Commitment


Welcome! Thank you for coming and giving me the opportunity to share with you my ideas and thoughts.

Today I’m thinking about commitments — commitments I make to myself, and how I often abandon them in the face of my perceived demands of time and effort. This post is about that….

Sometime in 2002 a friend and co-worker made an observation of me. He said “Dave, this project is all screwed up, you are the PM [project manager], and yet you are not being blamed. Nothing sticks to you. It is as if you have a teflon coating.”

At the time this made me feel good. It made me feel safe. So I analyzed why this was true. From this I developed the teflon coating strategy. Here is the great secret that until now hasn’t appeared in writing. 🙂

  • When you make a mistake be the first person to tell your immediate supervisor or customer about it.
  • Do not commit to things that you don’t absolutely know you can do.
  • Produce solid work products, at least one every two weeks, but preferably as often as possible.

Shortly after this in late 2003, I was coaching a PM team on a temporary contract and was confronted by my client. “I heard you’re telling my team how to avoid being blamed for things by applying a teflon coating!”, to which I replied with a smile.

“Let me get this right. It would be a problem for you if people came to you right away when they made a mistake, didn’t tell you they could do things they didn’t really think they could, and produced a solid work product as fast as possible?”, to which he replied kind of sheepishly, “well no.”

I thought of myself as one clever dude. Pats on my back all around. My ego was happy. For a while the hole I felt inside from my lack of personal fulfillment was filled.

Of course the strategy is actually a good thing to do. It helps everyone involved. My sharing of this strategy actually has helped people out many times, and most of them appreciated it. 🙂

But what I failed to realize for myself, in my cleverness, was that while I was doing good work and achieving results, I was ignoring my most important customer — myself. I used my strategies entirely to protect myself from criticism by others and to gain the acceptance and appreciation of others. I was dependent upon the outside validation, and I needed it to feel complete. My cleverness was serving me and failing me at the same moment and I didn’t even know it.

Here is the sequence of events where I abandon myself.

I identify a problem I want to solve or something I want to create, and I tell myself I will do it. I come up with a plan and thoroughly commit to myself to follow through on it.

Then this plan meets the perceived reality of my co-dependent mind. With so much focus on the acceptance and appreciation of others there is no place for my desires in the mental model. So I abandon my plan and commitment before I even start. In order to I protect my own feelings, I act as if I never made the commitment, choosing instead to be needless and wantless.

This way of abandonment of myself is so easily done and so pervasive in my past I honestly cannot fathom the number of times I’ve done it.

I’ve been working to change this for many years. And in many places in my life I’ve had success. Recently, through work I’m doing on myself around my weight, I’ve come to be aware of this process at a new level. I’m acutely aware of how this process was feeding my desire to overeat. In order to appease my inner self away from feelings of anger and sadness at my abandonment of self, I indulged myself with food.

So as expected, once awareness is had, I cannot return to blissful ignorance. Once awareness dawns, here comes my higher power to challenge, reward, and fill in my needs.

Insert into my life Tony Robbins’ book, Awaken The Giant Within, my psychotherapy process, and my desire to achieve a biggest loser competition. I daresay I cannot get off this road of change now.

Tony’s words come blasting out loud and clear in my new desire to change — “The power of decision will change your life.” They are followed quickly by the words of Vince Horan — “your decision to be needless and wantless worked for you in that old family system but it doesn’t work for you now.”

Bam! Right in the face. Why am I making decisions to accomplish things and not following through? Why am I unwilling to put my own needs and wants out into the world?

Because I decided to a long time ago, and I’m still making that decision.

Once the question is asked, the answer is there, and the opportunity for change provided. Like a veil lifted. In the time between two seconds, I find the time to change my decision. In the time between two seconds I can decide to make a different commitment.

So now I’m applying the teflon coating internally — To be accountable to myself. To not tell myself I’ll do something I don’t know I can absolutely do. To make good on my commitments to myself and produce the creations and outcomes I have committed to myself.

And you know what? The universe is conspiring to support me and it’s using people in my life to do it.

For example:

I had an idea last year to create a stand for my iPad to make it into a document camera. I put the idea into action and made a commitment to myself to do it. I in fact got with a friend and built the stand. It was a great dimensional prototype. But honestly looked bad. My decision was to find someone to help me design it to look better but had no idea who. So I set a time frame to reach out through my social network to see who I could find to help me.

A day later, Erin, my wife, returned from a trip and I proudly showed her my ugly duckling of a stand. Before I could say more than five words she declares, “it’s kinda ugly.” To which I had a moment of fear realized.  But I let it pass without defense or comment. She was simply stating her observations and I agreed.

But what came next surprised me. She simply said, “give me a piece of drawing paper and a pencil.” In fifteen minutes, she ripped out a design that was beautiful as well as meeting the functional dimensions I had already proven out.

I was blown away. I had in my hands the answer to my problem, a solution I would never have seen had that ugly prototype not existed. I had simply followed through on my commitment to myself to build the prototype. I had set aside my fear of criticism and failure and made it anyway, and the fascinating part was the realization that it was the imperfection of the prototype that compelled Erin to action. She felt a desire to solve the obvious problem in front of her.

Without the failure of the prototype to be visually appealing, the design would have not been created.

My mind still boggles at that chain of events.

By following through on my commitment, I had achieved more than I had expected.

What I know from my life is that an internal commitment is a double-edged sword. Made too easily and sloppily, I can set myself up for failure, leading to poor self esteem. However, living without needs and wants means that I remain co-dependent and miserable.

Today I will apply my strategy to my internal commitments and use the teflon coating. I will share my commitments with others so the commitments have a life beyond my mental box.

I am committed to blogging here. I like it.

Thank you all.

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3 thoughts on “Commitment

  1. Bravo Dave, say it out loud. Commit and work towards your goals. Teflon coating is a good pattern which brings value, people tend to run away from issues and try to put things under the rug as that seams as an easy way to solve them.
    There is a general rule that upper management does not like to hear bad news (which is partially true), but if you provide timely information with a good action plan or request for help thats the way to go!

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