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Unfinished Business

The notion of “unfinished business” is peculiar. At some point, every single person gets into a situation where they encounter it. The phrase tends to be associated (at least in the movies) with mafia “scores” or situations that involve some type of revenge.

In the business world, it’s something else entirely. Unfinished business usually involves a project that you want to (and are waiting to) work on or a project you want to see through to completion and/or fruition. It invokes several emotions, not the least of which is the desire to finish the business and gain that sense of accomplishment.

Unfinished business can be both good and bad.

Good: Things Get Done.

The feeling of accomplishment is great, but actually getting things done is even better. People who feel like they have unfinished business can (not always) light a fire under themselves and blast through other assignments to get to those very projects.

Bad: Paralysis.

Sometimes, unfinished business keeps people in places they know they shouldn’t be, but stay anyway. Maybe it’s because they’re holding out for that project they want to work on, or maybe it’s because they want to see the results of a project they’re in the middle of. Either way, it can create a sort of excuse if other opportunities present themselves.

This side of the equation reminds me a bit of Seth Godin’s “Lizard Brain” concept from Linchpin. The lizard brain will prefer the path of least resistance and the path of least risk. Unfinished business can perpetuate the lizard brain given the right circumstances.

What do you do?

Do you have unfinished business? How do you handle it?

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