Interview with Jon Acuff – How to Escape Average

Jon Acuff
Jon Acuff always wanted to be a writer. Growing up, he loved telling stories and playing with words, but over the years, as with many of us, the daily grind of cubicles and 8-5 office work smothered that dream. Jon bounced around from job to job—eight jobs in eight years—constantly hoping the next one would be different.

But one day Jon had an idea. What if he worked on his dream on the side, even while working an ordinary office job? So in early 2008, he started a satirical blog called Stuff Christians Like. The goal was to highlight funny things we Christians do in order to discover the God behind them. Ever day Jon would post things like “Saying “I’ll pray for you” and then not”, “Using the Christian “F” Word”, and, my favorite, “The side hug.”

Jon AcuffThe blog quickly took off, attracting thousands of readers. I was one of them. In fact, Jon’s writing inspired me to dive into the blogosphere back in 2009.

The blog led to a book by the same name (which I reviewed here) and eventually a life-changing opportunity to join the Dave Ramsey team in Nashville. In 2010, Dave Ramsey hired him to become an author and speaker, and he began living out his dream full-time.

Since then he’s released three books, including:

Jon’s a New York Times bestselling author, and he remains a popular blogger with more than five million readers. More importantly, his work has inspired millions of people to follow a similar path by escaping average and living awesome lives.

He recently sat down with me to discuss several things including the value of Christian satire, how to pursue your dream wherever you are, and how to conquer your fears and escape average.

Brandon Vogt: You first broke into blogging through Stuff Christians Like, a site designed to “clear away the clutter of Christianity so that we can see the beauty of Christ.” Why do you think humor and satire are effective ways of presenting the Christian message?

Jon Acuff: Satire is simply a vehicle for truth and my truth is Christ. Culturally speaking, this generation loves to receive ideas via humor. That’s why shows like The Cobert Report and The Daily Show are so successful. I just plugged into that. Humor requires a type of honesty and I think that’s what often appeals to people.
QuitterBrandon: In your second book, Quitter, you say we’re becoming the “I’m, but” generation. What do you mean by that?

Jon: Well depending on which stats you trust, right now, 70-80% of Americans want to quit their jobs. A lot of people are unhappy where they are career wise. Often when I talk to people and ask them what they do, they say, “I’m an accountant, but I want to be golf pro,” or “I’m a customer call center rep, but I want to be a writer.” That’s what I mean by the “I’m, but” generation.

Because of the opportunities we have, we have an expectation that we can be more and do more. My grandfather never came home from managing a Woolworth’s and said, “My inner artist wasn’t fed today.” He just worked, but we now expect and hope for more from work than just a paycheck.
Brandon: Quitter is full of advice on closing the gap between your day job and your dream job. What three tips would you give someone who wants to pursue their dream but isn’t sure where to begin?

Jon: First, start small. You don’t have to finish a new goal in one sitting. Find a small, tiny change you can make and then explore it. Always wanted to write a book? Don’t sit down and try to write 60,000 words today. Read the book Bird by Bird and learn a little about writing a book.

Second, rescue some time. Time is the only resource a dream takes at first. Find a way to rescue 30 minutes in each day to work on your dream.

Third, don’t aim for perfect. Someone once told me that the definition of narcissism is believing you’ll be amazing at something you’ve never done before. When you start a new dream, don’t expect to be amazing at it right away.
StartBrandon: In your latest book, Start, you reveal three reasons why the traditional road to success has changed. What are they?

Jon: First, retirement is dead. The traditional sense of working at one job, for 30 years and getting a gold watch at the end is gone. The Boomer Generation is experiencing “encore careers” as they reenter the job market.

Second, anyone can play. The Internet has leveled the playing field. You have opportunities and resources no other generation in the history of mankind ever had.

Finally, hope is boss. This generation wants to change the world now, not eventually. That is their currency.

The result is that you have a huge generation pushing down, a huge generation pushing up and the tools in the middle to actually change the world.
Brandon: What’s the biggest hurdle to “escaping average”?

Jon: Fear. Everyone has a dream, but fear only gets loud when you do things that matter. So what happens to people who hustle is fear perks up and tends to ruin a lot of dreams.
Brandon: What three books have most impacted your life? (And we’ll assume you like the Bible, so don’t Jesus-Juke us.)

Jon: They have to be The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott, and Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan.


Check out Jon’s website, and be sure to follow him on Facebook and Twitter at @JonAcuff. (Jon’s the funniest person I follow on Twitter.)

If you liked this discussion you’ll find several more on my Interviews page. Subscribe free via feed reader or email and ensure sure you don’t miss future interviews.

What’s your dream and what’s stopping you?