The End is Scarier than the Beginning

I am a huge movie buff. I love watching movies, sometimes watching my favorite movies numerous times (to the point that I can recite lines and ruin movies for anyone who watches them with me). In addition to the entertainment value, I am always looking for quotes or examples in movies that can apply to real life. Often when I am speaking to young people I reference a movie or television show to demonstrate a larger point I am attempting to instill. Sadly, I often mention amazing movies that I grew up on and hear comments like “huh” or “what movie” or “I wasn’t even born then”, which hurts me emotionally. Nonetheless, I keep moving forward to establish my point.

One of my all-time favorite movies is Jaws, which was made in 1975, somewhere between the dinosaurs walking the earth and the birth of the smart phone. While there are so many incredibly scenes from the movie that I love, the one scene that always stands out is when the three men hunting the great white shark terrorizing the small quiet town share a funny drunken moment on a boat in the middle of the sea. As Brody and Hooper laugh and joke about their pasts, Quint shares a very touching and personal story of the time his ship was attacked following the delivery of the Hiroshima bomb. He explains the terror of being in shark infested water with his crew waiting to be rescued. The fear of waiting rescue and also watching fellow crew members disappear into the ocean was described in touching detail. He explained that the scariest moment in the whole ordeal was when the rescue ship appeared and he was waiting for his turn to be rescued. This was, without a doubt, one of the best monologues delivered in any movie I have ever seen.

In translating that to real life, I realized how accurate it is to think about how starting a process or course of action seems easier than the end. Whenever I fly on a plane, I rarely seem to mind the takeoff but seem to be scared silly of the landing. When I used to take exams in school I always seemed to coast into the exam but as I got closer to the end I tend to get the most nervous and anxious. During presentations that I have given, I find myself jumping into the work but as I near the end I grow increasingly nervous. This always seems to be the case, even when I convince myself that I am doing great and things are going smoothly and as planned. It was not until I focused more energy and time on developing professionally that I really understood what the true lesson in all of my experiences, and the movie, really was.

When I first created my school-based program, I remember the day I completed the first implementation in my first school. It was a major deal to me- a first step in a positive direction and the fulfillment of a plan I created a year prior. I set a goal of becoming an entrepreneur and creating my own business and program and I accomplished it. When the program completed, I had a tremendous sense of pride and happiness. This, however, was immediately followed by fear, anxiety, and worry. I achieved success which almost seemed easy because I was so driven and focused that I knew it would be inevitable. I worked and planned so extensively that success was, or had to be, guaranteed. The hard part was now in front of my face- sustaining and growing that success.

Imagine the pressure placed on a sports team or athlete following the achievement of a championship. You can no longer hide in obscurity. You now have a target on your back. Every fan that rooted for you will have the same expectations- a repeat and greater performance following the previous year. This is not the time to vacation. This is not the time to relax. This is not the time to celebrate the championship for an extensive period of time. And this is absolutely not the time to grow complacent. This is the time to work harder, focus more, and develop a stronger plan of action to place yourself in a position to repeat as champion the following year.

I have had the pleasure of hearing so many amazing stories of people reaching levels of success and achieving accomplishments and goals they set for themselves. I absolutely take time to celebrate and acknowledge their success. Then I always ask one simple question- what is your plan to sustain that level of success? The jumping up and down immediately stops and you can almost hear the gears in the brain grinding away. While it is important to celebrate any successes, it is also critical to know that you have just raised the bar for yourself. You have now created a higher level of expectations for yourself and a greater sense of accountability in the eyes of the people who took part in supporting and celebrating the achievement of your goals. This is often much more difficult than embarking on your journey.

So when I sat there after successfully completing my program in two schools, I had to spend the next few months planning on how I would sustain that success and find ways to grow and improve. The following year I went from contracting with two schools to contracting with five schools. The celebration was even greater which was followed by a greater sense of fear and anxiety and pressure. Five schools grew to twelve schools by the following year. And each year since I have found a way to grow and improve. The program grew, additional services were developed, and contracts were created with entities other than schools. Every year I find new ways to grow- for myself because I deserve it and for the people who have grown accustomed to my success and count on me to continue to achieve that level of work.

I am thankful for the movie Jaws, and for that amazing and powerful scene and message, despite the fact that it ruined going to the beach for many years.


1 thought on “The End is Scarier than the Beginning”

  1. Loved the article Rich. I totally appreciate your perspective. For me, success is a mangiable creature. After I achieve any “success” it begs the question of what my next “success” will subsequently take form.

    That reevaluation, for me, allows me to reflect and celebrate the success but also take stock; pivot or carry on as needed.

    I wish life were as prescribed as sports, where the aim is clear. For me, the constant reflection has allows me to be purposeful as I change directions when opportunities arise or when interests wane.

    I don’t think I’m saying something in contradistinction to you but just a different side of the coin. When I speak to young people their definition of success seems to be a fixed singularity without the flexibility of “life happening”. I just try to tell them success changes, along with you.


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