My Top 10 Highlights From START by Jon Acuff

About once every six weeks I post my version of a book review, which is really just the top 10 passages that I ran over with my highlighter when I was reading it. If I share a book with you, it means it resonated with me enough to recommend it. But read the highlights and decide for yourself if it’s a book that you might like to read.

10 minutes ago I finished START by Jon Acuff. Jon has written a couple of NYT Best Sellers and partially rose to fame as a speaker and member of Dave Ramsey’s team. START outlines the 5 stages of a successful life: Learning, Editing, Mastering, Harvesting, Guiding. One of the main themes is that we don’t just go through the stages once, if we’re smart and have a bit of drive, we can go through the stages over and over to make our ideas and passions come to life.

Jon is very funny. He also uses the word, awesome, a lot. I mean a LOT a lot. Once I got used to that I really enjoyed the rest.


My top 10 highlights from START by Jon Acuff:


Age is no longer the primary factor that determines where you are on the map. Life is now less about how old you are and more about when you decide to live.


I’m not a fan of “finding your purpose.” I’m a fan of “living with purpose.”


Luck is a word people who are lazy use to describe people who are hustling.


I’ve learned something: no one has a positive internal voice. No one’s internal voice tells them, “You’re skinny enough. You sure are pretty. People are going to love that new project you’re working on. It’s going to be a huge success.” Which makes me curious about what your voices are telling you. Most of us tend to think they’re telling us the truth. We’ve heard them for so long that we trust them. We think they’re looking out for us, that they’ve got our best in mind. That they’re trying to protect us or help us. We think our voices are friends, but they’re not. They’re foes. (from Jon’s friend Al Andrews)


The second you choose to be more awesome, fear will ask you a question: “Who are you to do that?” Fear doesn’t care what your particular “that” is. You could be starting a business or quitting a job. You could be writing a book or becoming a nanny. Doesn’t matter to fear. The specifics never do. Regardless of what you want to do or who you are, fear will always see you as wholly unqualified for anything you ever dream or attempt.


Doubt and fear are like muscles. Every time you believe a lie about yourself, it gets easier to believe it the next time.


Often when you strike out on a new adventure…people will ask you, “Have you ever done that before?” And here is how my dad (and now I) answer when life asks us the question…’No, but I’m about to.”


Time is the only indication of what really matters to us.


1 insult + 1000 compliments = 1 insult


Do you know what’s better than words? Action. Actions always beat words. Action always beats intention. What you’ve done is always more powerful that what you’re going to do.


Check out START by Jon Acuff at Amazon

Check out my recent Top 10 highlights from:


BONUS QUOTES FROM START – If you have time, these are pretty good, too.

Most of us, when it comes to figuring out where we’re headed in life, never stop to ask the simple question, “Where am I?”


When a parent, a boss, a teacher, a spouse, or a friend tells you what you can’t be, they’re predicting a future they don’t control. They don’t know what 25 or 25 or 55 looks like for you.


Purpose is not a final destination.


When confronted with work and a reward, we would all prefer the reward first or at least as soon as possible. But the path to awesome doesn’t work that way.


I’ve never met a farmer who was surprised by his crops. Who stood on a front porch, in overalls I’m assuming, and stared at a crop of blood oranges when he clearly remembered planting soybeans. If you work hard, you tend to expect results.


You don’t need to go back in time to be awesome; you just have to start right now. Regretting that you didn’t start earlier is a great distraction from moving on your dream today, and the reality is that today is earlier than tomorrow.


Fear tries to tell you two things about time: “Do it later” or “It’s too late” The first delays you with laziness. The second destroys you with regret. And neither is true.


Change has to be simple. Especially new change. It has to be easily manageable, or we’ll fail at it before we even start. We can add on other changes down the road, but when we’re beginning our journey, we just need to get one thing right. One tiny taste of progress. The mountain can wait. It’s been there for years and will still be there tomorrow. We don’t have to scale it all at once.


Nobody gets up early on the road to average. Nobody stays up late on the road to average.


  1. If I died today, what would I regret not being able to do?
  2. Are those the things I’m spending time doing right now?


What can you not stop doing?


We tend to add complexities to our challenges because if the problem is simple to solve, then we have to change. And change is scary. So when faced with a  challenge we really don’t want to fix, we tend to overcomplicate the issues.


Being awesome is about finding the core of who you are and what lights you up. Once you’ve discovered that, you can have a million different jobs.


Awesome doesn’t let the crowd determine the size of the performance. Awesome gets up for two people or 200. Awesome writes great books even if no one is going to read them. Awesome sweeps the parts of store floors that no foot will ever touch. Awesome can’t help itself.


The three best things you can do to get some experience are: Volunteer. Take a part-time job. Be led.


We often think talent is the key to awesome. But if you pull the curtain back on most of the people we’d call “geniuses,” what you find is an incredible amount of hard work.


