Commitment knows no off-season

This column was originally published as part of my “Looking Homeward” series at

Television commercials are often better than some of the programs these days. And with the Super Bowl around the corner, many of us have altered our game-watching routines to make sure we watch, or at least record, the commercials.

Advertisers of athletic apparel and shoes have become downright philosophical if not theological with their messages. Years ago, one shoe commercial ended with the then-running back Emmitt Smith’s dramatic words, “All men are created equal; some just work harder in pre-season.”

As my father used to say when a statement struck a chord, “That one will preach!”

And it will.

When we think about it, that equality becomes unequal in direct proportion to hard work during pre-season, in-season, and post-season. For the committed athlete, there is no off-season. Their season is from sunup to long after sundown.

Dad often spoke about the “no off-season” work ethic of fellow Wake Forest attendee Arnold Palmer. While a golf scholarship student at Wake Forest, Palmer practiced golf on the little nine-hole college course day in and day out, rain or shine. He would play his long shots until dusk. He would chip until darkness. Then he would go to number seven green — which was just off the Durham highway — turn on his car lights and putt until his car’s battery almost depleted itself.

And, as they say, the rest is history.

Even though Palmer was not Wake Forest’s number one golfer at first, he became the number one golfer by not indulging in the off-season syndrome.

The point, however, is not a call for work-aholism, and certainly not for recreational-aholism. The challenge is to live life consistent with one’s gifts and to cultivate those gifts to their fullest potential.

On the home front, there is no such thing as an off-season for life, either. Life is daily — lived day in and day out, rain or shine. Even though some of us may long for the pause of an unscheduled snow day, time still moves on — with us, actively engaged, or through us, passively detached.

“The element that makes life unequal is found not so much in differing gifts as in different lifestyles that are made different at the point of commitment,” Dad wrote. And he nailed it — how true at so many levels.

Whatever one’s venture — personal growth, marriage, family, job, profession, or athletics — the key that unlocks potential and future is found in and through one word — commitment.

Not much ever happens without commitment.

Our pursuit of life must certainly mark itself with respites, holidays and vacations. There must be a rhythm between work and play where we can hit our reset button regularly to give perspective and restore a weary will.

Yet, success is not a switch we can flip, but rather a steady current of committed effort, sustained over time. Athletes know this. So do those who have loving relationships and thriving careers.

Life cannot indulge in the off-season syndrome. It’s too daily; too demanding; too precious — and too short.