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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Dress Up

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Series: The ABC’s of Professionalism

This topic is challenging because there are so many opinions on what constitutes professional attire and a lot of acceptable variations depending on the industry, company, day of the week, business function and more. Fortunately for you, I have acquired extensive expertise in this area through my circle of friends, who represent some of the most fashion-aware people in America, including: barbershop singers, professors, scientists, computer geeks, senior citizens and golfers. 😉

“Although golf was originally restricted to wealthy, overweight Protestants, today it’s open to anybody who owns hideous clothing.” — Dave Barry

Professional Dress is a Matter of Respect

As with all areas of professionalism, attitude is at the core. In the case of dressing professionally, the specific attitude is respect. Respect yourself with the way you dress and your overall attitude of professionalism will rise to a new level.

“Put even the plainest woman into a beautiful dress and unconsciously she will try to live up to it.” — Lady Duff-Gordon (1863-1935)

The way you dress broadcasts to others how you see yourself. Thus, the adage, “Dress for Success.”

“Keeping your clothes well pressed will keep you from looking hard pressed.” — Coleman Cox

Dressing with respect includes good hygiene. At the risk of stating the obvious, here is my list of keywords: soap, razor, deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrush, cologne, comb and nail clippers. Mom was right when she told you to wash behind the ears, comb your hair, brush your teeth and trim your nails. In case mom’s not around to check up on you, here’s a tip. If you draw blood when shaking hands, it’s time to trim your nails.

“Cleanliness and order are not matters of instinct; they are matters of education, and like most great things, you must cultivate a taste for them.” — Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881)

Your GPS

Style and Professionalism

Like medicine, more is not always better. Overdressing can have a negative effect on your image, although I believe that erring slightly on the side of overdressing will create fewer problems than the reverse.

“Looks are part of business. A businessman should never stand out more than his customers. His mannerisms, his clothes, everything about him… Moderation is the key.” — Takayuki Ikkaku, Arisa Hosaka and Toshihiro Kawabata, Animal Crossing: Wild World, 2005

A stylish wardrobe can be important when it comes to color combinations, width of neckties, ensembles, buttons, stitching, fabric, creases and pleats and accessories. On the other hand, dressing professionally often requires rejection of other aspects of fashion.

“In your clothes avoid too much gaudiness; do not value yourself upon an embroidered gown; and remember that a reasonable word, or an obliging look, will gain you more respect than all your fine trappings.” — Sir George Savile, ‘Advice to a Daughter,’ 1688

“Fashion is the science of appearances, and it inspires one with the desire to seem rather than to be.” — Michel de Montaigne (1533 – 1592)

For women, there is a difference between attractive and sexy. Displaying cleavage, thighs, and/or a bare midriff is unprofessional for most careers (if you get my point.)

“If you’re not selling, you shouldn’t be advertising.” -– Donald P. Nock (1928-2000), teacher and coach

A career woman who wants to be respected for her mind, capabilties and personality should not direct unnecessary attention to her looks by wearing clothing that looks like its been painted on her. Going easy on make-up and perfume is also good advice.

Accessorize with Care

For simplicity, I’ll define accessories as everything except clothing that people see and use to judge another person including: handbag, briefcase, car, jewelry and hair. Let’s be honest, body piercings, excessive and gaudy tattoos and outrageous hairstyles are not an advantage in most fields. These things may cause people to look at you and they may make a fashion statement. But, you have to be twice as good to overcome the first impression you make with these nontraditional accessories.

Your car is an accessory, too. More important than make and model are operability and cleanliness. A BMW that rattles, spews black smoke and is filled with food wrappers can’t compete with a shiny new and clean economy car.

Professional Appearance is a Choice

You might be thinking, “Well, this really isn’t who I am. I’m not a ‘suit and tie kinda person.’” I would counter that there isn’t a gene that defines how you dress, take care of yourself or conduct your business affairs. These are choices available to everyone.

Next, you might be thinking this is going to be hard. What’s the alternative?

“Doing nothing is very hard to do … you never know when you’re finished.” — Leslie Nielsen

Think about which path to success is hardest. The first way is to make the necessary changes in yourself to project professional image. The second way is to make no personal changes and devote your energies to convince everyone that you are a professional in spite of your unprofessional appearance. In other words, change thousands of opinions. The third option is to choose a profession which demands less in the way of appearance.

“My main reason for adopting literature as a profession was that, as the author is never seen by his clients, he need not dress respectably.” — George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)

God bless,

— CC

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© Copyright August 2008, Clancy Cross. All rights reserved.
Read more “Clancy’s Quotes” at: ClancyCross.WordPress.com