The Pursuit: 5 Steps to Create Your Dream Career, the Jon Acuff Way

Author and speaker Jon Acuff has created quite a remarkable career for himself, much of which he’s documented on his blog and in multiple New York Times best-selling books. To read his work is to read through his life: In Quitter, he quit his corporate career to follow his dream; in Start, he launched his own business; in Do Over, he learned from some of his mistakes.

5 Steps to Create Your Dream Career, the John Acuff Way
COURTESY OF JEREMY COWART

Acuff’s refreshing, funny and often unapologetic perspective provides real-life lessons to people aspiring to live their own dreams as authors or speakers or entrepreneurs. Here, he shares five tips to create your own dream career:

Related: 5 Reasons Why Your Dream Job Is Actually Possible

1. Take your time.

It’s actually rare to experience “aha” moments or big breaks in life. Rather, you have to continually work on things and through things.

“We want to reflect on a change while we’re still in it,” Acuff says. “Most people don’t give themselves long enough [to recover].”

When it comes to boosting creativity, you need to give yourself time to develop good ideas. Acuff says he sees people make the mistake of rushing ideas to market before they are ready.

2. Share your experiences.

Acuff rejects the growing trends in the “expert marketing” industry. He explains that he can’t—and shouldn’t—teach people how to grow a speaking career, for example, because his experiences are not replicable. Step one, he jokes, would be to find a boss with 7 million radio listeners. Authenticity is vital, he says.

“Go get more expertise in that, be honest about what your strengths are that you can share and sell. Be honest about what you can’t.”

Should everyone share their experiences via a book? No. Just like not everyone should record a music album or paint paintings, it does not make a person less than if they don’t have writing talents, he explains.

“Develop your authority [first]. Never write a book as a way to establish your authority,” he says. “Books are hard and they’re not for everybody. It’s not [a] failure if you don’t write a book.”

3. Hone your craft.

In the early stages of his career, while writing Stuff Christians Like, Acuff was working full time and waking at 5 a.m. to write four or five posts a day. And even now as an established author, he still writes four hours every day. Not to mention the years he’s spent researching, writing and rewriting each of his books. And for his speaking career? He’s studied more than 100 comedians and hones his speeches after each event, even if he’s given the same one 50 times.

4. Serve your community.

When Acuff is hired to speak at an event, one of his first questions is, “How can I make you look like a rock star?” When he had an idea to help people reach their goals in 30 days, he gave it away for free for more than a year. He stays active in free Facebook fan communities, attends fan-organized events and hosts free meetups all over the U.S.

And although accomplished, Acuff maintains his position of writing “from the trenches” rather than as an expert. He bares all in his writing because he remembers what it felt like to be without support.

“I’m always trying to write to the me I used to be, who didn’t have a community, who felt like the only weirdo who wanted to do a dream,” he says. 

Related: 7 Steps to Achieve Your Dream

Kelsey Humphreys

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