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Jon Acuff on the Role of Hustle in Taking Hold of Career Opportunities – Notes & Quotes – Part 5 of Do Over Series

Blog - Hustle - Jon AcuffTurning that last page of a great book is both satisfying and a bit sad. Satisfying in that I have gained so much insight and empowerment in reading Jon Acuff’s Do Over. Sad in that I will miss this super-practical literary journey with Acuff. Such a great read and such a fascinating journey. Looking forward to your next project, Jon.

[Jon Acuff’s words are in italics or bold font. Enjoy.]

Jon starts his section on hustle with a quote by Jack Gilbert: “Music is in the piano only when it is played.” Writing as a not-so-musical member of a musical family, I resonate with this.

In Do Over, hustle is defined as “shorthand for ‘work hard’. Hustle is not just something we add to our Career Savings Account. It is something that multiples everything else we have in it.”

Remember Jon’s formula in Do Over:

(Relationships + Skills + Character) x Hustle = Career Savings Account

To apply hustle, you need grit, flexibility and awareness. As I plowed through Jon Acuff’s writing on hustle, it became very clear that to go after our dreams we have to let go of fear and doubt, all the “what-if’s”, and take hold of what we have to do to get us where we hope to go. It’s work. It’s doable, but we can’t go into it half-way. It takes grit.

“Fear hates hustle. Nothing enrages fear like deciding to actually work hard…Grit is being stubborn in the face of fear. Grit is believing in can when can’t is loud.” – Jon Acuff

Stephen Pressfield says, “The amateur believes he must first overcome his fear; then he can do his work. The professional knows that fear can never be overcome. He knows there is no such thing as a fearless warrior or a dread-free artist.” (p. 213)

Nathan at guitarPhoto Credit: nathanmillsguitar.com

Flexibility enters in when you refuse to have a narrow view of perfection or success. Instead of believing fear’s lie of “I don’t have what it takes,” flexibility gives you the courage to say, “I have what it takes to try.”

Blog - Hustle 8

“Fear is not the same thing as regret. Regret is a small stream that cuts a canyon into your heart slowly over time. Will you face the fear of today or the regret of forever? Will you attack your fear of failure, maybe even fail and try again?” – Jon Acuff

Make Grit Decisions.

Here is what Jon says every grit decision needs:

  • Time – we think the world “hustle” has to mean fast, but it can also mean focus, intention, pace.
  • Counsel – Lean on your relationships. Some of the worst decisions are made alone. Who are your advocates? Have you given them time to reflect on it or are you rushing right by the wisdom they have to offer? Let them speak into it. A year from now, looking back on the decision, you’ll be glad you made it as a team.
  • Questions – Always ask awesome opportunities, awesome questions. We skimp on due diligence. “What am I not seeing right now?”
  • Kindness – Give yourself permission to make the wrong decision, because…you’re going to. Break the tension of feeling like you’re going to be perfect by giving yourself some kindness from the outset.
  • Honesty – When you look back on a decision, remember that you made that decision with the best information you had at the time.

Acuff encourages the reader to build a Grit List – those things you may not want to do but you know they are the things that will get you in position to take advantage of that career opportunity (stronger relationships, sharpened skills, deeper character). For Jon, one of those things was e-mail. He reconciled the hard work of writing and responding to e-mail in a wise and timely fashion. What would be on your Grit List?

Be aware. “The first half of hustle is addition [new relationships, new skills and new character], but you don’t get to add anything to your life unless you remove something else…You’ll need to find space in your life. “

Blog - Jon Acuff on HustlePhoto Credit: acuff.me

My husband says, “Whenever you say yes to something, you have to say no to something else.” What will you say no to, to say yes to this?

In review, at some point during your career you will:

  • Hit a Career Ceiling and get stuck, requiring sharp skills to free yourself.
  • Lose a job unexpectedly, or need one upon graduating, requiring strong relationships to survive.
  • Make a Career Jump, requiring solid character to navigate the chaos that jumps always generate.
  • And finally, in the case of hustle, you will get a surprise opportunity you didn’t see coming, requiring smart hustle to make the most of it. In moments like that, you’ll need awareness to recognize what to do, grit to actually do it and flexibility to respond to the surprises.

Jon tells story after story in his section on Hustle about ordinary people who overcame their fears and doubts and worked hard to have the careers they wanted. “Every Do Over avoided because of fear fails. Hustle, grit, and flexibility is ‘crawling through a window when the door is slammed shut.'”

“Let no one be deluded that a knowledge of the path can substitute for putting one foot in front of the other.” – Mary Caroline Richards

Why not me? Why not now? Why not here?

“You really think you can do this?” You’ve probably asked yourself that question. Fear loves that question. On a walk in the woods, on a calm spring day I answered it for myself. “Apparently, I can.”

