Skip to main content

Book Summary – Necessary Endings: The Employees, Businesses, and Relationships That All of Us Have to Give Up in Order to Move Forward

In life, we must often end something before we can begin something else. Yet, it’s hard to know when an ending is necessary, and it can be even harder to execute an ending. In this book, Dr. Henry Cloud explains why endings are so difficult, and presents specific strategies and tools to help us move on at the right time. In this Necessary Endings summary, you’ll learn about the 3 types of necessary endings, how to diagnose if someone deserves more of your time/effort, and how to execute an ending where necessary.

What are Necessary Endings and Why They Matter

Endings—such as a loved one’s death, a divorce, or being laid off—are an inevitable part of life. When we avoid endings or handle them badly, we get stuck in problematic situations, miss out on opportunities, and repeat the same mistakes.

Often, we must end something bad before we can start something good. We may have to “kill” something that we created, or give up something we used to cherish (e.g. ending a toxic relationship or shutting down a failed project/business) to move on to something better. We have to end infancy to start toddlerhood, and leave an old job to move to a new one. Likewise, businesses must let go of old products, strategies and business models to stay relevant.


All living things need energy to grow, and we have limited fuel to sustain that growth. To thrive and reach your full potential, you must direct your finite time, money, energy, and talents toward a specific vision. If you spread your resources too thinly, you’ll dilute your focus and results.

Necessary Endings summary - 3 things to prune away

To grow and thrive, we need 3 types of necessary endings. It’s like how a gardener tends to a rosebush by pruning away 3 things:

What is good, but not the best

All plants, such as rosebushes, generate more branches and buds than they can fully support. Gardeners remove the sub-optimal buds/branches to free up resources for the best roses to reach their full potential. Likewise, people and businesses take on more than we handle sustainably, so we must prune away the less essential items.

What is sick and won’t recover

Sometimes, no amount of effort and resources can heal a sick branch. Gardeners prune away such branches to free up resources for the healthy ones. In our life and business, we get stuck with certain issues when we keep doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome. Learn to let go of the old in order to embrace the new.

What is already dead

Dead buds/branches occupy space and block the healthy branches from reaching their full height and length. Likewise, we need to remove the stuff that take up dead space in our lives.

Despite their necessity, endings make us uncomfortable because it’s human nature to avoid loss, pain and uncertainty. We don’t want to confront or hurt others, or we may lack the skills to execute the endings effectively. Take a moment to do a “gut check”. Examine your beliefs, thoughts and feelings about pruning and endings. What do you feel when you think about ending or pruning away something? Do you encounter any inner discomfort or resistance. If so, this book by Dr. Henry Cloud can help you to address your discomforts, navigate endings more proactively, and move toward your goals, and bring yourself relief, hope, and personal growth.

Of course, this means that you must first define the purpose and standards that you’re pruning toward, then apply these 3 types of pruning—the good, sick, or dead—to all areas of your life, e.g. improving your relationships, business strategies, or project effectiveness.

Moving Forward with Necessary Endings

In the book, Dr. Henry Cloud addresses numerous challenges and strategies you’ll need to effectively navigate and execute endings. Here’s an overview:

Necessary Endings summary - how to navigate endingsDo check out our complete 13-page Necessary Endings summary to dive into each of these areas in more detail, along with specific tips and examples.  Meanwhile, let’s briefly explore what it takes to navigate endings effectively.

Normalize Endings

Start by seeing endings as a normal part of life, instead of seeing them as problems. This moves your brain out of fight-or-flight mode and into problem-solution mode. Normalize endings with these 3 organizing principles:

  1. Embrace life’s seasons and cycles. Realize that everything moves in cycles, e.g. day and night, life and death. Match your activities to the life season that you’re currently in.
  2. Accept that there will always be excesses in life. Life generates more life, and every individual or organization will accumulate more things that they can sustain.
  3. Accept the existence of evil and terminal illnesses. You will encounter destructive or incorrigible people who will harm or drain you. Protect yourself and cut them out of your life.

