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“My Last Must Be My Best”

I credit one of my very first mentors, a man named Donald W. Atkinson, for introducing me to success literature. This took place back in about 1978 or 1979. Don was a powerhouse speaker and it was he that introduced me to the National Speakers Association, which let to my becoming their youngest ever member at that time, as well as led to the formation of the first state chapter in Utah where I served as President for two terms. Those were heady days.

One of the books Don had me read was titled The Greatest Salesman in the World, by Og Mandino, the managing director of Success Magazine (and a fellow NSA speaker). That book was so well written! It was a fictional account of a rug salesman in the Middle East who obtained some scrolls upon which was written some profound wisdom that helped the hapless rug merchant become a great salesman. Each of the 10 scrolls eloquently discussed a different principle of success – persistence, self-esteem, mastering one’s emotions, taking action, and surprisingly, even love.

One of the scrolls which discussed endurance contained a line that struck me with great force: “My last must be my best.”

I’ve never forgotten that one line. It has remained embedded in my consciousness ever since I first read it in the late 1970s. Over time I came to embrace a belief that, were I permitted to live to an advance age, I would perform some of the best work of my career. In other words, I made the decision to believe, and embrace, the idea that my best work would come out of me in my 70s and 80s. And I’ve never stopped believing that.

Truth be told, at the time I embraced such a notion, I did not claim to know what my work would consist of in my 70s or 80s. In fact, I’m still not 100% certain, although, without going into detail, I believe I am starting to get clarity around what that work will involve.

I firmly believe this is a wonderful and sound ideology to embrace. Think of all of the applications of this principle. Think of the world of track and field. Runners who do distance running find a way to draw upon hidden reserves so they can explode to greatness down the final home stretch! Boxers are able to last the 12 or 15 rounds of their grueling bouts to come out victorious. Coach John Wooden, undoubtedly the greatest college basketball coach where he led the UCLA Bruins to 10 National Championships, going undefeated (33-0) in 4 of his seasons while coach. Simply unheard of! But what is interesting to me is that Coach Wooden told his players at the beginning of every season that they were going to be in better physical condition than any other team in the NCAA. He made it clear that they would be in such top condition that they would play just as hard without tiring in the fourth period as they had in the first period, and they would never be the first to take a time-out; let the other team take a time-out first if they need to catch their breath.

Imagine embracing wholeheartedly a philosophy that demands you finish strong, not merely start strong. Why is the climax of an important piece of music saved for the very end? Because it is electrifying! Why are the closing words of a great speech so rousing? Because it stirs the passions of the hearers in ways that the earlier statements could not. Finishing big is something I am committed to. And I urge you to adopt that world-view as your own. Never let your last be weak, or poor, or sloppy, or pedestrian. Instead, make your grand finale something that is truly grand!

Do this consistently and you will be a person to be reckoned with. You will have impact. And you will change lives.

Ara Norwood is a multi-faceted and results-oriented professional. Spanning a multiplicity of disciplines including leadership, management, innovation, strategy, service, sales, business ethics, and entrepreneurship. Ara is also a historian, having special expertise on the era of the founding of our republic.
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