Today, I’m talking with Jon Acuff, a New York Times Bestselling author, who for 19+ years, has been helping companies like Home Depot, Bose, Staples and even the Dave Ramsey team, tell their stories. He’s a well-known public speaker and his blogs have been read by millions of fans around the world.
In this conversation, we dive deep into Jon’s 6th book — Finish: Give Yourself The Gift Of Done — which is not only extremely entertaining (it literally had me laughing out loud one night), but it is actually backed by science as well. And for you the busy financial advisor, who let’s be honest likely struggles to finish things, trust me, you will appreciate this discussion!
Here are a few highlights from our conversation:
- Why the Western World’s approach to goal setting is completely failing you and busting the most common goal setting myths!
- The biggest lessons Jon learned from his 3 years working under Dave Ramsey and how that experience led to his eventual success as a speaker and author.
- The book publishing methodology that allowed him to become a New York Times Bestseller and the guiding principles from his upcoming book, Finish.
- How to serve and stay passionately connected to ANY audience.
- [04:51] Make it fun if you want it done—Why setting and achieving goals doesn’t have to suck in order to count!
- [11:12] Jon describes how he landed a job with Dave Ramsey, lessons learned and why he eventually made the decision to venture out on his own.
- [17:39] How in the heck has Jon been able to publish 6 books and why do so few people who say they want to write a book, never actually finish?
- [21:50] Why it doesn’t have to be all or nothing—Discover ‘The Day After Perfect’ concept and how it can be harnessed to get back on track with your toughest goals.
- [25:05] Find out why you should be cutting your goals in half—Jon contradicts the so called “experts” and completely busts common goal setting myths.
- [30:58] Are you succeeding at nothing because you’re trying to do everything?—Learn why it’s actually OK to bomb in certain areas of your life!
- [33:10] Discover the 2 types of motivations that influence people and why you’ll lose if you’re only using 1 of them.
- [36:05] Are you working towards something that actually matters?—Learn to leave your hiding places and ignore noble obstacles!
- [37:57] The numbers don’t lie! Learn the importance of tracking results and using data to celebrate your imperfect process.
- [43:16] Learn how to “borrow the diploma” and avoid all the mistakes someone else has already made!
- [50:00] Nail your next speaking gig by staying passionately connected to your core message and communicating directly to your intended audience.
- [51:09] You’re not there to speak, you’re there to serve—Jon explains why honesty alone is not enough if you want to crush it on stage.
- [58:55] Jon shares all kinds of things he hopes are completely absurd in 25 years, including “promposals”, mopey-ness, and outrage culture!
- [01:01:41] He’s not a fan of detailed morning routines, but you won’t want to miss the habits he puts in place for writing and editing books!
- [1:04:28] The book that has had the biggest impact on his life and what it taught him about running from fear.
- [01:06:18] Why we’re living in the wild wild west and the old rules no longer apply!
- [01:09:14] The power of building an email list—the deadliest weapon in your marketing arsenal.
SELECTED LINKS FROM THE EPISODE
- Connect with Jon Acuff
- Finish: Give Yourself The Gift of Done – If you pre-order the book, which comes out on 9/12/17, Jon will send you a ton of free stuff!
- Speakers List
- Start: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average, and Do Work That Matters
- Do Over: Make Today the First Day of Your New Career
- Tough Mudder
- SMART Goals
- War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles
- Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving with Grace
PEOPLE MENTIONED IN THE EPISODE
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Welcome to this episode of The Elite Advisor Blueprint® podcast, with your host, Brad Johnson. Brad’s the VP of Advisors Development at Advisors Excel, the largest independent insurance brokerage company in the U.S. He’s also a regular contributor to Investment News, The Wall Street Journal and other industry publications
Welcome to The Elite Advisor Blueprint® – The Podcast for World-Class Financial Advisors. My name is Brad Johnson and I’m the VP of Advisor Development at Advisors Excel. And it’s my goal to distill the best ideas and advice from top thought leaders and apply it to the world of independent financial advising.
[00:00:38] Brad: Today, I’m talking with Jon Acuff. He’s a New York Times best-selling author who for 19 plus years has been helping companies like Home Depot, Bose, Staples and even the Dave Ramsey team tell their stories. He’s a well-known public speaker and his blogs have been read by millions of fans around the world. In this conversation, we dive deep into Jon’s sixth book, Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done, which is not only extremely entertaining, I mean, I literally was laughing out loud one night but it is actually backed by science as well. And for you, the busy financial advisor, who, let’s be honest, likely struggles to finish things, trust me, you will appreciate this discussion.
Here are just a few of the highlights from our conversation. Starting off, Jon shares of all things a story about him signing up for ping-pong lessons and how it just so happens to demonstrate why the Western world’s approach to goal setting is completely failing you. Later in the conversation, he blows the lid off some of the most common goal setting miss including why you should stop shooting for the moon. Next, we uncover some of the biggest lessons he learned from his three years working under Dave Ramsey and how that experience led to his eventual success as a speaker and author. We then discussed the publishing methodology that allowed him to become a New York Times bestseller and the guiding principles from his upcoming book, Finish. According to Jon, of the 90% of Americans who want to write a book, less than 1% actually do. Jon shares the biggest reasons most people fail and his secret to actually turning your book ideas into reality. Finally, Jon shares some incredible value for advisors on how to uniquely serve an audience while speaking at an event. You’ll learn why people are motivated for different reasons along with his tactics for staying passionately connected to serve those in the crowd.
[00:02:22] Brad: So, in the spirit of our last show’s guest, Pete Vargas, who gave away a ton of tools to implement his concept, it looks like Jon’s trying to one up him as he’s offered to give to you, Blueprint listeners, three different tools built around finishing your goals. All you have to do is hop out to the show notes and preorder a copy of his latest book, Finish, and then from there simply upload the receipt and the gifts are yours to have. They include, number one, the Finish video course with Jon himself walking you through the concepts from his book; number two, the Finish workbook for laying out your big goals and, number three, a dry erase Finish board and marker for tracking your progress. All of this is available right up at the top of the show notes at BradleyJohnson.com/29 that’s 29. Links to everything else there too, books mentioned, people discussed as well as a complete transcript of the show.
One last thing, as I stated on the last show, we’ve recently finalized an agreement to feature our show’s content and biweekly articles exclusively at WealthManagement.com. The best part about it, I’m hand selecting some of the very best ideas from 30 plus hours of interviews and laying out the simple steps to implement them directly into your practice. So, if you happen to miss the latest column on how Ron Carson landed his first billionaire client and, most importantly, the framework to replicate it in your own practice, it’s live out on our site now under the press section. The next piece on Joey Coleman’s First 100 Days concept to make sure you never lose a client again will be going live shortly. We’ll be sure to send it out to all of you who have subscribed to our email list as soon as each article goes live. So, if you haven’t subscribed yet, you can do it by visiting BradleyJonson.com/subscribe. So, that’s it. And as always, thanks for listening and without further delay, my conversation with Jon Acuff.
[00:04:10] Brad: Welcome, everyone, to this week’s episode of the Elite Advisor Blueprint Podcast. I have a special guest, Jon Acuff, who is a New York Times best-selling author of five soon to be six books. Welcome to the show, Jon.
[00:04:24] Jon: Yeah. Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.
[00:04:26] Brad: Well, it’s always fun when I have friends of guests and so one thing that I like to do is always hit them up and text them and I’m like, “Hey, I’ve got Jon coming on the show.” I’ve got my buddy, Jeff Rose, who knows you personally. I’m like, “What sort of questions should I throw by Jon?” Which is always a little bit scary but fun, right?
[00:04:47] Jon: Yeah. Well, I mean, it makes it more real. It’s a real interview I think.
[00:04:51] Brad: Yeah. So, I want to start here because what’s fun is this leads right into a piece of your upcoming book, Finish. So, I hit Jeff up. He’s kind of, you know, he’s a little goofy. You know Jeff.
[00:05:01] Jon: Sure.
[00:05:02] Brad: Jeff Rose, for you listeners out there, of Good Financial Cents fame and he says, “Make sure before you get done with the interview with Jon that you ask him about ping-pong and whether or not he believes this is a real sport.” And I wouldn’t normally start a conversation but it leads into an amazing story in your new book that I wanted to make sure we hit so let’s start there.
[00:05:23] Jon: Yeah. Well, definitely, I mean, it’s in the Olympics so like the idea of is it a sport? Yeah. Is paddleboard and yoga a sport? No. Is paddle boarding? Not really, no. But table tennis definitely is. I mean it’s in the Olympics like and can it be played in a frat house? Totally. But so can basketball. Is basketball a real sport? No. But the story, so my wife probably about two years ago said, “Hey, you’re a workaholic. You need to get the hobby.” And I said well I love ping-pong. Growing up I always played it and so I went to the Team USA site and googled certified coaches. There’s only two in Tennessee which is a state I live in and I emailed them both and one said he would evaluate me to see if he would train me.
