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“Continuous effort – not strength or intelligence – is the key to unlocking our potential.”

Winston Churchill
Finish strong quote

“How you doin’?” The gentleman asking had a thick southern drawl.

I was just sitting down to buckle in for a flight from Atlanta to Detroit.

On most flights people sit down, grunt out the formalities of saying hello (but seldom make eye contact), buckle up, and quickly grab their phone, disappear into their seat and remain quiet for the duration of the flight.

This gentleman’s voice was kind and his question innocent enough. So I took the bait, played along and answered:

“Doing great today, thanks. How are you doing?”

The gentleman practically sang back to me, “Man, I am blessed and highly favored. If I was doing any better I’d unbuckle this seat belt, stand up in this aisle, and dance with one of the flight attendants. Life is just that good!”

Over the next two hours he then went on to share his life story.

And what a story.

Charles was on his way to spend a week visiting his grandchildren in Lansing, Mich. Although he grew up impoverished, he didn’t know it.

He joined the military the day he graduated high school, started his own business afterwards and married his first girlfriend. Together, they built that business, raised five children and enjoyed 11 grandchildren.

Charles added he was dealing with some heavy sadness. He’d recently lost his wife to cancer. Although they enjoyed 44 years together, he’d do anything to have even one more day with her. 

As he shared his life experiences, at least five different times he used the same expression.

Finish strong.

I asked him where it came from. Charles said it was a mantra he learned in the military. To finish every training exercise, every run, every mission, focused, poised, passionate. Strong.

It served him well in the Army. It continued to served him well in his business, in his parenting and now in his retirement. It drove him forward through difficult days, through immense grief, through mighty challenges and toward unceasing possibility. It reminded him of the power of his potential, the gift within each day and the promise of tomorrow.

Finish strong.

My friends, Charles pulled me away from what I normally do on flights: work. Because of our conversation, I wasn’t able to catch up on email, wasn’t able to draft this newsletter, and had to stay up late to hit a writing deadline.

(By the way, for the last several years my work on these flights has been centered on writing a new book! I share what motivated me to write IN AWE on this morning’s Live Inspired Podcast episode. Listen to that here.)

And yet, in shutting the laptop during that flight, ignoring the busyness of work, and opening myself to the wisdom of others, I was reminded what real success is ultimately all about. 

Life demands continuous effort. 

Growing and expanding spiritually, physically, professionally and personally is not the effect of simply raw strength, intelligence or good luck. 

True vibrancy in relationships, effectiveness in work, and real success in life are the results of persistence, faithfulness, focus, love and the daily choice to do a little more today than we chose to do yesterday. Finish Strong. [Tweet this]

What a great motto to leverage during the final month of 2019, and as you prepare for your 2020. Thanks for the reminder, Charles.

This is your day. Live Inspired.

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