6 min read ⌚
Give Yourself the Gift of Done
Have you ever felt like your life is merely a list of disappointments and defeats, a catalog of ideas and in-progress projects?
If you’re like us – you have. Numerous times.
Who Should Read “Finish”? And Why?
Do you consider yourself a perfectionist? If so, it’s quite likely that your portfolio doesn’t include too many finished projects. Because – Jon Acuff says – you’re probably just giving yourself an excuse not to finish them.
What you need is someone to tell you how to strangle that disgruntled perfectionist inside you. And that someone is Jon Acuff. We feel that “Finish” is a book which targets preeminently creative people, but almost anyone who struggles to complete a project may find something useful inside.
We know we did. How do you think we finished this summary? Yeah – we know, it’s far from perfect. But, that’s precisely the point.
About Jon Acuff
Jon Acuff is a bestselling American nonfiction writer.
He first came into prominence when he was hired by Dave Ramsey as a full-time speaker and author in 2010. Soon enough, he wrote his first book for Dave Ramsey’s company, “Gazelles, Baby Steps & 37 Other Things Dave Ramsey Taught Me About Debt.”
The book was followed by “Stuff Christians Like,” a collection of essays on topics discussed on Acuff’s very popular blog, http://stuffchristianslike.net/. His next book, “Do Over,” may have been his greatest success so far; in fact, Seth Godin described it as “the best career book ever written.”
Before “Finish,” he also wrote “Quitter” and “Start.”
How could it be that, no matter what you’re doing, you just can’t put the final full stop?
Because that has happened to you so many times before that the only viable explanation is that you are experimented on by aliens, who want to find out whether not finishing a project would cause humans more pain and torment than getting their extremities ripped out slowly.
Yup – that might be it.
That – or perfectionism. You know – the thing you say is your best-groomed personality trait every time your teacher asks you why you haven’t filed your report.
According to Jon Acuff – who, to your utter amazement, hasn’t even considered the first option – it’s undoubtedly perfectionism. Because, if you are like him – and like about 90 percent of the people – you will probably give up once the things stop being perfect.
And that will inevitably happen.
So, the real question is: why do you suppose that everything will be perfect from start to finish? Wouldn’t it be better if you assumed the opposite – so that you are happy when it goes according to the plan, and ready when it does not?
Sounds rational, right?
However, it’s not something you can achieve naturally. Because you’re probably inherently enslaved by something scientists refer to as “the planning fallacy.” And when we say scientists – we mean Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman.
We know it sounds like a good title for a Big Bang episode, but, unfortunately, is not funny. It means that you’re overly optimistic when you’re planning anything – even if your past experience has proven you otherwise numerous times before.
Change your plans halfway down the road. Say you want to write the first four chapters of your book in two months? After a month – when you will be predictably stuck over the twenty-sixth revision of your seventh sentence – cut the initial objective in half.
So – two chapters by the end of the next month.
Jon Acuff says that, on average, you have about 63 percent chance of fulfilling this second, fine-tuned goal.
Another great way to make your life easier and get things done?
To the ears of all the slackers out there, this one will surely sound like a symphony: don’t really do them. Or, to use the more scientific term, practice strategic incompetence.
Essentially, this means that you are great at some things, good at some others and terrible at many. However, to resort to Daniel Kahneman’s psychological expertise once again, you’re overconfident, and you think you’re an expert in everything.
But, more often than not, doing something in an imperfect manner is much better than not doing it at all. And why should you be able to clean up your front yard perfectly if you’re a father of two with 4 billion readers of your blog?
Yes, we’re talking about Jon Acuff.
And no – we have no idea how unruly his front yard looks at the moment.
Key Lessons from “Finish”
1. The Joy of Being Imperfect vs. The Planning Fallacy
2. Don’t Go to Your Hiding Place or Use a Noble Obstacle as an Excuse
3. Fun = Success
The Joy of Being Imperfect vs. The Planning Fallacy
The perfectionist conundrum – another possible Big Bang episode title – may have been best and most straightforwardly summarized by The Guild’s Felicia Day in “You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost).”
“It’s either perfect,” she writes, “or it’s the worst thing ever made and everyone is an artistic failure, including myself. (Yay, emotional extremes!)”
How many times have you felt this? And how do you still think it is healthy?
The problem is relatively straightforward: you’re overambitious. You’re suffering from a weird case of the planning fallacy, namely the idea that you can get things done flawlessly and in time. Nobody has; and nobody will ever be able to.
Because – as John Lennon sang right before his death (talking about the tragic irony of vindication!) – “Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans.”
Don’t Go to Your Hiding Place or Use a Noble Obstacle as an Excuse
You can blame perfectionism for two very distinct and very tormenting distractions which hinder your creativity severely on a daily basis. Namely, hiding places and noble obstacles.
Hiding places are activities which you do instead of doing the one which you need to be doing. They are safe places where you can go to “hide from your fear of messing up.” Which is why you visit them pretty often. But Netflix, Facebook, Twitter – neither of them asks for any real skill. How far can you get in life that way?
Noble obstacles sound virtuous – but are actually just excuses. On the surface, they seem like Very Good Reasons to not pursue your goal at the present moment. In one case they evolve into the Y of the phrase “I can’t do X until Y,” where X is your project. In the other, they are the negative Y in the false idea “But if I finish X I will become Y.”
For example, would be entrepreneurs would rather do nothing than become workaholics – even though not every entrepreneur is an alcoholic to start with.
Fun = Success
For example, this guy certainly isn’t. He’s the exact opposite, in fact: a flamboyant, otherworldly, larger-than-life character who’s in it for the fun. The success is just a side note.
Why – at least in that regard – can’t you be more like him? Find your why. Have fun. Enjoy. Do the work because you want to. If success comes as well with it – then great. If it doesn’t – it’s not like you spent your life doing something you don’t like, right?
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“Finish” QuotesBut more than just analysis, perfectionism offers us two distinct distractions: hiding places and noble obstacles. A hiding place is an activity you focus on instead of your goal. A noble obstacle is a virtuous-sounding reason for not… Click To Tweet This is the first lie that perfectionism tells you about goals: Quit if it isn’t perfect. Click To Tweet Developing tolerance for imperfection is the key factor in turning chronic starters into consistent finishers. Click To Tweet The harder you try to be perfect, the less likely you’ll accomplish your goals. Click To Tweet Finishers make things easier and simpler. The next time you work on a goal, I dare you to ask the following questions during the middle of the project: Could things be easier? Could things be simpler? Click To Tweet
Our Critical Review
“Finish” is an appropriate companion piece to Jon Acuff’s “Start” – and a nice addition to the philosophy expressed in “Do Over” and “Quitter.” It’s exciting and applicable, but, moreover, amusing and funny as well.
As Michael Hyatt says “no one beats Jon Acuff” when it comes to laughing at your own shortcomings. Chris Guillebeau paints a too vivid picture to get around it: “It’s wisdom disguised as stand-up comedy, like eating a bag of jelly beans and somehow ending up smarter.”
And he’s not far from the truth.