I’ve met many smart, talented and capable people in my life. When I worked in construction, I remember working with a guy who had two computer science degrees but couldn’t get a job for some reason. It seemed odd to me, he spent all this time on his education and never did anything with it.
I quit school in eighth grade, back in Azerbaijan, because I wanted to do something completely different from what I was learning. All my friends continued to receive higher education at prestigious universities and are now unhappy working in a completely unrelated field from what they studied in college.
Why does this happen? Why do the smartest people end up like this? They finish their education with honors from most the prestigious universities and end up living paycheck to paycheck, and have no passion for what they are doing.
I see this scenario more and more as I look around: Someone who finished Harvard with honors starts a job at a big company and wants to move up the ladder. Five years pass and for some odd reason this person has not moved. At the same time, a less educated and less experienced person rises through the ranks much faster as they outpace the Harvard grad. It seems counterintuitive, how could this happen?
I am that uneducated and inexperienced person who outpaces the Harvard grad. I recently wrote about my journey as an inexperienced entrepreneur and how I lost $1.5M and fired close to 100 people.
So, why does this happen?
The reason inexperienced and uneducated people outpace others because they finish what they start. That’s all. It might seem too trivial and boring, but it’s true.
Who cares that you’re talented and educated if you don’t finish what you start? You will never achieve your goal if you don’t finish what you start.
If we are talking about starting a small task, it’s pretty easy to finish it. Obviously, the larger the task or problem, the harder it is to accomplish. Patience, perseverance, and sometimes nerves of steel are what I usually need to finish a task I start.
What does it mean to finish a task 99%? It’s the same as finishing it 1%. Let’s imagine a swimmer who has set a goal to cross a lake. She crosses almost the entire lake but gives up at two feet to the finish. She almost finished and accomplished her goal, but she gave up and did not finish. Isn’t it the same as giving up at the very start of the race? Yes, people will remember her for almost finishing a race, but the bottom line is that she did not finish it.
Just a week ago, I talked about this very idea of finishing what you start at a recent company meeting. I explained that the success of any startup depends on this very ability to be productive.
Here’s a quick example I shared with my team:
If an employee starts working on a task that is possible to accomplish in a day––but doesn’t finish it before leaving the office. He or she might not be as successful in their career as someone who can get their task done.
I am not saying that people should work 12 hours a day or take on ridiculously hard tasks and try to accomplish them in a day. I’m just illustrating a point of how finishing what you start can make or break a startup. You can work for five hours a day and as long as you finish what you start, you’ll succeed and help your startup succeed as well.
How we finish what we start here at Finic
In order to finish tasks you start, you need multiple hours of uninterrupted concentration. If I begin working on a problem and get interrupted in the middle, I lose my concentration and the probability that I will finish this problem decreases.
That is why every employee needs to have uninterrupted time in which they can focus on a given problem and be sure nobody will interrupt them.
At Finic, we just added a new policy to give every employee up to four hours a day during which they cannot be interrupted. Each employee puts up a red color if they cannot be interrupted and blue otherwise. Here’s how it looks:
That’s one of our methods to increase productivity by making it easier for employees to finish what they start.
As a founder of our company, I constantly try to improve the efficiency of our work. I have a number of experiments that we will test at Finic in the coming months, and I’ll share the results in separate posts on this blog. I hope you like them.
I’ll leave you with this: If you want to excel at what you do, learn how to finish what you start.
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