So, we ended up training. It ended up being kind of super awkward because the first time we went to a college to play where he worked and the college was locked so we just stood in the lobby for like half an hour and then he had me hit a ball against the wall in the lobby and then we played in the lobby with no table. So, like imagine a college I don’t attend, me with a 60-year-old like Asian grandfather like in a sweater vest hitting a ping-pong ball like it was super awkward. But we played four times and we never played a game because he said I wasn’t ready. And my wife eventually said, “You found a way to turn a hobby into an active workaholism like why can’t you just play for fun?” And you’re right. It ties into the book because a big part of what we learn about finishing goals is that fun goals win. Unfortunately, our culture believes it’s something that has to be miserable to count and that’s kind of our Western approach to goal setting and it usually fails.
[00:07:11] Brad: For those watching on video, Jon sent me a pre-released copy of his new book, Finish, which we’re going to spend some time on here today. And the cool thing is you’ve also written a book called Start and I love how you start the book out. You basically say, “Hey, I thought I was really talking about how to tell people get things done by starting things,” but in reality, a lot of people start things and the biggest issue is they never finish them.
[00:07:36] Jon: Yeah. I got it half right. The other day I did a video on Facebook and I said, “Hey, with a thumbs-up, click thumbs-up if you purchase the P90X program and didn’t finish it,” and it was a wave of thumbs. So, the challenge like starting isn’t hard. I mean there is that sense of like I’m going to do it like I want the first line of my book to be amazing like I’m not saying it’s easy but it’s a joke compared to finishing. Like anyone can sign up for a marathon. Finishing a marathon? Completely different experience. Anyone can buy a stack of books that they’re going to read and then put them on the shelf and never read. So, that’s when I realized was okay, the start matters. It does but it’s nowhere near as important as the finish.
[00:08:24] Brad: Yeah. And here’s what I love about the book. I’m speaking of Finish. I just finished it this morning before this conversation and it’s my first Jon Acuff book I’ve ever finished. Haven’t even bought any other books, I’ve heard about a lot of them but you have a gift of taking a business book and making it entertaining and fun and Mr. Steve Chen, your ping-pong coach, I’m literally laughing out loud as I’m reading this but at the same time I’m thinking back to all of the goals I’ve started and not finish. They weren’t fun. It was like I’m putting myself through this misery just to complete something that I don’t really enjoy that much anyway.
[00:09:02] Jon: Well, the example I always use is like people say, “I’m going to lose weight,” and I go, “How?” And they go, “I’m going to run,” and I go, “Do you like running?” They go, “No. I hate it.” I go, “Well, then why you do you think you’ll sustain that?” Like my favorite extreme example is adventure races in our country like part of the reason adventure races are popular is because we want something to suck in order for it to count and like the joke I always do is like in a Tough Mudder Race, you get electrocuted. Like the rest of your life you spend trying not to have live wires touch your bare skin. On Tough Mudder Day, you pay for that experience and it’s not like because you then get a certification and you make more money or then your grandfather lives. It’s just something we do and I’m not opposed to those things. I just think they’re really funny example of like we wanted to be horrible. And then even if you look at the most popular goal setting technique of the last 50 years, it’s SMART goals. S-M-A-R-T, specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, timebound. Which of those words means fun? There’s not even a word that’s a distant cousin of fun like nobody goes, “Oh, my vacation was amazing. It was time bound. I knew right when it would end.”
And so, especially from employer’s perspective like I’m a big believer in making something fun if you want it done. The principle isn’t to have fun. That’s garbage like I saw another entrepreneur say, “If you don’t love 90% of what it takes to be in your industry, you’re in the wrong industry,” and I was like that’s the stupidest thing ever. Like that means in a 40-hour workweek there’s only four hours that you’re frustrated? Like most people have a longer commute than that because they don’t live in Topeka. And so, the idea that you have to love everything, you’d be like, “It’s budgeting season. Yay.” Like no, no, no, no. I’m saying be deliberate about finding ways to add fun. It’s not like when I talk to companies about fun, they go, “Well, we’re not Google. We can’t have a water slide in our lobby,” and that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m not talking about being silly. I’m talking about taking something that might not naturally be fun and finding a fun approach so that you actually do it.
[00:11:03] Brad: Spot on. So, here’s what I want to do. For those and I jumped a little bit ahead into the book because the have-fun section I think is chapter five or six. What I want to do is for those that aren’t familiar with you, I want to back up just a little bit…
[00:11:16] Jon: Sure.
[00:11:17] Brad: …onto your story because obviously a podcast for financial advisors, we’ve got a guy here that literally quit his corporate job. You were on Dave Ramsey’s team for three years, four years approximately…
[00:11:27] Jon: Three years, yeah.
[00:11:29] Brad: …before you jumped out and said, “Hey, I’m going to do my own thing. I’m going to become an author.” So, can you give us a little bit just an overview of that story? What it was like to be on the Ramsey team? What you learned along the way that might help advisors?
[00:11:39] Jon: Sure. Yeah. I had a blog in 2008 that kind of went viral so I got a lot of traffic. Four thousand people showed up on day nine. People started sending it to me not knowing that I had done it and it just kind of it grew pretty quickly.
[00:11:55] Brad: Real quick, I want to, on day nine of your blog existing, 4,000 people are on it?
[00:12:01] Jon: Yeah. And I told 100 people and it just went crazy. And I didn’t have a big twitter platform, Instagram or anything like that. And so, I ended up getting a book deal out of that like a really small book deal and then I started to get some speaking offers and things started to pick up and along the way, somebody on Dave Ramsey’s team asked me to speak at their Wednesday meeting. They have a Wednesday meeting where they bring in an author, a musician, a pastor or whatever. And so, they allow employees to suggest people so they suggested me. I came up. It went really well. They offered me a position. It just wasn’t the right position and so now I went back to national, came up and did it a second time, went really well. Came up, I did it a third time. The third time Dave was like, “Hey, essentially, I want to show you how to do what I do.”
Whether you subscribe to his methods or not, you can’t deny he’s built a really powerful, robust, sustained personal brand. He turned a personal brand, they might be 700 people now. I don’t know the exact numbers but it’s a massive company. And so, the idea that kind of sit and understand that from his perspective was really awesome. And so, I spent three years there, wrote a couple of books. He really changed my ability to speak. The reason I’m comfortable on stage is because in the second month he said, “I want you to open up for me at my event.” So, I went to speaking from 80 people to speaking to 8,000.
[00:13:32] Brad: Wow.
[00:13:33] Jon: He certainly taught me along the way, gave me feedback. It wasn’t like I was just like, “Okay.” There was a lot of effort that went into on there and at my end. So, did that for three years, did radio, had a lot of fun but then eventually as an entrepreneur I wanted to do my own thing. And you can’t do your own thing in somebody else’s company with their resources like eventually you have to say, okay, even if I’d be more famous here, even if there’s different opportunities, I want to try it on my own and I also want to be able to speak from a place of authority. And so, for me it was never like, “Oh, I’ve got to be an entrepreneur because that’s the only way.” I mean I work with a lot of companies who have entrepreneur-minded people there that are inside a big company. Like I think you can do amazing work in big companies. I worked at Home Depot, in Bose, in Staples.
And so, whenever an entrepreneur denigrates a big company, I think that’s the dumbest thing ever. Like when somebody says, “Either chase your dreams or somebody else will pay you to chase theirs,” I think you just insulted every employee you want to have. Like entrepreneurs who insult companies forget they’re building a company and they’re being idiots. And so, for me, it was never about like I got to be an entrepreneur. It’s just I want to try things on my own and I had enough platform and I live in a great city to do it and eventually somebody said, “What’s the story you want to tell your kids like that you played it safe or that you tried?” and I’d rather tell the try stories. That was four years ago.
[00:14:58] Brad: I’m curious. How scary was that? Obviously, Ramsey is an established brand. It sounds like you were kind of the poster child inside of Ramsey and then to jump out. That had to be scary. How did you get through?
[00:15:09] Jon: Well, I mean, it’s scary but it’s deliberate. It’s over time. I’m not a like when people say like jump, sometimes you have to jump and grow wings on the way down like, no, that’s stupid. That’s not how any of this works. So, I’m not to like step out with a crazy risk. I mean, the people you’ve talked to, the people we know, if you look at a risky entrepreneur or a risky business person, behind it is so many checks and balances, so much deliberate thought, so much intentionality. So, I mean, it wasn’t impulsive. It was very deliberate. It doesn’t mean it’s not scary but it’s one of the few things in my life that I can say in four years I haven’t regretted it once. Now, are there things that would be easier? There are. Like I had a bus tour when I was there. Like you will not see a bus for Finish. Like you have to be scrappier.
