“Finish the work” my Crossfit coach yelled across the gym. Apparently, some were having trouble finishing the last set. I was too busy breathing raggedly through sumo deadlifts to see who she was talking to or if she was encouraging all of six of us.
Finish the Work
That week turned out to be a long one, stretching me in new ways. The hashtag #finishthework floated through my brain like dust in the afternoon sunlight as I captured, contemplated and checked off a long list of next steps, some very satisfying and some perfunctory. By Friday mid-day, the hashtag in my brain turned into #finishtheweek and #finishstrong.
We’d been assessing our plans for change, checking the links in the causal chain from awareness, desire, knowledge, ability and reinforcement to make sure the plan and expected impact were aligned. Sifting through the suggested approaches for the winning combo, I realized that discipline without desire or #whatsinitforme gets you part of the desired results but it’s like trying to boil the ocean with a cigarette lighter. You gotta want something big enough in order to #finishthework.
The Finish Line Isn’t
Finishing is a funny concept. You can flip it on its head. I’ve been intrigued by a number of artists for whom the finish line wasn’t the finish line. They went even further. Edvard Munch painted a canvas (the usual finish) in oil and then scraped some of it off. That was finished. Gerhard Richter painted one abstract layer on a canvas, again in oil which takes a long time to dry, maybe scraped some of it off, then painted another layer more like screen printing different sections and layers. Both artists went beyond “done”.
What if the finish line isn’t the finish line, but the start. What carries you forward then? Why would you even bother? Curiosity. Experiment to see what happens. A spirit of play.
What if every finish line is the opportunity to chose to be curious about what next? Where do I have enough curiosity to go beyond “done”? Where do you?
When I got home from the seeing the Richter paintings at SFMOMA, I took one of my finished oil paintings off the wall and added another layer. I like it much better now. It’s still not done. I’ll keep going.