Finish What You Start

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My father passed away on August 27, 2016. I still think about him frequently, as I’m sure most children do after they lose a parent. Some days I’ll be doing just fine, and then I’ll see something or hear something that reminds me of him and the tears will begin to well up in my eyes. I miss him dearly. I miss his voice. I miss his infectious laughter. He was all I could ever ask for in a father, and I never doubted his love for me. I will never forget many of the defining father-son moments we shared, along with the many enjoyable conversations we had (often about some historical event, as he loved history). I will also never forget the important lessons he taught me along the way as he helped raise me from a boy to a man. There is one lesson in particular that continues to ring loud and clear in my mind throughout the course of my life. I’ll get to that momentarily.

I played baseball growing up, and in Florida that was a year-round sport. When I reflect upon my younger years it truly seems as if I never stopped playing baseball. I never really loved the sport, but I had some natural talent and my skill-set for baseball developed well throughout my youth. So I just figured I’d keep playing to see where I could go with it. When I was 15 years old I found myself playing on 3 different baseball teams at the same time during the summer. It was insane. By my own choice I had committed to play on a Little League team (Senior League), I continued playing on a traveling AAU team that I had been a part of for a few years, and then I was also slated to play on my high school summer team which was pretty much required… all in the heat of the Florida summer.

At the outset of that summer my parents had given me the option to choose which team(s) I wanted to play for in the coming months. I had good friends on all of those teams, so I had some difficulty choosing between them. My parents probably expected me to select 1, or maybe 2, of those teams to play on. So they were probably both shocked and overwhelmed when I chose to play on all 3 teams, as they were still my unpaid taxi drivers who drove me all over the state to go to all of my games. However, they were always supportive of my decisions (so long as they were good, reasonable decisions), so off we went into the summer of endless baseball.

Well, it turned out that my decision was not very reasonable or realistic after all. Within a few weeks I was already burnt out. It was a brutal schedule. It was simply too much, so I was already wanting to quit my Little League team. I decided to take that change-of-heart decision to my dad. You see, my dad was always a pretty laid back guy, and he was quite lenient in his discipline. I didn’t think this slight change of course would be a big deal to him at all. I was sorely mistaken. Much to my surprise, he dropped the hammer on me. When I approached my dad and told him I wanted to quit my Little League team, he took the time to remind me that playing on all 3 teams was my own choice, which I did acknowledge. I expected him to simply let me off the hook after that acknowledgement. He did not. He firmly informed me that I would not be quitting any of those teams that summer, and that I would finish out my commitment to all of them. Then he spoke those words which I still carry with me to this day, “Son, you have to finish what you start.”

That tough-love lesson of finishing what you start didn’t benefit me immediately that summer. It just made me angry and completely exhausted by the end. But it has proven to be a very powerful life lesson that I needed to learn. It is a valuable principle that I still draw upon often in varying aspects of my life. I think we all encounter those critical moments more often than we realize, where we are faced with the decision to give up on something (whatever it may be) or to carry on to the end and see it all the way through. It could be a home-improvement project, a diet, a workout regimen, or even something like a job or a relationship. This principle applies to so much in life.

I’m in no way saying that every job or relationship should be endured just for the sake of finishing what you start, as there are sometimes very valid reasons (including abuse of any kind) for ending jobs and relationships. However, I would deem those situations as outliers when compared to the vast amount of pivotal decisions we face throughout our lives. We need to learn the difference between ending something because it is harmful to us versus ending something just because it is no longer convenient. This is especially true when other people are involved who would be affected by our decision to give up and call it quits. Commitments we make often do lead to other people relying upon us for one reason or another. Our commitments, our dedication to a cause, should be as solid as pure gold. That is what makes us dependable as human beings, when we follow through on the commitments we make. We have to be selfless enough to consider other people in situations where our dedication to something impacts others and not just ourselves.

Not everything in life is going to be easy. Not by a long shot. Nevertheless, our decisions to finish what we start are going to prove worthwhile and beneficial to us more often than not. I’d like to share a personal experience to illustrate this point. It pertains to one of the more physically challenging things I have done in my life, which was to hike to the summit of Mount Timpanogos here in Utah with my wife back in 2010. I would say that I was in decent shape at the time; however, my wife was in great shape (as she always is). We woke up before sunrise and drove up the canyon to the trailhead. I mixed in a few stretches, threw on my backpack, and I was ready to roll… until we were about a mile into the vertical hike. That’s when I called for my first pit stop so to speak. I just wanted to sit down for a minute, take a breather and throw down a few sips of water. I was a bit surprised to find out that my wife was not on the same page with that idea (nor would she be for the rest of the ascent up that mountain). She didn’t want to stop because, as she stated, it would cause her sore IT band near her knee to tighten up. That was not going to bode well for me. I needed my breaks.

