I recently read an article by a former philosophy professor at Notre Dame, Tom Morris, speaking about the “Magic of Commitment.” He intricately and creatively articulated the connection between Purpose, Danger, and Relational Bonds in driving magical levels of commitment. His words immediately reminded me of the European pilgrimage, El Camino de Santiago, an experience I turned into my undergraduate minor thesis at ND; every day offered new challenges that were unknown, a specific destination that gave a sense of purpose and intentionality, and a shared experience with other pilgrims along “The Way.”
Dr. Morris noted several historical events where magical levels of commitment seemed present, including veterans from World War II, students from the North who served in the South during The Freedom Summer of ’64, and the football players on the 1988 Notre Dame National Championship team. What I would add to Morris’s list of Purpose, Danger, and Relationships when creating commitment on our teams is a sense of Immediacy.
Like waking up in the dark on a hard mattress, in a rustic albergue, in a small town in northern Spain every morning seemingly slapped you in the face with the reality of another ~20 km walk that day, there was a powerful sense of Immediacy in each of these scenarios Morris mentioned. Every day WWII soldiers opened their eyes to the immediacy of why they were there, the danger of war, and the brotherhood of the warm blood beside them. Every day those serving in Mississippi during the Freedom Summer woke up with an immediacy about their objectives, the risks, and those beside them. Every day the ‘88 National Championship team walked onto the field with Coach Holtz who created a sense of immediacy by reminding them of their goals, creating and upholding a standard of excellence, and fostering the Family of Brothers.
It’s too easy to disconnect in today’s society…which seems paradoxical given how “connected” we are to everything and everyone. But the connection is more cerebral, less emotional, and too distant from the immediacy of life-sustaining results. Creating the magic of commitment in our businesses, on our teams, in our communities, and in our homes must be a deliberate and intentional objective on behalf of not only leaders but also everyone within the system. We cannot think that these special and sacred historical moments where commitment to purpose and brotherhood seemed palpable can just happen with a few idealistic visions for such greatness – as leaders we must create the Immediacy where these other factors can take root and truly transform the mindset and actions of our people.
We need to see and care about the sad state of “all-in” commitment in our society. As Roosevelt put it, we have too high percentage of “those poor and timid souls that know neither victory nor defeat.” As coaches and leaders, we must find a way to create Purpose, “Danger,” and Relational Bonds that are necessary ingredients for committed teams. And then we must recognize our role in stimulating a sense of Immediacy in our systems that create magical levels of commitment for which our people will fight for victory.