Commitment is the Engine of Your Business, Not Motivation

Committed people make history.

Imagine building a boat without an engine or a sail. We call that a raft. You could build a gorgeous multi-million dollar 60’ cruiser, but if there is no engine, it’s still just a raft. And if you actually want to have some control over where you’re going, drifting around aimlessly in a raft isn’t the best way to get there. Or the fastest. Or the safest. You get the idea. You need an engine.

In 30 years of building my own businesses and in watching other people build hundreds more, I can tell you without reservation that the foundational thing that separates the successful business owner from the always-struggling business owner is commitment. The bigger their engine of commitment is, the better chance they have at getting where they want to go. And the quicker they are likely to get there.

Motivation is not Commitment.

That’s an important distinction. I’ve seen plenty of people pound their chests, do their chants and mistake “motivation” for commitment.

I’m not a big fan of motivational stuff. Motivation too often masquerades as vision, but is almost always based in emotionalism – seeing the promised land on a map, hearing the music, dancing the dance, hugging somebody, then going home and settling back into our regular routine.

So motivation is too often based on how I feel, not on whether I’m committed to really doing something. Commitment is unaffected by feeling, and only uses feelings to help understand what has already happened. After all, emotions are a much better indicator of what has already happened then what might happen in the future.

We should be responding to business more like a stream running down hill. It doesn’t need to get emotional to get moving and when it hit’s a beaver dam, it doesn’t get emotional, either. It just turns left and keeps finding a way downhill. A stream has quiet resolve.

Commitment is demonstrated not by excitement, or by spending time in the office, or even by dollars invested, but by full on abandonment to getting to the goal, and daily plodding to get there. Commitment is much closer related to steely, quiet resolve than to ginning up the “right” feelings.

Quiet resolve is committed movement in a purposeful direction.

Do you have quiet resolve to get where you want to go, no matter what you run into along the way? If you do, you’ve got a great shot at going from survival right through success to significance, both in your business and in your life.

Is Industrial Age Thinking Crippling Your Business?

Retirement is a bankrupt Industrial Age idea.

The Industrial Age of 1780-1960-ish was the greatest advance in physical lifestyle benefits in history, and likely the worst thing that ever happened to our real lifestyle.

As a business owner, your view of business has been radically tainted by this very short period of time in history, and the sooner you stop using it as a reference for your business, the better off you and your business will be.

The Industrial Age gave us a lot of bad legacies, and a couple of the worst are:

  1. Retirement
  2. Separation of Work and Play

We’ll deal with Work and Play in a later post.

Retirement. What a dumb idea. In 1889, Bismarck invented it to give German laborer’s hope that there was a carrot at the end of the stick. He set retirement at age 70 when the average life expectancy was 42.5, and for those who made it to 20, they could hope to live all the way to 60. In 1913 the U.S. institutionalized it at age 65, three years after the average age of death in the U.S. Hmmm… great – thanks.

This was actually only the natural evolution of an Age that asked us to give the best 8-12 hours of our day, the best six days of our week, and the best 40 years of our lives to do something that was many times not fulfilling and did not allow you to think, be creative, or express your humanity. But if you worked hard, you could enjoy what’s left of your day, your week, and your life – AFTER we got the best of what you had to offer.

The Industrial Age worker bought it hook line and sinker, and as a result we have a whole nation of people who dream about “retirement”, which implies at least two things:

  1. Work is not fulfilling – it’s just a means to a future end a long way off.
  2. Significance and fulfillment is something you get AFTER you’ve worked really hard for decades.

Fortunately the alphabet generation (Gen X and Y) don’t have the baggage of having grown up in the Industrial Age, and are leading a peaceful revolt against the whole idea. They expect work to be fulfilling, meaningful, significant, and enjoyable RIGHT NOW. Not when they retire. It’s mystifying to their parents because it looks like they’re not willing to “settle down and get a job”. (pssst – Mom/Dad – they never will).

We need to learn how to stop waiting on decades of toil to eventually get us to something meaningful. I would suggest that you replace “Retirement” with “Ideal Lifestyle”. Retirement happens at 65-ish, but your Ideal Lifestyle is in your own hands to create any time you want. And as a business owner, I believe you can get there in 3to5Years from the printing of your business card.

If you’ve been in business for 20 years and aren’t at your Ideal Lifestyle, you might want to look at the model in your head for what your intending to get out of all this. Likely you just took your employee mindset with you from the Industrial Age and that giant corporation you used to work for, and repeated that same system that will (maybe) allow you to retire someday

He who makes the rules wins. Stop accepting the rules handed down to you by the Industrial Age and USE YOUR BUSINESS TO GET TO YOUR IDEAL LIFESTYLEnow. Life shouldn’t be meaningful tomorrow, because tomorrow never comes.

