291: Starters and Finishers

This is the Monday Medley, a newsletter that goes out, you guessed it, every Monday. I republish it here for sharing and referencing, but if you'd like to sign up you can do so right here:

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Happy Monday!

Not much new this week... I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving.

On to the Medley...

Starters and Finishers

If you’re on this newsletter you probably know the 80/20 rule.

80% of the results come from 20% of the efforts.

20% of your time probably results in 80% of your revenue.

20% of your friends are probably the ones you spend 80% of your time with.

20% of your customers probably cause 80% of your headaches.

It’s a great heuristic for optimization. Doing an 80/20 analysis can often unlock wasted time, energy, and money.

But the 80/20 rule can also be harmful. If you obsess over being too 80/20 optimized, then you’ll only ever get to 80% of your potential. That might be fine in some areas, but in a competitive setting, it’s a sure-fire way to lose.

If you want to do great work, you need to be able to go all the way to 100. But most people aren’t capable of going from 0 to 100. Most people are either 80 people or 20 people.

An 80 can get started on new things extremely quickly and get them to a baseline level of quality. But they mysteriously disappear or lose their focus once they need to finish things off.

A 20 can do a fantastic job finishing things off and getting a project to the finish line. They love improving and finishing things up so they're the best they can be. But they often run into analysis paralysis or perfectionism when getting things started on their own.

What the 80s endlessly procrastinate on and hate working on is easy work for the 20s. And what the 20s dread or try to avoid is fun to the 80s.

Maybe we'll call 80s "Starters" and 20s "Finishers."

I suspect that a good team composition has less to do with the specific capabilities and more to do with the balance of Starters and Finishers. If you have a perfect skill mix but two Starters, nothing will ever get finished. Or if you have two Finishers, it will take ages to get anything off the ground.

So perhaps when looking for business partners, or building teams in our businesses, we should consider if we have a good mix of Starters and Finishers. You likely immediately know which one you are. If you have a hundred side projects you haven't finished, you're a starter. If you got good grades or are great at managing projects to completion, you're a finisher. Both are essential skills. And truly finding both in one person is rare.

And when it comes to finding the right way to work together, perhaps leaning into each types talents allows for interesting new forms of productivity. Maybe the Starter on a team pursues four or five tracks at once, and then the Finisher polishes and ships whichever one shows the most promise. These would likely take the same amount of time, since Finishing is so time intensive.

I'm a Starter. I'm awful at finishing things, and I've just sorta accepted that about myself. Luckily I've found some great Finishers to work with over the years.

Whichever you are, I hope you can find someone who complements you as well.

Have a great week!


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