One reason the Olympics are so satisfying is the finish line. We get to see the beginning of a race, and we get to see the finish of the race. Day after day of satisfying finishes. That’s not the case in all of life’s endeavors.
As I watch an extensive home remodel near me limp along month after month after month, some days with no discernible action, I’m reminded that a homeowner acting as his own contractor has a distinct disadvantage over a professional contractor. The homeowner doesn’t know the art of finishing up. The art of calling it done. The art of saying it’s good enough for now and crossing the finish line.
Of course, that weakness on the part of a homeowner is understandable. While a professional contractor must get things moving along and finished, or go out of business, the homeowner has no idea how to do this, and certainly is not experienced in doing this. And so the job lags on and on, often with more and more projects and features added ad infinitum. I feel for the homeowners.
But I actually benefit sometimes when someone can’t complete a project. In my own work, which is primarily creating Lunch & Learn continuing education units (CEUs) for architects, builders, and other specifiers, I’m often brought into the project because the person in the company whose task it was to do it is not finishing it.
Oh my goodness, I know why. These projects can be extremely complex. You must adhere to AIA and other rules to achieve certification. You must deliver a learning program in a clear and logical manner. It needs to have a beginning, a middle, and an end. You cannot brand it with your own company’s products.
That last one is a real issue because it’s often the marketing department that is tasked with creating a Lunch & Learn presentation for the sales force to take out on the road. And when your core job is promoting the features and benefits of your company’s products, it’s very hard, if not impossible, to stop doing that long enough to create a learning program.
And creating a CEU could be professionally damaging to a marketing person. While the CEU developer needs to adopt a neutral tone, to make the presentation educational rather than promotional, the marketing person could lose his or her team player status with a neutral mindset.
So the project lags, and it can be very uncomfortable for everyone involved. Hopefully, they know someone like me, a professional who has completed scores of these projects, brought them to a conclusion, and made them ready for the road. I’m fortunate to have developed over the years what I have found to be a fool-proof system for getting these started, moving along, and finished with the least amount of delay or drama. Indeed, “No drama” is my theme.
No one should feel like a failure when calling in an expert to get it done. Kenny Rogers knows: “You gotta know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away, know when to run.” If we don’t learn about ourselves from every experience, we are missing out on life’s lessons.
And I quite enjoy the projects that come to me with a PPT already in process. The marketing person or technical person at the company who started to develop the PPT typically has a fountain of knowledge, and sometimes they have dumped that knowledge into the PPT. Sometimes, that PPT ends up twice as long as a 1-hour presentation should be. Winnowing that down into the essential learning message is my job, and I quite enjoy it. I love to absorb all the information in there and sit and mull it over. What is it? . . . What is the message? . . . What are the main teachable points here? . . . I do like that time spent mulling. And then the organization and learning objectives begin to form in my mind.
Not that I am perfect or invincible. As a professional who develops continuing education units all day every workday, I have my own struggles. I feel the same struggle in my journalism, which is an acute awareness of how great this project could be, should be, and would be . . . and acceptance of how it really is. Funny thing is, the vast, vast majority of my clients are thrilled with my work. And I guess it’s a superior project precisely because of my inner struggle to achieve greatness.
In the end, I have the secret to success: the art of finishing a project. I have compassion for the remodeling homeowner nearby. But I wouldn’t want to be in his shoes. Hopefully, if things get really bad, he can bring in a professional to finish the job. That’s what professionals are good at, getting to the finish line.