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Make More Finish Lines

Posted by Patrick McCrann Aug 13, 2010


Creative Commons License photo credit: basictheory

Have you ever watched a major event like a marathon or Ironman? Not the biased television coverage, but the real deal form the sidelines? It’s powerful to watch thousands of people from all walks of life on a similar journey to complete a physical challenge in one massive attempt to reach the finish.

Out on the course it can be quiet, sometimes quite lonely. I personally prefer to be out on the course. I think it’s inspiring and educational to watch people perform and execute when they aren’t aware of being watched. When they are still fresh and early in their day and have countless options. This is where the nature of their finish is created, far from any finish line.


Have you watched the same events from the finish line?


It’s a tale of two (different) races. Hundreds if not thousands of screaming fans. Signs, banners, lights and music. A steady stream of competitors becoming finishers, hustling down the finishing straight despite hours of suffering. People are transformed, replacing grimaces with smiles. Despite incredible fatigue most raise their arms while others muster a small victory dance or other celebration.

Regardless of the time on the clock, each of these people have successfully complete what they set out to do…and the fans, spectators, and loved ones are there to mark the occasion.


The finish line experience is one of the main reasons people keep coming back. They profess to love the toil of training, the ardor or early morning sessions, the daily rush of endorphins. But nothing is more rewarding than the sensory overload experience that is a race finish line. If you’ve ever completed such an event, you’ll most likely have those memories etched into your brain, into your being.


I think we need more finish lines. Not the massive celebratory ones from races (but that would be funny!), but ones where we can still throw our hands up to the sky and mark the end of a journey.

In a world full of things to do / read / learn / say / process, we are almost entirely focused on the act of doing instead of the state of being done. We are building a culture where action is rewarded, not completion. At some point the emphasis will shift from what we have accomplished to simply being rewarded for doing.


I can’t think of faster way to personal, professional, or social mediocrity.


Here’s how you can make your own finish lines happen:

  • Decide upon a final date to be done. Deadlines make things real.
  • Start with the end in mind. Know what “done” is so when you get there, you can celebrate.
  • Practice celebrating. Pick small achievable milestones. Add up the milestones and soon you’ll be at the finish line. Success is addictive; start training yourself early.
  • Work with others. Solo-preneurs are more likely (thank teams or groups) to just keep going. Even if you don’t have colleagues, share your work with others in your life so they can help you reflect on what you’ve done.
  • Consider scheduled finish lines. Some industries operate by quarter, others on an annual basis. Pick your own cycle and schedule time to step away from the WHAT and focus on the HOW.

Starting something is the hardest step, but it gets easier the better you become at finishing. Build success into how you manage your work / life / play and you’ll find that it’s not only more fun…it’s easier. I’m available for hi-fives and words of encouragement along your journey on Facebook. If you need someone to be at your finishline, just contact me.

Good luck!

~ Patrick

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What side of the river are you on?
Creative Commons License photo credit: WTL photos

Setting goals is one of the most powerful things that you can do as an individual looking to reach a new level of performance, be that on a personal or physical level.  But setting goals isn’t always the only way. Leading bloggers like Leo at Zen Habits and Seth Godin on his regular blog have recently brought their cognitive powers to bear on “goals”, and I want to explore that concept from the perspective of endurance athletics and our focus on lifestyle design here at the ELD Blog. Student first, teacher second…so let’s see what we can learn!

So first, over on Zen Habits in his post entitled “the best goal is no goal,” Leo talks about about not setting goals.  Instead, he suggestes living more passionately and focusing on the now…exactly where you are…and making the most of that. I think that’s a very powerful message, and it strikes me as one that is also somewhat advanced.


Case in point, even though I train and race triathlons and marathons just like many of you, I haven’t followed a training plan in years.  Instead, I use my experience to sync my daily schedule with my goals. This allows me to dial in a workout that both builds my fitness and is fun for me to do.  So, I benefit from that because I’m a more experienced athlete and coach than the average bear.  But, I still have goals.

I think that the type of no goals that Leo is talking about is something that we can all do in various spaces of our life.  I think his primary motivation, and I could be wrong, is that too many people spend a lot of time creating and managing lists of goals and things to do, and that management time sucks the life out of the desire to do things and also sucks your ability as well.

I suffer from the problem myself, and am working towards a much simpler management system. Because the truth is clear: You simply cannot do all the things you need to do if you’re spending your time managing the things that you need to do. Release yourself from this vicious cycle and instead focus your energy on what you can do with what you’ve got!


On the flip side, Seth Goden in the “Problem with Unlimited” talked a little bit about setting goals and what that meant in terms of limits.  So for example, his point was if you said you can only — if <Garbled> maxes out at 1,000 pounds for a bench press, then the odds of someone hitting that limit are pretty high because it gives them a goal to aim for and they can work towards it.  So, from Seth’s perspective, goals are more easily attained when they are defined.

To extrapolate this then, for endurance sports, just setting a goal is powerful because the odds of you reaching it are much higher now that you’ve actually physically stated it. It is worth considering that in Seth’s case he’s talking about external goals being set and achieved as opposed to intrinsic or internal goals. If you can have a defined goal and one that is perhaps even public, the odds of you hitting that goal are much higher than if you had not.

I think that the truly tough conversation is to define whether or not you are setting the right goals? Are you setting challenging goals that are really going to push you to achieve your limits? Are you in charge of achieving these goals or is your success dependent upon others?

Whether or not you subscribe to the “no goals” or “goals as new limits” approach to managing your progress, we are all on that same path of trying to find new means of having a breakthrough performance — whether it’s on the playing field, in the workplace, or at home. At the end of the day, the approach that most resonates with you will ultimately be the most effective.


So which are you:  No Goals or Goals Are New Limits to be Reached? Tell me in teh comments below!

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Patrick McCrann

Patrick McCrann

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