Climbing the 10-step commitment ladder: How high can we go?


First in a series

Ever since the elite forces killed Osama bin Laden, I became fascinated with the Navy SEALs. These admirable military servants subject themselves to arguably the most intense physical examination in the U.S. military. During their brutal preparation to become a Navy SEAL, one of their trainer’s objectives is to see how many candidates will ring the proverbial Navy SEAL Bell. When an applicant can no longer overcome the agony of the six-mile ocean swim, the 15-mile full-load runs, or the physical and mental torments of no sleep or food, they let everyone know that he or she cannot take it anymore by ringing “The Bell.”

I suggest, just like the Navy SEALs, each of us has “The Bell,” albeit imaginary, that we too can ring at any time. In contrast to the Navy SEALs training regimen, however, I respectively submit that our sufferings and tribulations are arguably more demanding than those of the prized Navy SEAL candidates because we usually fight our battles all alone. We do not have trainers motivating us to FIDO (forget it; drive on!) or fellow sufferers inspiring us to continue the fight. Consequently, far too many of us ring the bell and justify our lack of tenacity while we pursue the march toward mediocrity. Perhaps Napoleon Hill, author of the classic book “Think and Grow Rich,” said it best: “There is one weakness in people for which there is no remedy. It is the universal weakness of lack of ambition.”

Back in 1985, a primitive time when a mobile phone was used only to talk to another person, I became a financial advisor. I was naïve, wet behind the ears and just plain stupid. I have the scars to prove it! Nevertheless, I was taught one of my most valuable lessons in business and life: “Do not expect to take the elevator to success. Instead, you must take the stairs.” A few years after that Aha! moment, I developed a personal “commitment pledge.” I called my manifesto “Climbing the 10-Step Commitment Ladder: How High Can I Go.” I received many kudos over the years for this relatively simple (but not easy) methodology for success seekers in business and life. At the risk of appearing like a motivational speaker or writer – and perhaps alienating some of my readers – I thought you might find my words to be motivational and empowering, especially when the messenger of misery pays us a visit.

Of course, none of us is a stranger to the pain of hardships. We all have run the gauntlet of highs and lows, achievements and disappointments. However, I argue that our struggles and adversities are a beautiful thing, and we should carry our black and blues proudly, as our misfortunes are a big part of our life’s story. Isn’t part of the excitement of reaching our goals looking back at all the obstacles we overcame and the pain we endured? Don’t our struggles make the victory that much more satisfying and rewarding? I believe it is through our pain and suffering that we develop the mental capacity to endure our toughest battles. So, without further chitchat, let’s begin climbing the ladder to success.

Step 1: Desire. Either we have an all-consuming, pulsating burning aspiration or we do not. It is not something we can borrow, buy, or find at a seminar or in a book. We can only find it in ourselves. If it is there, we will know it, because it will motivate us until we reach our goals, and at the same time, it will drive us crazy in the process. We will tolerate the stress, the hardships and the shortcomings so that one day we can experience the incomparable high that accompanies achievement. Having the burning desire to accomplish something is more important than all the talent in the world, as burning desire launches all accomplishments.

Step 2: Character and integrity. Character and integrity trump credentials every time, and I suggest they are two of the most important qualities that we can possess. I define character and integrity as doing what is right because it is right. It must be non-negotiable. We should consider our “do right” approach as an investment in our reputation and peace of mind. Confucius said, “To know what is right and not to do it is the worst cowardice.” A good measure of character and integrity is giving up something of personal value to do what is just. For example, how we treat others who cannot help us is a great clue to one’s character and integrity.

Regrettably, I am only on step two of the ladder, and I am out of space. Therefore, I must conclude this column, but I will be back in a couple of weeks to continue our climb to the top of the ladder. In the meantime, let us internalize and accept the power and influence that desire, character and integrity have on our success, especially in today’s self-centered culture and the money, power and prestige that come along with it.

Harry Pappas Jr., CFP®

Managing Director-Investments

Master of Science Degree Personal Financial Planning

Certified Estate and Trust Specialist™

Certified Divorce Financial Analyst™

Pappas Wealth Management Group of Wells Fargo Advisors

818 A1A N, Ste. 200

Ponte Vedra, Florida 32082


The use of the CDFA™ designation does not permit Wells Fargo Advisors or its Financial Advisors to provide legal advice, nor is it meant to imply that the firm or its associates are acting as experts in this field.

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The opinions expressed in this report are those of the author(s) and are subject to change. The material has been prepared or is distributed solely for information purposes and is not a solicitation or an offer to buy any security or instrument or to participate in any trading strategy.