Finally Jon Acuff looks us straight in the eye, kindly, and says, “I think that can be your answer too. Do you think you can have a Do Over?

Apparently, you can.

[Buy Jon’s book, subscribe to his blog, follow him on Facebook and Twitter, listen to his podcasts. I don’t say this casually. He has won an audience by doing all the hard things he encourages the reader to do and then sharing what he’s learned for pennies when you think how much your life is worth. I’m on my own Do Over. Going for it. Thanks again, Jon.]

Blog - Do Over with Jon AcuffPhoto Credit: SmartCreativeWomen.com

My Previous Blogs on Jon Acuff’s Do Over – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 – Today’s Blog is final piece in Series

YouTube Video – Jon Acuff’s Top Tips on Hustle (in 1 Minute)

Jon Acuff Hustle Archives

Jon Acuff Starts Over

Start: Jon Acuff on Rescuing Time, Hustle, and His Book Start – Podcast

What Hustling Means, with Jon Acuff – Podcast

Jon Acuff on Character at Work – 9 Quotes & a Challenge – Part 4 of the Do Over Series

Blog - Jon Acuff & wife JennyPhoto Credit: Nancy Ray Photography

Who would have thought reading a business book would become a deeply personal experience? Encouraging. Empowering. Do Over has launched itself in my life. Jon (the writer) and Jenny (the wife) Acuff have become like good friends, in a virtual book-driven way. He’s clearly a funny, risk-taking, keen observer of people in the workplace.  She, on the other hand, seems to both hold his feet to the ground and spur him on to what’s next. I’m pretty certain that Jon’s “do over” has Jenny written all over it. Thank you, Jenny.

When he talks about character (in the section of the book I’m covering today), he compares it to planting fruit trees. Character takes time to grow. Its fruit is worth the work and the wait.

As in previous blogs in this series, Jon will do most of the talking.

9 quotes follow. Also an exercise and a closing challenge. I hope you read the book. It is seriously, or not so much seriously, like grappling with a friend about a deep longing for career. Then receiving the best. advice. ever. Jon’s cool, and all…but his own fight for humility and honesty and his own fears and failures give him a platform. A platform to talk into my life and into the lives of those I love the most – my husband and my adult children. Thank you, Jon.

So here’s a bit of what he says about character and its impact on us in the workplace…especially in considering a Career Jump.Blog - Do Over

“Relationships get you the first gig. Skills get you the second. Character is the reason that people will still want to give you another chance if the first opportunity fails. Character is the mortar between all the other parts [relationships, skills, hustle] of the Career Savings Account. It’s what holds the other things together. “

“Character is also what you need the most when you make a positive, voluntary career transition, or what we’re calling a “Career Jump.” You need it the most then because it will be tested the most when you ‘just go for it’ or ‘chase a dream’.”

“When you make a [career] jump, you will be tempted to cut corners, to quit when the going gets tough and lose your patience when the results you expected don’t immediately happen. It is your character that will push you forward.”

Exercise: This time we don’t use note cards, but a notebook would be handy. Jon asks the question: What’s one character trait, related to your career, that you’d like to grow stronger? That’s where we start. You might still want a friend’s help in this. None of us are perfect, so it shouldn’t be too difficult. Just pick one to start.

As part of this exercise, consider those weeds in the workplace that could choke out that character trait you’re planting and nurturing. Jon lists four especially nasty (and all too common) ones:

  • Narcissism – our focus is all on ourselves. Weighing every decision and process in your workplace as it relates to you.
  • Dishonesty – Covering a mistake, embellishing our performance, gossiping, outright lying.
  • Pessimism – That negative cup-half-empty (or even broken) take on how things are going at work. It’s not just a weed in your own orchard but it can seed clouds over your coworkers’ view of work. Pessimism can rob you of the ability to brainstorm and to dream (“two activities that require the optimism of creativity”).
  • Apathy – you’ve gotten to the place you just don’t care anymore. What was once being passive now becomes deeply defiant. Partnered with pessimism, you convince yourself that you don’t have what it takes to do a Career Jump. A dry and dogged inertia can set in, crippling your ability to orchestrate a Career Jump.

Acuff focuses on 3 character traits in particular to grow in your Career Savings Account: Generosity, Empathy, & Being Present.

Generosity is a game-changer. During a Career Jump give generously as a way to beat back the weed of greed. Greed will end up costing you a lot more than you think. Make your definition of generosity bigger by being generous with your skills and time, not just your money.”

Empathy = Understanding someone else’s needs and acting on them. Generosity and empathy are closely intertwined; they go hand in hand. The stronger you get in one, the stronger you’ll get in the other.”

“The simplest thing you can do to be empathetic [is to] show up.”

“If you really want to reinvent your work and get ahead, there are three things you need to deal with – your phone, your computer and your meetings. Be present.”

