I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately.
My brain started to stockpile descriptions of successful people: good networkers, exquisite communicators, committed, driven, passionate, educated and blessed with strong teams, but the problem was, that cache can look quite similar to those of unsuccessful people.
So I stopped looking at the characterizations they harbored and instead investigated what it is that they do differently. (Well, I familiarized myself with a highball of scotch first and then I investigated. Investigations are much more fun with a scotch in your hand, I learned.)
My swigging and sleuthing combo led me to one conclusion. Assuming that all efforts and circumstances are equal:
Successful people finish sh*t.
Sacre Bleu! Could it be this simple or was this the Glenfiddich talking? I rechecked my findings and other than the fact that I chose to use the word “sh*t” instead of “stuff” told me that the scotch had given me a touch of crass but it hadn’t clouded my conclusion.
A thought. A conversation. A handshake. A draft. A book. A painting. A pick up line. A proposal. A pitch. A project that might fail. They close the circle on their accountability. They finish cleaning the office kitchen when no one’s looking. They finish writing script ideas in case anyone asks them for one. They finish the prototype even though it looks like a protozoa.
Unsuccessful people say, “I’m still working on it.”
Successful people get to, “I’m all set. Take a look.”
Successful people don’t always have the best ideas, they’re just willing to put their ideas out there and have something to point at. But if you have something to point at, that means everyone else can point at it too...and judge it, point out the holes and say what it doesn’t do.
Sorry, if you’re not willing to “finish” in the eyes of your public sphere, then you will never be deemed successful, publicly.
People like to know what you’ve done, not what you’ve worked on (Attention resume writers).
Does this mean that success is only defined by what others think? No, but you and I both know that it’s a huge component of it.
Finishing something allows you to pass the baton, the baton of work, the baton of judgement, the baton of progress.
If my duty is to punch a hole in a piece of metal so that the next person on the assembly line can thread a string through it, it does him no good if I only mill out 90% of the hole. 3 pieces milled out at 90% each, does not equal 2.7 milled out pieces.
Yes, you’re still milling things all day, putting in the same amount of work but your work is essentially useless to the greater good until the hole is punched all the way through.
Punch more holes in life. Finish sh*t.