Monday, June 21, 2010

Unpopular Virtues: Finishing

Making Monday

There's an interesting disparity in life. Have you ever noticed that there are shelves of books about getting a job, but none at all about leaving? We're endlessly fascinated with starting relationships--we have songs, articles, books, etc. about falling in love--but very little advice about ending them. The only major exception is contract law, where a substantial portion of the agreement covers the ways in which the contractual relationship might be ended.

Why are we more interested in beginnings than endings?

Beginnings are exciting: everything is possible and it's hard to imagine anything but the best outcomes. Endings are the opposite because the realities of the situation--the failings, the shortcomings, and the disappointments--are now all too clear. This is true whether we're talking about a relationship or a project.

All too often, I've watched enthusiasm for a project (particularly from executives) melt away near the mid point when both the limitations and the true cost of their brilliant initiative become apparent.

Tied closely with the virtue of responsibility, makers have the fortitude to finish what they've started. (Indeed, they ofter have to finish what others have started.) And finishing, for makers, includes not only pushing the project to completion, but also putting the tools away and cleaning up the shop.

There are a number of things that impel makers to finish. One of the main motives is integrity, both on the part of the maker and, more importantly, for the thing itself: to be finished is to be complete.

 Image: Bill Longshaw /