[You hear this a lot these days – how distracting are our phones and other electronic devices, and how our shortened attention spans have impaired us related to deep thinking and creative, out-of-the-box dreaming and decision-making. The ones who deal with these will be the outliers – the leaders in the fields of our future. It’s laid out there – now for us to take our lives back.]

“You need character the most when you decide to chase a dream. “

“The moment you decide to make any sort of change in your career, you send other areas of your life into chaos. The bigger the change, the bigger the chaos. Wherever you jump, your character jumps with you.”

Challenge: “Is living with the chaos of a decision easy? Not really, but you do get used to it. I try to create [chaos] sometimes as a way to hide from something else I’m afraid of. I’ve discovered that’s a lightning-fast way to drain a Career Savings Account. When real chaos comes…don’t fight it. If anything, lean into it. ‘Easy’ and ‘adventure’ very rarely travel together.”

These Four Character Flaws Can Kill Your Career – Jon Acuff

Jon Acuff – Character Archives

The Awesome Career Audit – Jon Acuff

Jon Acuff Quotes by Goodreads (different from ones above)

Why I Hate Jon Acuff by Rob Shep

Do Over – Rescue Monday, Reinvent Your Work, and Never Get Stuck – by Jon Acuff – Notes (Part 1)

10 Quotes by Jon Acuff on Developing New Skills & Sharpening Old Ones – Part 3 of Do Over Series

Nathan at guitarPhoto Credit: Nathan Mills Guitar

There’s this guitarist I know. His music is a work in progress. Not his music itself, because he hones his craft daily. Still, his career in music is a study in skill development. No industry stands still. The ability to silence a room with the sound you bring out of a guitar does not a living make. Usually.

There are so many other skills called to bear in a successful career in music today. Composing, arranging, teaching, performing, collaborating, marketing, production, diversifying style or instrument. Whew!

Then there’s your day job (by necessity, or for other reasons). Wisdom is to bring the same disciplines and desire, of that skilled musician, to work every day. To be the best asset you can be for your employer or your company. Shirking entitlement and nurturing an attitude of graciousness and gratitude.

Who is this person?!

Jon Acuff talks about becoming such a person in his book Do Over. He tackles the subject of sharpening and developing skills as imperative to any career, and especially to break through a Career Ceiling.

Have you ever gotten stuck in a job? No, I’m not talking about being ungrateful or feeling entitled to a better situation. I’m talking stuck – as in getting to a place in your job where you can’t see being able to ever advance or be more creative or grow professionally?

Acuff invites us readers to take a good look at our skills to see what exactly we uniquely bring to your job. This would include skills we might have discounted or even forgotten we had.

Below are 10 bits of wisdom from Jon’s section on skills:

  • Relationships get you the first gig, skills get you the second.
  • When you hit a Career Ceiling, skills will be the hammer you use to break through.
  • Don’t let fear hide a skill you’ve always had or wanted to pursue. Just because you’re afraid of doing something doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.
  • Small skills have the tendency to add up to big careers.
  • Master the invisible skills – Go to work; add value; own your attitude.
  • When you have a bad attitude it flavors every part of your performance.
  • If you want to get better at something, it always costs time. If you don’t have any, steal some from…Facebook or any number of things that are requesting that resource without paying you anything in return.
  • I’m convinced that fear beats the “You don’t have enough time” drum because it never wants you to invest in your career. This is a lie.
  • Your willingness to discipline one part of your life creates freedom in another.
  • You will need skills most when you find yourself stuck. The ceilings are designed to filter out the lazy and uncommitted. Every skill can be a hammer. Start banging. Career Ceilings were meant to be broken.

Like with looking at our relationships, he calls for us to use note cards and list (one per card) all the skills we can think of – whether currently using them or only in the past; whether work-related or not so much. Once we’ve exhausted our ideas on skills then, he says to look for patterns.* It’s so easy to settle into a rut of doing the same thing every day. Going after new skills and sharpening old ones help us to be good at our jobs and, at the same time, love our work.

Whether you are a musician, a teacher, an I.T. guy or a caregiver, you have skills and you can build on those skills. Determining to be diligent to grow your skills and grateful for the opportunities to learn will take you farther than you know. Right through that career ceiling.

“You know who we should fire, that guy who keeps learning how to do his job even better,” said no one ever. – Jon AcuffBlog - Do Over - Jon Acuff

Photo Credit: Forbes.com

*A Simple Two-Step Exercise for Figuring Out What You’re Really Good At – Jon Acuff, Business Insider Start Your Do Over Today

Start Your Do Over Today! – Jon Acuff

Jon Acuff: Why Most People Don’t Reach Their Full Potential And How You Can

Nathan Mills on Vine

Crosstrain at Habitat for Humanity - Aug 30 2014Learning new skills on-site with Habitat for Humanity