The Evolution of Commitment: A Parable

By Tom Coble

A group of friends got together to discuss a fun and involving father-son trip that would push everyone’s boundaries. This was an exciting topic for them, and something each one looked forward to taking part in. There was a great commitment to the concept.

As they discussed the trip further, each of them discovered that their ideas of having fun, being involved, and pushing boundaries was significantly different. At that point, the initial commitment to each other’s definition was low, but further discussion soon brought about a new definition including elements from each of their original ideas and new ideas brought about as a group. From the high level of commitment to the concept and the common definition came a growth of enthusiasm and energy.

Plans were made for how to confront the opposing forces (in this case, the moms) while roles, responsibilities, and target dates were established, causing a committed support group to emerge. Plans were put into action, involving a personal investment of money to “gear up” for the adventure. Money, time, and selling the concept to others were all measures of commitment. The level of commitment varied individually, based upon the level of conflict they encountered, but when they were together their commitment to each other was extremely high.

The best made plans often encounter difficulty. The participation of each father was threatened at some point by business demands, but commitment to the concept, the common definition, and to each other kept the group focused on the goal.

Finally, the time arrived. The “opposing forces” were assured and comforted, equipment was packed, other demands were put on hold, and the group headed toward the goal.

As I paddled my canoe alone across a remote lake in Alaska, I watched seven sons and three fathers reveling in each other’s company and the wilderness. This demonstrated the fulfillment of a group’s commitment to their concept and to each other. That commitment brought me much joy.


In our business lives, as with this group headed for “North Woods,” commitment is not decreased nor dictated. It starts with involvement, the development of an idea worth doing and a mutual self-interest. This mutual interest grows over time and requires personal investment and sacrifice, along with a support structure to provide help and assistance when needed. Commitment makes things happen.

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