When Are You Finished? Don't Chase the Line.

27 January, 2012 06:43PM · 2 minute read

Lately I’ve been wondering when you are finished. So long as there is imagination, so long is no such thing as perfection, so long as someone believes there has to be a better way, nobody will ever be finished anything.

On a given project there is a specification (or hopefully there is some kind of design direction) and the job is costed, project awarded and a person or company starts working on that project to meet the specification. Then the project is finished or nearly so, and the arguments begin. The specification was too broad: the person/company doing the project has excluded some items from its scope of work but not enough. The customer points out defects with the job, adds functionality where they can and then, begrudgingly they hand over final completion and the end of defects. The customer looks around their shiny new device/plant and then start thinking about how to make it better and plan the next upgrade. Next time it will be quicker, smoother and less painful, right?

The truth is that this applies to pretty much everything. People set themselves a goal. What happens when you achieve that goal? I want to be the fastest runner in my school. Then when you are, you want to be the fastest runner in your state. Then when you are, you want to be the fastest runner in your country. Then when you are, you want to be the fastest runner in the world. Is there more? What if you were wrong all along and you just enjoyed running: what about marathons? How many will you run? Will you ever be finished?

The key point seems to be that nothing is truly finished, but the finish line can keep moving. The trick is stopping that line from moving away from you - whether you have control of the line or not, you can still choose to chase or to ignore it.¬†Being happy with the current state of your progress toward a goal is a better way to define completion. If you don’t do that, you’ll forever we worrying about the fact you haven’t achieved your goal and you feel like it is unfinished. Define the finish line if you can. If it moves, don’t chase it endlessly - redefine the line and stop when you reach it.

If you always chase the line, you will never be finished, anything, ever.