It kind of reminds me, a friend of mine worked at a huge church like a 10,000-person church and then he started his own and I was like, “What are the differences?” and he’s like, “Well, when we did an event to the big church and I needed chairs, I called the chair department and they got chairs.” He said, “When I do an event, the first thing I had to do is go, ‘Oh, dude, like where the chairs come from? Like where?’” You know, like he had to do that and I thought like that’s been really fun to kind of figure out. But that’s where you’re nervous like, okay, I had to go get a publishing deal. The challenge of doing your own thing is you need all these different faucets of money coming in. So, you have to go figure them out like when you have a big safe brand like I don’t have to figure out those things the same way.
[00:16:43] Brad: It’s interesting. There’s a lot of analogies there. Obviously, this podcast is for independent financial advisors. It doesn’t mean that people that work for big brokerage houses don’t also listen but I’ve seen that half a lot of times in our industry too where they’re working for the big box name and they’re jumping out on their own and it’s scary because you don’t have that big back office to support you but also…
[00:17:03] Jon: You don’t have community either. Like the biggest mistake is you have to fight the established community when you’re on your own. It happens organically in a company. Like when you’re at a company and there are 50 people at your department, five of them say to you, “Hey, we’re going to lunch. Do you want to come?” And you go to lunch and that’s different when you do what I do which is you have to very deliberately go, “Okay,” like if I want this to happen, I got to put it together and here’s how it’s going to look. And so, that’s a big difference I think sometimes you get.
[00:17:32] Brad: Well, let’s transition into the book and I kind of want to run down an overview. I’ve got it laid out here in front of me but I think something that can hit a lot of financial advisors just from getting how you’ve done it is your book is finished but at the same time in a short amount of time you finished six books now which is no small task. I’ve got the manuscript of my first book and I’m going to say, man, like when you get to the editing process of a manuscript, I’m like one guy said, “When you’re 95% done, you’re half done,” and I was like that hits home right now. So, I’ve got a lot of respect for somebody that’s finished six books. With that being said, a lot of our clients, a lot of listeners, a lot of financial advisors have a book that they want to write but stuck in that process. So, can you walk through just even how you finished six books which will probably flow right into a lot of the methodology of Finish but can you share some secrets to how you got that done?
[00:18:27] Jon: Yeah. Sure. I mean, it’s very common. Well, 81% to 90% of Americans say they want to write a book and less than 1% do. So, it’s a very common goal. It’s very rare to actually do it. For me, I think one of the biggest things you have to remember is that great new ideas are going to show up right at the end and that’s okay. So, never write it like it’s your last book. It’s your first book. So, a lot of writers get stuck right at the finish line because right as they’re about to finish, 50 great new ideas show up and they act like they have to force them in that book. You don’t. Like put them in the next book like, great, you’ve now got to start for the next book. So, I think that’s a big part of it is realizing that’s going to happen and no one ever feels finished. Like that’s the other thing like when people are like, “How do you know when your book is done?” It’s not just moment like I knew this one like I knew that this was done because it showed up in my mailbox like this is a real version like I have a box of these.
And so, like sometimes when we wait, it’s like how do you know you were perfectly in love with your spouse? You didn’t. You weren’t like, “Oh now we can,” like how do you know you were ready to have kids? It’s like you don’t. And so, I think those are a couple of other things that mess people up is that they keep writing, keep writing, keep writing, keep writing, keep writing, adding new ideas. I mean, speech is the same way. The worst speech is the one where there are seven main ideas because the person acts like this is my one shot to ever speak and they shove it all in and so I think that’s the same problem.
[00:20:00] Brad: Are there any mental tricks that you have? Do you set a deadline as a date but basically, okay, this book is done here and I move forward or anything like that?
[00:20:09] Jon: Yeah. I mean I think there’s a couple. There’s one. I do have a deadline and it has to be real like if you keep moving it, it’s useless. I have accountability so I have the accountability of my editor, of my wife, of my friends like I have deadlines to make. I have skin in the game. Like say you’re self-publishing, maybe for you what you need is you need to spend some money to like you need to pay, you need to advance pay a designer $500 to do the cover to force you to actually finish the book because you’re like, “I’m not going to waste that $500.”
So, a lot of times, you know, it’s like anything else. I find that if I gave away stuff to people, they don’t value it. They don’t use it. It doesn’t have to be a ton of money but like so I’ve got a friend who’s helped me with finances right now and he said and he works with a lot of athletes, a lot of executives and he was like, “I’d love doing this just first fun but you need money to be motivated,” and I was like, “I think I do,” and he said, “Okay. Well at the end of the year you’re going to give X amount of dollars to this charity of my choosing.” And I’m like, “That’s fine but like I need some skin in the game.” But if it’s just you, nobody knows you’re doing it, it’s you with a notebook or a laptop, there’s no date, there’s no skin like you’ll never finish that.
[00:21:26] Brad: Yeah. Yeah. You’re so spot on there because I find the same thing. Mastermind groups, a lot of people pay $5,000, $10,000. Part of it’s the accountability that I paid this much money, I’m actually going to show up and be present for it.
[00:21:38] Jon: Yeah. And work on it.
[00:21:39] Brad: Whatever it is.
[00:21:41] Jon: Yeah. Totally.
[00:21:42] Brad: Yeah. Okay. So, let’s dive into the book here. You start with, “I kind of hit the wrong ghost,” is what you call it with the Start versus Finish books but then I love the very first chapter’s concept is the day after perfect. So, can you go into just your thought process there and what detail to people?
[00:22:00] Jon: Yeah. A lot of times when we want to do a goal, we want all or nothing. We want 100 or a zero like there are so many people right now like that’s why – because the book talks about perfectionism a lot. But there are a lot of people like people understand perfectionism where like somebody who’s a perfectionist often has a disgusting messy car. And you go, “That doesn’t make any sense. I thought they are anal and clean and organized.” No, no, no. They are. It’s just that it can’t be perfect they won’t even start. So, their thing is like if I can’t scrub the car with a toothbrush, I’m just going to throw old McDonald’s in the passenger seat like it’s an all or nothing. Like we’d rather get a zero than a 100. So, I know a lot of people started using it and go, “I don’t have time like my goal is to run 5 miles. I don’t have time. And 3 miles doesn’t count so I’m going to do zero,” and you go, “But that like 3 miles is way better than zero,” and he goes, “No, no, no, like it has to be this number. It has to be this thing.” And so, what you see a lot of people do is they start this goal and it’s daily, daily, daily, daily, daily. They miss a day and the whole thing falls apart because it’s no longer perfect. So, the day after perfect is about admitting like it’s not going to be perfect.
Like here’s an example, so I’ve been reading a bunch of books. I read 10 books last year and this year I’ll read 156 which is three a week and the average American reads one a week, average CEO reads 60 – not one a week. One a year. The average CEO reads 60 a year. So, I yesterday broke my streak. Let me see. Yesterday was the 10th when we’re talking so I read a book 23 days in a row and yesterday I didn’t. I didn’t finish a book. And like today I’m still going to read like my goal is 30 days in a row. I didn’t hit it like that’s all right like today’s the day after perfect. I’m still going to read. I’m still going to pick up a book. I’m still going to work through pages. So, that’s a big part of it. It’s just admitting it’s not going to be perfect, get over that.
[00:24:00] Jon: And what was interesting, with this book we did a huge research project. The day most people quit their goals is day 2, not day 15, not day 20. It’s day 2 because that’s when the work shows up. Day 1 is exciting and full of hype and day 2 is you actually have to do the diet. You actually have to do the miles. You actually have to write the book. And so, it’s not going to be perfect. We might as well know that and plan for it than be surprised by it.
[00:24:29] Brad: I think what’s interesting and you talk about streaks and at the same time I also see it with our clients where one thing that we help them do a lot of is create their own proprietary planning process so that they can more easily communicate to their clients, how they can help, right? And what I find a lot of times is it’s not perfect, therefore I’m not rolling it out. And it’s interesting. We sometimes use the analogy. It’s kind of like software. Nobody rolls out perfect software. They roll out beta versions.
[00:24:58] Jon: Yeah. Apple does it.
[00:24:59] Brad: Yeah. So, I think a lot of that applies to not just the process of getting there but also the process of the end product as well.
[00:25:06] Jon: Sure.
[00:25:07] Brad: Okay. So, from there we go to cutting your goal in half which I think is going to make some goal setting gurus out there like pull their hair out but explain what you mean there because you’ve got a great methodology behind that.
