As I began reading his new book “Start: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average, Do Work That Matters,” I began to develop a beef with Jon Acuff. He said I could be “awesome” but I thought that went against everything society tells us. The question kept entering my mind, “If you call yourself awesome won’t people think you are an arrogant narcissist? How can we be awesome and humble at the same time?” Well he says it's possible… and I believe him.
Let me preface by saying that I’ve been reading Jon Acuff for a few years. I love his humorous ability to unapologetically and lovingly poke fun at the Christian sub-culture he grew up in through his famous blog, Stuff Christians Like. I appreciate the interesting ways he helps me focus on my goals, such as his #FinishYear blog series last year… although I couldn’t maintain it for more than about 8 weeks. So much for finishing the year! But that’s my problem, not his.
I think that is one reason I love "Start." In it, Acuff gives me (and all his readers) permission to start something… and fail at it. It’s better to start something and fail then to not start anything at all! Many self-help, goal setting, and “find your purpose” type books miss out on this truth. Acuff turns the promises of those books on their head by admitting we can’t do it all. We can’t reach perfection and that’s ok. Awesome, not perfection, is the goal…
“Give yourself copious amounts of grace for the moments you will inevitably stumble back onto the road of average without realizing it. Perfection will tell you nobody else does that. That’s a lie. Perfect isn’t the goal or even possible. Awesome is, and even awesome makes mistakes along the way.”
So what is Acuff’s definition of awesome? My understanding is it entails living a life where you recognize what you are passionate about, what is important to you, and make that a priority in your life, even in the face of fear. Being awesome requires you do an inventory of your passions, the way you’re spending your time, your support system, and the reality of your situation, but you have to start it otherwise you will accomplish absolutely nothing. This has been hard for me personally, because I often feel overwhelmed by my goals to the point of being paralyzed. This book has come at just the right time for me to realize, just putting my first foot forward is better than letting fear control me to the point of inaction.
Acuff details five different levels every “awesome” life goes through. He lines them up with age levels to help the reader understand, but his generalization is by no means a prescription for everyone.
Taking it all in, trying new things, figuring out what it is you really are excited about in life.
Begin scaling down and prioritizing your passions, focusing on the important parts of your life such as career and relationships.
Becoming the experienced one, mastering the art of the important things in your life. Becoming an awesome ______ (Fill in the blank).
Finally benefiting from the hard work put in during the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s, whether it’s financially, professionally or relationally. You “reaped what you sowed.”
Offering wisdom, giving back to others and allowing yourself to retire knowing the awesomeness you created in your life.
I'll be honest. I have things I want to master (writing, for example). The book ends with a series of prompts and questions to help the reader work through each level. Acuff starts out with advising the reader to get a journal (no one said there wouldn’t be work involved when it comes to starting your awesome life). I did a speed round of all 83 prompts last night in just about an hour and still came away with a lot of resources that will be helpful in my own journey.
The last thing I took away from Acuff’s book is that it’s ok to be proud of your accomplishments, but, in order to not seem arrogant, find a buddy who you can create a “brag table” with. This allows you both to celebrate your accomplishments with one another without fear of judgment or seeming like a jerk. We all need support and encouragement from someone. I love this idea and hope to speak to one or two trustworthy friends about being that encouraging sounding board for one another.
There were so many helpful tips in “Start.” I would highly recommend it for anyone who wants to live an awesome life, pursue purposeful living, and/or is motivated to live out his or her passion with integrity.
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