Escape Average.

fb_acuff_start_v2That’s a relatively easy statement to believe in, right? I don’t know of anyone who sits around going, “Yep, I’m average and I like it.” But the large majority of us are in fact average. Our lens of average may differ a bit, but for the most part, we are sailing the high seas on the Average cruise liner.

With Jon Acuff’s new book, Start, you find yourself not on the Average cruise liner, but having just been pulled from the water of the Average Titanic. Start is the iceberg here. But you don’t just clip it, you slam headlong into it. That is my opinion though as someone whose leaving Average behind for the Awesome dinghy.

Acuff brings both heartfelt passion for encouraging and motivating you to begin pursuing your dream, while also being realistic in those pursuits. If you like lists and need check-offs, probably not your best bet because Start is more along the lines of a Choose Your Own Adventure book. And that is refreshing.

Why? Because my awesome path, that navigates through the same areas as yours, has a different end point, has a different terrain, and I go at a different pace. That’s what makes Start different from other motivational books, simply because it’s not a motivational book. It is inspiring, yes, but it’s practical. It doesn’t build you up with promises of instant stardom and overnight changing of habits. Jon weaves a blanket of trust with the reader while also giving just enough tension to shock you into action.

To quote Jon, You only control the starting line when it comes to your dream. Might I suggest you start with this book?

And to spur you along, I am giving away a Start book, upon it’s release on April 22nd. Winner will be announced on Saturday, April 13th!

Here’s what you have to do though to be eligible:

  • Leave a comment stating what your dream is you’d like to start, by Friday April 12th.
  • Include your first name and email address.

Knee Boots, Jon Acuff, and Belmont…

I think your boots could be bigger. I mean you went small, but they definitely could be bigger.

That joking moment about the height of my knee boots was part of a full circle life moment last evening. Close to three years ago I began reading Stuff Christians Like, a blog by Jon Acuff. It was comical, jabbing at those things in Christianity we often can agree are funny-like the metrosexual worship leader or the cheap knockoff cookies they have at VBS.

I would laugh and think this guy is a genius! My assumption was he wrote the blog full time, since he was having a book come out that was based from the blog. Then the Serious Wednesday posts started happening, and wrecking me. I would see how God would use Jon to speak very pointedly to me at certain times about my life. I wondered how this guy in Atlanta knew about my struggles with grace, or my ability to forgive.

I would read and read, engaging in conversations in the comments with people from all over. It began to be a community, not bound by church walls or religion or even the US borders. The blog began to challenge me to see beyond this box of my life and what could be accomplished if I worked beyond the standard, the norm of life. I saw a guy who hustled before work, work he wasn’t really digging, but doing anyway so that he could write and speak-his dream job. I saw him encourage others to write, pursue, get beyond standard and reach above average. He did that for me without realizing it, and I am willing to wager I am not the only one he’s done that for.

In March of 2011 I knew I couldn’t stay in my same situation at work, in life. I knew that if I worked and hustled I could dream big and push myself further. I began looking for jobs, jobs I felt I was qualified for and honestly, staying rather comfortable still. That’s when the posting at Belmont popped up. “It’s in Nashville!” I thought. “It’s a a mid-range university, where expectations will be higher and you’ll be challenged!” is what fear began to say. “Your faith isn’t as big as it needs to be to work there. You’ve only got five years under your belt, and everyone will be much smarter than you.” The voice got to be relentless. I went for it, thinking it would never amount to anything and I would be back to working in my same position come fall.

Several weeks later I found myself at Belmont University, being interviewed by advisors, supervisors, deans, and students. It was the toughest interview I have had to date in my career. I walked away rather defeated, with the bright spot seeing Jeremiah 29:11 posted in my would-be supervisor’s office. That verse had come up several times over the days prior to my campus interview, and I found a little solace in seeing it there in her office. In the days that followed, I had resigned myself to preparing mentally for rejection. “Don’t expect much and when you fail, it won’t be as bad.” The voices got loud again…

Last night I had the opportunity to introduce Jon Acuff as he was speaking at Belmont for 394399_10101002715162665_1030054131_nthe third time this year. Jon was instrumental in my jump, he confirmed that fear gets loud in your head, but sounds ridiculous when you share it. He may not realize how big of an encouragement the community he builds on his blog, with 5 Club, with Quitter conferences is for those of us let fear and doubt not chase our dreams.

