ForCollegeForLife Ep. 26: Fast 15 with Dr. Mari Ann Callais – Communication and Commitments


Casey J. Cornelius (00:03):

Hey everyone, and welcome to the latest episode of the ForCollegeForLife Podcast. My name is Casey Cornelius, and I’m the Founder and President ForCollegeForLife. And I get the distinct pleasure and opportunity to chat with our speakers and consultants, the people who make us, who we are, about topics that are really, really important to them and their work. This is part of our new FAST 15 series, which means that we’re going to tackle one of these topics in 15 minutes or less. And yes, is that a challenge? Of course, because our speakers could talk about these topics for days and days and days. So without any further ado, let me go ahead and bring to the mic none other than Dr. Mari Ann Callais. And Mari Ann, I want to tackle this topic today. What advice would you give to those who are struggling to find motivation to live their commitments?

Dr. Mari Ann Callais (00:52):

Thanks, Casey, for having me today. You know, for me, I, I was taught that your word is your word, right? And if you say you’re going to do something, it’s important to do it. If you can’t, it’s also important. It’s an and, right? It’s not an or, but it’s also important to let those folks, or, or that individual or or whoever know. So for me, you know, I think it’s important that you manage your time well, that you don’t over overcommit, but you, that you commit to things that you really are passionate and you’re going to go to. The other thing I will tell you is that for me personally, if I get a text message from somebody, like for example, we’re in the middle of reelection in our town, right? If I get a text message from our current mayor who says, Maryanne, I’m having this event, Will you come?


If I tell ’em I’m gonna be there, I’m gonna be there. And I think coming out of the pandemic especially, and I know people are tired of hearing all that, I think we have to evaluate where we put our time. And, and if we’re going to, to say, Yes, I am going to commit to this, whatever it is, whether it’s a person, whether it’s whatever, or an organization, then I think it’s important to manage that effectively. And so, you know, before we talked about time management and all those things, but for me personally, I think if we’re going to rebuild relationships, commitments are a part of building that trust. And so that’s where I feel as, as a society, as a world we are right now in that trust is not where it was maybe. And I think living your word, saying, doing what you say you’re gonna do is part of rebuilding that trust in other humans.

Casey J. Cornelius (02:42):

I love the way that you frame that. The idea that living up to what you say you’re going to do is the way that we can build and establish and nurture and maintain trust. I, I’m not sure if I’ve ever thought of it that way. Do you think that the opposite is true as well? That if someone doesn’t live up to their word, word, that’s, uh, a, a quick and, you know, fast way, for lack of a better phrase, to, to break down that trust or to lose it overall?

Dr. Mari Ann Callais (03:06):

I think so, and I think what’s happening now is that, you know, instead of someone, people having conversations about it and saying, Hey, you really hurt my feelings. I I was depending on you, right? They just cancel one another out. And that for me is, is a sad, um, uh, result of, of our, our isolation, you know, people as humans and, and the research is starting to come out. We lack connectedness, right? We lacked saying that I, I can be with you. So, so if you think about it, for almost two and a half years, we didn’t have to make commitments because we couldn’t. So now, except to be on Zoom calls, right? So now it’s like, now I have to physically go somewhere that’s a lot different than be in my pajama, being in my pajamas in bed and being on a, on a zoom call where I can click on and click off.


I have to be present. And so as I’m even coming out of this process, you know, I, it, there is such, such a thing as fatigue when you’re around people, you know, I think it’s mental and emotional fatigue sometimes. So I think you now, more than ever, if, if personally if I’m gonna make a commitment to something, I’m gonna be there. And if I can’t, I’m gonna be very upfront about that I can’t and why I can’t. And I think as a result of that, people aren’t gonna judge you cuz you, you can’t make a commitment, but they will if you say you will, and then you don’t, and then you don’t, you know, include them in, in knowing the why. Um, and so that’s what I’m seeing, especially with college students. You know, all organizations that use fines and points and mandatory, even campuses at some point, when does it come down to, I said I would be there, so I’m gonna be there. Um, and I’m not waiting for the bigger, better deal, or I just don’t wanna be around anybody. And if that’s the case and that’s, that’s how you take care of your mental health in different ages and stages of that process, that’s fine. But communicate that, you know, and be truthful. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I, I think that’s the biggest part for me. It’s, you know, if we talk about having values and then we’re not truthful about why we can’t do something, I’m like, uh, that’s not the, there’s no congruence there.