[00:25:18] Jon: So, I would say that part of the book’s kind of subversive nature is to take what we always say about goals and then to test it to see if it’s true. There is like this isn’t a first goal book that’s ever been written. There’s a billion of them and they’re so – like go to Instagram and type in motivation like and it’s going to give you a ton of sayings. And so, one of the popular ones is, “Aim for the moon because even if you fail, you’ll land amongst the stars.” And so, the belief is, okay, if your goal – say you can really probably only lose 5 pounds but you go, “No, I’m going for it. I’m going to lose 10,” and you try and you lose 8, the thought is, “I’ll still feel good about 8 and I’ll still keep going on,” but you won’t. You failed by two like the psychology doesn’t work. It’s kind of like one of my favorite things that happened when I was with Dave is that Dave is a huge guy, huge believer in like you have 10 debts with 10 different interest rates. Pay the smallest one off first and get that debt snowball like he’s a big believer in that. And he’s always a big believer in that because he is very intuitive and knows that’s how people work.
So, the math doesn’t work. Mathematically speaking, that’s the wrong way. You should pay the biggest percent, da, da, da, da but Time Magazine eventually did a study and said like Dave’s right like if we were robots, the right way would be pay the highest percent and move your way but we’re not. We’re emotional and we get distracted and excited and sad. And so, it’s the same with goals. So, what I found is that people who set gigantic goals and then miss them, quit. Like they just give up where I – so I had a theory that if I said to you instead of doing 10 pounds, lose 5. I cut it in half, lose 5 and my theory was if you lose 8, you’ve won by 3 and you’ll try again. Like, my goal is to get you to do another goal next month. I care about this month but next month matters even more because then you’re building on it, building on it, building on it.
[00:27:22] Jon: And so, people who did that, because again we study 900 people, people who did that were 63% more successful with their goals. So, whenever somebody tells me like, “Oh, you should have a crazy goal,” I’m just going to say, “Show me your research like show me the study you commissioned. I’d love to see your background,” and 99 times out of 100 they can go, “Well, I don’t. I just like I read a book and said eye of the tiger and I had to go for it,” and again like it’s just one of those miss about goal setting that if you look at it, actually doesn’t work. Now the pushback to that should be, okay, I have a goal at work, I can’t cut it in half or our company has some obligations, whatever. I think it reveals two things. For individuals, it says you might want to cut your current bill in half. For companies or teams, it says plan the right size from the beginning. I don’t want you to ever have to – if you’re a team, I don’t want you to ever have to cut your goal in half.
I want you to have a culture where people can be honest enough to say, “Hey, I don’t – this isn’t based on reality. Hey, this isn’t,” and I’m sure you see that where some of the people you coach will go, you start to work with them and they go, “I’m going to make a million dollars this year,” and you go, “Okay. You made 170,000 last year so tell me,” like I don’t like any goal or plan that involves a miracle like at no point do I want to see your plan and you go and then hear a miracle happens which quadruples our income and you go, “Oh, so you just need a miracle? Okay. Like that’s not a plan.” That’s fantasy and it wrecks people. So, yeah, I think it’s going to be interesting. People will have a hard time with that. People will have a hard time with a number of things in the book but again, I’m just going to say, “Fine. Show me your research project and the study you…” and then they’ll go, “Uh,” and it’ll be awkward and I’ll be right anyway.
[00:29:13] Brad: Well, I don’t know if we actually mentioned it yet so your research it was 900, it was people that went through your 30-day course, correct?
[00:29:19] Jon: Yeah. So, a researcher approached me from a university and said, “Hey, I want to study what you’re doing and see if it works,” which was crazy to me because prior to that, you can say whatever you want on the Internet and a lot of business folks are narrative biased where it’s I had this experience in my life so it should work for you and that doesn’t take into account somebody’s skills, where they live, how they live, what their assets are like there’s a lot of charlatan guru entrepreneur types taking advantage of people right now using narrative bias. And so, he studied nearly 900 people for six months to say this works, this other thing doesn’t. This works, this other thing doesn’t. That’s part of what I’m so excited. It’s encouraging to hear somebody like you say the book is really funny because it’s also got like a backbone of science. And so, like there’s just like if you do a Venn diagram the book is like practical, scientific and funny and like right in the sliver is what the book is and like that to me is fun.
[00:30:18] Brad: I’ll share this because the reason I started with a random weird question about, is ping-pong a real sport, because I’m literally laying in bed last night reading that chapter about Steve Chen story, your ping-pong coach, and I’m laughing but then I’m like after I get done laughing I’m like that’s actually 100% accurate because if I look at – I’ve actually got my goals hanging in my shower. I got that from another big goal setter so I laminate my goals. They’re in my shower. I see them daily and I looked up this morning and I’m like, yup, there’s a reason that one’s not checked off. That goal sucks. It’s no fun. Right? That’s what’s cool about the book. It’s entertaining read all the way through but it’s really good stuff. So, as we move on, you mentioned choose what to bomb.
[00:31:03] Jon: Yeah. We try to do too much. Most goal setting books, again, like as we talk about blowing up the myths. Another myth is, “Oh, you got a goal? Have a goal for each area of your life.” You and I both read a lot of the same books and they all say, “Oh, you got a financial goal? Have a spiritual goal and relational goal and a health goal and a da, da, da, da, da,” and you have seven main – most people say seven main areas. So, I always say, okay, if you told me I’m going to learn German, I wouldn’t say, “Oh, you should learn six other languages at the same time. Spanish, Swahili, Swedish and Portuguese,” like you’d say no, that’ll make learning German really hard.
And so, I’m a much bigger believer in saying, okay, figure ahead of time what won’t you be good at and then be okay with that and then move on. Because otherwise, you trying to do it all, it’s kind of in advertising we used to say it this way. Like if I throw you one ball and one idea, say my ad just has one idea and I throw it to you and you catch it. If I throw you seven, you drop all seven. It’s not that you catch some. It’s that you missed everything. And so, good ads knew that, okay, I got the strip it down to this, strip it down to this, strip it down to this where if you try to do too much you just fail. And we live in a, you know, I see people that are like, “Oh, I just work 90 hours a week,” or like I work 18-hour days like there’s a lot of people that brag about like being a miserable workaholic and that’s not – you don’t create good stuff that way. So, I’d much rather you go like, “Oh man, there are some things I’m just not going to be good at and that’s okay.” And it’s only a season anyway.
[00:32:34] Brad: Yeah. No, you’ve got a great story in there about a mom that during her busy seasons at work she’s like, “I’m not folding laundry.”
[00:32:41] Jon: Yeah. It gets cleaned but it doesn’t get folded and the meals get made, they’re just simple, they’re hotdog. She’s not making five-course French meals like during the busy season and that’s okay.
[00:32:51] Brad: Yeah. No, I think giving yourself permission to just let certain areas of your life not be great. Like you said, the lawn might not be perfectly cut with the manicured lines in it but I’m going to finish my book.
[00:33:04] Jon: Yup.
[00:33:06] Brad: Okay. So, we already hit on make it fun if you want it done. You also have a story in there about financial advisor so I figured we better hit on that at least. Ben Reins and he talks about there’s really two types of motivation.
[00:33:19] Jon: Yeah. He sees and this is scientific like he sees it from an anecdote perspective but people get motivated by fear or reward. So, let’s use personal finances as an example. I come to you and you say, “Hey,” if I’m fear motivated, you need to tell me, “If you don’t get your finances in order, your kids can’t go to college and you’re going to work until the day you die and you don’t get to retire. You don’t get to move to Florida or whatever.” If I’m reward motivated, you need to say, “Hey, if you get your finances in order, you can get a motorhome. You can get a house in Colorado and ski. You can get your wife an upgrade on the diamond ring that you bought when you’re really young and didn’t have any money,” like you put the reward out. And so, different people are motivated by different things and a big part of that is especially for employers making sure you’ve got the right motivation.
So, every employer in the world has had a situation where they had a great employee who is making mistakes and they said, “If you don’t get your act together like you’re going to lose your job.” But if they’re not fear motivated, it doesn’t matter like they needed to say, “If you get your act together, I’ll give you an extra day to work from home or I’ll give you this bonus or I’ll give you this incentive.” The reverse is true too where somebody’s not reward motivated. I remember there was a girl I worked with and we were getting an orange iPod Shuffle like this is back when the iPod Shuffle’s really cool and they gave everybody in our team one and she’s like, “Ugh, like it’s so ugly like what a dumb color,” and she just wasn’t – it’s not that she wasn’t ungrateful. I mean, I think she was in that situation but it’s just was that that wasn’t her motivation. She needed a different form of motivation other than like she got a prize that was useless to her. So, that’s a big part of like the tension. It’s figuring out which thing is motivating me right now.
[00:35:06] Brad: Yeah. You see a lot of that. I think there’s a goal setting app out there where you either set a reward for yourself if you do it or the fear-based version is like public humiliation.
[00:35:17] Jon: Yeah. Yeah. Like a photo of you like with your shirt off goes out to your friends. Yeah. I mean, there’s different tensions.
