The Finish Line

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Series: The ABC’s of Professionalism

I’ve heard it said, “The fortune is at the finish line.” The best example I can think of is farming. The farmer can plant, water, and fertilize, but these activities mean absolutely nothing unless the farmer harvests the crop. The harvest is at the finish line — success is all about finishing.

“There is no bigger waste of time than doing 90% of what is necessary.” — Thomas Sowell

Swimming champion Michael Phelps is an expert finisher. In Beijing, the Men’s 100 meter butterfly final was decided by a hundredth of a second. Phelps and Milorad Cavic approached the wall both needing a partial stroke to finish, with Phelps still trailing. Cavic coasted. Phelps drove hard into the wall. I believe it was the instinct of a master finisher that caused Phelps to take that extra short stroke and make up the deficit.

“Epic. It goes to show you that not only is this guy the greatest swimmer of all time and the greatest Olympian of all time, he’s maybe the greatest athlete of all time. He’s the greatest racer who ever walked the planet.” — Mark Spitz (on Phelps winning his 7th gold medal)

While people continue to talk about the photo finish, Phelps actually out-finished his opponents at the other end of the pool as well. World-class swimmers know that the end of each length is actually the start of the next one and an opportunity to build momentum. Phelps reigned supreme in finishing every length, not just the final one. Going back to the race of the century, Phelps was said to be in seventh place going into the turn. Coming out, he appeared to be in fourth. Without two strong finishes, he would not have earned the gold.

So many people never put themselves in position for a strong finish because they never even get started. If I had been born as Yogi Berra, I might have said, “70% of success is showing up. The other half is finishing.” To become an expert finisher, first become an expert starter. As long as you develop the mindset of a starter, you are positioned to finish. Then, as you become a consistent finisher, you can learn to do it faster and better.

“It’s a job that’s never started that takes the longest to finish.” — J. R. R. Tolkien

To finish first, you must first finish.” — Rick Mears

“Without ambition one starts nothing. Without work one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

There’s satisfaction in finishing if for no other reason than the objective can be crossed off the list.

“Having once decided to achieve a certain task, achieve it at all costs of tedium and distaste. The gain in self-confidence of having accomplished a tiresome labor is immense.” — Arnold Bennett

“Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task.” — William James

In other cases, satisfaction is found in the task itself. In fact, rushing through the task can result in missing the enjoyment.

“Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.” — Greg Anderson

“For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin — real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way. Something to be got through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.” — Fr. Alfred D’Souza

Based on this concept, one would have to conclude that the old adage about success and paying the price is all wrong. Zig Ziglar explains, “You do not pay the price of success, you enjoy the price of success.” Struggles and challenges become part of the adventure. When this attitude connects with a vision, a champion is born.

“Don’t be content with doing only your duty. Do more than your duty. It’s the horse that finishes a neck ahead that wins the race.” — Andrew Carnegie

Your GPS

Keeping promises is an example of finishing. Whether it’s a promise, a small task, or a major goal, the objective needs to be following through to the finish line. There is no integrity without finishing and no professionalism without integrity. To become known as a person of integrity, one must develop the good habit of finishing.

“Once you learn to quit, it becomes a habit.” — Vince Lombardi

“Professionalism is knowing how to do it, when to do it, and doing it.” — Frank Tyger

“We are judged by what we finish, not what we start.” — Anonymous

Find that to-do list. Get busy crossing off the artifacts of your procrastination. Don’t worry about perfection. Perfectionism is a stumbling block for finishing. Many times, my late father-in law used the following expression to make this very point.

“It’s good enough for who it’s for.” -– Donald P. Nock, teacher and coach

Fear of imperfection is a poor excuse for not starting and not finishing. Approach every task in four parts: get started, make mistakes, learn from the mistakes and finish strong.

“It’s not where you start it’s where you finish.
It’s not how you go, it’s how you land.
A hundred-to-one shot, they called him a klutz,
He can outrun the favorite all he needs is the guts.

“Your final return will not diminish
And you can be the cream of the crop.
It’s not where you start it’s where you finish
And you’re gonna finish on top.”

“It’s Not Where You Start (It’s Where You Finish)” Lyrics by Dorothy Fields

God bless,

— CC

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© Copyright August 2008, Clancy Cross. All rights reserved.
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Each person makes thousands, maybe millions of choices everyday. Life in America, “The Land of Opportunity,” is a rich buffet of choices. Some choices are complex, some are safe, some are scary, some are risky, some are fun, some are necessary, some are matters of life and death, and most are habitual.

It’s pretty common to get stuck on a decision about a particular opportunity. Think for a moment about one of life’s big opportunities facing you today. How long have you been considering your options – a few days, a couple weeks, several months, or more? Ask yourself (be honest), “Am I evaluating or procrastinating? ” No one can answer this question for you. But, before you pass judgment on yourself, check out these wise sayings about procrastination:

“Procrastination is the grave in which opportunity is buried.” -– Unknown

“Procrastination is, hands down, our favorite form of self-sabotage.” -– Alyce P. Cornyn-Selby

“Procrastination is one of the most common and deadliest of diseases and its toll on success and happiness is heavy.” -– Wayne Gretzky

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” -– Wayne Gretzky

“Procrastination is the bad habit of putting off until the day after tomorrow what should have been done the day before yesterday.” -– Napoleon Hill

“Procrastination is opportunity’s natural assassin.” -– Victor Kiam

“We shall never have more time. We have, and always had, all the time there is. No object is served in waiting until next week or even until tomorrow. Keep going… Concentrate on something useful.” -– Arnold Bennett

“How soon ‘not now’ becomes ‘never’.” -– Martin Luther

Here’s a simple procrastination test.

A) Am I actively forming questions and diligently seeking answers about a choice I face?

___ Yes (good) ___ No (procrastination)

B) If so, are the questions new ones (i.e. not the same ones over and over again)?

___ Yes (good) ___ No (procrastination)

Procrastination is commonly the fear of risk, fear of failure and/or fear of the unknown. Instead of focusing on the good things that are possible, people become “fear frozen” into inaction. A simple simple risk vs. reward assessment might be the solution. Consider the following questions:

  1. What’s the absolute worst thing that could happen if I decide a certain way?
  2. What’s the likelihood that “worst case scenario” will actually occur?
  3. What would be the fallout?
  4. What’s the best possible outcome?
  5. What are some of the more likely outcomes?
  6. Do I value the positive outcomes more than I fear the negative ones?

This simple assessment process can be an effective fear management tool. But there is another dimension to this problem of procrastination. When fear has you in a headlock, you could be wrestling with your conscience. I don’t believe it is possible for any person of faith to be at peace with a decision until he has sought God’s counsel. Without the assurance that one’s decision is in full alignment with God’s will, it is impossible to move forward with the confidence that God will provide strength, courage and whatever else is necessary to get the job done. Where there is doubt, there will be fear.

“Courage is fear that has said its prayers.” — Dorothy Bernard

“Prayer does not change God, but changes him who prays.” — Soren Kierkegaard (1813 – 1855)

“A grandfather was walking through his yard when he heard his granddaughter repeating the alphabet in a tone of voice that sounded like a prayer. He asked her what she was doing. The little girl explained: ‘I’m praying, but I can’t think of exactly the right words, so I’m just saying all the letters, and God will put them together for me, because He knows what I’m thinking.'”— Charles B. Vaughan

God Bless,

— CC

© Copyright July 2008, Clancy Cross. All rights reserved.
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