How You Finish is More Important Than How You Start

The story of Secretariat is extraordinary in terms of both the records that he broke, and also in the way he did it.

Secretariat won the Triple Crown in 1973 at the Belmont Stakes race, a feat that was unachieved in over 25 years. Secretariat was running so fast, people feared that the horse would collapse in the middle of the track. To give you an idea of just how fast he was running, he beat the second place horse by 31 lengths!

What’s peculiar about Secretariat is the way he ran races. With the exception of the Belmont Stakes race, for some inexplicable reason, he would always start out dead last in the race. During the race everyone – including his owner – would be frustrated by this. Some thought it was the jockey’s fault. But it turns out that that’s just how Secretariat ran. Then, Secretariat would begin to inch his way forward to the lead, and eventually win.

There are times in our lives when we will doubt our own abilities to finish a project, or to follow through on an idea based solely on the few stumbles we make at the beginning of our endeavors.

All too often, such judgements are made far, far too early. Sometimes, we’ll use these imperfect beginning as an excuse to not move forward. The unfortunate consequence is that these premature judgements could deter us from ever finishing. Such self-fulfilling prophecies are self-destructive, and non-productive.

We did not walk perfectly on our first try as toddlers. Our first words as children didn’t always make sense. To judge an idea based on how we start is like predicting a baby’s future based on its first steps or words.  Most startups today look nothing like or operate anything like the way the did when they first began.  Most famous people came from very humble beginnings.

If you are just starting a project or idea, don’t expect it to be perfect right out of the gate. And if it isn’t perfect, make the appropriate adjustments and move on. Focus on the finish line rather than looking back and obsessing over what happened at the starting gate.

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