Casey J. Cornelius (05:28):

I I, I just, I would love the way that you framed this Maryanne, you know, I, I I think you’d mentioned values and it comes to mind, um, a lot of organizations and a lot of leaders talk about living your values, but very few have talked about living your commitments, right? Because in, in my mind, and, and take this wherever you’d like, values are more abstract, right? So respect is a very difficult thing to, to describe or point to, or, or hold in your hands. Obviously we know when we’re being disrespected, but a commitment is different. I’m going to be there at seven, or I’m going to graduate in four years, or I’m going to major in so and so. Do you see those as being two distinct things?

Dr. Mari Ann Callais (06:07):

Oh, absolutely. I’ll give you an example. So this morning, a gentleman who’s been detailing my car for a long time, and I know that this is a little off topic, but his son has brain cancer, has a brain tumor. And so I’ve been checking in on him making sure you know that what does he need support, Especially having had a child in my family who had leukemia, right? So this morning when he came, I had made a commitment timewise that I was gonna sit down with him right on our porch and have a conversation to check in on him. It wasn’t just about, he made a commitment to me to be here to detail my car, but I was making a commitment to check on his wellbeing. And so, you know, in, in some top phases of life, sometimes it’s not about going to something, but it’s about caring about another human in a way that, that helps them get through their day.


Right? This gentleman sat on my porch. I mean, he is, he’s a single father. He’s, he’s taking care of his son. I’ve known his son since he’s a little boy. And I mean, this gentleman is crying on my porch. It, and I knew he needed it. I could see it in his face. So the commitment to another human, it doesn’t necessarily always mean, Oh, I said I would be at an event. It’s about the way you care for others. And that’s just as much of a commitment as anything else. So like right now, for example, I don’t believe that our experiences should be based upon events or programs. I believe they should be based upon time spent together. That’s not what’s happening. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, that, that, that time of I care about you, I see something’s up, do you wanna grab coffee? That’s a commitment too. But I think a lot of times we only see it as what’s on our calendar or that we have to go to something. But there are different levels of commitments in our lives that are important.

Casey J. Cornelius (08:12):

I love it. I love the way that you frame this. Uh, if you’re listening to this and you’re not familiar with Mari Ann’s work, I don’t know how not, but please go ahead. Check out That’s Mari Ann with an i m a r i a n n, uh, to learn more about her signature programs, speaking and consulting. Uh, Mari Ann, I, I always try to put myself in the perspective of the student or the, the professional who might push back against these ideas. And I imagine that there’s someone who’s listening to this right now who’s saying, I get what you’re saying about commitment, but how do I choose when I have conflicting commitments, not the difference between do X or do nothing but do X or do Y or do Z. So what advice would you give to that person who’s like, Yeah, but I’d have these competing commitments that I need to think about.

Dr. Mari Ann Callais (09:00):

I think be honest about it and ask, is there a way that we could shift that commitment? Or is it okay if I can only be there for a certain amount of time? Instead, what we do, and, and especially as I’ve worked with younger folks, or especially college age students and high school students, is we don’t want to admit that what’s wrong with admitting I have these two events I, I have to choose, right? Or I can only do each one of them halfway. Can I be honest about that? And I think it’s the honesty piece. You know, as I’ve gotten older and I serve on a lot of boards with professionals who are really busy people and we’re always honest about, can I be here? Can I not be here? Can we move this meeting? Can we switch it? Can it be done differently?


