Finish strong: All is well that ends well
In the 1968 Olympic games in Mexico, John Stephen Akhwari, the former Tanzanian Marathon runner, etched his name in the history of the Olympic games by his heroic decision to finish the race.
He never stood on a podium to be celebrated, but he is remembered for his extraordinary spirit of finishing well.
On that fateful day, Akhwari was competing in the 5,000-meter race. He had started well, and in the course of the race, while jostling for a space, he was hit.
He fell and wounded his knee and dislocated a joint. His shoulder also hit hard against the pavement. He, however, continued running after he received treatment. He never stopped.
He was the last to enter an almost empty stadium bloodied and bandaged. He ran through the pain and finished the race.
Stephen Akhwari reminds us that we may not start the race well or maybe we started well but fell along the way.
However, the most important thing is that we must finish strong. When interviewed later and asked why he continued running, he said, "My country did not send me 5,000 miles to start the race; they sent me 5,000 miles to finish the race."
Sometimes, you have to run through the pain to finish the race. Stephen Akhwari competed before and after the 1968 Olympic games and won other races, yet the world remembers him for his feat in Mexico. He is celebrated and has played "special ambassador" roles for other Olympic Games.
Leaders and professionals understand the importance of persevering until the very end. They hold the view that they can win at any moment.
They acknowledge that in every moment, it is possible to forge a relationship that takes them closer to their goal or take the first step on a journey of a thousand miles.
The “Akhwari mindset” is not necessarily about coming in first or last. It is about finishing and finishing in a manner that brings dignity and glory to all the 365 days of effort. As Robin Sharma puts it, “Starting strong is good, finishing strong is epic”.
We have gone through a challenging year that has tested the resilience of many leaders and professionals. With about three weeks to the end of the year, I offer five ideas leaders can take to finish the year on a high.
1. Celebrate your journey
Most people only celebrate when they can point to significant tangible achievements. I encourage leaders to celebrate the journey irrespective of the outcome. Most importantly, leaders must celebrate the resilience and values they bring into their work and the effort exerted in getting work done.
What does it mean to celebrate your journey? I am not necessarily referring to parties. Take a moment to acknowledge your progress and give yourself a chance to accept it. “When we fail to acknowledge and celebrate small victories, we get discouraged and the flame inside us starts to dwindle.”
What wins would you like to celebrate over the past 12 months; what process led to the win?
2. Focus on rest and recuperation
The last month of the year is a busy month with many activities. There are projects at work to wrap up. There is shopping for gifts and family. There are parties and celebrations to attend.
Sometimes, this period becomes one of the most stressful times of the year. There are opportunities to over-indulge and compromise our health and well-being. It is time to slow down and take good care of yourself. Finishing strong demands that we slow down during this time of the year. You do not want to start the new year tired and out of shape. Use the time to focus on rest and recuperation.
What actions will you take to renew your energy for the new year ahead?
3. Repair and reconnect relationships
The end of the year provides an opportunity to repair neglected relationships. Connecting with significant people, colleagues at work, business partners, and acquaintances you have made over the years is a great way to strengthen these relationships and support systems in your lives and work.
Who do you need to connect with before the year ends?
4. Plan for the future
Finishing strong also means lifting your head to see what is beyond and laying the foundations for a bright future.
The season offers an opportunity to reflect on the lessons learnt and to plan for the year ahead. Most organisations have completed their 2024 plans and budgets. You must prepare your plan for the year ahead. You may not have a detailed plan for every month of 2024, but outlining your focus areas makes it easier to start the year well. What critical decisions do you have to make in 2024? What do you need to prioritise going into 2024?
What investments do you plan to make in your professional development?
Choose which unfinished projects to complete and move on
There are 25 days to end the year, and there may be projects that have not been started or are not near completion. How do you finish strong when you have so many projects at various stages of completion? You decide on what you want to focus on and complete before the year ends, and make peace with that. In the words of Satya Nadella, “One lesson learned is you’ve got to finish the scenario with excellence. You just cannot stop.”
What would you like to prioritise and get done before the year ends?
Bonus Idea: Prepare your 2024 Leadership Manifesto. Remember your stakeholders vote every day.
…..be of good cheer!
The writer is the Founder of the CEO Accelerator Program and Chief Learning Strategist at TEMPLE Advisory. He specializes in leadership development, executive coaching and strategy consulting. The mission of The Leadership Project is to harvest highly effective leadership practices and share them in a manner that other leaders can easily incorporate into their leadership practice. If you have an idea or leadership practice to share, kindly write to