From: LIFE Expectancy: It’s Never Too Late to Change Your Game by William Keiper
Creating a New Story
"Commitment is an act, not a word." - Jean-Paul Sartre
Taitusi “Deuce” Lutui is a Tongan by birth and a gentle warrior in spirit. A long
journey from that South Pacific island nation led him to stardom as an All-America
football player at the University of Southern California.
However, as a professional football player with the Arizona Cardinals, he settled
into what most people viewed as a malaise of mediocrity. When he arrived at NFL
training camp in 2010, he brought with him an attitude that was way too casual to be
productive for himself or his teammates. His coaches were critical of Lutui’s weight—
which had ballooned to nearly 400 pounds—and of his neglect of the off-season
workouts that would have enabled him to start training camp at an appropriate fitness
By NFL standards, Deuce had a small, short-term contract; now he was in the
midst of proving why that was entirely appropriate. At the time he even joked publicly
that he was the Lindsay Lohan of the Arizona Cardinals because of all the bad publicity
he was getting. But the joking was a cover for something deeper. Despite his size, talent
and the opportunity afforded him, he was not performing to his full potential, and he
Deuce Lutui’s fortunes changed in a single transformative moment. Through
an improbable connection, Deuce met his off-the-field master coach Steve Hardison
between training camp and the start of the regular season. In his first coaching session
with Steve, Deuce discovered something that enabled him to instantly trade the story he
had been telling himself about being average for one that enabled him to immediately
tap into his unrealized potential.
With Steve’s help, Deuce was able to see the personal power already present
within himself, the power ready to be put to work in his own service (and, of course, in
the service of his employer, the Arizona Cardinals). He declared to Steve—and more
importantly, to himself—that at that moment he was The Best Offensive Lineman in
the NFL (TBOLITNFL) and he would continue to be TBOLITNFL from then on. In that
single moment of personal truth, he activated a mindshift that would move him rapidly
from the lower middle to a place near the top of the heap of offensive linemen in the
He made his commitment public and the TBOLITNFL movement was born.
Due to a convoluted connection I have with George Tupou V, the King of Tonga, I met
Deuce at about this time and attended the Arizona Cardinals season opening game with
Deuce’s life coach, Steve Hardison. In support of Deuce and his commitment, Steve
carried a huge TBOLITNFL banner all around the Cardinals’ stadium. Deuce could see
it from the field and was instantly reminded of his commitment. The banner was also
being shown via TV cameras for a nationwide audience to see and wonder about the
meaning of the letters. As the NFL mid-season approached, Deuce’s reality became one
of reaching deep to access a personal commitment and strength he hadn’t known was so
readily available. He lived it on every down he played during that season.
With his vastly improved performance during the 2010 season behind him,
Deuce made the decision to move from the Cardinals to the Cincinnati Bengals. For his
transformational improvements in 2010 he was rewarded with the opportunity for a
new two-year, eight million dollar contract, starting with the 2011 season. His new deal
included five million dollars for the 2011–2012 season alone. He had made this happen
in less than a year, and it wasn’t about the Cardinals or the other NFL offensive linemen
in the league. It was solely about Deuce and his commitment to being the best he could
By all indications, Deuce had changed his life and his future in a single powerful
moment. He saw and declared his potential. He made a personal commitment to access
the part of him that he believed was already the best offensive lineman in the NFL.
He was then able to harness his immense physical talent and athletic skill and match
it with the kind of mindset and commitment that would enable him to utilize it to his
fullest. It didn’t take years of therapy, or the unpleasant reality of the nomadic life of a
journeyman NFL player, enduring trade after trade after trade until nobody calls. He
took control of his life and seized the opportunity to make it different. He began living
on and off the field as the person he declared himself to be. Everything changed in a
single moment with his recognition of the opportunity before him and his commitment
to make the most of his unique gifts.
Deuce’s trade from the Cardinals to the Bengals (and his lucrative new contract)
was conditioned upon him passing the Bengals’ physical exam. Among other things,
the exam included stepping on a scale to check his weight. In another single, powerful
moment, Deuce’s world changed again. The scale declared he was carrying 381 pounds;
he should have been thirty or forty pounds lighter. The Bengals said, “No, thank you
Deuce,” and less than twenty-four hours after he left for the promised land of his new
contract and team, Deuce was on a plane back to Phoenix.
