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Finish the Job: a Lesson On Discipline

By Cameron Elliott

Growing up, my two main chores were to take the recycling out to the curb every Sunday night, and helping with the yard work. There was grass to mow, hedges and trees to trim, plants to water, seeds to plant in our small garden.

Most importantly, trimming that hedge, pruning that tree, resulted in branches that needed to be taken care of. This task was often delegated to me. I'd hack large branches down into a manageable size, scoop up the piles of leaves and dead plant debris, and place them all in the heavy brown yard bags.

As I got older, I was promoted from bag boy to actually doing the yard work myself. One summer day, when I was 14, I was asked to trim a hedge in the backyard. I did so, pleased that my parents trusted me with the sharp clippers. I trimmed that hedge to the best of my ability, leaving a huge pile of branches and leaves. I knew I wasn't supposed to leave the pile, but in my adolescent logic, I figured that I bagged my parents clippings so, naturally, they would return the favor.

That afternoon, when dad came home and saw the pile in the backyard and me sitting on the couch, he was less than pleased. "Son," he said. "You need to finish the job. You can't leave it half- finished."

I told him my reason for leaving the branches un-bagged: he should be one to do it, not I. This argument did not carry much weight. Furthermore, he said he doubted they really asked me to bag their clippings. Reluctantly, I dragged myself back outside and proceeded to 'finish the job,' feeling put- upon.

The very next weekend, my parents again found themselves outside, doing yard work. Sweaty and dirty, dad came in and asked me to bag the clippings. Looking him right in the eye, I said to my father "Finish the job."

The clippings sat outside all summer long.

I was an obnoxious, stubborn teenager, full of self- righteousness. My refusal to help embarrasses me now, but over the years, my father's words have stuck with me, becoming a mantra.

"Finish the job," he said. He has a point. Why leave a project half completed? While I'm not perfect, and abandoned countless projects, those three words have given me strength, urging me to continue and, simply, finish the job.

About The Author
Cameron Elliott, a sleep specialist, is an internet manager for where he champions the benefits of a good night's sleep both for individual health and also for a more safe and efficient world.


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