Resolving isn't something that is done once a once. It has to be practiced to be perfected.
New Year's Eve is a lot more fun and a lot less monumental for me than it used to be. The biggest reason for the change: I've abandoned the tradition of making resolutions as the clock reaches the stroke of midnight every December 31. I used to resolve this, that or another something every 12 months. I'd make my own mental list of dos and don'ts for the new year—drink less coffee, listen more, talk less, read more, exercise every day, etc., etc., etc.
Problem was, by January 15 of most years my New Year's resolutions could more aptly be described as New Year's intentions. Intentions I had down; I struggled with the resolve required to carry them out.
I don't think I'm alone is this predicament. Moving from intent to resolve is like moving from the amateurs to the pros: what it takes to succeed isn't twice the effort, it's ten times the effort because the competition is that much better, the bar is that much higher. That leap is beyond ordinary and the effort and will required to persevere are what separate the best from all the rest in every field of competition.
Every day each one of us must make the decision whether we will put forth the effort and exercise the will—the resolve—to compete in an arena that requires more than just intentions. Why? Because of the consequences of average. I think again and again of a story Mark Hodges, vice president/operations of K. Hovnanian, told at our annual Benchmark Conference in October. It was the last session on the last day of the meeting. After two and a half days of intensive learning, it was hard to think of absorbing still more information. Mark had a tough assignment.
He walked to the front of the room and stood still for a moment. He had no fancy PowerPoint presentation or slick slide show. He just quietly began explaining how the Red Bank, N.J.-based builder, itself a past Gold winner of the National Housing Quality award, now finds itself embroiled in a lawsuit with a dozen of its home buyers. Seems the framing contractor on these houses Hovnanian built fundamentally screwed up and the result was serious structural defects—cracking drywall, creaking floors, windows and doors that didn't open and close as they should.
Not a soul moved as Mark told this tale. The consequences of average were so obvious and so serious they could not be ignored. However, the real lesson in Mark's tale was still to come. Yes, the framer screwed up, as did a lot of other folks involved in building and inspecting these homes. However, rather than point fingers and lay blame, Hovnanian did the extraordinary thing of resolving to never "not know" about a problem again.
K. Hovnanian partnered with its framing contractor and both volunteered to become part of a pilot project to integrate ISO 9000 practices for quality assurance into the wood framing industry. Working with PATH, the Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing, and the Research Center of NAHB, they spent countless hours identifying the elements of quality framing and perfecting the process to track and monitor quality.
All of us face moments every day that require us to leap, to exert effort and exercise will, to succeed and perform to standards—our own or external—that ensure an outcome that won't be ordinary. It's a choice we must make, what's more, it isn't something we can teach others in our companies or in our lives. It is only something we can demonstrate through our actions.
It's one thing to fail at New Year's resolutions. Yes, I still drink too much coffee. I don't exercise as often as I should and each day I resolve to listen more than I talk. But I didn't abandon making New Year's resolutions because I didn't succeed at the silly stuff. I stopped the process because resolving—exerting effort and exercising will—isn't something that is done once. It is a way of living every day and it must be practiced to be perfected. In this new year, exert the effort, exercise the will, be the example.