Subscribe to my weekly newsletter for reading recommendations, what's inspiring me, and my latest posts.

    When It Comes To An End

    Endings are a part of life. How we approach them matters as much as all the time from the start.

    Posted on December 9, 2020

    “The end of a melody is not its goal: but nonetheless, had the melody not reached its end it would not have reached its goal either. A parable.”
    ― Nietzche


    In The Power of Moments, Chip and Dan Heath write about the significance of creating and recognizing significant moments. You can do this for friends and family, colleagues, and customers or clients. The three situations that deserve punctuation include transitions, milestones, and pits.

    We have the power to shape these moments or ignore them. In the best cases, we bring intentionality to moments of transition, milestones, and pits. Through thoughtful strategies and tactics, we make them feel positive, exciting, fulfilling, or even a little less terrible. In the worst of times, we ignore these moments and leave them to trend towards negative, regretful, or frustrating experiences.

    In one study that the Heath brothers cite, they show that over the course of an experience, like a trip to Disney World, there are several significant moments. Yet, when those visitors are asked to reflect on whether the experience as a whole was positive or negative, there were only two moments that mattered: the peak moment (positive or negative) and the ending moment.

    A father remembers the look on his daughter’s face when she sees Mickey Mouse coming towards them. He remembers, as they were leaving the park, the photo a team member took of his family all smiling. He mostly forgets the in-between moments of exhaustion, whining, hunger, and long lines. What mattered most was the peak moment and the way the trip ended.


    I’ve been thinking about transitions and endings recently. That’s because this is my last week working at Skookum. When I reflect on my experience at Skookum, research suggests I’ll remember the peak moment and the way it ends.

    There were many peak positive moments: playing music with Jason Rome in one of our senior stakeholder’s living room in San Francisco; having a deep conversation about fatherhood with a retail credit sales manager at a Sam’s Club while on a research trip; the aha moment that I had with Steve Whitby that sparked the creation of a new strategy tool for UX designers at a top three US bank.

    Yet, of the moments that remain, the only one I can now control is the ending. How will my colleagues remember me? What positive impact can I have on my project teams or company initiatives? How many more meetings can I effectively say yes to? Not many, to be honest. Nevertheless, for me, a positive ending requires showing up prepared and present. It means setting up my colleagues for success through thorough knowledge transfer. It means being honest, candid, and grateful in all the goodbye conversations.

    I started this week thinking about how Skookum’s core values have become my own. These values were forged in the fire of the ambiguous and challenging strategy work I’ve weathered these last few years.

    Own It
    Embrace Change
    Simplify and Go
    Give More Than You Take
    Choose to be Happy

    In a Slack message to me late last week, Jason Rome wrote, “I hope you take some of the ‘Skookum Way’ you helped create and spread the good word.”

    Most companies talk about their core values. Few live them. I am fortunate to have spent the past two years with a company that’s an outlier in this way. In good times and bad, you can count on someone to point you towards these values. And, to the end and what comes after, they’re part of my operating system now.

    There are no excuses and no one else to blame for failure. The only thing in life that’s certain is change. When you’re overwhelmed with complexity, simplify everything to what’s essential. You are infinitely blessed with knowledge and resources, so share some of it. Happiness is a choice.