Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Smart Entrepreneur's Guide to Finishing What You Started

Anybody can start.

Starting cost little money.
Starting involves limited risk.
Starting requires minimal stamina.

But starting isn’t how you win.

You only win when you execute to completion.

And that’s the big problem: Execution is uncomfortable and inconvenient.

Today you’re going to learn how to finish.

Whatever project you’re working on, whatever endeavor you’re committed to and whatever idea you’re drumming up, here’s how to lean into the tape. Here’s how to finish:

1. Develop a relentless bias toward action. This requires a major attitudinal shift. Consider these ideas for initiating the change. First, surround yourself with reminders of the beauty of action. Post sticky notes, messages or signs that read, “Action is eloquence,” or “Those who ship, win.”

Second, surround yourself with people whose bias toward action inspires you. Build edit-ability (not just accountability, but edit-ability) into your relationships. Ask each other what you’ve finished recently. You could even each other every Friday at five with a list of the things you’ve finished that week.

Finally, surround yourself with evidence of your achievements. Post your goals where you can see them every day. Then, once you finish, grab a Sharpie and write, “I did it!” atop each one. How will you develop an attitude of action?

2. Flex the muscle of why. Customers buy why – not what or how. The final product merely gives life to your cause, your mission and your currency. Sadly, too many entrepreneurs begin with a flawed assumption. They don’t know why they’re doing what they’re doing. Or, they know why they’re doing what they’re doing, and it’s the wrong why.

Either way, starting with the wrong questions means even the right answers will still steer you in the wrong direction. Without flexing your why muscle, you set the whole process in motion into the wrong direction. And with ever step you take, the finish line fades farther and farther away. What’s your strategy for keeping your why alive?

3. Silence the voice of no. People and companies with a history of not finishing need to lower the volume on the voices inside their heads. In a recent presentation, Seth Godin illustrated this point perfectly, “People don’t ship because their lizard brain says, “They’re all gonna laugh at you!’”

Your challenge is to recognize those voices and devise a strategy for overcoming their primal powers. My suggestion is to smile every time your lizard brain takes the stage. Nothing will piss it off more. Except maybe when you finish. What voice are you listening to that’s causing you to swiftly abandon things?

4. Breathe through the pain. During some of the longer postures in Bikram Yoga, I frequently find myself struggling to finish. It’s amazing how long sixty seconds feels when you’re doing a full backbend in 110° heat.

Fortunately, I discovered the secret to finishing. And you can apply this principle on the yoga mat, in your life struggles or to your business ventures. Let your body do the one thing it naturally does best: Breathe. There’s no better way to recenter yourself.

Plus, breathing helps you reignite momentum from a relaxed, non-destructive space. Most people lose touch with their breathe. Then they clumsily plunge forward from a place of contraction and fear. No wonder they never finish. How’s your breathing?

5. Adopt agile development. I read an enlightening blog post on How to Finish Big Projects. They used the software industry as the quintessential example:

“All software developers use a method they crazily call Agile Software Development, aka, ASD. They build a releasable product within weeks. Then, they build outward to create successively bigger product releases. The first releasable product has the most important stuff done. They'll term it Version 0.1. Next, they'll expand that version outward with additional features and term it Version 0.2. Gradually, the successive small releases ultimately form one juicy-good completed software item. Completo.”

Lesson learned: Focus on the most important component of your project first. You can fill in the holes later. Is enough as good as a feast for your company?

6. Limitation is the springboard to completion. The word “finish” comes from the Latin finire, which means, “To set boundaries.” Call it a deadline. Call it a limit. Whatever floats your creative boat. The point is to have a definite moment when you give yourself a swift kick in the ass and declare, “The hay is in the barn.”

Otherwise Parkinson’s Law – that work expands to fill the amount of time given to accomplish it – will eat you (and your idea) alive. Remember: Finished is the new perfect. How much longer are you going to wait before shipping something that’s never going to be perfect anyway?

7. When the finish line is in plain site, look out. Every time I go swimming, I conveniently develop a burning cramp during my 40th lap. Right in the calf muscle. Hurts like hell. But I always laugh it off. I know it’s just resistance coming to get me.

Nice try. Too bad I learned my lesson from The War of Art: “The danger is great when the finish line is in site. At this point, resistance knows we’re about to beat it. It hits the panic button. It marshals one last assault and slams us with everything it’s got.”

Don’t get complacent. No high stepping with ten yards to go. Stay focused. Otherwise the resistance will slap that pigskin out of your hand and cause a fumble at the one-yard line. Are you giving up one percent too early?

REMEMBER: Woody Allen was wrong.

80% of life isn’t showing up – it’s following through.

I know it’s inconvenient.
I know it’s uncomfortable.
I know it’s harder than starting.

But those who ship, win.

Go finish something.

How are you executing to completion?

For the list called, "27 Ways to OUT the Competition," send an email to me, and I'll send you the list for free!

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Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mentor

Never the same speech twice.
Always about approachability.

Watch The Nametag Guy in action here!