Friday 30 January 2015

Punch fear in the face

Have you ever felt down and discouraged? Felt like there is nothing you are really good at, there is nothing that's your "thing", felt like you lack passion and focus in life? Have you ever felt boring? Average
Of course you have. You are human, after all, and we humans may be lacking in a myriad of ways (each in their own way), but one thing we are all really good at is this: We can talk ourselves down really well. 

And this is where Jon Acuff's book comes in. I'm participating in Sarah's Blogger Book Club for the year, and this month's theme is a motivational book of your choice.
I have a funny relationship with motivational books. I like the idea of them, I really do. There's a person trying to help people who feel lost, and what better purpose is there in life? It's admirable, and I really hope it provides comfort and guidance for many. 
It's just, that a lot of the time I kind of want to punch the author. They have a tendency to sound so preachy. One might also call it high and mighty. It's what I like to call the teacher syndrome: Some teachers I know have gotten so used to teaching students, that it has taken over their life. They teach all.the.damn.time, and I don't like to be treated like a second-grader, thankyouverymuch. But it's me, not you, so I will work on this, okay?

Anyway, Jon (I hope it's okay that I call him Jon? He is so relatable) is completely different. Just to make sure my point gets across: I love this book. I haven't finished it yet (only 1/3 in, in fact), but I know without a doubt that I love it. He is so funny! (I adore funny.) And so down-to-earth! A lot of self-help books operate on the premise that the author has found their "purpose", and now they are pumped to help you find yours. But what if you don't have one? What if you don't have a big passion? What if you are just an average person, with no particular talents or plans, trying to make your life count? What if you fear you are not special/talented enough to become extraordinary?
Jon is your man. He is the first to admit that he doesn't know his purpose. Things have happened to him, amazing things (like raising $60,000 to build two kindergartens in Vietnam; writing 3 (or 4?) bestselling books; doing motivational talks in front of 10,000 people), but he doesn't exactly know how he got there.   

Instead of trying desperately to find your purpose in life (something I have been chasing), he advises to live with purpose instead. There are compelling reasons for it: It takes away the pressure of having to know what one's purpose is (I sure don't know mine) and the need to have it all figured out. Because most of us don't. Instead, just get started today. Do whatever you have to do with purpose. Not half-heartedly, with one eye on your phone, but with your whole heart. Talking to your spouse, playing with your kids, being at work - do it with purpose. 

What resonated with me the most, what I needed to hear at this point in my life (and amidst a less than stellar week), was this: "Expertise takes 10,000 hours of practice to achieve." According to this, there is no "overnight-success". People who are wildly successful at a young age didn't become that successful overnight; they simply started out early. His approach is simple (and aren't the simple solutions always the best ones?), in that there are 5 easy, time-honoured steps:

1. Learning.
2. Editing.
3. Mastering.
4. Harvesting.
5. Guiding.   

If you are starting a new endeavour (let's just say writing, shall we?), you can't expect to succeed right away. You will have to put lots and lots of hours of learning into it. The people you admire, the ones who have succeeded and make it look so easy? They all worked hard for it. They worked for it relentlessly, for years, and you will have to as well, if you want to be successful.
It sounds so logical, and so simple, doesn't it? Because it is. But we have come to expect overnight success, and I'm an impatient person, and sometimes it's easy to despair. You think you should be further along on your path, and you feel like a failure that you are not.

That's why this book is such a revelation to me. It has come at a perfect time, when  I needed it most. It reassures me that I'm still in the learning phase of becoming a successful blogger and writer. It reassures me that with perseverance, I will get there and become a master. It also teaches me that fear and doubt are the companions on the path towards being awesome, and I'd better get used to them, because they ain't going anywhere.

The message of this book is: Being average is easy (you don't have to do anything), but you will regret having gone the easy way eventually. You don't want to be average. You want to be extraordinary! Think back to you as a child, when you had big dreams and no doubts about your abilities. Think of the things you can't stop doing. Is it singing along with the radio? Is it doodling little sketches on every surface you can find? Is it writing poems, cooking elaborate meals, restoring old cars? Whatever it is that makes you excited and happy, start doing it now! Start being awesome now. As Jon says:" The starting line is the only line you completely control." Don't worry about the finish - it's impossible to predict and may change half a dozen times by the time you get there.

That's an approach I can totally get on board with. 

Have you read a book recently (or a long time ago) that really grabbed you? One that you have been thinking about repeatedly, often at the most unexpected moments? Share in the comment, and/or link up with Sarah!



  1. Replies
    1. It is! Very uplifting and positive. I want to read his book "Quitter" next!

  2. That's so awesome Miriam!!! I really need to focus on not taking the easy way myself! :) Thanks so much for linking up!

  3. This is a book I would pick up just from the tittle alone. I never had any interest in this genre before for the exact reasons you outline above. But this link up has been opening my eyes to more ways of thinking. It's an awesome feeling! You are an awesome writer and photographer. You have amazing things ahead of you :)

  4. I need to add this book to my to-read list! I totally agree with your assessment of Jon, I've read one of his other books (Quitter) and it was really great.

    ~ Lora @ Crazy Running Girl

    1. I really want to read Quitter next! He is so upbeat and likeable, I want to find out more about this guy. Next book on my list though? She's losing it! :-)

  5. Based on your review, I think I'll add this to my To Read list. I don't usually gravitate toward motivation books, for all of your reasons, but I like how you describe this author. Thanks!

    Enjoying the Course

  6. Oh, this sounds exactly like the book I need! I have to say I often don't read motivational books, for the same reason you mentioned. This sentence, "Felt like there is nothing you are really good at, there is nothing that's your "thing", felt like you lack passion and focus in life?" is my life currently. I feel so overwhelmed by it some days. I'll look this book up!

  7. Sounds like a great book. I struggle with my 'purpose' all the time. Being average is easy and comfortable. What to do next?

    1. Tell me about it. For a while I'm content with coasting along, but then I get panicky and think that I really want to do *more*. What more though? It's so hard!

  8. This sounds like a fabulous book. I feel a little lost often so focusing on living with purpose is a nice idea.


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