Finishing Strong

15 Sep 1972: Steve Prefontaine of the USA in action during a track and field event at Crystal Palace in London, England. Mandatory Credit: Tony Duffy /Allsport

I woke up early today and couldn’t get a thought out of my head – it was about finishing strong.

Finishing Strong.  That’s not a motto.  That’s not an inspirational quote.  It’s a way of life for those who are known as finishers.  People, companies, horses – whatever.

Starting is easy.  Closing is everything and finishing strong is the ONLY way to close. “Coffee is for closers” is a cheap movie line.  The concept of finishing strong was around centuries before that line was ever written.

My favorite finisher of all time was the Apostle Paul.  Regardless of whatever faith you have, what he went through from a historical perspective is incredible; “Five times I received forty lashes minus one.  Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked. I spent a night and a day in the open sea.”  That’s insane! How committed are we to our mission to endure ANY challenges let alone things like that?  One of Paul’s last quotes also shows how he objectively evaluated his own performance against that standard: “The time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.”  Wow.  Who can say that about anything they have tried?

I have another favorite finisher – a distance runner named Steve Prefontaine – “Pre.”  Have you heard of him?  Probably not – Pre ran in the early 1970’s.  (Photo Credit: Tony Duffy /Allsport)  His approach to running – his chosen craft – was more about testing his own heart and limits in each race than by merely beating the other runners. Of his many quotes, these three are my favorites:

  1. “To give anything less than your best, is to sacrifice the gift.”
  1. “A lot of people run a race to see who is fastest. I run to see who has the most guts, who can punish himself into exhausting pace, and then at the end, punish himself even more.”
  1. “Somebody may beat me, but they are going to have to bleed to do it.”

If you want to read more about him, go get the book “Pre.”  It’s a somewhat weak bio, but you’ll get the story.  There are also two movies, but they are fairly average (“Without limits” is the better one).  With all the talent in the world, you’d think a great movie or great bio could have been written.  In any case, at least we have these.

It’s easy to get up early, grab a coffee and START anything.  I’ve been in hundreds (literally) of conference rooms, auditoriums, and stadiums where everyone gets pumped up and cheers at the start.  The test is who will be there at the end – finishing strong.  The crowd of finishers is usually small until it’s time to collect bonus checks and then everyone rushes back into the room and claims “Oh, I was there at the beginning.”  The finishers know who carried the load and who the posers are and they don’t last long.

Life has many metaphors that show us the fickle nature of the human heart.  How many sports fans go on stub hub and pay money to get the best seats and arrive early to watch their team warm up?  They want to see their heroes up close.  But many of these same fans leave early when their team is behind.  I’m not talking a regular game in the middle of the season – I’m talking playoff games.  Champions are very, very, very rarely undefeated.  My feeling is that defeats are the best weights to lift in order to become a champion.  You learn from defeats.  Defeats expose weaknesses and clarify opportunities.  Defeats also mold humility and character.  Those who finish strong already know this.

Who are you?  Paul, Pre or a fan leaving early?

The sun is rising – it’s time to rise and shine and find out who you are.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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