For Jon Acuff’s fourth book, Start: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average, and Do Work That Matters, he takes on the subject of pursing your dreams. Or as he calls it, pursing awesome! According to Acuff, traditionally awesome was a destination which took a lifetime to achieve. The journey takes you through the 5 stages (each of which corresponds with a decade of your life):
- Learning (20’s)
- Editing (30’s)
- Mastering (40’s)
- Harvesting (50’s)
- Guiding (60’s)
However, in the modern landscape, there’s never been more opportunity to achieve awesome sooner rather than later. The body of the book dedicates a chapter to each of these fives stages, and offers insights into how you can achieve a career which you both enjoy and that matters.
Throughout the book Acuff tells of his journey from working a series of average jobs he didn’t care about to finally landing his dream job working for Dave Ramsey.
Start is a fun and quick read. Acuff is a funny guy, and he fills the book with anecdotes and his signature wit. Moving from subject to subject he’s never short on personal experiences to illustrate the point. Often times he throws himself under the bus or makes himself the butt end of the joke. While he often writes of his many successes, he’s equally quick to make sure you never make to much of him.
If you knew anything about Jon Acuff before reading this review or the book, you knew that he’s funny. That wasn’t surprising. The real surprise of the book is his insight into what motivates and inspires us. While reading the first couple of chapters my mind quickly wandered towards several areas where I needed to START! In the week since I started reading the book that inspiration has led me to take a huge step towards this blog’s next phase as well as starting writing an eBook. If the purpose of this book was to both motivate people to start, and equip them to finish, this book has accomplished at least 50% of it’s goal already with me.
Some of my favorite chapters of the book were the appendices at the end. Whereas the body of the book focused more on ideas and Acuff’s personal story, the appendices gave practical action steps.
Speaking of Acuff’s story…
Ultimately the biggest problem with the book isn’t within the book itself. It’s what happened five months after the book was released, and one week after the START Conference. To understand why what I’m about to say is so troublesome to the book you have to understand central theme of the book is that Acuff’s dream job is working for Dave Ramsey. On September 20th 2013, less than six months after the books release, Acuff resigned his position with Dave Ramsey without really much explanation. All we really know is that the decision was about moral failure or new opportunities, and both sides wished each other the best, at least publicly. Since his resignation Acuff has continued blogging, speaking at national conferences, and publishing books (his latest his by his wife).
There are two big reasons this is a problem:
(1) It’s difficult to take a book about finding your dream job seriously when the author of said book quites their dream job right after publishing the book.
(2) The series of events makes Acuff come off like a career opportunist. Dave Ramsey has spent the last couple of years very clearly grooming talent to replace himself. He knows he only has another 10 years or so before he needs to fully pass the torch. Acuff was one of those talents. Ramsey even let Acuff have a spot in his follow up to the mega-successful Financial Peace University, The Legacy Journey. Ramsey invested several years into Acuff, and put the full Ramsey marketing machine behind Acuff’s books Quiter and Start. He even gave him his own START Conference. As soon as Acuff had broken free from his reputation of simply being the funny guy and has built an impressive resume of best sellers, he resigned from Dave Ramsey’s company.
I have absolutely no idea what actually happened, but from the outside it looks like Acuff used Ramsey to get to the big leagues. I could be totally off base with my interpretation of the facts, but any way you spin the story he still left his dream job 5 months after releasing the book about finding his dream job. It looks bad. His actions after the release of the book act as a disheartening epilogue.
Honestly I’m not sure what I think about the book. It’s an entertaining book which starts off motivational, keeps your attention, and which ends with some great actions steps. However, the book’s central ideas are somewhat undermined by the authors story