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After his first night in the barracks, a drill sergeant rudely awakened a new Army recruit by shouting, "Rise and shine. It's 4:30."

"4:30," the rookie moaned. "Sarge, you'd better go back to bed. We have a big day ahead of us tomorrow."

Like that recruit, it's time to wake up and realize that if you want to excel at anything in life, you need to be committed. If you are committed to a cause, you don't need to tell anyone. They can tell from your actions.

I often wonder how people can be happy or at peace with themselves if they don't make a commitment to something, whether it's succeeding at work or improving at a skill. How do you reconcile expecting desired results without making an honest effort to be the best you can be?

Ken Blanchard, author of "The One Minute Manager," said: "There's a difference between interest and commitment. When you're interested in doing something, you do it only when it's convenient. When you're committed to something, you accept no excuses; only results."

Commitment is the state of being bound — emotionally, intellectually or both — to a course of action. It starts with a choice and is sustained by dedication and perseverance.

Wanting something and actually making a commitment to getting it are two different things. You must be prepared to see the action plan through, by making a commitment to get to the finish line.

It's hard to keep truly committed people from success. You can put stumbling blocks in their way, but they will only use them as steppingstones.

Investment guru Warren Buffett said: "Are you a fanatic? A manager must care intensely about running a first-class operation. If his golf game is what he thinks about while shaving, the business will show it."

Stew Leonard Sr., who founded the colorful New York grocery store that bears his name, carved his commitment policy on a 3-ton granite rock at the entrance of his first store in Norwalk, Conn. It read:

"Rule 1 — The customer is always right. Rule 2 — If the customer is ever wrong, reread rule 1."

Leonard, who died recently, said this policy was chiseled in stone because it was never going to change. He credited this commitment for the store's growth from a 1,000-square-foot mom-and-pop store into one of the most renowned grocery stores, with annual sales of nearly $300 million and almost 2,000 team members.

Commitment matters in any venture, from business to volunteerism and family life. Commitment will not take away all your fears, but it does turn them into challenges that you are willing to take on.

Michelangelo, the famed sculptor and painter, was committed to the point of physical exhaustion when he spent four years lying flat on his back as he painted the frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome. His glorious project has been admired for more than five centuries.

Here's a final story to illustrate my point. A newspaper reporter secured an exclusive interview with the devil and was especially interested in the evil one's deceptive techniques. The reporter asked, "What is the most useful tool you use on people? Is it dishonesty, lust or jealousy?"

"No, no, no," said the devil. "The most useful weapon I possess is apathy."

Mackay's moral: There is no room for apathy for committed people.