Start (Brentwood, TN: The Lampo Group, 2013)

Note: This is a new segment for the growing Planet Numeracy platform. Once a month, I will review a book that I think students would benefit from reading. Chances are the books being reviewed are in the SHS library. I usually donate them for Mr. Mensch when I’m done reading them. Enjoy…

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Start should be required reading for anyone anxious about their education, wanting to extend their influence, or embarking on a new path. In this follow-up to his Wall Street Journal best-selling book, Quitter, Jon Acuff struck a chord with me yet again.

The author’s conversational writing style makes this book an easy read for students. Jon Acuff is also one of the most witty writers, and he has a great satirical sense of humor. As I read, I found myself — and listening, I do most of my books read/listen from Amazon/Audible — smiling frequently, even chuckling aloud.

As a fan of Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken, I enjoyed Jon’s 21st century take on the notion of the proverbial road less traveled — that road being the road to Awesome. As he describes it, the road to Average is a wide, well-worn, easy-to-follow path that usually just leads to old age. While I suppose the road to Awesome also leads to old age, Jon describes it as a far more gratifying journey in spite of its narrow twists and turns. He details a winding path through the lands of Learning, Editing, Mastering, Harvesting, and Guiding.

The content was easy to relate to my own life. I came away with three overarching themes:

1. Stop Thinking You Aren’t Good Enough

Jon is inspiring, pushing the reader to stop thinking that they are not good enough to start something. My starting this blog was in part inspired by following Jon’s blog, pre-Dave Ramsey. You are good enough, and you live in America. You have every right to start and every tool to be successful. And don’t worry about what other people think of your choice to be Awesome. These “thunder-stealers” are usually jealous. Your path to Awesome threatens to expose their path to Average.

2. Stop Thinking Life Has Passed You By

After detailing the typical journey through the five lands to Awesome, Jon smashes the conventional wisdom that we pass through these lands at predetermined ages. Starting is a frame of mind not related to your chronological age. I didn’t start teaching until I was 30! I started three other careers path prior to teaching, some less successful than others, but I started and learned from the process.

3. Stop Thinking That You Have to be Perfect

Jon addresses what Steven Pressfield coined the Resistance. Sometimes, by thinking we have to be great from the start, we end up in pre-start limbo. Today’s automobiles seem like extraterrestrial transports compared to a 1908 Model T. But if Henry Ford had not started, where would the industry be today? Think about it. Does anybody remember the Commodore 64? Or a cordless telephone with a retractable antenna? We didn’t start with laptops and smartphones. Settling for an A-, so you can start is not a bad thing. You can always make modification on the road to Awesome.

Don’t Forget the Hustle!

As you read, you won’t help but notice Jon’s passionate case for hustle. My little league coach had nothing on Jon when it comes to hustling. Hustle is an often overlooked ingredient of wannabes. Nothing happens without hustling. Jon says the journey to Awesome is tougher (if not impossible) without the essential habit of mind known as hustle. In education, lack of hustle manifests itself as entitlement. Just because he grew tall and had loads of talent, Michael Jordan still had to train hard — the NBA didn’t just give him MVP awards because he showed up and tried really hard.

When are you starting on the road to Awesome?

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