Ask a farmer someday if the harvest season is easy.


You will work harder at something you love than at something you like. You will work harder than you have ever worked when you start chasing a dream. You will hustle and grind and sweat and push and pull. you will get up earlier and go to bed later. But that’s ok. Know why? Joy is an incredible alarm clock. It will wake you up and keep you up and pick you up and gently pull you through a thousand rejections along the way.


Being vulnerable about your failures is only half of the story; you have to be vulnerable enough to share your successes, too.


The real tragedy of a one-hit wonder is when someone succeeds once and then never tries again.


If you share honestly about your own failures, people can often avoid having the same thing happen to them. If you stepped in a hole na it hurt, it helps if you tell other people not to step in that same hole.



Check out START by Jon Acuff at Amazon



Why I Finally Gave Away My Varsity Jacket

This weekend I cleaned out my closet. This wasn’t just any cleaning, this was basically a closet transformation. Inspired by the book, The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up, I took everything out of my closet and piled it on my bed. Then I held each shirt, each pair of pants, every shoe, and yes, even every piece of underwear, and asked myself “Do I actually like this?”

Go Acoustic More Often

My friend and frequent collaborator, Whitney Bishop, was recently telling me about a weekend trip she was planning with her husband. It involved driving to a remote location in Kentucky and attending a concert in the middle of nowhere. She also promised her husband she would be leaving her laptop and iPad at home. The phrase she used to sum up her plans really jumped out at me:

“Every once in awhile you just have to go acoustic.”

When a musician goes acoustic, she/he has set aside all the newfangled electronic instruments and plays instead with the non-electrified version. They trade their electric guitar for an acoustic guitar. Or they swap their electric keyboard for a “real” piano.

I’m a big believer in unplugging on a regular basis (I’m the guy who bought a cabin in the woods last year, after all).  I’ve always thought being connected was an all-or-nothing choice. Either you’re on-the-grid or you’re off-the-grid, there’s really no middle choice. You either live the the Amish or you live like the city folk.


Going Acoustic Might Be The Middle Ground We’re All Looking For

Then I heard that phrase, “go acoustic,” and it made me think maybe there is a middle ground after all. Maybe there HAS to be a middle ground right now. Maybe the idea of going acoustic could help relieve the stress that being so connected all the time can cause and simultaneously help relieve the stress I sometimes feel by NOT being connected.  What if I just went acoustic more often, both at work and at home?

What if I stop bringing my iPad to meetings?

What if I spend just 30 minutes every day thinking or brainstorming with only a pen and paper as my tool?

What if I leave my laptop in my briefcase on the weekends, or even one day on the weekend?

What if I only use my phone as a phone (and not as a distraction device) when I am with family and friends.

What if I check Facebook twice a day instead of twice a minute?

What if one night a week I pick up a book instead of the remote control?

Any one of these ideas would give my brain the rest it needs from the noise of my electrified world without completely disconnected. I can still carry my smart phone with me, but I could be smarter about the way I use it. I don’t have to leave my laptop at work, but I don’t need to leave it open twenty four hours a day, either. I don’t have to cancel my Facebook account, just curb how often I look at it.

I have actually made a lot of these moves in the past year and it has helped free up a lot of time and brainpower, and has definitely lowered the stress in my life. I can now see that I have been going acoustic quite a bit more than I used to. The big difference today, though, is that I’m starting to look at going acoustic as a worthy goal in itself instead of thinking it’s only a baby step to getting completely off-the-grid.

Funny how a single word can sometimes make such a huge difference in the way you think, huh?

Anyway, I wonder if you have something to add to this idea. Does going acoustic work for you or do you have to completely unplug? What’s your favorite way to go acoustic? Did this idea shake up your thinking at all like it did for me? Leave a reply below. I’d love to hear from you on this one.


My Next Big Thing (Maybe Yours, Too)

16 years.

That’s how long it’s been since I launched sparkspace.

I honestly had no idea my business would thrive for this long. Statistics do not favor startups. And yet, we made it past the first anniversary, then the fifth, then the tenth, the fifteenth, and here we are now, old enough to drive.

I believed in sparkspace 1000% from the start, as did our guests, clients, friends, and followers (and I am soooo thankful for all of them/you). What I wasn’t quite so sure about was ME. I wondered just how long I could stay interested and engaged in a job, even one I created. My previous record? 7 years. Before that? 3.

So, what’s the secret to staying engaged and interested for a long time (maybe even a lifetime)? It’s this:

Discover what your “ordinary superpowers” are and figure out ways to use them more and more all the time.

What are Ordinary Superpowers?

Ordinary Superpowers are your abilities, talents, and skills that pass this simple 4-part test:

1. They come naturally to you.
2. You’re better at them than most.
3. They help people (including you).
4. You love using them.

