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Book Review: Finish: Give Yourself The Gift of Done by Jon Acuff
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Book Review: Finish: Give Yourself The Gift of Done by Jon Acuff - Executive Leadership Articles

Book Review: Finish: Give Yourself The Gift of Done by Jon Acuff

Executive Leadership Articles

Book Review: Finish: Give Yourself The Gift of Done by Jon Acuff

Two years and one day ago, we reviewed in this space a book by Jon Acuff called Do Over: Rescue Monday, Reinvent Your Work, and Never Get Stuck. A treatise on starting over with the accumulated job-skill resources we’ve earned the hard way, through experience and ambition, we recommended Acuff’s book mostly because it was a good read. We liked how quick he was with a funny anecdote, adding, “and although he seems to be slightly in love with his own writing, most readers will find the narrative voice easy to work with and enjoyable to read.”

Acuff’s new book, published just this week, is similar in tone and style, and therefore is worth a pickup based solely on the author’s writing. However, there’s a content layer here that puts it a step above. In Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done (Portfolio, 2017), Acuff addresses the very real (and very relatable) problem of not finishing the many great projects and goals we take on. We get amped about a new life-change, even envisioning ourselves during and after the great change, but then three weeks in, and we’ve already given up, perhaps to move on to the next ambitious project.

In his serious but playful style, Acuff confesses to the same tendencies, saying:

My garage is also a mausoleum to almost. There’s the telescope (used five times), the fishing pole (used three times), and the snowboard with a season pass to a local mountain (used zero times). And who can forget the moped I bought three years ago and rode a total of twenty-two miles! I didn’t even title or register it. I live off the grid. The grid of done.

Fitness goals, personal goals, relationship goals, and professional goals: they’re all susceptible to what Acuff identifies as the real problem, revealed in research conducted by someone else on Acuff’s own self-improvement 30-day plan: perfectionism. The adage of perfect being the enemy of done holds true and is backed by evidence. Acuff says the real goal is not to get started, but to focus on being done. With almost anything. “That’s why people won’t start a new goal,” he writes. “They’d rather get a zero than a fifty. They believe perfect is the only standard, and if they can’t hit it they won’t even take the first step.”

Now, in his 30-day plan, he strongly advises his followers to cut the goal in half. Whatever the goal is, if cutting it in half is possible (sometimes it’s not, as with taking prescribed medication, or paying off a loan), Acuff says cutting the original goal in half accomplishes two important things: first, it makes achieving something possible in such a way that we feel good about it. Second, it makes us more likely not only to finish, but to continue with a new goal, perhaps a new goal that completes the original ambition.

Acuff also suggests we just accept that for a time, while we take on a new challenge, we’re going to be terrible at something. This may mean letting the lawn go (his personal example) or not seeing friends socially for a while. Adding more time to a new thing always means taking time away from something else, meaning we’re just going to have to be bad at whatever we take it away from.

The general advice is that if we hope to get anything done, we have to accept that we’re going to have a few stumbling blocks along the way and we’re going to fail, at least in terms of the perfection we have in mind. Acuff walks us through the process, with a whole chapter dedicated specifically to business goals. For chronic non-finishers (which appears to be more than 90% of us, based on his own data), he explains how his messy approach, with forgiveness and forbearancesep_ built into the process, can result in accomplishing far more than the original perfect goal. It’s not about getting up earlier, powering through, chugging energy drinks and coffee, or keeping our eyes on the finish line, he says. It’s about understanding ourselves as imperfect beings--human beings--and structuring our situations for success, rather than near-certain failure as most of our new year’s resolutions do.

A highly effective read, Jon Acuff’s new book will inspire you to aim lower, paradoxically leading to more success. At a very comfortable 194 pages, it’s practical, entertaining, inspiring, and motivating in a way many books on the same shelf never quite achieve.


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Book Review: Finish: Give Yourself The Gift of Done by Jon Acuff - Executive Leadership Articles

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