There was this kid I went to high school with . . .
My very first encounter with him, we almost got in a fight. I didn’t like the fact that he made fun of my roommate in front of his friends and his girlfriend. I didn’t like the fact that he pushed him around. I didn’t like it at all.
So, I went up to him, grabbed him by the front of his shirt walked him backwards off the dance floor, and threatened him with something like, “If you ever come near him or talk to him like that again, I’ll kick . . .” I think you can pretty much finish my little soliloquy. It was one-sided. When I finished, I even turned my back on him and walked away.
I found out later that the kid was a junior, was considered a “tough guy” and back then, what most would call a “hood.” I was a freshman. I can tell you that from the time I walked away from my encounter with him, through my graduation, people viewed me differently. Not sure I liked that, but that’s what happened.
Not the end of the story, however . . .
I don’t know what happened with this guy, what changed him, what made him change, but he ended up a whole lot differently than how I first met him. From “tough guy” and a “hood” to someone who smiled, worked in the classroom, and became the Student Council President. He ended up what we might call back then or even now as “preppy.” He was a leader- a positive one at that.
It’s not how you start, but rather, It’s How You Finish.
There are a lot of stories that come to mind from my childhood, my youth, my adult life, my professional life.
Along the way during my counseling days, there was a young Latino boy who dressed, acted, and talked the part of what we described back then as a “gang banger.” He strutted. He stared. He flexed. He threatened. But a year or so later, I saw the young man working in a clothing store and he worked with my wife and me. He actually apologized for “who he was before” as he put it. I told him then, and I mean it even now (and not just for him, but for you and for me), “It’s not who you were that’s important. It’s who you are now”
Because it really is How You Finish.
Think of a foot race, a sprint.
I have a friend, Tim. Quick, fast, small but strong, “Mr. Track” in both high school and in college. He earned himself a track scholarship because he was so good. He told a story about a race against a big-name talent from a Big Ten School in the 100 meter race. As he tells it, “For the first ten yards, I was even with him. For the last 90, he smoked me.” Knowing Tim, he was being a bit modest.
Some of us start out strong. We burst from the starting block. We explode with the biggest and best of intentions. We have dreams and goals and ideas. We have energy and life and spirit. We plan how we’re going to attack them, conquer them, and achieve success. And then . . . we fade. We tire out. We give up. We convince ourselves that we can’t, that we shouldn’t, that it somehow wasn’t possible. We blame it on our youth, our inexperience, other people. We give up and perhaps convince ourselves as a way to explain it away, that we’ve “matured” that we’ve “grown up.”
Others of us have a bit of trouble at the start. We might stumble out of the gate. We might get lost somewhere between the starting block and the finish line. But, we finish.
There is a commercial that is one of my favorites playing on TV every now and then. There is a race. There are folks cleaning up the finish line, picking up trash, taking down the sign that says, ‘Finish.’ And long after all the other runners have crossed the finish line and are long gone, along comes an overweight man in running attire with a number on his chest, and he crosses the line and falls down exhausted. The clean-up crew applauds. The one taking down the sign puts it back up. Two others help the man to his feet and pat him on the back.
It’s How You Finish. It’s always in How You Finish, not in how you start. Not in how you begin. Something to think about . . .