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Finish - Book summary

Do you find it easier to start something than to finish it? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Most people find it easier to start something than to finish it. In Finish: Give Yourself The Gift Of Done, Jon Acuff explains why it’s so hard to complete what we’ve started. In this free version of the Finish summary, we’ll outline the key ideas on how to  finish your plans and achieve real results.

In his book “Start” published in 2013, Jon Acuff focused on helping people to get past their fears and start on their goals and projects. He later realized that it’s hard to start something, but it’s even harder to finish what you’ve started. Acuff created an online video course—the 30 Days of Hustle challenge—to help people achieve their goals. Through his own observations and research by a researcher from the University of Memphis, he found that the key to finishing is not about working harder. It’s about overcoming perfectionism, which causes us to set overly-ambitious goals, amplify our mistakes, diminish our achievements, complicate things and quit prematurely.

Finishing what you’ve started

We’ll now briefly explain how perfectionist tendencies can get in the way of your goals, and how to overcome them to reach the finish line.  In a nutshell, this involves:

  • Embracing imperfection
  • Halving your goals
  • Deliberately choosing what to Drop
  • Have fun!
  • Removing self-made obstacles
  • Using data to stay on-track
  • Overcoming your hidden rules
  • Finishing strong

We’ll explain 2 of these points in greater detail is this article You can get a copy of our full 12-page Finish summary for more details on the remaining tips.

Finish Jon Acuff_overview of key tips



Perfectionism is not the same as excellence—it can be an obstacle to success because it pushes you to reject mistakes and imperfections, thus creating the tendency to quit just because something isn’t perfect.

Many self-help books focus on starting strong. It’s a good idea to have a plan, but a bad idea to try to have a perfect plan. Imagine you aim to exercise 30 minutes a day, but miss a day of exercise after 1 week. Perfectionists are likely to quit simply because of this blemish on their impeccable record. Or, you may be doing well with your sales target, then fall short for 2 months and decide that you’ve fallen too far behind to catch up.

Many people won’t even start on a goal if they think it isn’t ideal. More than 97% of respondents in an online poll said that at some point in their lives, they’ve decided not to jot down an idea because it didn’t seem good enough. If you wait for the perfect goal, you may never get started. It’s much better to start with an imperfect goal and refine it along the way.

Let go of perfectionism and embrace imperfection instead. In reality, mistakes are inevitable and most failures won’t kill or hurt you. On the other hand, if you quit each time you encounter a setback or imperfection, you may soon become a chronic quitter.

Beware of the might-as-well trap, i.e. thinking “Since I’ve already slipped up, I might as well stop altogether.” By embracing imperfection and celebrating incremental progress, you’re more likely to survive the bumps on the road to reach the finish line.


Perfectionism prompts us to over-stretch. We believe that we must “go big or go home” and feel bad about setting small goals. Once you’ve set an overly-ambitious goal, your perfectionist tendency kicks in and tells you to quit if you can’t do it properly. You tell yourself that it’s better to stop now rather than waste all the time/energy and still fail later.

The planning fallacy refers to the human tendency to consistently under-estimate the amount of time needed to complete a future task. Thinking of a big goal can be exciting at the beginning. However, the bigger the goal, the worse the planning fallacy and the more insurmountable it’d seem halfway into the process.

The solution is to:

  1. Cut your goals by 50%. This is not the same as doing half the work. In fact, halving your goals will actually encourage you to do more because when you reduce your goals, (i) they seem more attainable, and (ii) each time you complete a goal, you feel more motivated to keep going.
  2.  And if your goal can’t be halved, then double the timeframe allotted to achieving it. Ask yourself: what’s the worst thing that can happen if you halve the goal or double the duration. Chances are, the real reason behind your ambitious goal is that perfectionist streak telling you to do everything now and to do it perfectly.


Get a copy of our complete Finish summary to get other insights on why/how to:

  • Choose the goals to focus on and choose the goals to give up;
  • Motivate yourself (by leveraging on your desires vs fears) and make your goals FUN;
  • Eliminate your self-made obstacles (including your hiding places and noble excuses for avoiding what needs to be done), and turn your distractions into motivators.
  • Become aware of your own hidden rules and limiting beliefs that are sabotaging your success, and overcome them with 3 steps and 6 questions (elaborated on the 12-page version of our Finish summary).
  • Use data to see your real progress objectively, learn from mistakes and ensure you’re on the right track.
  • Finish strong by overcoming the 3 fears of finishing

Getting the Most from Finish

In this article, we’ve briefly outlined some of the key insights and strategies you can use to achieve desired change. For more examples, details, and actionable tips to apply these strategies, do get our complete Finish summary bundle which includes an infographic, 12-page text summary, and a 23-minute audio summary.Finish summary - book summary bundle

This is a lively, easy-to-read book full of humorous examples and anecdotes. At the end of each chapter, Acuff also summarizes the action steps you can take for each of the success principles above. For more details, you can purchase the book here, or check out more resources/details at

About the Author of Finish

Finish: Give Yourself The Gift Of Done is written by Jon Acuff–an American author and speaker. He has published several books, written for several major media companies (including Reader’s Digest, Fast Company, The Harvard Business Review and Time Magazine), and also runs the blog Acuff is one of INC’s Top 100 Leadership Speakers.

Finish Quotes

“Starting is fun, but the future belongs to finishers.”

“Accomplishing a goal is a lot less like taking a train across country and a lot more like driving a bumper car.”

“Perfectionism magnifies your mistakes and minimizes your progress.”

“Goals are a marathon, not a sprint.”

“Make sure that what you’re chasing is actually what you want to catch.”

“If you pursue the right goal in the wrong way, you still end up in the wrong place.”

Click here to download the Finish book summary & infographic

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