Book Review – “Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done” by Jon Acuff

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for free from the author in exchange for my honest review.

If you’re anything like me, you like to start stuff.  Whether it’s an online class in computer programming, a new hobby, or a lifestyle change you read about online, you’re all about it!  The problem is, if you’re anything like me, starting is usually about as far as it goes.  Maybe the first couple of weeks are full steam ahead, but something happens around that third week or so, and whatever you’re working on gets put on the shelf along with all the other well-intentioned failures.  There must be a lot of us out there, because best-selling author Jon Acuff has written a book for us.

Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done” is sort of an anti-productivity book in the name of better productivity.  Confused?  I was at first, too.  Don’t you need to encourage people to get up off the couch, work hard around the clock, and keep the coffee industry thriving if you want them to get something done?  Maybe not.  Turns out, a lot of us don’t have a problem with starting things that interest us.  Most of us have a problem when it comes to setting realistic goals, focusing on too much at once, and chickening out once we get too close to success.  We don’t need help with the starting line, we need help with the finish line.

Counter-intuitive Success

As I said above, “Finish” has some counter-intuitive suggestions for helping us across that finish line that actually make a lot of sense once you really think about them.  Two examples: Cut your goal in half, and Choose what to bomb.  Simply put, we’re not the superheroes we would like to be.  We just can’t do everything the world wants us to do, and the sooner we realize that and learn to say “no,” the more likely we are to succeed at what we say “yes” to.  Losing 100 pounds is certainly awe-inspiring, but is losing only 75 really a failure?  Are we supposed to throw in the towel if we only cut down from one pack of cigarettes a day to one a week, as opposed to quitting completely?  We set goals for ourselves that certainly seem heroic, but then cast ourselves as the villain if we don’t make them, regardless of the progress we actually made.  Acuff’s solution is to cut the goal in half, down to something that may not seem quite as applause-worthy, but is manageable.  Once we meet that, we’re much more likely to continue going, which makes us more likely to succeed.

Along with our overly lofty goals, we often just try to do too much.  We can’t get the kids to soccer practice and band practice, work two jobs, meet for bible study twice a week, invest time in our spouse, keep up with all the housework, and keep up with the local Pokemon Go team while still expecting to learn how to code or write a blog.  We just can’t.  Trying to do it all anyway inevitably ends up in frustration and letting people down.  Be honest up front and learn to recognize when your plate is too full, and you’ll be able to finish what’s already on it much more easily.  Choose what to bomb, as Acuff puts it, and own the fact that you’re just not going to do all the things you’d like to do.  Do fewer things really well and all the way rather than kind of doing all the things.

Noble Obstacles and Hiding Places

As the book progresses, Acuff gets really creepy, and I mean that in the best way possible.  As the chapters passed, I had to keep flipping back to the introduction to see if he had somehow dedicated the entire book to me because of how well he nailed all of my behaviors and tendencies.  I was part of a pre-launch group for the book on Facebook, and many, many others of us felt the same way.  The most uncanny revelations about myself that I read were those of noble obstacles and hiding places.  Noble obstacles are those that we tell ourselves we have to overcome in order to really succeed with whatever our goal is.  A year ago, before I started this blog, I thought I had to have months of content lined up.  I thought I needed a network of other bloggers to help promote my writing already in place.  I thought I needed to have a perfect roadmap of where I wanted to take the site before I’d even picked a name.  Oh, and I needed to research, craft, and trademark the perfect name, complete with logo, banner graphics, and email signatures.  If I had listened to all those obstacles, noble as they may sound, I’d never be here over a year later with almost 70 posts written and published.

Also standing in the way of the finish line are our endless hiding places.  Hiding places are where you go when perfectionism begins to creep in and eats away at your motivation to finish.  Have you ever been working on a really important project, and you know the deadline is tomorrow, but somehow Facebook keeps pulling you away?  That’s a hiding place.  What about when you’re supposed to be working on that new book draft and– oh, look at all these papers on the counter that have to be organized and scanned!  Yep, hiding place.  Acuff helps us identify our hiding places so that we can call them out, return to focusing on stuff that matters, and get it done.

A Spoonful of Sugar…

If you’re familiar with Acuff’s work (“Quitter,” “Do Over,” “Start”), you’ll instantly recognize his off-the-wall humor which almost makes you forget you’re reading a self-help book.  I don’t know how many of these types of books I’ve tried to read, only to be left wanting to claw my eyes out because of how dry and robotic they are, but that’s refreshingly not the case with “Finish.”  The book clocks in at just under 200 pages, and those pages go fast.  Most importantly, it leaves you ready to get up and go.  I think a lot of motivational books make you feel inadequate in your efforts prior to reading, even if you’re working yourself to death trying to “get it all done.”  They always want us to do more, faster, and more heroically.  Acuff takes a more human-centered approach.  He helps his readers understand that in order to get it all done, we may need to shrink the “all” a little bit, and there’s no shame in that.  We’re not computers that can continuously chip away at an infinite number of projects equally until everything is done.  We humans are a lot more efficient when we’re working on one thing at a time, and Acuff helps us harness that focused power to cross the finish line, over and over again.

“Finish” will be released on September 12, 2017, but if you pre-order before then at his website, you get lots of cool extras like a video course and a workbook to go along with the book.  If you’re already pretty good at starting a bunch of things, but not so good at actually seeing those things through to completion, pick up “Finish” and shrink that to-do list a little bit.

Buy/Borrow/Pass?  Buy.  “Finish” and its predecessor, “Start,” are two books that have done what no other self-help books have been able to do for me so far: gotten me to change my behavior.  Because of that, they’re both earning a spot on my bookshelf, and I think they’d be a good addition to yours as well.

About the Author

photo courtesy of Penguin Random House

Jon Acuff is a consultant, blogger, public speaker, social media whiz, and the author of Stuff Christians LikeThe New York Times bestseller Start, and The Wall Street Journalbestseller Quitter. He has sixteen years of branding and marketing experience with companies such as The Home Depot, Chick-fil-A, Bose, and Staples. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee.

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