Examine your Internal Maps

Our beliefs and experiences shape how we see the world. Become aware of the mental maps that keep you stuck, so you can change them.

In our full Necessary Endings summary, we’ll elaborate more about:

  • How you may develop “learned helplessness” , and how to regain a sense of control; and
  • 5 beliefs that could be holding you back from necessary endings.
[Do check out our What to Say When You Talk to Yourself summary for more tips on managing your self-talk, perspectives and beliefs!]

Get to the Moment of Change

You need some hope to persevere in face of difficulties, but not so much that you live in denial and cling on to something long after it’s time to let go. The “pruning moment” comes when we embrace reality and realize that it’s hopeless to keep doing what we’re doing.

Using the example of Welch Allyn’s decision to a major technological change, Dr Cloud showed how past experiences can teach us to recognize necessary endings. Even if you don’t have such experiences, you can still use diagnostics to gauge if there’s real hope for change, or if you’re just engaging in wishful thinking. In our complete summary, we cover more about:

  • How to know if someone is worth more of your time/effort (hint: you look at their track record and 9 factors), or if you should initiate an ending; and
  • How to handle 3 types of people: wise people, foolish people, and evil people.

Make the Change and Sustain It

Endings are hard. Without deliberate effort, you’re likely to avoid them or return to old patterns/habits. Specifically, you must:

  • Overcome internal and external barriers which could hold you back from a necessary ending; and
  • Create urgency and momentum to initiate and sustain change.

Equip Yourself for Success

Master the skills and strategies to execute endings effectively. These include:

  • Using self-selection to achieve your desired outcomes without having to judge or reject people;
  • Preparing properly for an ending conversation; and
  • Internalizing the ending so you can truly move toward.

You can also get use frameworks and tips for managing difficult conversations in our summaries of Crucial Conversations and Difficult Conversations.

Getting More from “Necessary Endings”

To live to your true potential, you must make the most of where you are right now, and do what’s necessary to move toward your vision. Start by taking stock of the things that are draining you emotionally, physically, mentally, energetically, spiritually or financially. Then, look for ways to stop and reverse the negative outflow. If that’s not possible, then it may be time to plan an ending.

If you’re feeling stuck, frustrating, drained, and are ready to plan and execute the necessary endings in your life, do check out our full book summary bundle that includes an infographic, 13-page text summary, and a 28-minute audio summary.
Necessary Endings summary - Book Summary Bundle

This book is written in a casual, conversational style, with many real-world examples and anecdotes from the author’s experiences. You can purchase the book here or visit for more details.


About the Author of Necessary Endings

Necessary Endings: The Employees, Businesses, and Relationships That All of Us Have to Give Up in Order to Move Forward was written by Dr. Henry Cloud–an author, coach, speaker, and clinical psychologist. He has authored 45 books, and coached many leaders, executives and teams on performance, leadership skills and culture. Dr. Cloud founded and built a healthcare company for 10 years, before selling the company and devoting his time to consulting, coaching, speaking, and writing. He holds a BS in psychology with honors from Southern Methodist University, and a PhD in clinical psychology from Biola University.

Necessary Endings Quotes

“Good cannot begin until bad ends.”

“Often, in necessary endings, you have to give something up or be willing to lose something in order to gain it.”

“To do the same thing over and over again expecting different results is not only crazy, it is a recipe for staying stuck.”

“Failing well means ending something that is not working and choosing to do something else better.”

“Nothing mobilizes us like a firm dose of reality.”

“While hope is a great virtue, hope in unreality is not.”

“When truth presents itself, the wise person sees the light, takes it in, and makes adjustments.”

“The fool tries to adjust the truth so he does not have to adjust to it.”

Click here to download the Necessary Endings summary & infographic

Leave a Reply

0 cart

My Cart

Cart is empty