The next day he signed a modest, one-year contract with the Cardinals, which
was accompanied by an admonition from the Cardinals’ coaching staff that he needed
to immediately and seriously focus on getting some weight off. Deuce’s lapse in his
TBOLITNFL commitment cost him millions of dollars. Some estimated that he left
more than six million dollars over two years on the Bengals’ table. If this was the case, it
represented about $200,000 per excess pound he carried onto that scale in the Bengals
locker room. In football terms his descent was complete when, throughout the next
season, still overweight, he was relegated to a back-up position on the Cardinals’ team.
For the first time in his career he found himself watching from the sidelines as a back-up
to someone else—after seventy-two games as the starting right guard at the highest level
of professional competition.
“I’m Pretty Sure I’m Committed.”
The word “commitment” is overused, and the importance of the concept has
become somewhat diluted. But if you care about changing your game for good, there can
be nothing casual or part time about your approach.
Significant change requires clarity of thinking, a realistic inventory of your
personal resources, and the ability to engage in purposeful choices and actions.
Equally important is our willingness to make a consistent, daily commitment to
action in pursuit of our goals. Deuce discovered this (and paid a hefty price) by virtue
of the natural consequences that flowed from not living a daily commitment to his off-
Of course, any of us might profess a commitment that declines in vigor as time
goes by, morphing into something we examine from afar, talk about or pursue from
time-to-time. If this is our choice when we awaken—for too many days—then we are
no longer dealing with a commitment. It descends to the level of something in which
you may have some interest, but which you no longer consider a priority. Somewhere
along the way it ceases to have the consistent urgency that is the true hallmark of
commitment. It has instead become a choice, something one might or might not do. It
has lost the personal power embedded in a true commitment. Commitment requires
consistent, daily, active creation to give it continuing life.
Another way to think about the difference between commitment and choice is
in terms of a crisis. In a crisis (real or purposefully created) a commitment will drive
prioritization, energy, insistence and decision-making with the urgency that is required.
If you can characterize your commitments to yourself and others as solutions to an
ongoing crisis, you will have infused them with the energy needed to drive action every
Another factor that exists in a crisis is an extraordinary willingness and ability to
be creative and innovative in order to get under, over, around or straight through any
obstacles. This is true for deep commitments as well. When you are truly committed
to solving a problem, ideas percolate and coalesce and simply appear as though out of
nowhere. A vision may reveal itself that points the way toward doing a lot more with
a lot less. You rapidly sort revised information and circumstances, new variables and
considerations, applying what you learn to adjust the direction of your energy and the
shape of your commitment.
Using the forces of constraint and limitation enables doing what is required
with greater urgency and less wasted motion.
“Why Are We Doing This?”
Commitments, once made, must be continuously challenged. This is part of
accessing the objectivity (the “truth”) required to navigate dynamic environments.
During many business planning sessions that I led or participated in as a CEO, president
or board member, I often asked the following question: “Tell me again, why we are
doing this?” The usual response was, “I thought we already decided why we were doing
it.” My answer: “We did, but can you explain it to me again?”
I knew that when the decision was initially made it was supported by facts and
information current at that time, and based on then-available resources, economic
conditions and so on. But I also considered it imperative to confirm that the reasons for
the initial decision were still valid in the light of updated information. If they weren’t,
what course adjustments would better help us attain the desired results?
Once you have made a commitment in any area of your life, ask yourself
often: “Does this commitment serve my interest in the way that it did when I originally
made it? Have I learned or accomplished things that make it necessary to adjust or
even abandon this commitment in favor of something else?” I see these questions and
the processes associated with answering them as vital, both for mental health as an
individual and as part of good market awareness and decision-making for a company.
In a world that is moving so fast, the rationale upon which we based earlier
decisions could easily have evaporated. In re-evaluating our commitments we have the
opportunity to incorporate new data, different points of view, and new insights based on
the feedback and other information received since our initial decisions were made. Don't
be afraid to ask these questions. Is what you are doing today still served by the decisions
you made last week, or last year, or when you were twenty? I rest my case.