Take a look at my book at and other posts here to see how to get off this treadmill. You’ll enjoy life a lot more if you do.

Be the Best in YOUR World by Making the Rules

What are you good at?

I went to Home Depot last week to return the toilet guts I had bought nine months earlier that had stopped working. Turns out they knew what they were selling didn’t work locally but that didn’t stop them. It’s really hard to be the best nationally and locally. As a local business owner, you’ve got an unfair advantage.

I was more frustrated with myself than with Home Depot because I’d replaced the guts to four different toilets in our house every 12-18 months for the last 15 years without thinking about the five year warranty. I talked to the manager and asked why the innards were failing so often and he replied, “The water is really hard in Highlands Ranch and makes the plastic parts brittle.”

I asked why, if they knew all this time that the parts don’t work in Highlands Ranch, that they were still selling them. He replied “The buying decisions are all made in our headquarters in Atlanta.” We then went back to the plumbing parts department and he asked the plumbing expert if he knew if they had anything that resisted the hard water problems here (the store is in Highlands Ranch), and his short answer was “No”.

Apparently it’s widely and long held knowledge among local Home Depot staff that the parts they sell don’t work in our town, but since the buying decisions are made in Atlanta, it doesn’t dawn on them to look for a local solution, or at least post a sign that says “these are great parts but not here.”

A locally owned store has an unfair advantage over big box stores. While the manager of the big box may live locally and care deeply, he or she can’t often customize their offering to meet the unique needs of a local community.

Big box stores win when you play by their rules, so don’t do that. What are you good at that they can’t begin to replicate? Walmart may have low prices but have you ever tried to find someone to help you find the right tool or ask about which bicycle to buy? If you offer great and knowledgeable service, it’s a rule they can’t play by – it would cost too much for their low price rule. They can’t play by your rule – you win.

What are you really good at that the big box stores can’t touch? While they do some things well, what are the things that they just can’t do? Low prices usually mean lower service. Centralized national buying usually means parts that are good for everyone and not great for your particular town. I know a lot of local owners who are killing it by simply refusing to play by the big box store’s rules.

He who makes the rules wins.

Make some rules they can’t touch. You don’t have to be the best in the world to compete with the big box stores. Being local puts you in the best position to be the best in YOUR world, and when somebody wants a toilet part, that’s the only world that matters.


In July of last year, Home Depot gave me the guts to the toilet. Those guts failed this week – eleven months later. The kit has a five-year warranty.

I took the failed kit back to Home Depot, explained to the manager that I had been given this free by the previous manager, so I didn’t have a receipt. He wouldn’t replace the failed kit without a receipt and told me to contact the manufacturer.

Since I have to buy a new kit, I’ll be doing so from a locally owned plumbing supply store, and will go out of my way to avoid Home Depot in the coming years for all other purchases.

I’m pretty sure a local business owner would have had a different response. Don’t you?

I’m also pretty sure I’ll be telling this customer service story worldwide in my keynotes and workshops for years to come. It’s a great example of why you should buy locally.

Why Good Business Owners Live Disoriented

There is such a strong pull in our western business culture to ‘have it all figured out.’ But there is a simple, counter-intuitive yet powerful principle that successful business owners know which keeps both them and their businesses growing:

Adults don’t learn unless we’re disoriented.

Think about it. A kindergartner is learning all the time, but adults have it all figured out. Why? Because everything is new all the time to a five year old. They are regularly amazed by how the world works. But adults have it all figured out, even when we don’t. We can’t let anyone know we don’t know something.

Successful business owners aren’t afraid to not know something and the best of them simply “live disoriented”. If we know that we don’t know everything and that life is SUPPOSED to be full of change, healthy instability and new experiences, we are much better prepared to grab hold of the new things that will keep us and our business fresh and growing.

Most business owners are strongly fastened to what they’ve always done, so when something new comes along that would actually push them forward they don’t see it because they aren’t disoriented enough to see the opportunity – they already “know” what works.

When I was in my 30s and had been in business a few years I figured I knew at least 50% of what it meant to be a good business owner. A number of businesses later I was much more certain that I knew less than 25% of what it took to make it work.

Business owners who live disoriented understand that the more they learn, the less they know. Learning just opens up door after door that all provide opportunities for us to continue to grow, adapt, change, and succeed.

When was the last time you were disoriented? Unless you’re disoriented from what you are certain is “true”, you’re not likely to take on any new tools to help you be even more successful.

Bob Parsons (Parsons Technology and GoDaddy) says: “Get out and stay out of your comfort zone.”

Let’s all commit to being five years old again – get disoriented and stay that way. You’ll learn a lot more, be a lot more successful, and make a bigger splash in the world around you.