Finishing Well

What People Who Really Live Do Differently!
Author: Bob Buford


Bob Buford is founder of Leadership Network and the author of HalfTime and other books. For this book he interviewed 120 extremely capable, high profile leaders for advice on living the second half of life. Many of these are people of faith. They all seemed to be highly energetic, disciplined, incurably positive, and highly influential with other people.

Odds are, you'll live a whole adult lifetime that wasn't available to your parents and grandparents. Buford's primary quest is to find what leaders need to learn to finish well. He talked to the pioneers, pathfinders, and leaders ahead of us in this new territory."

Best Chapter: 7. It's About Relationships and Priorities

(based primarily on an interview with Armand Nicholi)

"The most meaningful work is that which involved helping other people." "Sharing your wealth through charitable giving and philanthropy is important, but sharing your knowledge is every bit as important. It's the opposite of 'fame and fortune,' but it has lasting significance. I've often said, 'The fruit of my work grows on other people's trees.'" (Armand Nicholi, 82)

Joy has more to do with being in alignment with your task or assignment from God, and being in a right relationship with him and your significant others, than with your sense of personal gratification or happiness. (Armand Nicholi, 83)

Buford completes Maslow's Pyramid with a higher top level: (86)
  • Self-Transcendence
  • Self-Actualization
  • Doing Needs
  • Having Needs

"More often than not, money and achievement are cul-de-sacs or dead ends, and represent temptations and obstacles. (87)

Key Insights

"The hard thing is to pray for God's will to be done in your life, that you'll know it when it comes, and that you'll be strong enough to go out and follow it." (Tom Luce, 7)

"I have no problem with money, power, fame, or status-as long as they're treated as resources, rather than as goals in themselves. But that's precisely the problem for most people." (Tom Morris, 9)

"Knowing God and believing that there is a plan and purpose for our lives should fill us with joy." "Devote the rest of your life to doing those things which you know to be good and profitable for humanity, and that means especially for the human beings who live around you." (Dallas Willard, 12, 13)

"I was really drawn toward the light when I began practicing the spiritual disciplines, starting each day a little more slowly, and making a clear space in my life to hear the voice of God." "Finishing well is a continuous process of becoming a better vessel for God's purposes." (Jay Bennett, 34, 35)

How do you figure out what God's telling you? "I listen. Most of us are so noisy we can't hear God's will." "I listen." (Wilson Goode, 43)

Knowing your strengths and weaknesses is essential. When you know who you are, you can be comfortable making decisions about what you want to do and where. "One has to learn what to say no to." (Peter Drucker, 47)

"Really great answers tend to close things down, while really great questions open things up. So my basic approach to life is to collect really great questions." (Dan Sullivan, 47)

"In order to restore some vitality and excitement in your life you must have a higher purpose. You've got to pour yourself into a larger, overriding goal that will occupy your time and talents." (Dan Sullivan, 48)

The "core" is "the immovable center of who you really are. It's the equipment your Creator has issued to you-the mental, physical, and emotional tools you've got to work with, as well as your experiences and deepest passions." (51)

Two things have to come together "The first is discovering that secret sauce, and the special part about you that God created…. The second is deciding how to pursue it: Toward what end? Toward making the world a better place? Toward something with a much larger purpose?" (Margie Blanchard)

"I define significance as using your knowledge and experience to add value to the lives of others." (65)

"If you were at the end of your life, looking back at where you are now, what would have to have happened for you to feel good personally and professionally about your life?" (Bob Buford, 67)

Driven people think it's all up to them. Called people understand that life and work are gifts of God's grace. (Ken Blanchard, 72)

Get under God's agenda and out from under your own. Success is all about getting; significance is about giving back. (Ken Blanchard, 73)

It is hard to discover what is going to be most important and fulfilling in the future. Ferret out the one or two recurring themes that have satisfied in your life stages. (Margie Blanchard, 75)

I tried not to let myself get trapped emotionally or financially in the organization. Even when you guard against it, the power and the self-image you feel in top leadership can become almost addictive. (Dick DeVos, 96)

"When you're not doing what you're supposed to be doing, it's like writing with the wrong hand. You can do it, and after awhile you can get pretty good at it, but it's always awkward. But when you find the sweet spot-what you were created to do-it's like putting the pen back in the hand where it belongs." (Tom Wilson, 104)

"What keeps most of us from focusing on the things that matter is all the things that don't matter but add cost, particularly the cost of our most precious asset-time." (106)

"Build a life, not a resume." (Tom Tierney, 111)

Create a "stop doing" list. (Jim Collins, (115)

"Nobody remembers the halftime score; where you stand at the end of the game is what really matters." "Significance happens when we enable those around us to discover their own significance." (Earl Palmer, 122)

When people in the Bible didn't finish well, "the thinking that surfaced over and over was a failure, not in their knowledge of Scripture but in failing to apply Scripture in their lives." "There has to be somebody to ask the significant questions, to hold us accountable." "If you stop learning today, you'll stop growing tomorrow." "Your career is what you're paid to do; your calling is what you're made to do." (Howard Hendricks, 124, 125)

What's in the box? What is central to your life at this point? If there is room for only one thing in the box, what is it? Identifying what's in the box frames everything. (130-31)

"It's about changed lives." (Ali Hanna, 136)

"I ask myself, What am I supposed to do today? And what will contribute the most benefit from what I'm supposed to do today?" "Lord, I can't do anything about yesterday, and tomorrow may not come. Let me be your man today." (Vester Hughes, 141)

"What gets me up each morning is the whole prospect of building something that will last beyond my own life." (Larry Allums, 148)

"If your ambition is X and along the way you discover that where you really belong is Y or Z, then it's not smart to keep bucking for X." (Jim Collins, 160)

At "Level 5 Leadership", the top performers are (1) genuinely humble and (2) fully devoted to the mission." (Jim Collins, 164)

Two final questions:
  • What did you do about Jesus?
  • What did you do with what I gave you to work with? (171)

"What I'm most intrigued by is the degree to which, step by step, Solomon accommodated himself to the culture around him, to the point that he ended up walking away from God. And I ask myself, How much can we accommodate ourselves to the culture and the people we love and are trying to influence? Solomon …indulged in the same excesses they did, and he became little different from those outside the covenant." (Dennis Beausejour, 208)

"Finishing well to me primarily means that I want, more than anything, to be found obedient and faithful." (Dennis Beausejour, 209)

Role models, Peter Drucker and Billy Graham, were "still relevant in their thinking, their conversations, and in the way they live. They're not thinking in the past." "Peter is constantly priming his mind with current events and topics of interest, and he has an uncanny way of relating those things to what has occurred in history. He puts today's topics into a context of what's gone on before." (Bill Pollard, 234-35)

"We can retire from our jobs, but we can never retire from our calling." (Os Guinness, 247)

"The pathfinders show us what can be done. In many and diverse ways they show us that the final stage of life goes beyond success to significance and surrender. Beyond self-actualization to self-transcendence." (252)

Finishing Well: What People Who Really Live Do Differently!
Bob Buford, 2005, 296 pp.

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