Integrity & Ants Marching Around the Rim of a Glass

Here we are at the threshold of a new year. If you are anything like me (and I pray that you have NOT been cursed with TOO much of this particular blessing) you may be considering a New Year’s resolution or two for the coming year. STOP! Don’t do it! Why set yourself up for failure? After all, many of us have made these same resolutions before only to be right back where we started. Like ants marching around the rim of a glass, the territory looks hauntingly familiar, and nothing but the date has changed.


Willpower doesn’t work. Try this. Find a rubber band – go ahead – get one out of the kitchen drawer – I know you have one. Now stretch it between your hands, pulling it as far apart as you can without breaking it. Now, hold it there for the next 365 days . . . THAT is what it is like to set and keep a New Year’s resolution. (For those of you are still holding the rubber band stretched between your hands – you can stop now.) Eventually we snap back into who we are.


We “try” to change, we “intend” to do things differently, but – you know – we’re busy, and “something came up”, and “this-and-that happened,” and . . . well, promises and commitments fall by the way. Often we don’t even acknowledge that we’ve missed our commitments, perhaps hoping that no one else will notice either. But, even if there are valid reasons for breaking commitments, I often wonder about the integrity of others and myself when we fail to fulfill our promises. Sometimes when I miss a commitment and fail to own up to it I feel the need to take a lengthy shower to get the icky lack of integrity off of me. Somehow I know I have undermined my credibility – tarnished my word, diminished my ability to conjure possibilities through the power of my speaking.


What a slippery slope this is. Our word is our most powerful and lasting tool for creating and sustaining possibilities. Although I still meet people who are convinced that there is a “reality” out there, more and more I find that MY reality is conjured by the words that I speak and the interpretations that I give to events. Now I go through life declaring possibilities that I don’t currently know HOW to make happen, and they happen. For example – in 2001 I declared the possibility that I would have a thriving consulting practice, be on the radio, and TV – and within 4 years I achieved 2 out of 3 of these goals. I now make interpretations of events that motivate and inspire me instead of throwing me into a cynical fit of despair. Example, I was invited to Armenia to conduct a workshop on leadership, and told “90% of these people will think this is a complete waste of time”. I chose to interpret this as a valid “possible fact” and an under-estimation of them AND me. Much to my delight the workshop was ridiculously successful. Ha! The same thing happened when I was invited to Japan 2 years later. I ended up going there over 100 times, working with over 50 global 1000 Japanese companies. It was an outrageously successful era of my consulting business in spite of “experts” on Japanese culture warning me that my workshop approach would result in little more than blank faces and uncooperative participants. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Fortunately my mentor warned me “Do not underestimate yourself or the Japanese people.”

“LANGUAGE IS THE HOUSE OF BEING” (Quote by M. Heidigger)

Language creates reality. Communication is the only tool that we have to create anything bigger than one person. What if your word was more powerful than “things that happen”, or “something that came up?” What if you KNEW that your word was something that you could take to the bank? What might that make possible?


We don’t have to wait until we are 100% sure before committing. One way to be sure you never fail to meet a commitment is – don’t make any! I’m recommending quite the opposite. I’m advocating that you start making commitments ubiquitously! Don’t wait until you are SURE. Don’t wait until you know HOW you will achieve it. Speak your commitment and amazing events will transpire to create the possibility to which you committed. Just be sure that you understand – you and your integrity stand behind every single one of these commitments!

There are several ways to fulfill a commitment:

  1. Do what you promised, exactly as you promised, to yourself or others.
  2. Re-negotiate the details of what you promised before the deadline, then do it.
  3. Rescind the commitment well before the deadline, dealing with the consequences.

There are no small deviations from this model. Make no mistake – how you deal with ANY commitment impacts how you deal with ALL commitments, and your integrity. Even thought the consequences of not fulfilling a commitment may be large or small, there are no distinctions in the size of our commitments when it comes to our integrity and the detrimental impact on the power of our word.

Think about what it would mean to you, your colleagues, your business, your family and friends, if you were a person of your word, committed to unfailingly fulfilling your commitments. What would that make possible? Don’t let yourself off the hook. This key unlocks a door to possibilities most people only dream of. (Want to know more? Refer: Tracy Goss, “The Last Word on Power: Executive Re-invention for Leaders Who Must Make the Impossible Happen”)

What are you committed to more than your fear? More than your doubt? More than your comfort? That is the landscape of possibility that I hope you will explore in the coming year.

Ask yourself this paradigm-shifting question that I learned from Joel Barker: “What seems ‘impossible’ today, that if it WERE possible, would transform (yourself, your work, your life, your team, your organization, your country, Our World) for the better?”

What’s possible? What seems impossible? What might make ‘impossible’ –> possible? That’s how highly effective leaders talk. And then listen, listen, listen, for 3 minutes longer than you can stand it, until it’s physically painful and you want to dig your heart out with a rusty spoon, because listening to others in these “conversations for possibilities” is what unleashes the group genius, and enrolls them in this journey to a new future.

I am committed to transforming the cultures of Silicon Valley corporations into life-affirming organizations that don’t suck your will to live, that consistently generate greater profit, productivity and employee and customer delight than anyone imagined possible. Will I fulfill my commitment? You bet. By when? Who knows. I may fail while daring greatly – but, as Theodore Roosevelt said, I shall never be among those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat!

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