. Just as Frank is committed to our friendship. Just as Adam is committed to get my fat rear on the treadmill. And just as Colleen is committed to the mission of her work.
Motivation is a noun. A singular, common, abstract noun; a word for a desire or a willingness. Commitment, defined by Merriam-Webster, is an agreement or a pledge. There is a difference between motivation and commitment. There is a difference between a desire and an agreement. There is a difference between a willingness and a pledge. Especially when it comes to leadership.
I think we all can learn from Terry and Lindsay, Frank, Adam, and Colleen. There is nothing more beautiful than relationships anchored in commitment – both personally and professionally. Nothing more inspiring than people committing themselves to a mission. And there is nothing more important than being committed to trying all 31 flavors at Baskin Robbins!