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Put Your Stake in the Ground

by Judy Ryan

Anything worth doing is worth doing completely. Yet often we hold back commitment, waiting for reassurance and commitment from others first. Doing this is understandable but not helpful.

A committed company

Recently I read the book “Delivering Happiness,” by Tony Hsieh, founder of Zappos. He and his leadership team put their stake firmly in the ground for their purpose of “Delivering WOW through service” for vendors, clients and employees. The book describes repeatedly not only how they made their purpose operational in their business but also the times they almost lost everything and how financial success was not guaranteed.

The heroic journey

I bring this up because in my work helping organizations adopt a responsibility-based culture model (where everyone is taught and supported in managing their own relationships, productivity and motivation), they often run into situations in which they are similarly challenged. It reminds me of that scene in the movie “A Few Good Men” when after months of inspiring Lt. Kaffee (Tom Cruise) to live up to his potential, Lt. Cmdr. Joanne Galloway (Demi Moore) says to him: “Danny, if you don’t think you can pull it off, don’t do it. You’ll lose everything.” This is how I often feel with my clients. They are sometimes like people who climb Mount Everest, not sure they should try for the top because they fear they may literally die. They come to see that while rewards are great, there are no guarantees that purpose and values will win the day financially. Daily, they must consider and choose commitments over and over again.

Real-life scenario

Recently a company owner realized one of his employees was in what’s called active constructive misbehavior (when someone does something that looks constructive but is actually doing harm to relationships and profits). In this case, his employee consistently overcommitted, overworked, underutilized his team, and underdelivered to clients and co-workers. To a casual observer, it would not appear this burnt-out employee was misbehaving at all, but this was once recognized, he was handed responsibility to come up with a solution (which he did)—to set healthy boundaries. However, he ultimately refused to put his stake in the ground to fulfill. Therefore he resigned, which was, in my opinion, actually good for the company but a tough consequence all the same.

We need committed people

We are all inspired when we see live and mythical heroes face obstacles and win the day, and in my work I see a lot of this along with outstanding results. But regardless of whether you always make it all the way to the top of the mountain, our world is desperately in need of responsible, high-integrity leaders. So my suggestion is this: In all things, be awake; determine your options; feel them out fully, considering all positive and negative consequences; and then make your choices and put your stake firmly and fully in the ground for each, giving full effort. Then, no matter what happens, you will live a life you love because it is one designed from the most responsible, courageous and loving side of you. And as Goethe says, “The moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too.”
So go out and plant some stakes firmly in the ground. We need your courage and initiative.

Judy Ryan (, human systems specialist, is owner of LifeWork Systems. Join her in her mission to create a world in which all people love their lives. She can also be reached at 314-239-4727.

Submitted 3 years 361 days ago
Categories: categoryThe Extraordinary Workplace
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