Book Review: “Start!” by Jon Acuff

I’ve been reading a lot about productivity lately–books on organization, efficiency, skill-building. Listening to all kinds of podcasts too. I want to stretch myself creatively and produce more than I dream. (Hence, taking this blog a bit more seriously.)

But of the 3 or 4 books on productivity and goals that I’ve tried to finish lately, the only one I actually finished is called “Start!” by Jon Acuff.

You may know the name Jon Acuff. He’s the hilarious voice behind “Stuff Christians Like” and the inspiring book “Quitter.” (If you’re looking to make a transition from day-job to dream-job, get that book. I’m gonna read it a few more times.) Well, “Start!” is a bit of a sequel to “Quitter.” While the first book focused on the nuts and bolts of how to change jobs wisely and well, the second book is a bit more broadly focused.

Acuff puts forth the challenge to the reader: do you want to be average, or do you want to be awesome? 

This isn’t a book full of gung-ho platitudes. There’s plenty of realism in this book, as Acuff explains that “big breaks” are earned through “doing the reps,” grinding it out, and determination. He describes the journey from Average to Awesome in terms of an actual journey with five stages: Learning, Editing, Mastering, Harvesting, and Guiding.  The book delineates each stage and its particular pitfalls and challenges.

While each stage is also assigned to a decade of life, Acuff is quick to clarify that there may be twentysomethings who are already harvesting, while 50-year-olds could be starting over in the Land of Learning. This means that the lessons he shares are applicable in any stage of life.

The funny stories and clever descriptions are rich with Acuff’s particular voice. If you’ve read SCL, you know what I’m talking about here. Acuff has a distinct style that is engaging and playful.

“Start!” is thoughtfully written and rich with great anecdotes. One of my favorites is the story of when Acuff called a customer service rep at Apple, and said how he bet her job was rough. She replied, to his surprise, that she loved her job because she loved helping people and learning new things. He goes on to explain that understanding what fires your engine can make someone else’s dread job actually become your dream job.

A few more great moments in this book:

  • The off-ramp of being a jerk.
  • The bragging table (I love this idea).
  • The plane crash.

I’m not gonna give you any more than that. You need to read the book.

The book closes with a section of application questions/ideas for each chapter, an appendix about using social media, and an appendix for folks who are unemployed and need help starting over.

All in all, “Start!” was entertaining, encouraging, and full of great ideas.  It’s going on my short list of “Must-Reread-Every-Few-Years” books.

If there’s some idea or art or project in you that you need to get out, it’s time to start. Jon Acuff can show you how.

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