Periscope Depth

you can fence in your yard, you can pull all the cards

Quitter: Jon Acuff’s book talked me out of quitting my day job to go pursue my dream. And for that I’m grateful.

Why? Because Acuff wants you to fully understand the risks of quitting a steady desk job for an uncertain dream. He wants you to have a plan to follow your dream, but not such a rigorous schedule that you plan your dream to death. And he wants your family in your corner.

Acuff doesn’t give you a book full of checklists, worksheets and exercises. What he gives instead is clear entertaining prose that makes clear he’s been in the same place you are. He recounts all the same fears that you’re having right now (I highlighted more passages in this book than I do in most others) and explains how to live with them. This isn’t a manual; it’s a philosophy.

A recurring theme of Acuff’s book is “falling in like with a job you don’t love.” That, more than any checklist or itemized plan, is what I needed to hear. I complain a lot about the hours at my day job, the recurring meetings and the staccato demands of my clients. But it’s still a good job! There’s a lot to like about it. I’m doing challenging work in a growing field that connects me to a broader industry and making plenty of money in the process. If I can strike a balance between that and doing what I love, why wouldn’t I? Acuff’s point is that I probably can.

Two caveats. First, a little more concrete guidance would have been nice. I know everyone’s passion is different, but a Seven Step Plan to Making Your Dream Secure wouldn’t have hurt. Second, Acuff makes a point of talking about his Christian faith. It comes up a lot when he talks about his work with David Ramsey, a nationally syndicated Christian radio host with a talk show about personal finance. However, most of the faith talk comes in background discussion. At no point does he suggest in the power of prayer to make your dreams come true. For me, this was critical. And it’s not a trivial point, as there are plenty of life coaches who tell you that turning your life around requires some kind of mystic surrender.

Plus, even with a lack of scorecards, the book has already moved me to take concrete steps. After finishing Quitter, I started working on my dream job – my fiction writing – in the morning rather than the evening. I set the alarm half an hour earlier, then got up every day to write for 45 minutes. Doing this guaranteed that, short of a housewrecking emergency, I would always get writing done that day. I could get a phone call at 8:00 AM telling me that I’d lost my job and my car, but I’d still have written my thousand words for the day. It’s also increased the volume of writing work I can do. 45 x 5 is greater than 2 x 60, especially since fatigue or other commitments would often keep me from writing twice in the evenings.

Most importantly, writing in the morning has improved my attitude. Now my dream is no longer something I defer for my free time. My dream is a commitment. I schedule the rest of my day around it; my day can not start until I’ve contributed to the novel. Writing brackets my day with inspiration. I start the day doing something I love, then set it aside to go do a job I like (for all that I bitch about the hours).

I’ve been told about people who write first thing in the morning for all my creative life. But it took a change in my mindset to start me on it.

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