I have been thinking about success and excellence a lot lately and have come to believe that what actually determines success is how you finish things.
A lot has been said about starting and getting started. That of course is a given. You must begin in order to finish. However, it is the finish and how well you do it that determines your success in what you do.
Most people who are successful and achieved uncommon success, stayed in there when others threw in the towel. Success comes from hanging in there and developing the stamina to push for the finish line with all you have got. An athlete will relate to that. A game is not over until it is over. Yet, when it comes to life and to your day to day existence, we are all too ready to give up. It becomes hard to wear the mask. It becomes unbearable to stay indoors. It becomes impossible to adjust to a new way of life. Yet all those who have done it have beaten the virus.
Staying and fighting “till you have nothing left in you, except the Will which says to them Hold on!” is how you should finish. Yet it is at the finish that we are physically and mentally drained and exhausted. It is then that we are the most vulnerable and inclined to give up. It is easy to lose the focus.
So how does one learn to finish well? Every task you do every day however ordinary it is, should be completed with an uncommon zeal to finish things well. It might be cleaning your kitchen sink, putting away all your papers and computers and clearing up your workspace or ensuring that your uniform is ready for the next day.
Learning to finish your everyday tasks imbues you with the skill of finishing well. It teaches you discipline and it instills in you to set high expectations of yourself. Finishing well requires you to build the stamina to do common things uncommonly well. A student must learn to finish his or her assessments by going over the questions. A teacher must ensure that she or he has checked every detail in his presentation for the next day. These are ordinary every day steps that will build your stamina during tougher times.
Your ability to extend yourself during a challenge will come easily to you if you know you have reserves of strength. It is that knowledge that you have that determines success. To finish well, you need to know where the finish line is. You must be able to see it clearly and draw on every bit of your strength to cross it. The ability to visualize that moment is often a determiner of success. If you have gone past that finish line several times over in your head, you will be able to do it when the time arrives.
You also need to let your actions be governed by values. It is as important to finish with integrity as it is to finish well. Succeeding through unfair means and on unequal terms is not the kind of success we want for anyone. So often, the desire for success blurs our visions to achieve it at any cost. Success that is tainted by unfair means will never sit easily. The means must justify the ends. That is why it is important for all of us to be led by a moral imperative.
Winning is easy but winning well with grace, dignity and integrity is quite something else. Sometimes you don’t want things to end. At other times you wish they were over sooner than not. Everything begun has a life of its own and nothing really lasts forever. The beginning and the end must blaze a trail. Well begun is half-done. Yet to me, the most significant part of your story will be its finale. Sometimes students and parents think that the outcome of an assessment or examination is the end of life itself! Each day will bring about assessments of different kinds- some that test your patience, your resilience and others your integrity. To finish each assessment well must be the purpose with which you rise. When one is over, the next one is waiting for you just round the corner. You can run, walk or drag yourself over the finish line- but finish, you must.
So where is this finish line? Is it at the end of a test? Is it at the end of a day? Is it at the culmination of a match or a sports meet? I would like to keep pushing the finish line further and further away so that I rise each day to take a step closer to it. The finish line is as far as your curiosity and your imagination. It is as far as the days you will live on this earth. It is what will wake you up each day demanding that you throw in your heart and soul into what you do because you have learned to finish well.
Finishing well is what will keep you alive long after you are gone. What you leave behind when your days are over with your organization, with your career and your life depends on how you have finished. That is how you will be remembered.