But I don’t know that we’ve equipped people with the skills to be able to do that. And, you know, on, on a, I’m on the Girl Scout board and because of my travel schedule, sometimes I can’t be on calls or I can’t be in physically at a meeting. And I’m very honest with them. I’m like, I will always go above and beyond my other responsibilities if I know I can’t be there physically or, or virtually. And they’re like, You’re doing exactly what we need for you to do. So sometimes it’s about, I can do this even if I can’t do this.

Casey J. Cornelius (10:29):

It feels like it’s almost the, the next layer of vulnerability then too, right? It’s like, I, I’m vulnerable about how I feel about something, but I’m also going to be vulnerable enough to be honest, to tell you, I I can’t do this thing. Is, is that what I’m hearing you say?

Dr. Mari Ann Callais (10:43):

Absolutely. Absolutely. And I think if, if, especially in our organizations, if students would feel comfortable with doing that and they would be truthful, I think they would, their relationships would be better. But instead they hide behind conduct boards or standards boards, and that’s how they handle those conversations. Instead of just saying, Hey, or being honest, like, I really didn’t feel like going last night. Or, you know, and, and what else can I do to, to learn about what, what happened there? You know? So it’s the, it’s the follow up. And, and Casey for me, how are we teaching them to go into their lives post-college and, and say, How do I make a commitment to a partner? How do I make a commitment to a responsibility? Am I gonna show up on a volunteer day that I’ve made a commitment to when people have organized and depend on me to be there? You know? So I guess I was raised in an environment where if you said you were gonna do something, if you couldn’t do it, you had to be truthful. And if you, if you said you were gonna be there, you were, were gonna be there. And so I don’t think that’s asking too much of folks. Um, I think it is how we, we, we rebuild trust and we rebuild community. I think it’s important.

Casey J. Cornelius (12:05):

It sounds like you’re saying, um, maybe I’m extrapolating from this, It sounds like you’re saying this is, this is good advice for ro relationships too, romantic relationships, right? That the way that you can build and maintain trust is to be truthful to those commitments too.

Dr. Mari Ann Callais (12:21):

Exactly. I I mean, my wife and I talk about it at, you know, we try to keep each other informed. If you’re gonna be late, she had an emergency at work last night. She called and she sent a message and she said, I just wanted you to know I’m gonna be late. Well, the worst thing you can do for a partner is they plan something and you don’t show up and they don’t know why, right? Mm. So when you talk about relationships, it’s about communication. And I think, you know, when we talk about commitments, Casey, I think what both of you and I believe is that communication is important in all relationships. I have found myself being drawn, especially -, to folks who want to talk about real things and wanna do real things as opposed to just the ones who, you know, are, are only looking for what’s fun, but, but with folks that really wanna talk about how do I, how do I improve myself? How do I improve my, my surroundings or my community? How do I help others? So it’s more meaningful events or, or things that I’m willing to be involved with right now. So I think communication in relationships, all kinds of relationships are what comes with commitment. And then it helps to build trust and community. I think that there’s, there’s a one is not, can’t stand alone. They’re all connected and interrelated.

Casey J. Cornelius (13:48):

It’s a good thing we’re not on video cuz you would’ve seen me snapping <laugh>, right? Everyone who’s listening to this podcast was seeing me snapping, uh, Mari Ann, what a joy. Obviously I love our conversations and I love that every once in a while we hit record and get to share it. Folks, I hope you’ve enjoyed this podcast. Again, if you are not yet aware of Mari Anns work, please visit for college for, that’s m a r i a n n to learn more about her signature programs and her consulting work. And if you like this podcast, please do the thing that you’re supposed to do and like, and shared, subscribe and leave a comment and also share with us any future topics that you would like to hear explored fast. 15 goes fast of course. And we appreciate you tuning in today, Mari Ann, thank you so much for the opportunity to chat. And until next time folks, we’ll talk to you soon.

Dr. Mari Ann Callais (14:37):

Thank you Casey.


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