Be a Finisher, Not Just a Starter

Why is it not enough to be a self-starter?


Getting started on something is great.  There are lots of great inspirational quotes you can read about starting:


The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. - Lao-Tzu Click To Tweet

Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can. - Arthur Ashe Click To Tweet

Believe you can and you’re halfway there. - Theodore Roosevelt Click To Tweet

Maybe you have even heard them sung:


“Well begun is half done.” - Mary Poppins Click To Tweet

The idea of getting something started is important.  It takes courage, effort, and energy.  Anybody who can get something started is worthy of note.

When reviewing resumes I would often see the phrase, “self-starter.”  That’s always a good sign.  This person is able to see a need, identify a gap, or come up with an idea, then act on it.  Awesome.  They get it.  I’m interested.

More Than Just a Starter

But you know what might be more compelling?  Seeing a resume that says “finisher.”

You don’t typically hear people boasting about a marathon they started but didn’t finish.  They don’t hand out “starter” T-shirts at running races.  At the end of the day, you need to get across the finish line.

Sure it takes guts to start something.  My hat’s off to you.  But the real feat is finishing something.  Because sometimes it takes even more to keep going.

For Instance…

Imagine that marathon.

At the start, thousands of fellow enthusiasts are crowded around waiting for the gun to go off.  The air is full of anticipation; nervous energy is palpable.  It took guts to do the training (you did train for this, right?), pay the fee, and put yourself on the starting line.

Anyone with the guts to line up deserves tons of respect.

There is ceremony, maybe a speech, rock music blaring.  A crowd of on-lookers and loved ones waves encouragingly nearby.

The gun goes off, and the first miles seem almost effortless.  You are carried along by the momentum and energy of the moment.  This is fun.  This is almost easy.  You imagine you could do this all day.

But gradually the mob of runners thins out.  There are fewer and fewer people around you.  The running route maybe goes through some “less picturesque” parts of town.  Nobody is waving flags or clanging cow bells and cheering you on.

The excitement is gone.  You are on your own, just you and the pavement.  The reality of the effort required to finish is starkly laid out before you.

It’s maybe not so fun anymore.  Things might start to ache.  Blisters may form.

If the start seemed to go quickly, this part just drags on and on…

The temptation to stop grows.  Who would notice?  Who would care?  This is tough; who would blame you?

But starting is the first test; finishing is the second.

Starting is the first test. Finishing is the second. Click To Tweet

What it Takes to be a Finisher

Those who labor on have that little extra.

  • They understand their purpose – They are clear to themselves and others about their “WHY;” they don’t find themselves second guessing (too much!) what they are doing, why they are running.
  • They have the discipline. They have the mental toughness to continue. Often they have built a structure of habits and techniques to help make sure they can keep going.
  • They stay true to themselves. They told themselves they were going to do this, and now they are.  Barring actual threat to health, they are going to keep the promise they made to themselves.
  • They have chosen their battles well. They know you can’t do everything, and it’s better to choose just a few things and do them well.
  • They know that mental toughness is a muscle.  With practice, you can get good at not quitting.

Mental toughness is a muscle; you can get good at not quitting. Click To Tweet

If I see someone who is clear about his purpose, has the discipline to do the work every day, and who knows the importance of keeping his promises to himself and others, I’m interested.

That’s a finisher.

You don’t have to be a runner; you don’t even need to win.  But whatever you do, practice being a finisher.

That’s who I want on my team.  It could be you.

The Takeaway

Be a Finisher. Finishers get the T-shirt. Click To Tweet

Question:  What are you planning to finish?

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About the Author: Ken Downer
Ken Downer - Founder RapidStart Leadership

Ken served for 26 years in the Infantry, retiring as a Colonel.  From leading patrols in the Korean DMZ, to parachuting into the jungles of Panama, to commanding a remote outpost on the Iran-Iraq border, he has learned a lot about leadership, and has a passion for sharing that knowledge with others.  Look for his weekly posts, check out his online courses, subscribe below, or simply connect, he loves to talk about this stuff.

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