[00:35:23] Brad: So, but that’s good advice. Just for financial advisors out there, if you’re in your planning process, if you’re focusing on statistics and numbers and data but you’re not focusing on the fear of not doing the planning, the emotional side or the positive reward emotional side to actually doing the planning…
[00:35:41] Jon: Well, if you’re not – and data is not my language. More data just makes me listen less.
[00:35:48] Brad: Yeah. Yeah. It’s like, I mean, just I think sometimes in financial services we do this all-day long. We have the curse of knowledge where if you take yourself out of that world and you would go to the doctor’s office and they just start talking in Latin, they’re talking about human anatomy, you’re checked out. You don’t even…
[00:36:04] Jon: Yeah. You’re done. Yeah.
[00:36:05] Brad: All right. So, let’s keep going here. I like the concept, leave your hiding places and ignore noble obstacles. You talked a little bit in there about I think you had a basketball newsletter back in the day and…
[00:36:18] Jon: Yeah. I just think part of the challenge is that it’s not that we’re not working. It’s that we’re working on things that don’t matter and that’s a hiding place. So, it’s kind of like there are two things. One is a hiding place where clearly this is not something that’s going to help me. A noble obstacle is something that looks like it’ll help you. So, yeah, when I – an example of that might be that, okay, you’re a financial advisor and you’re really passionate about fantasy football because you’re a numbers person so you just apply that strength to something that doesn’t matter. Like you having the best research on a third string punter for the Chicago Bears like it’s ultimately useless. Like I’m not against fantasy football. I do that for fun. Just don’t apply your best there.
Where a noble obstacle is something you do to actually looks like it might be good. And I would even argue there are some parents, not all parents, there are some parents that use their kids as noble obstacles and they go, “As a parent like I don’t want to become a workaholic so I better not start my own thing like I’m trying to really serve my family,” where like let’s be honest. If you got up at 6 AM, an hour before your kids do, that’s not – you working on your dream to be a financial advisor isn’t hurting your family. If anything, you’re giving your kids an example of if you work hard, if you care about something, this is what to do, here’s how to do it. So, I’m a much bigger believer in that versus saying, “Okay, like I can’t do this,” and that’s what I call a noble obstacle is where you’re hiding something instead of doing the thing that you’re really supposed to do and you see that happen all the time.
[00:37:57] Brad: The next one here is so pertinent to financial services. So, use data to celebrate your imperfect progress.
[00:38:05] Jon: Yeah. Here’s that like let me give you an example of the power of data because I’m not a data guy. Like by nature like if you said to me, “Jon, you’re an author. Are authors data people?” We’re not like, see, a lot of us are very emotional, artistic, whatever, but my problem is that emotions are so inaccurate and they’re such liars. So, here’s an example from the other day. Somebody on Twitter was like, “I hate this type of tweet you do. You constantly do it.” Like that, somebody said to me. They said you constantly do it and then I said like, “I miss the old Jon.” Like there’s a couple of things I hate online. I hate when people say humble brag. It’s such a terrible way to shame somebody’s joy like I get if you do a real humble brag and you’re like, “Just going to the gym today,” or whatever but like if I go, “I’m so excited that Finish sold so many copies,” then somebody goes, “Humble brag.” That’s not. That’s a brag-brag. Like I’m being excited. I hate humble brag.
I hate when people hashtag First World problems because it doesn’t change anything and I think it’s wildly insulting to people who live in the Third World. So, if you have an issue and go, “Oh, our power is out,” and you go, “Ugh, first world problem.” People in the Third World country hate power outages too like it’s such a weird, and nobody changes their opinion because you hashtag something passively aggressive or passive aggressively. The third one though is when somebody says, “I miss the old Jon or sigh.” You should never type out the words sigh in an email or tweet. It’s the stupidest thing. It’s almost like, man, maybe this guy is right like maybe I’m constantly doing the cyber tweet. And so, I went back 40 tweets which felt like enough like at some point you got to go on with your life and I had done that type of tweet twice in 40. So, 5% of the time I had done that. That’s not constantly. 95% of the time I wasn’t doing that. So, the reality of data is it tells you the truth like data is just your friend and the problem we have with it is it often ruins our ignorance and the whole ignorance is bliss.
[00:40:03] Jon: So, when I go to a restaurant and there are calories on the menu, I might get mad at the data but they were always there. I just now I know them. That’s not data’s fault. So, I’m a big believer in like when you work on a goal having data so that, you know, Tim Ferriss talks about this. Tim Ferriss, The 4-Hour Body, is like, “Measure your inches. Do your fat percentage. Do all these things. We only do the scale. The scale will always tell the truth. You want more data so that on the day you did lose weight you lost an inch, that inch will really matter.”
So, I’m a big believer with your goals, of being very deliberate. I’m not saying have a huge chart. I’m not doing any of that. I’m saying have a list of, okay, I ran 20 minutes a day, I walked this, I did this so that when you feel down and you will, you can say, “That’s not true. I’ve been working very hard. Here’s my data.” I saw my huge – the phrase I say is, “Data kills denial which prevents disaster.” Like data is just trying to help you. We demonize it but it’s just trying to help you.
[00:41:05] Brad: Yeah. It’s really interesting because in financial services, obviously, you’re dealing with numbers all the time and it is surprising when it actually comes to running a business on the marketing side of financial services, how many advisors out there don’t track their numbers. They might run a public event and then like, “What was your ROI?” “I don’t know.”
[00:41:23] Jon: Or track their effort like they might go in a great event and you go, “Well how much, how many hours did you invest?” I don’t know. Well, if you invested a thousand hours and get 50 people like that’s not a great event. And the other thing is that tracking today makes tomorrow easier. So, that if you have an email that goes out and you only have X percent of people that click, you might go, “Oh, that’s terrible.” Until you see, “Oh no, that’s actually a percent higher than the last month,” but yeah I think you always see situations like that happening where somebody thinks something’s making money and then you pull it back and go – like a friend of mine did an event and I had to break it down and go, “Hey, we didn’t make any money,” and if a client had asked you to come do that event for that amount of money, you wouldn’t have gone but because it was your own, you got confused.
And so, I think we have to be really deliberate about, again, not tracking 1,000 things because imperfection gets loud again. And you can hide in the data. There’s another hiding place like it’s like authors. One of the things authors do is they hide in their outlines, “I just got to get the outline right. I got to get a perfect outline. I got to get my outline.” And they think if they outlined it perfectly, it won’t be hard to write it. And so, they never actually write. There’s like doing research, research, research, research and never actually start. And so, I think that is the challenge.
[00:42:46] Brad: Yeah. We use a phrase around here, math over emotions, and a lot of that comes from just not knowing your numbers. Numbers never lie. That’s the beauty of them.
[00:42:55] Jon: They’re just numbers.
[00:42:56] Brad: Yeah. They’re just numbers. They’re not good or bad numbers. They’re just what they are and it’s interesting when you look at successful firms, they’re the ones that actually say, “Oh, when I did this form of marketing versus this form of marketing, I made more money because I actually tracked it.” So, I think that’s a huge point you make in the book. And another point I love in that chapter, you have a Will Smith story where you talk about borrowing someone else’s diploma. Can you hit on that? Because I think there are so much people can take from that.
[00:43:24] Jon: Yeah. So, the story and it’s a public story like I’ve certainly, you know, it wasn’t one that I was the only one who uncovered it. When he was going to move to LA, at 21, his manager said, “We need a goal,” and so he said, “I want to be the biggest movie star,” and most people stop right there like they have this fantasy goal, they move on but they actually studied, “Okay, what is the top highest grossing films of all time? And is there a pattern?” Well, what’s interesting is everybody has access to that information like we all do. Like Warren Buffett has access to information that a lot of other people have access to. And so, they found patterns where 10 out of 10 of the movies had special effects. Nine out of ten special effects on a creature and they started to really go, “Wow, these are patterns,” and then when you look at Will Smith’s most successful movies, the pattern lines up. So, for instance, Independence Day, special-effects, creatures, love story, Hancock, Suicide Squad, all of his most successful movies fit that pattern and that’s…
[00:44:26] Brad: Man, I was going to look at the list and you just named them right off the top of your head.
[00:44:29] Jon: Yeah. And that’s where it gets interesting. So, part of it is my big thing is you don’t have to have had the experience to learn from the experience. So, you can watch another financial advisor and you can watch somebody else and go, “Wow.” Like, okay, here’s an example. Because I’d never send this done before. It’s really fascinating to me. So, this 18-year-old like social media entrepreneur guy. You’re verified on Twitter, right?
[00:44:51] Brad: Yes.
