Get on the Road to Awesome: Best-Selling Author Jon Acuff On Fear, Passion, and Pursuing Your Dreams

Filed under News Your World on Jul 27 13 by

Best-selling author Jon Acuff

New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-selling author Jon Acuff first started delighting and equally outraging Christians back in 2010 when he published Stuff Christians Like, a witty satire that takes a self-deprecating look at American church culture.

Shortly thereafter he published Quitter: Closing the Gap Between Your Day Job & Your Dream Job—and then he did just that by joining Dave Ramsey’s team as full-time author. Quitter became runaway hit, resonating with millions of readers and followers on his blog. A self-described “serial quitter,” Acuff worked his share of cubicle jobs, and his book was birthed from the trenches of the daily grind.

As he continued to interact with readers, he found something that was an all-too-frequent occurrance: dreams were being discarded along life’s journey, and there were too many people whose passions had died a quiet death due to paralyzing fear. But what if that didn’t have to be the case? What if people could get off the road to average and get on the road to awesome? What if there was a practical (and funny) life map that could help layout the steps to an awesome life? That’s precisely what his latest blockbuster, START: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average, Do Work that Matters does.

The You Are Project recently caught up with Acuff for a Q&A about how START accomplishes that.

YOU ARE: What are some of the hardest obstacles to overcome starting down the road to awesome?

JON: The biggest obstacle is fear. Fear of failure. Fear of success. Fear of the unknown.

YOU ARE: Your book appeals across a spectrum of age and life experience, but the one common denominator is fear. What are some unique fears to 20-somethings who are just starting out as opposed to those further down life’s road?

JON: Often, people are afraid that they’ll pick the wrong passion to pursue. So instead, they don’t pursue anything. But if you refuse to start anything, you’ll fail everything.

YOU ARE: How can they deal with those fears and turn those into advantages and/or opportunity?

JON: One powerful thing you can do is write your fears down. In your head, fear is loud and big and creative. On paper, it gets a lot smaller and more manageable.

One powerful thing you can do is write your fears down. In your head, fear is loud and big and creative. On paper, it gets a lot smaller and more manageable.

YOU ARE: You outline the five major steps everyone goes through in building their life’s work: learning, editing, mastering, harvesting, and guiding. What are the most important take aways for someone in the learning and editing stages?

JON: For learning, start before you’re ready. Most of us think we are unqualified or will one day magically feel ready to chase our dreams. The truth is, ready is a myth. You’ve just got to start. For editing, ignore the voices of fear. My belief is [that] fear only gets loud when you do things that matter. As you edit your life, you’re going to do a lot of things that matter. In turn, you should expect some fear.

Fear only gets loud when you do things that matter.

YOU ARE: In this age of social media, anyone with a platform is an instant expert, and you acknowledge that social media has created a revolution in accelerating the path to awesome. What is the value for a talented, energetic young person in being led and mentored? Is that even relevant anymore?

JON: Yes! A greater amount of opportunities has just created an even greater need to be led and mentored. I think of my friend, who is making $50,000 a week in his mid-20’s. Does he have a lot of opportunities right now? Definitely! Would he tell you that he needs mentoring right now more than anything? Without a doubt.

YOU ARE: You talk about the “problem of multiple passions,” especially in the editing phase. What is the best way for someone starting out to sift through their passions and figure out what it is they really want to master?

JON: Create a list and make sure you don’t try to prioritize it. People often want to create this perfect list. Refuse the lie of perfection, and start on your list.

YOU ARE: Generation Y isn’t oriented toward the old model of working 30 years for the same company, getting a gold watch, and retiring. They “are inspired by the shift in culture, want meaning now, not eventually. Hope is boss.” How does that balance with a sense of entitlement and disappointment if the dream takes longer or doesn’t work out just right?

JON: Poorly. A lot of us have to get some bruises before we realize we won’t get our dream job instantly or automatically.

YOU ARE: START isn’t gender-specific and applies equally to men and women. But traditionally, women have faced additional challenges in pursuing their goals if they marry and have children. Is there anything different or additional you would say to a young wife and mom about her START?

JON: Give yourself some grace. Young moms are really tough on themselves. Sometimes young moms will tell me that they’re not working enough on their dream. I’ll respond and tell them, “You’re raising humans right now! That’s an incredible dream.” You might work on another dream later, but right now you’re already got something that’s special and important. That’s great to focus on.

Sometimes young moms will tell me that they’re not working enough on their dream. I’ll respond and tell them, “You’re raising humans right now! That’s an incredible dream.”

YOU ARE: The section “10 Things to Do If You’re Unemployed” speaks to the difficulty college grads face finding a job in their field. How does a young person keep from getting discouraged if that’s their present reality?

JON: They focus on what their current job is, finding a job. Anxiety hates hustle. Turn that energy into something positive by actively searching for a job. Every morning, get up like you would if you had a job and hustle on actually finding a job.

YOU ARE: You just finished the START nationwide tour, taking a huge bus cross country for book signings and events. Was there a particular memorable or inspiring moment for you?

JON: Sure! Dave Ramsey flew my family down and surprised me on stage to celebrate. That was completely unexpected.

YOU ARE: What’s next for START and for you personally on your own road to awesome?

JON: The Start Conference. We are trying to sell out a huge fall event in Nashville.

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Learn more about Jon Acuff and his writing at

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Maria Cowell
Maria Cowell is the Communications Coordinator at Village Christian School, one of the largest private schools in Southern California. She is also a freelance journalist, and has previously worked as a reporter and editor for newspapers in Los Angeles and Glendale, Ca. She enjoys life with her husband, three young adult children and two beautiful Siberian Huskies. Catch her on her blog at
  • Tammy Helfrich

    Always great advice from Jon! Good post.

  • Pilar Arsenec

    Great article and blog. :)

    • Lauren D’Alessandro

      Thanks Pilar! Maria really nailed this interview. :)