Every Day is a New Day
Deuce’s story is one of real and significant transformation. Deuce did create a
new story in almost every way, and very quickly. He did place himself in a position to be
among the highest paid offensive linemen in the NFL. He did create a new opportunity
with a new team that valued him more highly than did the Cardinals. He did all of that.
But, he forgot something. Once made, a commitment is not permanent—it is only as
good as its daily renewal.
Any commitment, no matter how vigorously initiated, remains a choice to be
served or ignored. In fact, we can and should view this process of renewal as the kind
of creative activity that allows us to shape, improve, modify and live our commitments
each day. It permits us to pursue the most important interests in our lives and never be
bored with the process or overwhelmed by what needs to be done over the months and
In another context, this might be the mantra of “One Day at a Time.” To energize
any commitment, all we need do upon awakening each day is choose how we will
express our commitment that day.
Psychiatrist Thomas Szasz said, “People often say that this or that person has not
yet found himself. But the self is not something one finds, it is something one creates.”
We create the best of ourselves through our purposeful commitments continuously
cultivated, refined and reaffirmed.
Resistance to (Even) Desired Change
No matter the level of our commitments to change, transform and energetically
access our personal power, hurdles and challenges inevitably arise. It wouldn’t be life if
they didn’t. Despite Deuce Lutui’s ability to rapidly commit to a new direction, and his
ensuing intensive action, substantive transformation happens over time. It is almost
never quick and painless.
There is real wisdom in this excerpt from George Leonard’s Mastery: The Keys to
Success and Long-Term Fulfillment: “Backsliding is a universal experience. Every one
of us resists significant change, no matter whether it’s for the worse or for the better . . .
it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re sick or crazy or lazy or that you’ve made a bad
decision in embarking on the journey of mastery. In fact, you might take these signals as
an indication that your life is definitely changing–just what you’ve wanted . . . Be willing
to negotiate with your resistance to change.”1 (Emphasis added.)
The highest value in the creation of any new Story of You is what you choose to
be and do when the going gets tough. In Deuce’s case, because of the trip he took from
Phoenix to Cincinnati and back he received an even bigger opportunity to change his
life again, to become an even more powerful example to the TBOLITNFL Nation that
rose up to support him. In fact, his story has the potential to be even more compelling
because of his weekend trip to Cincinnati and the millions of potential dollars that
evaporated with his step onto the scale.
Lao Tzu, Chinese philosopher and author of the Tao Te Ching, wrote, “Failure is
the foundation of success, and the means by which it is achieved.” The good news is that
no matter what Deuce does in the future, many others saw what he did to create a shift—
one that really changed the trajectory of his life and career—and they have leveraged his
experience as a foundation for changing their own lives.
Fly a Kite, Sometimes
It may be tempting to distinguish your situation from Deuce Lutui’s by
saying, “Yes, but Deuce has gifts and opportunities that are exceptional, and he had lots
of help. I don’t have what he has.”
The truth is that each of us has unique talents, skills and creativity that can be
tapped at any moment. The clarity and degree of your commitment is the only barrier to
achieving what you desire. In terms of support, there is a very likely a network of people
in your life ready, willing and able to support a real and visible commitment by you to
make your life different. You simply have to be willing to enroll them. (Look ahead to
Chapter 19, Beginning Is Commencing to Get Started, for an introduction to the art of
When the chips are down and you are ready for your reality to be different
than it is, your life can change in a single moment of choice—coupled with conscious
commitment. If your journey feels uphill and against the wind, tap into your
uniqueness. Commit to allowing it to serve you. I agree wholeheartedly with Deepak
Chopra when he writes, “Beneath the fear of being unique, each of us has a powerful
craving for as much uniqueness and specialness as possible.”2
Only Deuce could stop himself from continuously living his commitment. Is
it really any different for you? You can certainly choose to view this now-permanent
economic storm as a reason to run for cover. Or you can build and fly a kite, and engage
with the storm as a new adventure. It is truly and simply your choice.
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