My ordinary superpowers are exploring new ideas & places, simplifying things, and communicating ideas conversationally through writing and speaking. I’ll be honest, I’ve known these were strengths for a long time, but I never fully owned them because I didn’t really think they were all that special.

The more I used them, however, the more I realized that not everyone has these abilities, and if they do, they likely don’t have my specific combination.

When I truly discovered my ordinary superpowers, started using them more proactively, and worked on improving them as much as possible, I began to have way more positive impact on the world around me.

THAT has kept me engaged for 16 years and counting.

As I share the idea of Ordinary Superpowers with others, I find people leaning in, wanting to hear more, and wondering out loud what their own ordinary superpowers might be. One of the things I love most right now is helping people start the journey of superpower discovery for themselves.

I believe it’s how you — no matter who you are, where you work, or what you do — can bring your absolute best self to the world, give your most powerful contribution, and experience true fulfillment in the short amount of time you’re given on this planet.

My Next Big Thing

Helping people discover, activate, enhance, and multiply their Ordinary Superpowers is what I’m dedicating all of my energy and resources to right now.

It’s my next big thing.

I can’t wait to keep sharing it with you. Here are two ways I plan to do that:

I’m writing a book about Ordinary Superpowers that will be published this spring. I’ll be sharing more about that soon.

I’ve also created a truly unique, one-day experience to help you discover, activate, and enhance your own ordinary superpowers.

Although I’ll be sharing my own exploration on the topic, this retreat is not about me, it’s about YOU. 100% of the content is designed to help you explore and maximize your own Ordinary Superpowers.

It will be immersive and interactive, brimming with amazing people and phenomenal content. It will be packed with positive energy and delicious food. I know when you leave you’ll look back on the day as an incredible experience.

I know that sounds like a lot, but hey, this is my next big thing and I plan on making it the best event I’ve ever produced in my 16 years at sparkspace.

I’m calling it The Superpower Summit because it will be a gathering of people who might just change the world with their superpowers. If you come, I know you’ll change YOUR world, for sure.

Are you interested? Want to know more about how to discover, activate, enhance, and multiply your own ordinary superpowers?

CLICK HERE to get all the details about the Superpower Summit at the one and only sparkspace.

I am kicking off the registration with an early bird discount that starts right now and only lasts for a short time.

Thanks! I hope you’re as excited about my next big thing as I am. I hope it’s your next big thing, too.

Here’s the link to find out more about the Superpower Summit.

The Magic Of Being Part Of Something Bigger Than You

Last week’s post, I Want To Be Part Of The Magic, Don’t You? resonated with more readers than I expected. One of the responses I received was the letter below from Michael Mitchell of Water4, a charity venture that empowers local entrepreneurs in tough parts of the world to bring clean water to their communities. 

I asked Michael if I could publish his note to me and to share a link to Water4 with you. My hope is that you’ll be inspired by both. Enjoy.


We’ve met once when you were at Oklahoma Christian University a few years ago, but it was in passing. I just wanted to tell you how much your post spoke to me yesterday. After 12.5 years working at OC, I recently took a huge career leap (or at least it feels that way to me right now) and left my position as OC’s Director of Admissions to join a nonprofit in Oklahoma City, Water4, that’s making a huge global impact in the fight to eradicate the world water crisis. 

I loved working at OC and had gotten to a point in my career where I was on a nice, stable glide path. There’s really no such thing as a career ladder any more, I know, but if there was, I was on it at OC. I was in a place and had taken the right steps to continue advancing in a nice fruitful higher education career at my alma mater. I was even doing something that I felt good about in leading a team in the Admissions Office and helping students make one of the biggest decisions of their lives. I’ve seen the power of Christian education to change lives and I was getting to be part of that process in the lives of hundreds of young people each year.

And yet… I’ve always had this desire deep in my heart to fight for people on the margins. And while I’ve found outlets for that at almost every stage of my life & career, I’ve never given that desire my full attention. Over the years, without realizing it or being able to articulate it quite like this, I think I stopped believing in the magic. 

Then one day, I learned about an opportunity with Water4 that would be an almost perfect vocational fit with my heart for people on the margins…and it was an opportunity that I was qualified for! And I was scared. Scared to raise my hand. Scared to let my heart get excited. Scared to leap when the position was offered. Scared to leave something comfortable, stable, and familiar. But I raised my hand anyway.

And here I am. One week into my “new” world as a fundraiser and storyteller for a cause that is literally saving hundreds of lives EVERY day. And I feel the magic. The magic of new beginnings. The magic of vocation & purpose in near perfect alignment. The magic of being part of something that is SO MUCH BIGGER THAN I AM.

Wow. This has turned into a much longer email than I originally anticipated it being. I just wanted to say thank you for writing that post yesterday. Your words almost perfectly articulate the swirl of thoughts and feelings I’ve been having the last several weeks.

Thank you for your words. You’ve been a blessing to me. 


Thank YOU. And best wishes for you and Water4.