[00:44:52] Jon: Yeah. So, you can see what other verified people interacted to like it’s the best benefit. So, this 18-year-old verified like social media guy from like Ireland followed me. I was like all right so I followed him. I get an automatic direct message and it’s a direct message and it says, “Have a great week,” but at the end, it says Q-E-E-K like instead of week. So, I get a second direct message that says, “Oh my bad, I meant week, not qeek. That’s crazy.” So, he put a typo in on purpose to make it feel less like a direct message. Because nobody, like the average person who’s not a marketer, won’t go, “Wait a second,” like nobody would put an error in a direct message on purpose and he did and so I wrote back to him. I was like, “Hold up. Did you put like a mistake in there on purpose?” And he’s like, “I totally did.” And I was like, “What?” I said, “What percent of people asked about that?” And he said 5%.
But it was one of those things where I’m not saying I’m necessarily going to do that but I love the thinking behind that, the thinking of I don’t love direct messages that are auto. I don’t want people to feel like it’s just like, I’m just like spamming then so I’m going to tweak it somehow like you can learn from that. That’s what borrowing somebody’s diploma is. Today I got added to an email newsletter because I connected with somebody on LinkedIn. I hate that like I hope all your listeners never do that. When somebody connects you via LinkedIn, they haven’t given you permission to add them to your newsletter and in a lot of times, the people don’t even have an unsubscribe feature. I have to block them or list them as spam which I hate doing.
[00:46:27] Jon: One easy way to learn is like what are the five things that frustrate you and then do the opposite of that like what did you not like about that? How can you as a businessperson make sure – like an oil change or like a restaurant. We went to a restaurant in Bar Harbor, Maine and I’m going to do an article about it like it was a standup sandwich place so you order at the counter. You wait for your sandwich. It took half an hour. It’s like a restaurant, restaurant sit down shouldn’t take half an hour and the problem was they were slammed, they weren’t staff right but it’s the summer in Bar Harbor, Maine. No, I’m sorry. It was in Freeport, Maine. It’s the summer. It’s your peak season. You as a business like if you’re a financial guy, your April is going to be busy like you shouldn’t ever be like, “Well, I had no idea like I didn’t see it coming.” Yes, you did.
So, the next time like so for me the lesson there was, “Wow, I need to staff appropriately,” and two, my wife said, “Well, the problem is they don’t have incentive to change.” And I was like, “What do you mean?” And she said, “All these people in here are tourists. They’re never going to come back anyway so the restaurant as a whole doesn’t care,” like if you had about it like Jon Acuff will never go back to that restaurant at Freeport because I won’t go back to Freeport and the employees aren’t commissioned so they’re like, “Eh, who cares?” It’s like there’s a restaurant in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. Amazing view, terrible food. They have no incentive to change because you came for the view so the food is going to be average. So, all of those experiences during the day, you need to take in and go, “What can I learn? What can I learn? What can I apply? Like how does this affect me? How can I serve my audience?” Like those are the things you need to think about.
[00:48:04] Brad: Michael Hyatt, mutual friend, one of the best most simple piece of advice he ever gave me is rather than trying to figure something out on your own, go hire a coach, whatever it may be. If you want to learn martial arts, if you want to learn how to market better, whatever that may be, and that’s really a lot of what you’re hitting on here is just borrow somebody else’s experience as opposed to going through all the same mistakes they’ve already made yourself.
[00:48:28] Jon: Oh yeah. No, I mean, I meet a lot of people that want to start a business who hadn’t work at that type of business and I always think like, “That’s like if I was going to open a coffee shop, it would behoove me to work at Starbucks for six months,” like even if my coffee shop’s going to be different, it’s still making coffee. So, imagine the thing, and I get paid like you get a paid education and get to figure out a bunch of stuff. So, I’m a big – but the problem with that is it takes humility, right? It will take patience. It’s easier to want to start your own thing than it is to learn for a few years from somebody else. I mean, a lot of the stuff I learned I learned working with Dave Ramsey for three years like I can’t take credit for it. It was wow, I saw a talented member of his team do it. How would I do it differently? How would I do it the same? What would that look like?
[00:49:19] Brad: While we’re on that topic, what was one of the biggest lesson, two or three lessons that you took from Dave? Just looking at the organization, the scaling, the personal upbringing, anything that sticks out?
[00:49:29] Jon: Yeah. I mean, I think one of them and I heard him say this a couple of times, I think there’s a couple. One is that people always say how do you balance your life? How do you balance your life? And Dave would always say, “There’s no such thing as balance,” like he would say, “When you train for a marathon, you run more than you would other times of the year. That’s out of balance.” So, I think that really helps me with like product launches. Like when I launch something like it’s going to be out of balance and that’s okay but it’s the season. So, I think that was a big one.
And then also like staying passionately connected to content beyond where you might naturally be connected like Dave has told his story for 25 years and he’s still honestly connected to it like when you hear him tell the story, he’s still connected from that feeling of being bankrupt. It’s the same thing with like how does U2 sing the song One with passion? Because they do but they’re tired of it like they’ve sung that song a billion times. And so, I think finding ways to stay passionately connected to your core message and then I think the other thing is knowing who you’re serving. Dave’s really smart about knowing his audience, knowing who he’s serving and how to serve him. He doesn’t go off brand very much but he’s really deliberate that way. And so, yeah, there are a bunch of things like that that I could say, “Oh yeah, that’s where I figured that out like that’s where I learned that,” that makes a ton of sense.
[00:50:59] Brad: Jon, I’m curious because, I mean, you do lots of speaking throughout the year. A lot of that is repeats on a book that you wrote and the message from that. Do you have ways that you stay passionately connected to your content? Like the U2 example, I sang the same song over and over. I’d love to get hyped up for that over and over with.
[00:51:18] Jon: Well, I mean a big part of it is you try to personalize it for the audience so part of your goal is that you have a sense of, “Wow, these are healthcare professionals in the toughest healthcare time we have in a generation,” or, “Hey, these are teachers and you have kids who are being taught by teachers just like them. How do you connect?” So, I think a big part of it is it’s never the exact same speech. And if it is, the audience is going to tell and they’re not going to like it. There has to be a degree of I’m relating. I’m not trying to mimic them like I’ve never been a chimney sweep. If I go to a chimney sweep event and act like, “I get it, I’m just like you.” No, I’m not. Like I’m not. So, I think serving the uniqueness of the audience helps me stay connected to like, “Okay. What would I do differently here? What do I need to change here?” Like that’s part of it for me.
[00:52:11] Brad: So, let’s dig in a little bit there because I find that a lot with financial advisors. They go get the same public event, the same content, the same speech over and over and sometimes it’s tough to get up for that. Are there certain things you do before you go out and give the speech to get familiar with the audience or to learn more about what their motivations are that have worked for you?
[00:52:31] Jon: Totally. I mean, the big part of it and I write about this stuff. I have a speakers list that goes out once a week and it’s probably, I don’t know 7,000, 8,000 speakers and it’s just Acuff.me/Speakers. And so, like I call the client. Every time I speak, I call the client and ask questions, ask questions. If I’m doing multiple events with the same client, I try to go onsite. So, for instance, I just spoke to a company four different times, four different groups within the company and I went to one of their training sessions and I didn’t stay all day. I’ve stayed for an hour but that hour fast forwarded my understanding like, “Oh, that’s who they are.”
The other thing is that like you stay motivated by hitting your marks like your time is a mark like you should hit that like event planners hate when you go over. You should know, “Okay. They gave me 40 minutes. I’m going to go 40 minutes.” That’s a mark. You stay motivated by trying to get jaded people engaged like make a goal of I want the sound guy to get something out of this. The sound guy has heard a million speakers. How do you make him laugh? How do you make him engaged? That’s where you kind of, I think, you find different ways to make – I mean, that just makes it fun like that makes it fun. And the other thing is you find new ideas. There are always new ideas that show up. And so, that connects you as where you go. There’ll be times where I’ve given the same speech 50 times and I get a new joke like on time 51 and you go, “Oh man, like where’s that one been?” It’s just you’re thinking differently and your brain said, “Hey, what about this?” And so, those are a few of the ways I feel like I try to stay fresh.
[00:54:13] Brad: I feel like one of your strengths. What’s interesting, this is we met briefly at a book launch but this is the first time we’ve had a conversation but the one thing I can say about your social media presence, well, this one of your skills and just maybe it comes natural or maybe you work at it, I feel like you do a great job of connecting because you’re comfortable in your own skin I guess would be the best way to put it. Are there ways that you take that to the stage where here’s a good way to create connection with the audience right out of the gates where I’m not dealing with the people that are just sitting there checking iPhones? You have different tips to do that?
