Business development Life Personal development

Commitment, leadership and paths not taken

Out of the blue, two very interesting quotes on commitment dropped into my inbox last week. Though coming from different angles, both illuminate the nature of commitment and our understanding and appreciation of what is gained when we commit to a specific path of action.

The two newsletters have nothing really in common, but share a characteristic that appeals to me – their wide-ranging approach. Whilst each is based on a specific topic, books and learning guitar, the way they talk about their subjects resonates across the wide spectrum of life and work.

The irony of commitment is that it’s deeply liberating – in work, in play, in love. The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around as rational hesitation. To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life.

Anne Morriss

Anne Morriss is managing director of the Concire Leadership Institute and I’m definitely late to the party as far as this quote is concerned. It’s even been printed on a Starbucks coffee wrapper – although perhaps only in the US which lets me off the hook a bit since I live in the UK. But, always, better late than never, especially where wisdom is concerned.

Anyway, I read this quote in this month’s Book Club Newsletter from Neil Pasricha ( It’s free, and there’s always at least one book of interest. In this case, ‘Unleashed: The Unapologetic Leader’s Guide to Empowering Everyone Around You’ by Frances Frei and Anne Morriss. And, of course, that quote.

You can almost feel the anxiety of hesitation, of weighing up the pros and cons, slipping away as you read the words. Decision made. 

In love, it’s perhaps what the actress Mrs Patrick Campbell had in mind when she described marriage as “the deep, deep peace of the double-bed after the hurly-burly of the chaise-longue.” 

However, the moment of commitment is only the beginning. Perseverance is needed to see any project to fruition. And it’s crucial to put in the necessary analysis and preparation (Ready… Aim…) before you pull the trigger.

Love (or that business idea) may not always turn out to be worth the risk, but if you never roll the dice… do you ever really live?

I’m not sure where the impulse to expand and improve comes from. I have it spades for the guitar, but ironically, the more I’ve turned it upside down, narrowing the scope of what I’m trying to do, the more I’ve enjoyed being a guitarist. Presumably that’s because if you narrow your focus, you can concentrate more of your energy on fewer things, the ones you’ve decided to care about at the expense of the ones you’re letting go of. The day I decided only to fingerpick, I cut adrift any sense that “well, gee, as an acoustic guitar player and roots-music aficionado, shouldn’t I be better at flatpicking than I am?” Now, I know the answer most emphatically is: ah, nope. […]

As a result of countless decisions like that over the past decade or more – and they pick up speed and momentum, the more of them I make – I feel more focused and more adept at the things I *have* chosen, and nearly negligible regret at this point about the equally countless paths not taken. In some ways, it’s a kind of creative decluttering – you let go of the things that feel like obligations, and hold onto the ones that light you up inside.

David Hamburger

I can’t remember how I came to subscribe to roots guitar player and tutor David Hamburger’s newsletter; his lessons are way too advanced for me. I’ll put it down to aspiration. But I like his way of talking about music, the guitar, and the way that working on developing your skill (at whatever) is to contribute to your personal development. Though he would never put it this way, thankfully. You can subscribe here:

The takeaway

‘The countless paths not taken…’ Of course, you can hear the echo of the Robert Frost poem, and from it know that there are times you have to choose. Making the choice may be uncomfortable, but it’s the only way to move forward.

It’s worth remembering the fuller text of the famous Helen Keller quote:

“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”

Helen Keller

There’s no way to be sure you are making the right decision, but very often (always?) what you choose matters less than that you choose, and follow it through with commitment.

And if it doesn’t work out… Start over.