Guest Column: Diligence

Richard Denenny, Lee & Hayes

Exploring Commitment vs Goals: The Power of Persistence, Dedication and Hard Work

Mike Nilson looked out across the room and, quoting Dr. John Berardi, started with a simple premise, “We overestimate what we can do in a day and underestimate what we can do in a year.”  Mike, the Co-Founder of the U-District Foundation, then talked to the Lee & Hayes team about the difference between a resolution (goal) and a commitment.

Mike used his personal journey, from a walk-on at Gonzaga to WCC Defender of the Year, to help illustrate what diligence looks like, and what it means to make a commitment, and to then be diligent in keeping that commitment.  Specifically, Mike told the story of his disappointment about not earning a scholarship out of high school and his commitment to carry a basketball with him at all times, from the classroom to Prom, until he had earned a Division 1 scholarship.

I watched our Team as Mike gave one of the most powerful and incredible speeches I have ever heard.  As eyes teared up and heads started to nod, Mike asked the room a question, “Who in this room is ready to make a commitment?”  At this point, I expected complete silence, as it is always difficult to do anything, let alone share something personal, in a room filled with 50+ people, especially when the question is not expected.  Instead, hands started to come out:

  • “I am committing to getting 20 minutes of exercise, 4 days a week.”
  • “I am committing to 5 minutes of quiet reflection each day.”
  • “I am committing to reading the Bible for 15 minutes each morning.”
  • “I am committing to 2 hours of reading and learning about investing each week.”

And it continued, as Mike handed out Commitment Rings to each person who shared their commitment.  I sat there in amazement, filled with pride to be associated with such an incredible group of people and inspired by Mike’s message and the example he sets.

Goals are cheap.  Anyone can make a goal.  Lose 20 pounds?  Sure.  Run a marathon?  Why not?  Teach my kids a foreign language?  Of course.  Grow revenue by 20%?  Consider it done.  Setting a goal is easy.  Individuals and organizations are constantly setting goals, often at year-end or, for organizations, tied to some form of a strategic plan.  Yet, most people and organizations lack the diligence required to meet the vast majority of their goals. The failure is in the diligent execution.

I believe goals are only consistently achieved by identifying the specific, controllable, and easily achievable daily or weekly tasks that help lead to that goal.  You then make a commitment to completing these “lead measures” and create some mechanism for ensuring accountability.  For those in the room with Mike, the individual commitment was a lead measure that tied to a long-term goal.  Wearing a Commitment Ring was a way to help enforce accountability.

As individuals and organizations, I encourage you to go beyond merely setting goals and to not get overwhelmed at the magnitude of setting an audacious goal.  Set a goal, but then drill down into the specific (daily or weekly) things that you can do diligently and that you unilaterally control and that you know you can achieve.  If your goal, for example, is to see your revenue grow by 20% over the next year, your commitment might be to make 20 calls each week to new or prospective customers.  To ensure accountability, report to your Team each week on whether you met your weekly commit.  You cannot magically, overnight, grow revenue by 20%, but you absolutely can control making 20 calls each week.

Goals are easy to make, but often hard to achieve.  Couple a goal with a commitment to achieve a specific lead measure and you will be amazed at what you can achieve.

It is now time for me to spend 10 minutes stretching.

*Lee & Hayes is very proud to be a partner and supporter of the U-District Foundation.  If you are interested in learning more about the U-District and its vision of empowering kids through fun, fitness, and nutrition education, please visit

Originally published March 2020


Richard Denenny is the President  & CFO of Lee & Hayes, a nationally-recognized law firm focused primarily on Intellectual Property matters.  Richard is also a corporate, securities attorney who has spent his career helping high growth companies and is actively engaged in various entrepreneurial organizations, including serving as Chairperson of Ignite Northwest and a member of the Investment Committee of Mind-to-Market.