A Few Words About Starting and Ending …

Doing Nothing - Gratisography

Ending is as important as beginning … maybe more so. 

Personally, I have no problem starting something.  Some days, I start many things.  I can even start a new thing while still starting an older thing.  I have well-developed skills around the art of starting things  …


We engage our brains and create wonderful images of “What It Will Be Like When We Do This”.  We talk and imagine what our lives will be like when we do this thing.   We create images of how things will be, once we have done what we say we are going to do.  This is why we post pictures of really fit (and usually much younger) people on our refrigerator doors at the beginning of a diet or exercise program.

Creating highly visual mental images is important, because this in turn motivates and excites us.  It’s great fun to imagine what might be …


Ending is difficult for many of us.  I am not really sure why this is so, but I have much anecdotal evidence that it is so, and could probably find empirical evidence to support this as well … if I can stop starting things long enough to actually do something, like research the realities of starting and stopping.

Ending involves actually doing the work, but more importantly, ending is the end of the dreams.  All we have left when we complete a project is the reality of what we did or did not actually do. This dash of “cold water” is often not as exciting or perfect as the images which first fired us up about the thing we did or at least wanted to do.

Pope Julius II:  When will you make an end?

Michelangelo:  When I am finished!

~ Repeated dialogue from The Agony and the Ecstasy starring Charlton Heston as Michelangelo and Rex Harrison as Pope Julius II.


I’ll talk more about the middle (after we start and before we end) later this week.  Right now, let’s pin down this “ending” thing.  I have some quick suggestions:


State the outcomes, the results, what will change, what will be different when you finish a project or task.  I am often surprised that people do not do this when planning or attempting a change.  Sometimes you just have to recognize the end.


Look at those rosy pictures from starting and come to peace with the idea that you actually may not get what you want or thought you would get, let alone “what you need”, as the song says.


This vision should incorporate what is, rather than what you wanted or dreamed of.   Incorporate what is into your life and then plan to move forward from where you are, rather than pine for where you thought you would be.

NOTE:  I know some of you (talking to my friends who persistently insist that positive thinking makes all things possible) are not happy with this one.   “Sorry about that”, but we all have to live in an imperfect world.  Yes, things can be better and we should always strive for improvement and even perfection, but endlessly striving for perfection or nothing only makes us sad when we wake up in the same imperfect world.

As leaders, we owe our followers to actually lead them through the entire change process.  To show up only for the “fun stuff” or to expect miracles without consideration of reality is not effective leadership.  We just have to be more mindful of all the parts of change and transition.

To end this on a somewhat more optimistic note:  

Everything will be all right in the end… if it’s not all right then it’s not yet the end.”

~ Sonny in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011)

Trying to learn how to finish what I start in the Heartland ….




First Image:  Gratisography

Wikipedia entry for The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965).   In the film, Michelangelo is tasked by Pope Julius II to paint murals to glorify God on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the 16th Century.  Doing so creates an epic struggle spanning years of hard work, strife, disillusion, and pain for Michelangelo.   I recommend it for your weekend viewing.  I know it certainly impressed this teenage farm boy.