Book Discussion: Finish, Part 4 – The Day before Done and Perfectionism’s Final Roadblocks

What if deep down you are afraid of achieving a goal? Could the fear of success be the very thing that motivates you to abandon your goal? What could you be getting by not finishing?

With the finish line in sight, perfectionism throws up its final roadblocks. To reach the end, we must address the fears of what’s next, what now, and the fear of things not being perfect once we achieve the goal. We can also architect a work environment and choose a data collection method to support positive progress based on previous successes and failures.

In episode 275, we’re joined by guest host Jason Gass to discuss the following chapters from Finish by Jon Acuff and provide some final thoughts as this series comes to a close:

  • Chapter 7: Use Data to Celebrate Your Imperfect Progress
  • Chapter 8: The Day before Done

Original Recording Date: 04-07-2024

Topics – A Book Discussion Series, How You Work Best and Some is Better than Perfect, Chapter 8: The Day before Done, Final Thoughts

A Book Discussion Series

  • This is part 3 of a book discussion series centered on Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done by Jon Acuff.
    • If you missed part 1 of our discussion, check out Episode 272.In that first episode we discussed the following topics:
      • Reasons Jason Gass (our special guest host in this series) recommended the book
      • Chapter 1 – The Day after Perfect
      • Chapter 2 – Cut Your Goal in Half
    • If you missed part 2 of our discussion, check out Episode 273. In that second episode in the series we discussed:
      • Chapter 3 – Choose What to Bomb
      • Chapter 4 – Make It Fun if You Want It Done
      • Chapter 5 – Leave Your Hiding Places and Ignore Noble Obstacles
    • If you missed part 3 of our discussion, check out Episode 274. In that third episode in the series we discussed:
      • Chapter 6 – Get Rid of Your Secret Rules
      • Chapter 7 – Use Data to Celebrate Your Imperfect Progress

3:34 – How You Work Best and Some is Better than Perfect

  • The next section discussed the idea of learning how you work best. John says this is more of a focused example of answering questions about the last time you tried a goal and whether you were successful or not.
    • Acuff gives the example of people working well on planes. It may not be that for all of us. What specifically about the environment of being on a plane led to success? We can brainstorm on that for a second.
      • Maybe it was the set start and end time, a poor internet connection, white noise, ease of focusing on work instead of socialization, etc.
    • For Nick it was helpful to work at a Starbucks. What was it about the coffee shop that led to more progress toward a goal than perhaps working at home did?
      • Maybe it was the ground coffee smell, the white noise of background chatter, no television in walking distance to act as a distraction, the unlikelihood of running into someone Nick knows, working from a single screen, etc.
      • Maybe Nick could re-create part of that environment from Starbucks at home or when working from somewhere else (the sounds, the smells, etc.).
    • Jason mentions the day before a vacation and our ability to complete an incredible amount of work during the week before the vacation. When we have that time bound accomplishment with deadline like an upcoming vacation, we will prioritize a lot differently. Jason encourages us to notice how this happens.
      • As the deadline approaches, we might have to deflect some things.
      • John emphasizes the need to use data to make adjustments, giving the example of how a runner can do this. If we know our progress and our deadline it helps us make decisions about where to spend our time (i.e. choosing not to engage in small talk, etc.).
      • Nick says capturing data doesn’t mean you built a spreadsheet. Everyone will do some sort of data analysis when they need to prioritize tasks.
    • Nick thinks there is a misconception that in order to capture and take action on data it has to be hard. In fact, that might just be his own secret rule! Nick also admits long term tracking of data is what he struggles with the most.
      • Jason mentions smart watches and Garmin devices that will track data and upload it for you automatically. He suggests Nick find a way to track the data that is both easy and as automated as possible.
      • John would state Nick’s secret rule as “in order for data collection to be valid it has to be difficult.” Nick agrees that this sounds accurate. Maybe he just needs to collect data from a Starbucks!
      • Jason mentions it is easy for him to see how many meals he got from Green Chef this week or this month. It’s already tracked for him just like he could easily track how much he spent going to a restaurant or a McDonald’s by looking at checking account transactions.
      • We should consider the easiest way to collect the data we want. Jason gives the example of collecting data on step counts in an automated way. You can collect that data from merely having your cell phone in your pocket. It would not even require buying a smart watch to track this. While the data collected this way may not be perfectly accurate, it is better than collecting no data. It will be pretty close and can still be used to show progress.
      • John says we should get rid of the attitude that collecting data isn’t worth doing if it cannot be perfect.
      • Does Nick have double secret rules that data collection has to be thorough (or difficult) and that it has to be perfect?
      • “Don’t wait until the squirrels come home. Data kills denial, which prevents disaster. Perfection will tell you that your data must be complicated. If you dare to gather some, it will have you tracking every ounce of water, second of time, vowels used in a book you’re writing. Don’t.” – Jon Acuff
      • Acuff emphasizes keeping the data simple so it does not become a distraction that prevents you from accomplishing your goal. Nick agrees he has some work to do there.

