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Finishers & Completionists will kill us all
World-sized problems, need reckless folk
11 February 2020 . 4min read

We all know at least one. The person who is full of joy at finishing something. The person who gets immense satisfaction in finding all the flag-things in that game.

I present the Finisher & the Completionist.

For both of them, it is the conclusion of the exercise that makes it all worthwhile.

If we take a moment to look at the Completionist. The term originates from the world of gaming. It is a specific category of a person who exhibits a desire or obsession in completing every aspect of a game. It can apply to any type of game, or indeed, activity.

As an example, we could take the game Animal Crossing: New Leaf, on the Nintendo 3DS handheld. As I'm sure you won't be surprised to learn, there is a website that details for all games, the time taken to complete them. They have multiple definitions of complete; Main, Leisurely, Completionist. With increasing amounts of time. In the case of Animal Cross, the Completionist time is 1109 hours. Yes, eleven-hundred and nine hours of continuous effort.

Put another way ... 1109h at 1 hour per day, say during your lunch break. That is 5 days per week, with lets say 2 weeks off for a holiday; 250 hours per year. Yep, that will take you 4 years, 5 months and 7 days. That is, of course, assuming that you don't get distracted during your lunch break by that argument between Tracey and Sharon in Accounts.

There are also, of course, the Finishers. Those strange folk who get enjoyment in concluding a task or project. For them, it is all about the finality of it.

The Finishers tend to get more recognition and reward in the workplace. There is a notoriety in finishing a project. A special kind of badge that is given, either figuratively or actually, to those special folk.

A niche exists between those two as well. They are called the Speed Runners. Their focus and laser sighted goal is to complete a game in the shortest possible time. The record for Animal Crossing: New Leaf, is an amazing 1 hour 27 minutes and 15 seconds. It really is a sight to behold!

I am none of those people.

I am as far away from those people as it is possible to get; we will get onto that later.

Having observed such strange folk from a distance, I have noticed several curious things. The first of which, that just by looking at them, it's not possible to deduce which people suffer from this affliction. Second, said people will tend to focus on the finishing-value of any given task.

This is natural and is a consequence of the task-reward loop that exists in most of us.

The consequence of this appears to be that, when given a task, they will be more willing to start one when they can determine that it has a conclusion. Furthermore, those tasks which they know how to complete will be given special favour.

Back to me. As I have disclosed, I am not any of these. I am best described as a Startist.

I have a fantastic ability to Start anything. I can pick up any task, I can start almost anything. I can get things going. I have no interest at all in the joy of finishing something.

In our social structure, I do not get any kind of reward for Starting something. Indeed, it is frowned upon.

To be clear, I am happy to start anything, even those problems/tasks that do not seem to have any possible conclusion or solution whatsoever.

Why does this all matter? What has this got to do with anything?

Well, if we are filled with a task-reward system that favours those who complete things, and which effectively penalises those who are good at starting, we will end up of less of the latter. We will end up with less Startists.

I've mentioned elsewhere that I believe that our future holds several really hard problems that need to be solved. Sure, we need to, as a group, work together to solve these problems. However, if a junk load of people are Finishers, then their focus is on the potential solution before they have started.

It's a problem. It's a problem because it is an immediate barrier to trying things out. What we need are those wonderful people who are fantastic at Starting anything without any kind of knowledge/will/desire in the conclusion of it.

We not only need ideas, but we need people who are willing to try everything. Once thing's progress past that initial stage and fall into the plausible position, then the Finishers can take over.

If we are to solve these world-sized problems, we need a merry band of reckless folk, who are front-line Startists.

My name is Nigel Derbyshire, and I am a Startist.

Look for beauty and intrigue, in the simplest of things.


Profile photo of Nigel Derbyshire

I'm a carbon-unit who writes; a Carbon Writer. Life & culture are my default topics, mixed with a little English wit & sarcasm. Full of mostly true stories, I occasionally remember to write them down. Found in a crowd, or contemplating in a corner. Habit of talking to anyone. Author.
- Nigel Derbyshire