How you finish matters. A lot.
You can destroy years of goodwill in a matter of seconds if you are careless about how you leave a job or an engagement. I was given a start reminder of this recently through Arsenal’s recent outgoing transfers.
Two transfers in particular beautifully illustrate the importance of finishing the race well.
Our long-time captain and a key player of 9 years, Laurent Koscielny, just completed a transfer to Bordeaux in France’s Ligue 1. He was an invaluable member of the squad and an absolute key to all of the success we have had during his time here.
Carl Jenkinson, a perennial back-up who has played few games for Arsenal and spent recent seasons either injured, on loan, or riding the bench, just completed a transfer to Nottingham Forrest in the English Second Division.
On face value, one would assume that Koscielny would be thanked for his long years of exemplary service and that Jenko’s time at Arsenal would end with the lack of fanfare befitting a player who never was quite good enough to make an impact.
This assumption could not be further from the truth and it is all down to the way they ended their time.
For 99% of his time at Arsenal, Koscielny was beloved. The way he left will, unfortunately, have a disproportionate effect on how he is remembered.
Jenkinson never really made a meaningful impact on the team. But he will be remembered as a humble, team player who gave everything his all and always did right by the club and his teammates.
Impact on the team aside, I think these two transfers do a great job of emphasizing the importance of finishing well.
How you finish matters. A lot.
Let it be Fear
The world recently got an example of the importance of finishing well that you may be more familiar with.
The final season of Game of Thrones was decried as a monumental failure almost universally by fans. Just look at the average episode ratings from season to season.
Look. You will never be able to please everyone. The show was always going to struggle to live up to the massive hype that surrounded it. But I struggle to think of another example of a show that has had so much excitement and hype around it that fell on its face so spectacularly.
I think if people are being honest, the vast majority of their criticism is centered around how things were executed instead of the bullet points of what actually transpired. Danny going crazy and Bran winning the throne could have been done in a way that felt genuine and impactful (the butchering of Jaime’s storyline however was completely unforgivable). Instead, this season was rushed and the decision to abbreviate it only exacerbated what would have been a monumental task no matter what. This lead to a cascade of failures and viewers couldn’t help but feel the whiplash.
Finishing is important. How you finish is what will be remembered. Will Game of Thrones be remembered for being one of the most impactful shows of the last two decades. Sure. But more than anything its memory will be colored by its lackluster ending.
Finishing has always been a strength of mine. Unfortunately, that strength has been developed out of absolute and self-inflicted necessity. I have a nasty habit of starting myself out in a hole and being forced to agonizingly claw my way out. In college and high school, my final semester was my strongest academically. When my friends were chilling out and kicking back, I was hitting the books and taking an inflated course load. I had to do this because my first semesters were my weakest. I pretty much trended directly up every single semester. I made it work, but it definitely was learning the hard way.
It’s a weakness of mine that I am constantly working on.
My strategy is to start with the end in mind. Don’t start a new project of freshman year thinking you have all the time in the world.
Time moves quick.
Visualize the end and work backward to figure out what you need to do at each stage along the way to reach your goals.
Because believe me, it is a lot easier to start well and maintain your momentum, then it is to begin in a hole and be forced to finish in a frenzy.
And whatever you do.
Don’t ever pull a Game of Thrones.