Following last night’s program a friend of mine posted on my Facebook some encouraging words as I am seeking to pursue another dream (that’s why I am up at 4:30am, punching Tuesday in the face). I had shared with her this story of Jon’s influence, without him really knowing he’d done it, earlier in the day. Her response? “Now you’re being an Acuff for others.”

I get jokes thrown at me for how I engage in 5 Club or talk about Jon’s impact  from some individuals. They referenced me as an Acuffite once. But here’s the kicker, that’s a compliment. You see he feeds the dreamers and encourages the ridiculous because his story is ridiculous. I am excited that I get to work with colleagues and students daily and potentially encourage them the same way. Maybe one day I can be someone’s Jon Acuff, but with better boots.

Sucker Punching Wednesday

I used to be the biggest night owl around. It’d be 3am before I’d roll into bed and then drag myself to class at 8am (or 9am in some cases). I’d be lethargic and worn down by 2pm and need a nap. That all flipped for me as grad school started. I had to manage my time wisely and efficiently between class, homework, a full-time job, and an assistantship. I look back and say, “Wow, that wasn’t me…that was some robot pursuing that.”

It was me though. I remember it was me, and those nights of managing 80 pages of reading while working on a 20 page paper after having dealt with unloading a shipment of truck, knowing that the next day I would need to be advising a student group on one of the largest events at UT. I’m not bragging, as that’s not the way to do it.

It struck me though, that somewhere along the way I became a morning person. Just like my parents. For as long as I can remember both of my parents have been up before 5 am. I always wondered if I was the neighbor’s kid, since I would physically be drug from my bed on Saturdays at noon.

My dad would always tell me, “You’re sleeping your day away.

Now I see that for truth, as I pursue this dream of writing, while having a career that is not a typical 9am-5pm. While having a life that doesn’t stop at 7pm every night. My days were spent pursuing sleep and lethargy rather than a dream and the answer to a call on my heart since childhood.

Intentionality is key when wanting to pursue this, and lately I have not been intentional. I have been lazy. I have not set myself up for success when I stay up later than I know my body and mind can handle. I caught myself slipping into habits which were not the best for me as a Quitter. Today is about sucker punching Wednesday as I write at 4:30am, letting Wednesday know that I beat you to today, and I am not sleeping it away.

So I encourage all of you who say “I cannot do it” to tell you that you can. Set yourself up for success by being intentional, by pouring who you were out and start putting who you are meant to be into your dream. You’d be surprised at how good a solid sucker punch can be.

Reflections from a Quitter Pt. 1

Last weekend I had the immense opportunity to participate in the Quitter Conference. Quitter is a book by Jon Acuff on bridging the gap from your day job to your dream job. I have to be honest, as I know several of my supervisors read this blog (I see you A and B), and say that I truly love my career. God has called me to work in a higher education setting with college students. I get joy from what I do, and while there may be times of stress I know at the end of the day or week or year that I get to pour into the lives of college students and their development. That for me is why I serve in the role I do in my career.

So Quitter was a leap for me as I wasn’t looking to get out of a miserable job or jump careers…and frankly, that’s not what Quitter is, to me at least. For me, the first big realization is that I can have a dream and love what I do in my calling, those don’t have to be an either-or situation. The second one was a bit rougher and it took me several days of reflecting before I could process it into words.

For too long I have said my dream is to pursue missional work in Haiti. While I will not discount that dream in the least, neither will I allow the lessening of my passion for the Haitian people, I realize my dream was more selfish in its pursuits. And to be honest I wasn’t really pursuing it with any kind of passion.

Right now, my dream is to write. It’s also my biggest fear. Ask my colleagues. I have absolutely zero faith in my writing, and I don’t post half of what I write. I have allowed fear to tell me that I am not good. I have allowed it to destroy a dream I have honestly held since I was a kid. I have loved to write, I just never felt confident in it. I am beginning to see that God has plans for this dream and that I have to stop buying into the lie that fear is telling me that its not perfect and no one cares what I write ultimately.

A great dream is hidden in a great weakness. -Jon Acuff