The Last Ten Percent

Photo by PiyapongK/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by PiyapongK/iStock / Getty Images

It's that last ten percent. Maybe it's the last fifty. I don't know. I know I don't know, which is another gadfly eroding my resolve. The finish line lurches onto the horizon, just close enough to appear a footfall away, just far enough to remain imaginary.

I am incessantly curious, and I’m happy about that. Curiosity has provided me a diverse skill set, and I’m rarely bored—there’s always more to learn. Unfortunately, curiosity keeps company with distraction. I am predisposed to shredding my attention and tossing the confetti in all directions. Curiosity is divide-and-conquer implemented against focus and accomplishment.

In my experience, the most productive people, those who consistently check the done box, fall into one of two categories. The first possess single-minded focus: people on a mission, all else be damned. The second leap from one endeavor to the next, refusing to be lured by the illusion of perfection: people with no aversion to the phrase, good enough. I envy both, and I am neither.

Surely there's a third group: exceptional folks who tackle diverse projects, conquering all they encounter. They are remarkably rare. This third group is the impractical standard to which I hold myself. My internal detractor calls, "just a little bit better" and pushes the finish line further and further away. Curiosity adds a new pursuit, and now I'm shaky-leg-limping through multiple races simultaneously.

I pan the room, full of blank canvases and empty notebooks. Eventually, I don't finish became why even start.

In the tech industry, output is rewarded above all else. Done is better than perfect; put up, or shut up; pics, or it didn't happen. I know this, and I still don't finish. I grit my teeth and watch as sub-par work is showered with praise. I think, "If I'd only finished ...." This is the core of my problem. If I hope to be credibile, I must complete the work. When I expect extraordinary and deliver nothing, the disappointment is suffocating. I can't help but to keep gasping because I know I have something to say. I know I can contribute.

So what? How do I push forward? In what context can I overcome the stagnation? Any context in which I don't draw the course map, and I don't set the pace. When the finish is real, and the course will close, I move. Give me a task, give me a deadline, it will get done.

That's why I'm taking it out of my hands. It's 100 Days of Code, stickK, and a writers group. It's anything that requires accountability to something outside myself. It's the only advice I can give. Save the curiosity for the skill set—that which is never meant to be finished. Then ask someone else to set the finish line.