Why the Lack of Necessary Endings is the Silent Killer of Growth

I’m often asked for recommendations for books on personal and leadership growth. Today, I want to talk to you my friend, as if we were sharing a warm conversation, over a hot mug of tea, on a cool, rainy day. If we were sitting together in one of my favorite local coffeeshops, and you asked me for a book recommendation, with great passion and conviction this is what I would tell you…

You must immediately start reading Necessary Endings by Dr. Henry Cloud. The insight he shares is an absolute must have for any leader, pastor, influencer, or person who struggles to say no and let go. You know how much I value loyalty and tenacity, and you know that we’ve both struggled at times with letting go of projects, positions, and even relationships that we knew were not fruitful. Dr. Cloud’s wisdom has helped me immensely to gain peace about past relationships, receive healing from feelings of betrayal, and embrace courage to end hopeless situations with greater ease and love.

Dr. Cloud describes the need for ending things well with his analogy of the pruning of a rose bush. He explains how to identify what may need pruning in our lives through these three categories:

  1. Healthy buds or branches that are not the best ones (a good initiative, but one that is siphoning off resources that could go to something with more promise.)
  2. Sick branches (endeavors or relationships) that are not going to get well, and
  3. Dead branches that are taking up space needed for the healthy ones to thrive (something that is clearly already dead with no hope of becoming healthy)

Endings can be good if we allow them to move us toward our destiny with authenticity. Let me highlight three insights I gained from this book, and I’ll quote the author’s wisdom to explain each.

When you hold too tightly to former experiences, you cannot fully grab onto new successes.

“Failing well means ending something that is not working and choosing to do something else better.”

“Getting to the next level always requires ending something, leaving it behind, and moving on. Growth itself demands that we move on. Without the ability to end things, people stay stuck, never becoming who they are meant to be, never accomplishing all that their talents and abilities should afford them.”

“One of the most important types of decision making is deciding what you are not going to do, what you need to eliminate in order to make room for strategic investments.”

When you stay cozy in your comfort zone, you limit your own horizons.

“Pruning is strategic. It is directional and forward-looking. It is intentional toward a vision, desires, and objectives that have been clearly defined and are measurable. If you have that, you know what a rose is, and pruning will help you get one of true beauty.”

“Remember, you were not designed to cope but to thrive. But just like a rosebush, you can’t thrive without pruning, which means your necessary endings truly are urgent.”

When you embrace others’ judgements, you hinder your own authenticity.

“…you might find yourself laboring much longer than you should, still trying to get someone to change, thinking that one more coaching session will do the trick–or one more bit of encouragement, or one more session of feedback or confrontation. Or worse, one more concession.”

“Being alive requires that we sometimes kill off things in which we were once invested, uproot what we previously nurtured, and tear down what we built for an earlier time.”

“So if you feel resistance about executing a certain ending, figure out what two or more desires are in conflict, admit to yourself that you can have only one, and then ask yourself this question: Which one am I willing to give up to have the other one?”


As you look toward success for next year, I invite you to join me in looking closely at priorities, projects and people in which you’re investing to see where pruning is needed…not if, but where. I leave you with one a final nugget from Dr. Cloud, “You can’t prune toward anything if you don’t know what you want. You have to figure out what you are trying to be or build and then define what the pruning standards are going to be. That definition and those standards will bring you to the pruning moments, wherein you either own the vision or you don’t.”

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