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How to Start Finishing Your Best Work

By Kerra Bolton

It was a clear choice on a hot day.

Spend the rest of the afternoon drinking cocktails on the beach or go home and write.

Cocktails on the beach were a strong contender. I live in a tropical climate and am used to the heat. But it was so hot that it felt like Satan sat his entire booty-crack on the exact latitude and longitude of my apartment.

I was also frustrated.

I started and stopped so many stories on my lifelong quest to be a published book author. Would this be another project about which I would get excited and then fizzle? Couldn’t I solve this problem with a refreshing cocktail – preferably one with citrus, mint, and a generous helping of rum?

If It Matters, You Will Thrash

“No!” I imagined my friend Charlie Gilkey shouting from the pages of his new book Start Finishing: How to Go from Idea to Done.

“The more an idea matters to you,” Charlie says, “the more you’ll thrash, precisely because its success or failure is deeply important to you.”

I was deep in the thrash because being a published book author represents the pinnacle of my professional and personal achievement. That’s why I treated the choice of whether to spend the afternoon day drinking or working on my book as if it were a real one.

While we may want to blame climate change, poor time-management, technology, industry gatekeepers, or the ambiguous catchall “life” for our failure, Charlie sees through our veils of excuses.

“A natural response to thrashing is to pick easier ideas to work on,” he says. “Sheer exhaustion, frustration, and the desire to actually get something done make switching projects seem like a good idea. Ain’t nobody got time to wear themselves out for half a day and not have anything to show for it.”

Start Finishing

Start Finishing sharpens the ideas Charlie has developed over the past decade while coaching leaders, entrepreneurs and creatives like me.

As a productivity expert and coach, Charlie doesn’t shame or bully people into starting the business, writing the book, launching the program that could increase your revenue. He takes us at our word when we say, “this is the work I was meant to do” and he helps us get there.

His Productive Flourishing blog, podcast, planners, and monthly momentum calls are a movement and a community. They provide thoughtful change-makers with practical tools and strategies to identify and address the obstacles that keep us from doing our best work.

In Start Finishing, Charlie spurs readers to choose a project and guides us through the stages of completion – from setting SMART goals to convert your idea into a project to building daily momentum and finishing strong.

Charlie addresses the internal and external blocks that prevent us from starting the business, auditioning the TED Talk, or completing the manuscript. Specifically, he teaches readers how to:

  • Use the project pyramid to break down big projects into smaller ones.
  • Activate the “Five Projects Rule” to prioritize and plan your work.
  • Handle derailers and naysayers
  • Mitigate distractions and interruptions.
  • Navigate the three common ways projects get suck and how to handle them.

“As we create and change the world, we create and change ourselves,” Charlie says. “But we don’t do real creation and change work in our heads; we have to roll up our sleeves and mix the stuff of the world together to create new realities.”

Taking Out the Head Trash

Before I could create a new reality, I had to take out the “head trash.”

Head trash, according to Charlie, is the “general aspersions and self-limiting stories” we tell ourselves “based on our own personal experiences, histories, and contexts.”

My head trash is that to be a “good, serious, and published author” means having extraordinary literary talent in which even the correct placement of a comma could make a grown thug cry. I don’t have that kind of talent. At my best, all I can do is write one true sentence after another. For some reason, that never seems good enough.

Seeing the head trash doesn’t mean it will go away, Charlie says. He recommends taking out the head trash by being aware of what’s real and not, having the courage to test and challenge those beliefs, and developing the discipline to stay the course.

I took out the head trash by realizing my work has been internationally-recognized, one true sentence is all you need, and keep writing gets things done. And just like that the choice was simple. If I wanted to do my best work, all I needed to do was write first and celebrate my wins with a cocktail on the beach.

: Kerra Bolton is an independent writer and documentary producer. Providing “soul food for thought,” she writes about culture, food, life, and politics for digital publication. She’s currently working on a documentary, “The Return of the Black Madonna,” about the use of restorative practices to repair harm, restore relationships, and build social capital.

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