[00:54:49] Jon: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. So, I was trying to see if I had my note – I don’t think I have my notebook with me. Like I’m very deliberate about social media like I keep – you’re talking about data like I keep track of it like a maniac but as far as the speech goes, part of your job is to close the gap between you and the audience. So, when you’re on stage they’re already thinking, “You’re different than me because you’re on stage. I’m not on stage.” So, I find that being honest about situations where it didn’t work helps me connect with them. Like most speakers talk about things they won at or problems from 30 years ago that they don’t care about anymore. So, I try to be honest about like, hey, here’s this thing that just blew up on my face like it didn’t go well like I wish it did. And not in a fake way. I hate people who use authenticity as like as some magic wand and they’re like, “I’ll tell you the worst thing that ever happened to me,” and like it doesn’t fit in the story and it’s just like them trying to pay a token to get into your life. But I just find that if I’m able to say and in an honest way like I said and finished I have finished some things because my publisher was like, “You can’t say you’re the worst finisher because this is your sixth book like stop it,” but there are, but I can honestly say here’s five things I didn’t finish or here are things I wish I’d finish or here’s my desire to be better than I currently am.
So, I feel like if you’re honest about the story and will tell things that didn’t work, people go, “Okay, like that’s real. That’s genuine,” versus people who just out of insecurity, showboat. And I know speakers that do that where one-on-one, nicest people ever but they get on stage and they feel uncomfortable and insecure and that insecurity comes out as arrogance where they’re like, “I’m better than you think.” And it’s the same like you don’t have to be on stage to do that like I shouldn’t need to tell somebody next to me on a plane who’s a stranger that my last book hit the New York Times. Who cares what that stranger thinks? Why do I need to validate? “Oh hey, I’m somebody.” Like that’s me living out of insecurity versus being authentic.
[00:57:00] Brad: One thing that drew me right in on the book that you say right out of the gates, it’s a book about finishing and I think your exact statement was, “It took me three years to finish six days of the P90X program.” I just love that it’s being real. Everybody has these problems. For example, like you’re the only guy in the world that just finished…
[00:57:17] Jon: No. I tried to write from the trenches like this isn’t me 20 years down the road going, “I figured it all out.” Here is me going like, “Here are ten things that make it hard to finish right now like what if we tried something differently?” And then kind of be honest about it. So, I’m not, again, like I’m not trying to use authenticity as a way to like trick you. I’m not trying to use my success. It’s like I want to be honest about the success too like I don’t like when people only act like they fail like there’s this weird sense where they want to try to be like you like Elon Musk for instance.
Elon Musk I’ve heard him say a number of times, “When I started Tesla or whatever, I had sold the company and I put all my money into it. I was sleeping on people’s couches. I didn’t have money.” That’s not honest. He could get $100,000 a speech like so he is no longer capable of ever being completely poor again because even if he lost everything, Tesla blows up, even if he loses everything, he just call, picks up a speakers bureau and goes, “Hey, I’m Elon Musk. I love to go to speech,” and they go, “Here’s $100,000.” So, that’s not honest. So, I think one of the biggest things for an audience is are you willing to be honest in a way that’s helpful to them? It’s not helpful if it’s just an honest story but it doesn’t help the audience at all. I always say with speaking you’re not there to speak. You’re there to serve and once you figure that out you go, “Oh, that kind of changes things.”
[00:58:45] Brad: Make sense. I’ve never heard it put that way. That’s a great tip. All right, man. If you’re good, we’re going to transition into some philosophical questions.
[00:58:53] Jon: Sure. Sure. Let’s do it.
[00:58:54] Brad: All right. Cool. This is a fun one. This has become I think my new favorite question.
[00:58:59] Jon: How nice.
[00:59:00] Brad: What is something you would like to see as absurd 25 years from now?
[00:59:05] Jon: Promposals. I think those are stupid like complicated gender reveal parties. I think those are pretty dumb. I’m trying to think like there’s a lot of terrible rappers right now like I would say 90% of rappers with Lil in their first name, terrible. Like whether you’re a Lil Yachty or Lil Uzi or Lil Pump like I think we have garbage wrappers right now. So, yeah, those are things that I would like to – that and then the mope culture like mopey like if you go on Instagram, it’s very popular to be like, “Didn’t get out of bed today. I love pizza more than it. Pizza is bae.” Like oh like it’s a mopey culture like I don’t think that helps anybody at all. I’m trying to think what else I really…
[00:59:56] Brad: So, for advisors out there that don’t know what a Promposal is, please explain.
[01:00:00] Jon: What’s that? Instead of just walking up to a girl and saying, “Will you go to prom with me?” you have to get like a hot air balloon and a cookie cake and like fireworks and you have to film it and it’s have to like – like stuff like that I just go, “That seems really aggressive,” and I just don’t think it’s healthy because it sends a message to every other kid like, “Well, now I have to do that.” I’m trying to think if there are any other things. There’s a ton of things like this is the stupidest like…
[01:00:30] Brad: I feel like you can just go on a rant on this one for a while so feel free to…
[01:00:33] Jon: Well, I just feel like outrage culture. Like one of my jobs as a parent is to teach my kids how to not be offended like the problem is, I need to write about this, we all look at the Internet through our own filter as if it’s about us. It’s not. So, like I’ll post like say I run a mile and this happened a million times. I run a mile, I say I run 5 miles time and say, “Hey, slow paced but it felt good. It was only a 9, 10-mile blah, blah, blah, blah.” People go, “Ugh, that’s like for some of us that’s really fast. You shouldn’t have said that.” And I want to say, “Carol in Ohio, I did not know you existed until this moment. I did not sit down and go, ‘How do I really insult Carol?’” That wasn’t about her at all and so like outrage culture where you don’t do anything like be outraged. Just turn it into action like if you’re mad about the president, if you’re mad about Social Security or the underserved homeless in your community or race relations or whatever, go do something like tweeting it does very, very, very, very, very little.
[01:01:36] Brad: That’s good, man.
[01:01:37] Jon: Yeah. What’s the next one?
[01:01:39] Brad: Let’s go with you have a morning routine that you…
[01:01:43] Jon: Not really. I know like some people love them so I think they can be helpful but no. I mean I’ve gone through seasons where I have. The most, especially with the kids, my kids get up for school at 5:45 AM so like I’m not getting up at four to do some stupid morning routine that like a guru taught me. So, I have coffee. That’s like me only morning routine and I love when people like here are 17 ways to start my day off right. I think that sounds miserable, dude. 17 steps to a great morning? I’m good. I’m good.
[01:02:19] Brad: One step. Coffee.
[01:02:20] Jon: Yeah. I got up. I had coffee. I talk to my wife. I did a podcast like my every day is different and that’s true for most people like you don’t have to be an author to go, yeah, only on Thursday so I have this one type of meeting, only on Tuesday so I have this one type of situation. And so, I think morning routines are great. I think we turn them into an outline when we try to make them so specific, they protect us and then when it gets broken, the whole system often falls apart.
[01:02:48] Brad: So, speaking of routines, you obviously have that some sort of routine to write six books. Do you have a routine that’s helped you crank through those?
[01:02:55] Jon: Yeah. The big one is the biggest principle is writing is different than editing. I don’t edit at the same time I write. So, I write and I write quickly and like when I need a quote, I don’t go to the Internet look it up because I’ll leave. I’ll go look at Twitter. I write in caps, find quote, find statistic, find joke. So, writing is different than editing. When you sit down to edit, take your time, be more deliberate, whatever. When you write, do writing so that like that was a big change for me.
[01:03:24] Brad: That’s a huge tip. When you edit, how painful is editing for you? Just out of my own personal curiosity.
[01:03:31] Jon: I mean, it’s not now. Like I’m book 6, I sent a 60,000-word manuscript to my editor and she sent back 38,000 words so I had 22,000 words that are just like in the wind. So, now it’s not as like certain jokes are like there are jokes that I’m like I’m passionate about this idea like one of my favorite rifts in the box is about the challenge of buying a computer at Apple like and I wanted, I like that rift and I wanted to keep it. So, like there are sections I care about but editing overall, it’s gotten easier. The whole thing I say is you have to be married to your writing and be willing to divorce it like in the editing. Like that’s the tension and you have to go this is a great story but it doesn’t help. I got to let it go like that’s kind of your back and forth.
[01:04:21] Brad: Yeah. Cool. All right. Two more questions.
[01:04:24] Jon: Great.
[01:04:25] Brad: This has been awesome, man. I love the conversation.
[01:04:27] Jon: Oh good, dude.
[01:04:28] Brad: Let’s go with you’re a writer so you write books so I better ask you this question. What’s the book that’s made the biggest impact on your life and why? And then part two of that question, besides your own books, do you have a book that you’ve gifted repeatedly over the years?