I did my best to keep up with my wife’s intense pace for about 3/4 of the hike up Mount Timpanogos. But that’s when we encountered the boulder field of death (as I refer to it); a lengthy stretch of undefined trail containing large, unstable boulders. Basically, it was a broken ankle (or two) waiting to happen. That’s when my mental capacity began to go downhill fast. It wasn’t the overall difficulty of the hike itself that had worn me down, but rather the furious pace up to that point. I knew that if I had any chance of reaching the summit, I was going to have to slow down. My wife and I both agreed that it would be in our best interest (perhaps also for the sake of our marriage) if she went ahead of me at her own pace to the summit. She even suggested to me that I could just hike up to location known as the saddle, which was a resting spot prior to the final ascent, and that I could just wait for her there until she returned from the top. I scoffed at that suggestion in my mind, and vowed I would meet her at the top (in due time). However, the longer I spent crossing that boulder field of death, and the more distance I saw her gain on me, the more that suggestion seemed like a very, very good idea.

Mount Timpanogos
Sometimes the path to the top (or to where we want to be) is lined with difficult obstacles (the boulder field), tempting opportunities to stop/quit and turn back around (the saddle), and powerful tests of determination (the final ascent). We must be strong enough, in every way possible, to overcome those barriers and achieve our desired successes.

There was one point in the hike, after I had just completing the boulder field, where I could see her like half of a mile up ahead of me as she approached the saddle. If I recall correctly, she turned around and waved at me (or yelled something to me), and I immediately began to cuss and mumble and grumble under my breath. I was frustrated that she had made me go so fast. I was frustrated that I couldn’t keep up with her. And I was frustrated that she seemed so freaking jolly up there as she looked down at this not-as-well-conditioned guy who was struggling and huffing and puffing below. That’s when I first began seriously contemplating that suggestion to just make it up to the saddle and call it good. I couldn’t fathom going on to make it to the summit at that point.

A short while later I finally made it up to the saddle. I was still undecided as to whether or not I wanted to carry on. I sat down for a moment, drank some water, and pondered my options. My legs were killing me, particularly the arches of my feet, and I was completely out of gas. The option I had available to me to rest on the saddle until my wife’s return from the summit sounded rather glorious. But then the thought occurred to me: Will I regret the decision to quit now? I’ve made it this far, I’m so close to the top, and I may never have this opportunity again (since my desire to do that hike again is next to none). Will I regret not making it up to the summit? And my answer to myself was a resounding yes, I absolutely would regret it. That life lesson taught to me by my father of finishing what you start began to ring loudly in my mind once again, and so I stood up and began my final ascent to up to the summit. And slowly, ever so slowly, I made it up to the top.

Sitting atop Mount Timpanogos with my wife, taking in the beautiful views, and enjoying the small picnic lunch we had packed, made it all so incredibly worth it. Despite the arduous journey up (and the less than enjoyable journey back down), I was so happy and so fulfilled knowing that I did not give up. I overcame some obstacles, most notably my own desire to quit. I accomplished my goal that day. I finished what I had started. And it is a grand memory I will be able to keep with me forever. There are many uphill battles we will all face in this life. They will be difficult, and many of them will surely be exhausting (whether physically or mentally or both). However, there is a great reward, the feeling of personal satisfaction, which comes when we choose to achieve a goal or to fulfill a commitment that we have made to ourselves or to other people. And that feeling of satisfaction is so much more pleasant than regret.

Note to Self: Regret is a terrible feeling that you can almost always avoid by thinking before you act. Never let fear or doubt (or any other negative influence) guide your decisions and/or dissuade you from avoiding regret and achieving victory, especially in the face of defeat.

Proactively Me Challenge # 6 | The Finish It Challenge:

Think about something (a goal, a project, etc.) that you recently gave up on, and recommit yourself today to finish what you started. Don’t stop until you’re finished!

Join the Proactively Me Challenge Today!

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Below are song lyrics I wrote recently in memory of my father. The hyphens simply denote pauses in the singing. Perhaps one day I'll share this song with the guitar parts I wrote to accompany the lyrics if I ever get around to recording it...

 

Memorial Song | Lyrics

(Chorus)
All I can see are memories
Of - When you were still here
The passing time - Still awakens my mind
To you - And who you were - And who you are
Looking down from the stars

(Verse)
Staring at an empty chair - As if you’re sitting there
It seems just like yesterday - When I learned you’d left this place

In an instant you were gone - You had been here all along
Though your loss brought me to tears - You made me smile all those years

(Pre-Chorus)
I hope that you knew - And I hope you know
That your time with me meant everything - Now it means so much more

(Chorus)
All I can see are memories
Of - When you were still here
The passing time - Still awakens my mind
To you - And who you were - And who you are
Looking down from the stars

(Verse)
I can still hear your laugh - Like an echo from the past
But your voice fades each day - Only traces still remain

In the mirror I can see - All our similarities
Reminding me to carry on - Your cherished legacy

(Pre-Chorus)
I hope that you knew - And I hope you know
That your time with me meant everything - Now it means so much more

(Chorus)
All I can see are memories
Of - When you were still here
The passing time - Still awakens my mind
To you - And who you were - And who you are
Looking down from the stars

(Outro)
I know it's not the end - Someday I'll see you again


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