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Becoming a Finisher

My father is a carpenter. Ever since he was 20 years old, he has spent every summer swinging a hammer—remodeling houses, finishing basements, repairing roofs, and pouring cement. He is also a fine wood craftsman, and spent 36 years teaching woodshop and drafting to junior high and high school students. One thing I learned from dad was the art of finish work. I learned that it was awfully hard to sand a project too much, and when you varnish your shelf, bench, or China hutch it’s much better to apply several thin coats than to try to goop it on all at once.

Whether it’s an entire home or a simple shelf, until it’s been properly finished it’s useless. Imagine spending months building a home only to quit before the doors were hung, baseboards were set, and counter tops were in place. Who would want to live in such a place?

Our life’s aspirations can be much the same. I set a lot of goals each year. Many of them come to fruition, but there are those that end up unfinished and discarded. I don’t discard goals because they aren’t worthwhile—it’s usually because I’m unable or unwilling to stick with them.

It reminds me of a poem my mother often quoted to me:

 Stick to your task ‘til it sticks to you;

Beginners are many, but enders are few.

Honor, power, place and praise

Will come, in time, to the one who stays.


Stick to your task ‘til it sticks to you;

Bend at it, sweat at it, smile at it, too;

For out of the bend and the sweat and the smile

Will come life’s victories after a while.

—Author Unknown

 So how do we stick to our resolutions until they become a part of who we are? How do we change from someone who wants to eat less and move more to someone who lives for his or her workout?

The answer is proper planning. As you write your goals for the year, be sure to break them down into bite-sized pieces. Don’t only write your big-picture goals in your planner and keep them where you can see them every day, but also write down weekly or even daily goals that relate to your main goal, so you can begin to realize your goal almost immediately.

Celebrate the small stuff. Allow yourself to be excited about your minor accomplishments. Recognizing these small steps will keep you on the path toward your final goal, and celebrating each step along the way will increase your motivation.

Share your goals with others. Let your friends and loved ones in on your plans, so they can help and encourage you along the way.

Don’t be discouraged by setbacks. We all struggle. We all fall down now and then. But success comes when we get back up.

Don’t be afraid to dream big. You’ll never accomplish great things if you continually set your bar too low. The greatest satisfaction in life comes from the greatest amount of effort. Those things that required the most thought, the most effort, and even the most heartache will be the accomplishments you appreciate most in life. Parenting, for example.

Don’t be ashamed to ask for help. My dad is 75 years old now and not able to get around like he used to, so he decided to build one more house—one that he and Mom can manage easily with all the necessities on the main level. It’s been a challenge; he has had to pay others to do many of the things he has always been able to do.  My brother and I have helped as much as possible, but it’s crunch time now. He needs finishers.

So this past couple of weeks we’ve all slept less. My brother and I and our wives, my sister and her husband, and as many of our children as possible have converged on Dad and Mom’s new home—setting trim in place, hanging doors, shingling the roof, insulating the basement, and building cabinets. We all have bruises on our thumbs from hitting the wrong nail, paint on our pants, and caulk under our fingernails. It’s slow work, but after all our parents have done for us, the least we can do is to help them finish this year’s big goal.

As this New Year begins, we wish you the same success in your endeavors. May you become a finisher too.

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