10:26 – Chapter 8: The Day before Done

  • John says Nick brought this up earlier. As you get near the finish, things will crop up that once again distract you from your goal.
  • Why do starters have a hard time with the day before done? The day before done is terrifying." – Jon Acuff
  • Perfectionism can cause fear of accomplishing the goal as a final effort to keep us from achieving what we want.
    • Jason says we can let our goals define us. When you are working toward a goal or a project or a task, it might be something you talk about and socialize to others. Once that goal / project / task is complete, what will you talk about? Upon finishing, you are no longer defined by the work you were doing or the job you had, for example.
    • Take the example of reaching retirement. People struggle with how to define themselves once they retire. If you were a successful business person before retirement, are you someone who drinks coffee and plays golf now?
  • The book speaks to 3 explicit fears. Those who quit a goal shortly after starting (i.e. in the first few days) may not realize they will face these fears when very close to finishing a goal.
    • The fear of what happens next
    • The fear that it won’t be perfect when you accomplish the goal
    • The fear of what now
  • John talked about Nick getting ideas for new episodes as the editing process for a an episode is nearly finished.
    • Nick mentioned the fears of what next / what now align very well to our dreaming in bands episode (Episode 19). It can happen when you work hard to achieve your dream job but do not know what to target once you achieve it.
    • “You have to understand what’s the next step, and just because you accomplished this one thing doesn’t mean that there isn’t a next step.” – John White
    • This applies to the person who retires as well. It doesn’t mean the person who reaches retirement cannot have a new goal because they made it there. It just might be a different kind of goal.
      • Jason has known people who have retired and spent their extra time volunteering at specific organizations, for example. Now those people own their time rather than an employer owning it, and they can engage in additional meaningful pursuits.
    • Jason emphasizes the importance of writing down the ideas we get at the last minute before finishing a goal and putting them off to the side temporarily. It’s a way to keep ourselves from getting distracted but keep the excitement. We now have a list of ideas to refer back to later.
      • The human mind isn’t great at retaining things long term. Writing things down in in a place you can reference later is extremely important. Jason gives the example of forgetting a restaurant he would like to visit by the next time he and his wife are ready to go out to eat.
      • Jason emphasizes writing things down on a physical medium to help us remember things. He likes to use a journal, for example. There we go back to tracking data again!
      • John suggests we can store the data close to where we need to make a decision. Years ago this would be like keeping copies of take out menus from different restaurants in a drawer. John likes to use Google Maps to track restaurants he would like to visit, and in the notes section he will write down who told him about it and when. This system makes it easy to look up a place when someone wants to meet him for lunch, for example.
      • Regardless of what system we use, we record the information in a place and in a way in which we can use the data.
  • How do you get past the 3 final fears of perfectionism?
    • A crisis cannot be scheduled (health crisis or other). One of these will happen to you.
    • An accountability point, however, is much easier to control. That point of accountability should be someone else with whom you share your goal.
      • Acuff also recommends avoiding having someone we refer to as a guru (sort of like Morgan Freeman’s role in the movie Shawshank Redemption).
      • There’s an example in the book about an artist who was shredding their art after creating it until a friend told them to stop.
        • Having a friend who can help us objectively break the habit of abandoning our goals is extremely helpful.
        • Jason stresses the importance of friends being able to provide an outside perspective and give honest feedback on what we might need to change.
    • What could you be getting out of not finishing?
      • Jason found this one interesting, pointing out the opportunity cost. This goes back to self-reflection and the emphasis on why we are working on the goal. We can think about why we might be self-sabotaging and preventing those last few steps across the finish line.
      • There were 3 possibilities posited in the book of what we could be getting out of not finishing (not meant to be exhaustive):
        • Control of the outcome – certainty of failure compared to uncertainty of what happens when you finish
        • Praise for being a martyr
        • Lowered expectations from other people – what if you succeed and now people expect you to do stuff?
      • John references this quote from the book as a rather interesting attitude -“I’d rather occasionally surprise people with what I can do rather than build up a reputation of success.”
      • Maybe you’re getting something else out of not finishing not in the above list like the ability to binge watch TV shows or a lack of accountability, for example.

22:22 – Final Thoughts

  • Each chapter has clear thesis statements, a number of anecdotes throughout, and a list of actions at the end.
    • “Each chapter has a nice little bow wrapped around it for you to go forth and do better.” – John White
  • Overall, John had a positive reaction to reading the book and believed the points being made within it.
    • The book did not claim to be exhaustive or to have every part backed by a major study.
    • John will be incorporating a number of the practices and frameworks into his own life.
  • Jason says he’s addicted to buying books at Half Price Books and bought the book for 3 dollars.
    • “It’s definitely one of the most impactful books that I’ve ever read because…I was awful at starting things but never finishing them. And when I read this book…it really did speak to me, so much that I started talking to everyone else about it. I started buying books for people…because I recognized that it could help them.” – Jason Gass
    • Jason likes the simple format of the book. He now implements a lot of the recommendations in the book. In the past year he has accomplished a noticeable amount of goals, even mentioning some goals people he knew thought he might never finish.
    • The book helped Jason realize that some of the faults he thought were his alone are in fact common to many of us. The advice in the book really does help you accomplish more of your goals.
  • Nick really enjoyed reading the book and loves Acuff’s writing style. It was an easy listen on Audible.
    • He can identify with so many of the things in the book and will be much more mindful of them now. Identifying these things as issues allows us to take action on them.
    • Nick says there were a number of tasks he completed after reading the book, many of which were on his whiteboard as to-do items for what he feels was way too long before achieving completion.
  • John adds that the concepts are presented in a way which is very easy to digest. But each topic has depth and allows one to get more granular if you would like.
    • Choosing what to bomb for example is all about prioritizing and gives you some ideas on how to do that. But you can spend the rest of your life trying to improve prioritization methodologies. We should not pretend that the book is exhaustive, and the other does not pretend it is either.
    • John sees the book as a great kickstart for accomplishing goals and tasks. It opens up a whole new genre for us to explore.
  • “You’re never going to finish getting better at finishing.” – Nick Korte
  • Should we do more book review shows? Please let us know what you think!
  • Jason has given conference talks on his experiences being part of Toastmasters. He is now considering doing some presentations based on the principles discussed in Finish.

Mentioned in the Outro

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