Over the course of this week, we will be working through Sam Walton’s 10 principles for building a successful business. However you feel about Walmart as a brand, a business, a set of quality values, any business owner must at least admit one thing: Sam Walton created a business that worked. A brand that is now recognized around the globe. The largest brick and mortar retailer in the world. So, even if you’d personally rather shop at Target or Whole Foods – an accomplishment like that deserves to be studied.
In today’s blog we’re going to focus on Walton’s first business principle – which is foundational to everything else. It’s the simple principle of Committing to Your Business. This is rule #1 for a very good reason: If your commitment falters, then it doesn’t matter what else you are doing right. If you are following principles 2, 3, 4, 5 and so on, but lose your commitment, all the other things you are doing will topple like a Jenga tower that had a block yanked unceremoniously from the foundational layer.
Truly great things are not accomplished by accident. The Winter Olympics have just concluded and are probably still on a lot of minds. There is some staggering inspiration that comes from so many countries coming together to celebrate the best athletic talent they have to offer. Every Olympics have their own stories that move us – those athletes that have found ways to come through against all odds. To come back from devastating injuries. From humiliating losses. There may have been around 3000 different athletes, competing for 48 countries in 102 different events. But each of them had one thing in common: Commitment. Whether you were watching a 15 year old Russian figure skater, or a 45 year old speed skater in her 7th Olympics, you saw someone who has devoted themselves to their sport and committed themselves to a single trajectory in a way that few people devote themselves to anything.
That commitment doesn’t come easy. It doesn’t just happen. Watch the bruising and dangerous falls that tend to happen in events defined by snow and ice – the cringe-worthy crashes of alpine skiers moving at over 60 mph, and the luge and bobsledders who move even faster. Each of these athletes has experienced crashes like that countless time through their career – and each of them has persisted.
Aren’t feeling inspired by athletic prowess? Think about this: if JK Rowling had lost her vision and her commitment after her 11th rejection, had let one editor’s suggestion “not to quit her day job” discourage her – then we would not have our day’s most wildly popular young adult fantasy series. Even those supposedly “in the know” cannot predict trends – or what will turn out to be successful. Stephen King was told, somewhere along the list of 30 rejections he received for his first book, Carrie, that “science fiction books about negative utopias” did not sell. (Last I checked, books about negative utopias are consistently at the top of the best seller lists.) Now King is a household name – even for people who don’t read horror. Even for people who don’t read, period. Both of these authors had many chances to lose focus, to let go of their dreams and try something else. But they stayed committed. Today, it is difficult to imagine a literary world NOT influenced by these two powerhouses.
Don’t own a business? Aren’t an aspiring Olympian or famous author? You still have something you want to achieve. You can still commit to what you do have and what you want – to achieving the success you are individually looking for. Commit to staying passionate and true to your values. If no one else and nothing seems to be going for you or – you can still stay mentally committed to your vision. Commitment does not require the action or belief or support of anyone or anything else.
You can only control how much you believe in anything you do. And it only takes one person’s commitment to accomplish something incredible. The all-powerful do not have to believe you, and very well may not. You just have to believe in you. So the next time you are tempted to say that something is too difficult, to feel like you got knocked down too hard. Like maybe you bit off a bigger dream than you could chew. Maybe don’t quit just yet. Everything in your future rests on your commitment in the present. If you are working towards something worth accomplishing, whether that is a better business or something else, stick with it and see where that commitment will get you when it becomes the foundation of everything else.