[01:04:42] Jon: Yeah. I mean like as a Christian, the Bible, but that’s like the Christian answer. I think the War of Art by Pressfield is one that I both gifted and really liked. I was having a hard time finishing my first book and that book kind of pushed me over the finished line. So, that’s been one that I definitely gifted a bunch and I’ve definitely thought wow. And then the other one I’ve gifted is Orbiting the Giant Hairball which is about being a creative inside a big corporation. And it’s beautifully designed. The author passed away. His name was I think Gordon McKenzie. But that one I gifted a lot too. Just because it’s hard and you had to be deliberate to survive creatively inside a big machine and that’s not that big machines are bad. It’s just it takes a different effort I think. 10-person ad shop versus a 5,000-person company, there are layers. How do you navigate those? So, those are probably the two.
[01:05:41] Brad: War of Art has come up from a lot of people I respect.
[01:05:44] Jon: Oh yeah.
[01:05:45] Brad: Is there a one concept out of there that just really drove home with you?
[01:05:49] Jon: I guess the idea that fear isn’t something to be avoided. It’s almost a compass like the natural reaction is like fight or flight like, “Oh no, like this thing I’m afraid of doing. It must not something I’m supposed to do it,” and Pressfield’s argument is, “No, fear is a sign. It’s the thing. Like it’s the thing you want the most. It’s the thing you care the most. Don’t run from that. Go engage that like that’s a big, that changes how you kind of look at things you’re afraid to do.”
[01:06:18] Brad: All right. Last question. What is the one piece of advice you can give the audience that’s led to your success, Jon?
[01:06:25] Jon: I guess the old rules don’t apply like we’re living in the Wild Wild West like the idea that like what’s an example of that? Like I know somebody. She’s like a distributor in a multi level marketing company which when people ask me to go, “Do you like MLM? Do you hate it?” I think it’s like anything. It can be done really well with honesty and integrity. It can be done poorly. Like I have great financial advisors. I know people that aren’t great financial advisors. I don’t think the thing is a thing. It’s just the thing. Like it’s not like good or bad with it.
So, she in four years she’s I think 34 now, her net worth, the people under her and she share these numbers publicly but her net worth under her last year made 160 million and like you can’t – 50 years ago that’s not happening. Like in 100 years ago, unless you’re a Rockefeller, that’s not a possibility. And I’m not saying you’ll make 160 million but I just think the old rules don’t apply. If you want to hustle and figure stuff out then figure stuff out. Like if my daughter wants to be a fashion blogger and do it because people send her free makeup like she can do that. She has tools. And so, the idea that at any given moment I can tweet to 300,000 people like that’s unique. And the old rules would say, “Wait your turn.” Like Seth Godin talks about that like it’s your turn. And so, the idea that like the old rules don’t apply, don’t live against them.
[01:07:58] Brad: Yeah. The Internet leveled the playing field. I mean you run a company out of your house right now and…
[01:08:04] Jon: Yeah. I mean, I increased my email sign-ups by maybe 50 times just by doing like being more deliberate about it like I didn’t do anything special. I just was more aggressive about it. I’m like so even the old rules of the Internet don’t apply. Like five years ago somebody would say, “Oh man, like have four regular tweets for every promotional tweet,” but now that’s stupid because not everybody is seeing every tweet like I spent two years telling people I have a book called Do Over and I still meet people like, “I love your work,” and I go, “Have you read Do Over?” They go, “Never heard of it.” Like it’s just they’re busy living their life. So, like even the old rules of Twitter don’t apply. That’s what I mean like you got to reframe it.
[01:08:47] Brad: So, just as an aside here because a lot of financial advisors are still stuck in what I would call traditional marketing such as public events, radio shows and they haven’t made the leap to growing an email list and how powerful that is even though they’ve got tons of emails from their past events. Just speak to the power of an email list for why financial advisors…
[01:09:08] Jon: It’s the dumbest mistake I’ve made online. Like if I could go back, I mean, here’s a new question for you like if you could go back 10 years and tell yourself something, what would you say? I would say, now I’m good like love your wife more, your kids whatever. Like taking all that aside, I would say focus on your email list. Like email list, they’re not sexy. They’re not. They’re not. They’re like blocking and tackling. They’re boring. They’re one-yard gain versus like a Hail Mary but like that matters more than anything.
So, like grow your email list and then also focus on Facebook. Facebook’s not sexy either like Snapchat and Instagram but like the one that performs is still email and Facebook and it might just be where your aunt is but screw it like that’s where the numbers are. And so, like, yeah, if I can go back, maybe that’s our question, if you can go back and give yourself a thousand dollars to invest in something that wasn’t stock like I’m not saying, “Oh, I’d get involved with Tesla,” like where would you put that thousand dollars? I would put it into email. Like 100 – like all I’m doing right now is trying to grow my email list like that’s it. Like grow it and serve them, that’s it.
[01:10:16] Brad: Well, and just you’ve got the book coming out. My guess is you send one email like, “Hey, it’s live. You can get it today.” I’m guessing a few books get sold.
[01:10:24] Jon: Yeah. And so, like here’s the thing you have to think. If you have 100,000 people in an email list, there are very few things you can’t do. Like if a publisher says to you, “We’re not going to publish your book,” you go, “Looks like I’m going to self-publish it. Tell my favorite audience.” Like if you had, I mean, like that is power, dude, like eyeballs and like it gets harder because there are so many people in the space but, dude, if you had a million people in the email list and say you had, I don’t know, a $300 course. And if you had a million people, 10% would be 100,000. You’re not going to sell 10%. 1% would be 10,000. Let’s say you won’t even sell that. Like, say you only sell like if 10% is 100,000, 1% is 10,000, say you sell 0.01%. That’s 1,000 people at $300. That’s $300,000. Like that’s insanity. Like if you could turn off $300,000 and let’s say you sell 2,000 people, that’s 600. Say so five, that’s $1.5 million like and it’s because you spent that time going, “Okay. Okay. I’m growing. I’m growing. I’m growing,” so like email list, dude, is the most important thing.
[01:11:34] Brad: Jon, this has been awesome. So, thank you.
[01:11:35] Jon: Yeah. Thanks for doing it.
[01:11:36] Brad: And also, I know you put together a special gift for the Blueprint listeners as far as around your book, Finish, and if they pre-order there’s also a special gift that goes with that.
[01:11:45] Jon: Yeah. There’s a video series.
[01:11:47] Brad: Can you talk about that?
[01:11:48] Jon: We did a professional shot video series that kind of amplifies the content of the book. So, a lot of people like your audience are like I like books but I love video. So, they put together a special video series. It’s only available until the release date so you’ve got until September 12. If you go to Acuff.me/Finish, you can get all the details but it’s one of those things where there’s a lot of people that want to listen or engage with the video and it’s like pulling the slingshot back. It’s a huge help to the book.
[01:12:20] Brad: Cool. We’ll throw that in the show notes on our side as well so I appreciate hearing that. So, with that, Jon, I just want to say thank you for sharing your message with the Blueprint listeners. This is my first official Jon Acuff book that I’ve read. I’m a fan.
[01:12:33] Jon: How nice.
[01:12:34] Brad: So, listeners out there, I know one of the biggest struggles in financial services is what all you have going on. It’s really tough to finish things and so give Jon’s book a read. Go out and get it. And, Jon, I just want to say I’ve read a lot of business books in my career. None of them made me laugh like yours have while still teaching anything. So, I love the style that you bring. I love the passion, I love the voice you put in this. So, thanks for getting this out there.
[01:12:58] Jon: Yeah. Thanks for having me. It’s fun.
[01:13:00] Brad: All right, Jon. Take care, bud.
[01:13:01] Jon: See you, buddy.
[01:13:02] Brad: Thanks for coming by.
[01:13:06] Brad: Thanks for checking out our latest show. Here’s this week’s featured review. This one comes to us from BTAY00 who says, “Great well-crafted, thoughtful content. Brad, thank you for your thoughtful approach to bringing top-notch speakers and thinkers to the financial advisor community. I really appreciate that your strategic approach to content drives creativity with nontraditional financial services conversations from time management to writing books.” BTAY00, thanks for taking the time, number one, to drop a review out on iTunes. That means a lot.
And one of my favorite things about the show is having the ability to chat with people who I admire and who intrigue me. And really my goal is to be as curious as possible and ask them questions that serve you, the financial advisor community out there. So, yeah, that’s what I try to do and if any of you listeners out there have ideas on guests who would make for great people to have out on the show in the future, maybe that aren’t in the traditional financial advising space, hit me up on Twitter and let me know. You can find me at Brad_Johnson and I’d love to hear your thoughts on we should have that would make for a great guest on the show in the future.
So, that’s it for this week’s show. And for those out there who are loving the show and have another financial advisor buddy who could use some great ideas sent his or her way, do me a favor and hopefully them a favor and email or text them your favorite episode so far and tell them to give it a listen. I’d really appreciate it. With that, thanks for listening and I’ll catch you on the next show.
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