Aug 23 2013
Every month, New York Times best-selling author Jon Acuff, holds a morning seminar on a Friday at 5am. It’s called 5Club. During the 90 minutes, Jon just drops knowledge about various things he’s learning. Since he’s a thought leader, the topics are really interesting. My notes from this morning are below, but first a story that happened near the end of 5Club…
There was a guy there this morning who was driving from Baltimore to Texas and stopped in Nashville for 5Club. When Jon asked us to share one of our audacious dreams, this guy shared that he wants to start a go-kart track where the go-karts do 100+ miles per hour (REAL go-karts, not the ones at putt-putt courses). After he got done sharing he said, “I just wanted to say, my biggest fear is speaking in front of people. I’m terrified of it. And I can’t believe I just said that out loud.” It was one of the most moving moments of my week. Even as I type this there are tears in my eyes. To see courage demonstrated is deeply inspiring. I would have never guessed that about this guy. He spoke with such confidence. He said he drove 700 miles and then almost didn’t speak up. Jon commented, “Isn’t that just like fear to get you four miles away?” The room broke out into applause when he finished. AND RIGHTLY SO!!! It was a magic moment!
- Jon said more people would probably come to 5Club if it was called the 7 Club and met at 7am, but it just wouldn’t feel the same. 5am is for hustlers.
- In counseling, they ask, “What was your family origin?” and you gain insights into yourself by your upbringing. In our careers, we can ask, “What were my job origins?” Doing this show us work patterns that may be ingrained in us that are either positive or negative. For instance, a woman Jon talked to was an accountant for 15 years. She had learned that nearly everything in accounting could be done perfectly because numbers are so black and white. But when she shifted careers, she had to recognize this tendency for perfection didn’t work in her new creative career where failure is just part of the game. Jon had us spend 60 seconds thinking about good and bad work patterns that are in us based on our previous work. Some examples he gave from his life…
- Jon’s normal habit is to be laser-focused on one project at a time and becomes obsessed with it – sometimes to the detriment of other more important tasks. Some of his jobs taught him prioritization.
- Leaders are often uncomfortable celebrating.
- Mr. Bose (who started Bose Audio) told the company not to use the word “bass” because all other company’s used it. He preferred “low frequency output” – which doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. Jon learned it’s ok to keep some ideas that others use – not EVERYTHING needs to be unique.
- Bose talked about how he wanted people to think of the company like a huge soccer field and people were welcome to move all over the place because that’s where good ideas and interesting things come from. But what often happens is that each manager puts boundaries on the field until lower-level employees feel like they have a postage stamp of freedom. The idea is this: keep the field open all the way down management. It’s a field, not a stamp! (of course, this doesn’t work in all industries, but the point is that our default should be freedom until it requires control)
- We work with tons of people who have tons of talent and we never know it because we don’t ask them or give them freedom to show it. It’s like the scene in Karate Kid where Daniel finds out Mr Miyagi has a black belt and asks, “Why didn’t you tell me you knew karate?” And Mr Miyagi says, “You never asked.”
- One of the attenders had been in radio for a long time and said being in radio taught him it’s not about the mistake, it’s about the recovery. Move on. Jon added that people won’t camp out on your mistakes unless you do.
Jon then had us do an exercise where we imagined what our nine-year old selves would say to the person we are today. We took 60 seconds to think on this. Jon said his wife, Jenny, asked him, “Do you want to be be a great writer or greatly known?” A nine-year old would want to know: did you trade what you do for a platform? A nine-year old doesn’t say, “Someday, I want a platform.” They say, “I want to be a poet.” Some sample responses from the group…
- Why do you take yourself so seriously?
- When did you start comparing yourself to others so much? If you imagine a nine-year old critiquing social media, you’d hear them say, “Would you go house-to-house and knock on a stranger’s door and ask to see their wedding photos? Why are you doing it online? Make some real friends!”
- When you were younger, you created all day long. Why don’t you make things anymore?
- When you used to dream, it usually involved helping other people – you wanted to be a doctor, a police officer, a firefighter. Who are you helping?
We’re reluctant to look at these questions because it can mean “taking a step back” in our career. Jenny asked Jon: What if more of you means less audience? Our greatest good may be in thinking of the good our nine-year old selves wanted to bring into the world.
THE STORY YOU’LL TELL
This is an exercise Jon uses to help him make decisions – in 20 years, what is the story I’ll tell people? For instance, he and Jenny decided to move into a small house so their kids could walk to school. They thought it would be a good story for their girls instead of, “We lived in a house with huge closets.”
Decisions can be tough. We shouldn’t let that get us down! Cloudless skies make for boring sunsets. The story of David and Goliath loses a lot of its magic if David is a 9-foot tall giant with a bazooka. Feeling like there’s a big thing in front of us is where the greatness comes from when we push through it.
OTHER GREAT NUGGETS
- If you spent 80 hours a week doing work and were to ENJOY it, what would the characteristics be of that work?
- He had us spend 60 seconds thinking of an audacious goal. His is to buy property on an island in Maine and run a family camp there.
- Has anyone told us our audacious goal is crazy lately? If not, we either need to get one, share it, or change it to be bigger.
- The voices in our head are so negative so often. If someone talked to you the way YOU talk to you, you’d never hang out with yourself. We need to clean up our self-talk and make it positive.
- We have no definition of “rest.” We thought cell phones would give us freedom. Nothing says “freedom” like answering email on the toilet.
It was a great morning! 4am wake-up time comes super early. But the VALUE I gain from these 90 minutes vs. 3 hour of lost sleep isn’t even comparable. I’m really grateful to Jon for putting these on! If you live in Nashville or the surrounding area, make it out to the 5Club next month. It’s worth your time! And not just because it’s free!