Everyone talks about going the extra mile. But there’s actually something to consider before thinking about going the extra mile. In fact there’s something directly before the extra mile. And that is the last mile. Even from an early age I had the concept of finishing drilled into my brain.
Many of you who know me may not think of me as necessarily athletic. In fact you would probably assume I was your typical computer nerd with glasses during high school and you are mostly correct. I was a computer nerd and I did wear glasses but I also played sports and enjoyed participating in both soccer and basketball during my high school years. This environment helped me mature in team activities and also in other areas of my thinking as well.
As I mentioned one of those concepts has been permanently impressed on my life and affects nearly every aspect of my daily life. I hinted at it above but let me give you a little more detail about why the concept of finishing sticks with me so thoroughly.
It was a hot summer afternoon and we were running sprints. Back and forth we plodded across the dead remnants of a soccer field, the lush grass long since withered and faded under the blistering unforgiving summer sun. Goal line to the box, back to the goal line, forward to the half, back to the goal line. Repeat. To his credit the coach would run with us, encouraging us, cheering us on, cracking jokes, pushing us. When finally we were allowed to collapse exhausted onto the needle-like surface of the battlefield he would remain standing. We knew he was spent, clearly he had to be, in our youthful eyes he was ancient and yet he stood. He stood because as he would go on to tell us, it’s not whether or not we played the first 80 minutes impeccably, but how we played the final 10; the last 1. Standing rather than collapsing. Finishing the game. But not merely finishing; finishing strong. That was only the first of many lessons on the value of finishing.
Every game would begin with a huddled mass of excited, adrenaline-filled fists jammed into a circle before being thrust heavenward with the battle-cry of “Finish!” More importantly ever content, regardless of victory or defeat, was ended with the same ritual. Some times the cry was painful as loss still echoed in our heads. Other times the anthem rang out embodied with every goal and winning moment of the latest success. But always, “Finish.”
The lesson taught has gone on long past those summer evenings. Gone are the game-day lights and the glory of a sports conquest. But the concept of finishing continues on. Just as my coach had always envisioned, he was doing more than teaching us to play. He was teaching us how to live.
In a world where “going the extra mile” is praised and celebrated and where going above and beyond is rewarded with accolades and commendations, we too often lose the value of finishing. There is tremendous benefit and something to be said for finishing strong. Before worrying about going above and beyond, and before thinking about the next big step you could take, focus on finishing well. Create finished products. Deliver work done excellently. There is extreme value in the last mile.