During the recent Summer Olympics we witnessed a recurring principle at work: Getting off to a good start did not guarantee a good finish. Runners that grabbed an early lead sometimes fell to the back by the end of the race. Swimmers making a fast start lost to competitors demonstrating a stronger finish. Gymnasts looked good in the first part of their routines, but bobbles or slips cost them dearly.
In the past I have written about the importance of finishing well – and the difficulty in doing so. In the everyday work world we see the same phenomenon, at both ends of the spectrum: Admired business executives disgraced by ethical scandal. Young employees that start careers looking like future company stars, only to lapse into mediocre performance. How can we ensure the promise of a good start results in a strong finish? Consider this: A key to finishing well is being willing to not finish everything.
What does that mean? Some people are described as a “jack of all trades, master of none.” Basically that means excelling at nothing. Finishing well requires a clear sense of purpose, coupled with a good understanding of what you do well – and what you do not.
The successful person, the one that finishes well, is usually one who capitalizes on strengths by devoting most of his or her time and energy to areas where those strengths can be maximized. That might mean not finishing some things if we cannot do them well – or if they are not worth being done by us.
For instance, because I am a big-picture person, I have found it helpful for someone to oversee key details for me whenever possible. As I told an executive assistant years ago, “Your job is to catch things before I let them fall through the cracks” (as is my tendency). I am weak at handling details, and rather than putting considerable mental energy trying not to forget important details, it is better to find someone that is more skilled in that regard than I am.
Someone has said, “To get something done, find a busy person to do it.” But that might mean depriving someone else of that opportunity. As British devotional writer Oswald Chambers has said, “Good is the enemy of the best.” Applying that the Olympics, some of those athletes could have done well in other sports. However, they determined which sport they did best and concentrated on that. As a result, they excelled and became champions. Rather than being good at one sport, they became great at another.
Relating that reality to the workplace, there are many good things we can do as business and professional people. The question is, what are the bestthings for us to do – things that only we should do? Do those. The good things can be done by others. Here is what the Bible says about this:
Never lose your focus. We need to have a clear understanding of where we are headed and not let distractions and obstacles take us off course, even if they seem attractive. “As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51).
Keep your eyes on the finish line. What is your goal? What is your mission? These answers will enable you to distinguish the “good” from the “best” in your personal and professional life. “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).
Robert J. Tamasy is vice president of communications for Leaders Legacy, Inc., a non-profit organization based in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A. A veteran journalist, he has written Tufting Legacies (iUniverse); Business At Its Best: Timeless Wisdom from Proverbs for Today’s Workplace (River City Press); and has coauthored with David A. Stoddard, The Heart of Mentoring (NavPress). For more information, see www.leaderslegacy.com or his blogs, www.bobtamasy.blogspot.comand www.bobtamasy.wordpress.com.
1. How do you respond to the statement, “A key to finishing well is being willing to not finish everything”? Does that sound selfish or self-centered – or does it serve as a reminder to not become consumed by less important matters? Explain your answer.
2. What do you think Oswald Chambers meant when he wrote, “Good is the enemy of the best”?
3. Can you think of any pursuits or activities that are preventing you from focusing on things that are most important at work – or in your personal life? If so, what steps might you take to free yourself of those diversions and distractions?
4. What can be the benefits of understanding your strengths and seeking to maximize them, rather than spending great amounts of time trying to improve areas of weakness?
NOTE: If you have a Bible and would like to review additional passages that relate to this topic, consider the following verses:
Matthew 28:19-20; Luke 14:28; John 19:30; Philippians 3:10-11; 2 Timothy 4:7