The Secret to Finishing Strong: 90% Done, 90% to Go

90% done, 90% to go. That’s what I was fond of saying as an engineer. That last 10% of a project was as difficult and took as much effort as the first 90%. The debugging, integration, testing, documentation, operations, everything that went into making the product a success. That last 10% was as challenging as the first 90%.

As a CEO I learned another variant. When we took the company public, the first investor we met on the IPO road show told us, if you’re as enthusiastic in your last meeting as you were in this meeting, you’ll do great. That advice served us well as it helped us focus and overcome the exhaustion of the IPO process and close strong delivering one of the best IPOs of the last decade.

That’s life. The last yard, the last minute of a wrestling match (real wrestling =), the next rung on the ladder of success, the final mile of race, the next leg of market share, all more difficult than the road to get there. And are what determines success vs. failure.

So how do you translate this secret to success? So much of life is about preparation and expectations. Knowing up front that the close is going to be challenging ensures you train for it, you have the resources and time you need, and are mentally prepared for the challenge. And you need to be prepared because that is where success is earned. It’s the mental toughness, the determination, and the commitment to maintaining the highest standard throughout your journey that allows you to close as strong as you started. As the saying goes, don’t stop when you’re tired, stop when you’re done.

You might be wondering why the picture for this article is of Usain Bolt. The fastest man alive provides us one last example to power this point through. Did you know that olympic sprinting is not about how fast your run, but how slowly decelerate? In other words sprinters generally reach similar top speeds, but he/she who can maintain that speed the longest wins the race. Of course starts are important, but how you close is what separates gold from bronze. So prepare for that last 10%, maintain your enthusiasm, and go for the gold!


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