Starters vs. Finishers

Are you a Starter or a Finisher? I’m a Starter

Finishers: Finishers, well, finish. They take projects to their logical conclusion.  A limited number of projects are picked up & executed.

Starters: Starters are great at starting new things. But they suck at finishing. Many projects are started enthusiastically but abandoned quickly.

So: Are you a starter or finisher? Or where do you lie on the spectrum?

I start lots of new projects, hobbies, and whatnot (I’d like to think this does not affect my work life as badly…). I could give you way too many examples to illustrate this, but here are a few choice missteps for your enjoyment:

  • I got a year-long membership and went to the gym two times (effectively paying INR 5000 / the equivalent of $300 per hour)
  • I started making a massive Game of Thrones jigsaw puzzle (2000 pieces) 4 years ago and am just about to finish it (and that too mostly because my SO kicked my butt into working on it)
  • I started bird-watching – got a pair of binoculars, a couple of bird info apps, etc. 6 months later the binoculars are gathering dust and the apps are long uninstalled
  • I’ve started a running regimen and given it up more times than I can remember
  • Going meta, I decided to start a blog multiple times and gave up after struggling through 1 post
  • …and so on. You get the point


Why are some people starters? I have a theory.

Starters: Superficial motivation -> Superficial actions -> Superficial reward

You see, I think starters like me want to do things for superficial reasons – like talking about an amazeballs jigsaw puzzle, or telling someone about a cool blog you’re dropping. As a result, the superficial parts of doing any of these things are also what get done first (like buying the puzzle, or buying a gym membership, or buying a domain name for your blog). This results in an initial rush that comes with starting anything new – it feels good but doesn’t last. A gym needs a good mix of starters among its members to run profitably.

Finishers: Deep motivation -> Committed action -> Lasting reward


Finishers on the other hand don’t even start things unless there’s a real reason to do it. Real reasons keep you motivated longer, so you act with commitment. And the resulting reward is less instant gratification and more long term benefits (improved health, better at trivia games, whatever)


(everything after this is hypothesis to be tested as of Jul 2017)

Okay, so what? The good thing is, I think starters can become finishers with some work. First, don’t even start something for a superficial reason (this should not become an excuse to not start anything). Pick one or two things and know what finishing looks like. Visualize it (completed puzzle, complete a half marathon, etc.) – so you know what to target, and know when you’ve finished.  Then (and I’m no expert on this), break down your overall goal into bite-sized objectives and start working on them. Rinse and repeat.

Second, cut out the superficial actions. Especially if the action involves spending money to buy something. “Hack” your way to the harder-to-do actions and the harder-to-achieve reward and then buy something. Want to start a blog? Write stuff on Quora, reddit, hell, write in a word doc before you go buy that deep-sounding domain name. Want to start running. Buy low-cost shoes and use your old knobby school socks – don’t go for the nice Reeboks and Jockey sports socks until you’ve done your first 21k. Don’t get that gym membership until you’ve done everything you can do at home with Youtube. All of this is to make sure you don’t get that initial rush that comes just because of buying something. I’m speaking from experience – having done all of these things wrong myself.


Outside of my job or college courses, where finishing was kind of required, I’ve probably “finished” less than 10 things. In almost 26 years of existence. Sad, I know. To finishers reading this, I salute you. You inspire awe by your ability to keep at things. Even when it’s not fun, even when it gets painful, physically or mentally. Especially when you make sacrifices in “fun” parts of life, just to keep going at what you’ve decided to finish. To starters reading this, let’s learn to finish!

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