Finish (Jon Acuff)

Have you ever noticed that’s it’s easy to start a project or goal, but hard to finish? In the best-seller Finish, author Jon Acuff, reveals something surprising: it’s not that we’re lazy or don’t try hard enough. It turns out the most effective exercises are not those that push people to work harder. The ones that get people to the finish line do just the opposite—they take the pressure off. It turns out the sneakiest obstacle to meeting your goals is not laziness, but perfectionism.

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Year after year, readers pulled author Jon Acuff aside at events and said, “I’ve never had a problem starting. I’ve started a million things, but I never finish them. Why can’t I finish?”  The author thought the reason he couldn’t finish his own goals was because he didn’t try hard enough. He says: So I started getting up earlier. I drank enough energy drinks to kill a horse. I hired a life coach and ate more superfoods. Nothing worked.

Then, while leading a thirty-day online course to help people work on their goals, Jon Acuff learned something surprising: The most effective exercises were not those that pushed people to work harder. The ones that got people to the finish line did just the opposite—they took the pressure off. It turns out the sneakiest obstacle to meeting your goals is not laziness, but perfectionism.

The strategies in this book are counterintuitive and might feel like cheating. You might not guess that having more fun, eliminating your secret rules, and choosing to bomb on something intentionally works. But the data says otherwise.

If you’re tired of being a chronic starter and want to become a consistent finisher, you have two options: You can continue to beat yourself up and try harder, since this time that will work. Or you can give yourself the gift of done.


Show notes

In this episode, you’ll learn...

  • Why starting is easy but finishing is hard

  • That we think our problems are being lazy, not trying hard enough, or getting up early enough… but the real problem is aiming for PERFECT

  • Why we put too much emphasis on beginning and maintaining a “perfect streak”

  • How to embrace imperfection by acknowledging it won’t kill you and developing an tolerance for it

  • How to fight perfectionism and make finishing easier by:

    • Cutting your goal in half, and/or

    • Doubling your timeline

    • …If you don’t want to do either, ask yourself: What’s the worst that could happen?

  • How to reclaim more time and energy to work on your goal by choosing what to bomb and what to simplify

  • How to make a goal more enjoyable — and more likely you’ll finish it — by making it fun

  • How to understand what motivates you personally so you can use rewards and/or fear to help you stay on track to finishing

  • Why you should be aware of your Hiding Places and Noble Obstacles and how perfectionism will try to distract you with these two roadblocks to the finish line

    • Hiding Places are activities you focus on instead of your goal (often require little energy and/or masquerade as productivity)

    • Noble Obstacles are virtuous-sounding reasons for not working toward a finished goal. There are two kinds:

      • The “Until” Noble Obstacle — You cannot move toward your goal until you do something else, i.e. I can’t clean out the garage until we have a yard sale first.

      • The “If…Then” Noble Obstacle — Reaching your goal will produce bad results or make you a bad person, i.e. If I become an entrepreneur, then I’ll become a “workaholic” and end up divorced.

  • How to identify your “Secret Rules”

    • Perfectionism tries to get us to follow “secret rules.”  They are sometimes called limiting beliefs or baggage, for example:

      • For something to count, it has to be difficult.

      • Success is bad.

      • I don't deserve better.

    • Why we may need to destroy and replace our secret rules in order to move forward

  • Why you should use data to celebrate your imperfect progress and keep you motivated to finishing.

  • There are many points of data you could measure (23 in the book!) like dollars saved, dates with a partner, hours slept, bad foods avoided, miles run, debt paid off, thank you notes mailed

  • Why the day before done is terrifying, and how to face the 3 final fears of perfectionism:

    • The fear of what happens next

    • The fear it won’t be perfect and amazing

    • The fear of “what now?”

  • Why perfectionism will try to get you to go it alone — and why you should “phone a friend” instead

  • That the future belongs to finishers!

Bookmarked activity

First, Choose a Goal! Next…

Think of a goal you’re working toward now, or one you’ve always wanted to take on but were afraid you would fail to finish. Can you cut the goal in half?  What about doubling the timeline?

Then, don’t forget to think about what you might choose to bomb or simplify on your path forward — and how you’ll stay aware of your hiding places, noble obstacles, and secret rules.

Other fun stuff referenced

Share your takeaways

If you’ve read this book, we’d love to hear about it! Let us know if you’ve set a goal for yourself to finish or had any aha moments by emailing us at You can also leave us a voicemail at 929-515-BOOK (2665).


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