By liz holbert
September 21, 2011
“Don’t quit your day job.” Those are the first words you see when you start reading Jon Acuff’s new book, Quitter. You’re probably thinking: Is this some kind of a joke? Isn’t this a book about quitting? Isn’t it supposed to tell me how to quit my day job? Well, yes, but it’s not quite that simple. The desire to flee from the day job usually stems from a propensity to offer an addendum when someone asks you what you do for a living: “I’m a _____, but I want to be a _____.” Rather than accepting those professional shackles, Acuff wants you to “do what you love, with the life you already have."
If you’ve read his first book, Stuff Christians Like, you may be surprised at a more serious tone in Quitter. Of course it’s not without a sense of Acuffian humor and some obscure and some not-so-obscure pop culture references (there’s never a wrong moment to slip in a Bear Grylls reference).
Acuff’s approach to “closing the gap between your day job and your dream job” is very comfortably down-to-earth, most likely due to his tone and sense of humor. While books that tell you to follow your dreams can often stroll hand in hand with constructing Zen gardens and sniffing bags of green tea, this book offers a logical, doable approach. Acuff’s illustrations and shared experiences are mainly about his calling of being an author and speaker but the message is translatable to any type of dream.
So what does pursuing your dream job have to do with keeping your day job? Acuff’s defense of the 9-to-5 is rock solid. A benefit of the day job, Acuff writes, is that “discipline begets discipline.” You might find if you sever your ties with the working world and suddenly possess eight empty hours you didn’t have before, you may not accomplish as much as you hope. A routine is often a framework that benefits your dream rather than hinders it. Practice is another underrated golden opportunity of a day job. Instead of taking for granted the interpersonal and professional interactions a day job brings, utilize them as learning experiences essential to the progression toward a dream job. Acuff’s main line of defense is the financial freedom a day job lends your dream job. “You might be surprised, but your monthly food budget isn’t that open-minded. It’s not great at embracing your vision,” he writes.
I once attended a writer’s conference where an author preached the gospel of quitting your day job right away and stepping out in faith, which is the absolute opposite of Acuff’s advice. This author’s approach makes Quitter seem like it’s telling you to forget faith and take matters into your own hands—but Quitter isn’t about a lack of faith, rather a marriage between being responsible with what God has provided and stepping out onto shaky waters. Pursuing a God-given calling is always a walk of faith, but being responsible and keeping your family fed is a great reason to pursue that calling in the context of a cube life (or whatever shape your office takes). By adhering to this combination of faith and stewardship, you gain the perspective that you and your dream are not life’s number one priority.
In Quitter, not only does Acuff advise you to follow your dream responsibly but attempts to help you discover or rediscover why ____ is your dream and why it’s worth following. One of the most helpful and poignant elements to Quitter is discovering your “hinge moments.” What do you love doing? Can you identify moments in your history where you’ve known for certain: “I want to do this for the rest of my life.” How can you use those moments to formulate a plan for moving forward with your dream?
Some of Acuff’s endeavors with Quitter are to help you discover what it is that keeps you from moving forward with your calling, learn to be patient and to accept starting small. Hard work is involved even if it’s something you love doing. And, of course, there is the moment you’ve all been waiting for, when Acuff helps you answer the question: Am I ready to quit my day job?
It would have been easy for Jon Acuff to write this book and tell you only about his successes in chasing down his dream job, but he doesn’t do that. Acuff reveals his failures. He’s not afraid to divulge his character flaws and errors in judgment, which makes Quitter feel that much more personal. He legitimately wants his readers to succeed and believes that by revealing some of his mistakes and experiences, those readers will have a better shot at moving responsibly from a cubicle to a stage, stadium or wherever their dreams take them.
Liz Holbert is nowhere near ready to quit her day job, but still writes and blogs at www.zildamarie.blogspot.com.