Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Quiet Determination of True Commitment

"If there's magic in boxing, it's the magic of fighting battles beyond endurance, beyond cracked ribs, ruptured kidneys and detached retinas. It's the magic of risking everything for a dream that nobody sees but you." -Clint Eastwood as Eddie Dupris, "Million Dollar Baby" (2004)
What does it mean to be determined? When we think of a goal - whether it's running a marathon or losing a bit of weight - we tend to think of the payoff first. We visualize ourselves crossing that glorious finish line or finally slipping into that sexy two-piece bikini and heading to the beach. Our minds become set on the glory of success. And that is fine. It's good - necessary even - to envision the accomplishment. But, it takes more than wishful thinking to attain any worthwhile dream. Hard work and determination are the paths to realization.

So what does commitment look like? In movies, we see heroes fearlessly charging into war, teeth bared and muscles bulging, the volume of the soundtrack cranked up to a frenzied intensity. Or we see the captain of the high school football team valiantly taking his team to the championship game, crowds cheering on the final dramatic clash of competitors. By Hollywood standards, commitment is a dramatic grit-your-teeth-and-bear-it kind of showdown where true endurance is forged in fires of battle.

But, real commitment is not nearly as loud as all that. Real commitment is silent. It is not attention-seeking nor is it boastful. It does not put on a show for the world to see. That's why I love the movie "Million Dollar Baby." The main character, a female fighter named Maggie, is an underdog in many ways. She comes from a poor background. Her mother a selfish and ignorant woman. Maggie dreams of becoming a professional boxer. She is willing to work hard to make this happen.

There is a wonderful montage in the movie where Maggie shows up to a run down little gym and practices her moves on a punching bag late into the night. It is a quiet scene. It gives you a sense of the depth of the commitment of this athlete. Here is a woman who is determined to make something of herself. There is nothing showy or ostentatious about her.

Ever notice how, in a gym weight room, the lifters who grunt and snarl loudest through a workout tend to have the worst form? The dramatics they put on are all show. The quiet determination that characterizes the truly committed rarely goes noticed in our society. That level of diligence is to be commended because it takes courage and a certain depth of the soul. The people who have it are the true heroes. They are the ones who get the biggest payoffs.

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