Finish by Jon Acuff – Book Review

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This week I read Jon Acuff’s Finish. Unlike an earlier book of his (titled Start), Finish is aimed at people who have no trouble starting projects, but struggle to reach the end of their goals, for myriad reasons. (Hello!)

It’s a motivational book which has at its heart a simple premise; perfectionism is the enemy. Although there’s nearly 200 pages, 198 of them basically talk about perfectionism as a personified force in your life, a demon of sorts that is out to crush your hopes and dreams. At one point it’s even likened to a cuckoo, taking over your nest and killing your babies.

Finish does however manage to balance some fairly over the top emotional Americanisms (sorry Americans) with some good ideas on how to figure out your blocks to finishing things.

I’m not a finisher. This blog was a conscious effort to battle the perfectionism I’m prone to, without necessarily realising it. (If you’re wondering, ‘what perfectionism?’… thanks!) I’m sure I’m not alone though as this book does seem to have captured the zeitgeist, quickly becoming a Wall Street bestseller.

Here’s a few of my favourite ideas from Finish:

  • The day after you mess up is the most important (this is the point that perfectionism pounces).
  • Data tells us that cutting goals down mean we’re less likely to quit (duh but actually ohh).
  • Learn what you do to hide from finishing, it might even be noble stuff (stop it).
  • Keep track of simple data; number of pages written, inches lost, miles run (tracking data helps beat despair and emotionalism).
  • Figure out your secret rules, especially the ones that stop you from taking short cuts (we tell ourselves something is only worthwhile if it is hard).

The first point regarding what you do the day after failing something was particularly relevant to me. At the start of 2018 I wrote a Friday Review blogpost every week for fifteen weeks. One day I didn’t do it (Friday 27th April to be precise) and I stopped immediately afterwards. Now, there was a good reason for me not managing that week; I was shooting a wedding on that day a hundred miles from home. But something inside me said that having failed at my perfect streak, there was no point continuing. There’s the perfectionism.

The second time I quit something this year was over the summer I did the 5×5 weights program. It’s a beginners program and I felt the benefits quickly. The data tracking was taken care of by the app and all went well until I was ill one week. My routine was shattered and I went back once, having to knock my weights down again. I didn’t return after that! Perfectionism strikes again.

Enough about me, back to the book. There was a section about three quarters in that, ironically, I struggled to get through. I suspect that was because there were lots of questions and things to action, and I’ve been feeling pretty lazy with the pre Christmas rush at work. Or maybe the author is really mean and he planned in a particularly difficult chapter towards the end. Maybe that is a really genius move, giving the readers of the book a sense of having completed something difficult. Or not.

The author Jon Acuff is a good writer with an affable tone and plenty of humour and stories to help bring his points to life. Apparently he’s also really tall. He runs a very popular blog called Stuff Christians Like (with 3 million readers). He generally steers clear of talking about his faith in the book apart from a couple of nods toward his dad, a pastor. Perhaps Christianity isn’t great for self-help book sales.

I enjoyed Finish, and felt like it gave me some good ideas and I’ll definitely be checking out his other writing now. Recommended!

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