Learning to Finish What You Start

Many people start. Fewer finish.finish.jpg

Consider what we begin:

  • A marriage begins with a wedding.
  • A student begins an academic program.
  • A homeowner begins a do-it-yourself project remodeling the family’s kitchen.
  • A person begins a blog.
  • A church member takes on and begins a project for the congregation.

Many people begin. Fewer finish.

This past weekend, our family and some friends gathered in the Lloyd Noble Arena at the University of Oklahoma to support our daughter Jamie, as she received her Master of Social Work degree after several hard years of study and work. As you might imagine, I was a very proud father.

I was especially proud that she had finished.

Years ago, I received a Doctor of Ministry degree from Harding Graduate School of Theology. Shortly after graduation, Ken Dye, a longtime friend, said to me:

“You finished! A lot of people start things, but you finished!”

I especially appreciated this because I once came very close to dropping out of college as an undergraduate at the University of North Texas.

I was a first semester junior and was very discouraged. I was struggling in several of my classes. One day, I decided to quit. I cut my classes that day and went to Dallas in search of another direction. I first went to an electronics school and talked with them. Then I went to a school that trained radio announcers. Finally, I went to the Dallas Police Department.

At the police department, I talked with a person about the application process. Then at the end of the conversation, another officer joined us. This officer was an African-American gentleman in his late 40s. He was dressed in plain clothes, a sportcoat and slacks. He sat across the table from me and smoked his pipe. At one point he said,

“Son, if you are interested in this, we will be glad to talk with you. My suggestion to you, however, would be to finish college. Don’t quit now.”

I didn’t, and to this day I am grateful for this person’s candor.

Before you quit anything:

1. Remember once again why you began this course of action. Remember why you started this degree program. Remember why you got married. Remember why you volunteered for this project.

2. Know that anything worth doing is probably going to be very difficult at times. In fact, there may be moments when you feel stuck. Before you quit, ask yourself, “Is this to be expected?”

3. Many people will exit once something becomes really difficult. Anything worthwhile is going to have its “but-this-is-hard” moments.

4. Seek to make progress just today. Take a step or two forward.

5. Talk with people who have a track record of persevering. Learn from them. Remember that there will be far more people who will give you reasons why you should quit.

6. Pray, thanking God for the ways you can become more Christlike even through a very difficult process.

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  • http://www.wcmn.org Michael E. Grasso

    Great post Jim, as I read this I can’t stop thinking about Jon Acuff and his book Quitter. I guess in your heart you know when you have to quit something. Prayer will be a huge help to discerning if quitting something helps or hurts in the long run.

    • http://www.godhungry.org Jim Martin

      Michael, thanks very much. I need to read Quitter. By the way, I went to your website. Very nice!

  • Connie Lard

    True….one of the most telling signs of maturity is whether a person will finish what he has started. And – yea Jamie! She has done you all proud!

    • Jim Martin

      Connie, thanks. It was a great day for Jamie. We were thrilled for her.

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