Whether you are a marathon runner, a sprinter, a swimmer, a basketball player or any other athlete, you know the importance of finishing well. Winning or losing often comes down to the last hundred yards, the final hundredth of a second, one last free-throw or the ball going through the uprights. All of us have cheered or groaned as the clock ran out based on how our favorite athlete or team finished.

Finish StartI was recently inspired by Reggie McNeal. He was writing about leaders who showed great promise but failed to live up to the their potential. There’s the obvious flame-outs—derailments due to character issues, moral failures and bad decisions. But two finish-line obstacles caught my attention.

Burn-outs and stale-outs are additional ways people falter before reaching the end zone. In fact, I think these two “outs” claim about as many victims as flame-outs. Stalled and disrupted lives show up in lots of different ways. Let me share three things Reggie mentioned what I’ve been learning for myself and observing in others over the years. It’s focused on the fine art of finishing well.

Keep Learning – We have to practice lifelong learning and unlearning. None of us can afford to become stagnant if we plan to finish well. We will likely have to unlearn some things in order to make room for other things we absolutely need to know.  For example, we may need to unlearn self-sabotaging behaviors, the less-than-positive way we see ourselves or past behaviors that have compromised our effectiveness. If you aren’t learning, you aren’t growing. If you aren’t regularly reading new material, stretching your mind and hanging around people more knowledgeable than you are, you will stagnate.

Are you planning anything that pushes you beyond your comfort zone? Are you rubbing shoulders with growing people? Are you regularly trying something new (experiences, food, places, technology)? Are you learning from disciplines outside your own educational or career background? Is there anything fresh and new going on in your life?

Keep Managing Yourself – Self-management is an essential ingredient to finishing well. The difficult management of self will include time management, money management or setting and keeping appropriate boundaries. Our health is important to finishing well. Are you paying attention to your body and getting adequate rest, nutrition and exercise? How about your spiritual health? Emotional health? (see Peter Drucker’s writing on Self-Managment)

Another big self-management arena is your relationships. Are you making sure your people skills are continuing to grow? How are things with your most important relationships—your family? Are you nurturing relationships with friends, mentors, and confidants? Are you mentoring anyone a generation or two below you?

Finish WellKeep Singing Your Song – “Know your tune” writes Reggie McNeal. Make sure others around you know how they can contribute to the music. Discover and focus on the harmonies and lyrics that fit you best. Make sure you know the sweet spot where your 3 Critical C’s (Core, Capacity and Context) overlap (see Halftime for additional resources). Keep practicing your song until you can’t get it out of your mind.


QUESTION: What would you add to the principles of finishing well? Share it below.

2 responses to The Fine Art of Finishing Well

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