Jon Acuff | The Gift of Done (Episode 668)

Jon Acuff (@jonacuff) returns to the show to discuss his new book Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done.

“If culture’s doing its job, you shouldn’t reward middle. You should reward finish.” -Jon Acuff

The Cheat Sheet:

  • Why are only eight percent of new year’s resolutions realized? (Incidentally, that’s the same percentage of applicants accepted to Juilliard.)
  • The harm perfectionism causes and what we can do to navigate through it.
  • The Planning Fallacy and how it causes overachievers to fail before even beginning.
  • Strategic Incompetence: why you should deliberately be terrible at some things.
  • Secret Rules: what they are, how they’re made, and how these invisible scripts affect our lives (and what we can do about it).
  • And so much more…


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According to the University of Scranton, 92 percent of all resolutions fail. In spite of living in a world of bottomless opportunities, most of us are also relentlessly sidetracked by endless distractions that keep us from realizing these opportunities.

To help us learn how to put a cap on the things we begin without being bogged down by the impossible standards of perfectionism, Jon Acuff rejoins us to discuss his latest book Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done. Listen, learn, and enjoy!

Please Scroll down for Full Show Notes and Featured Resources!

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More About This Show

Ever since writing Start.: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average, and Do Work That Matters in 2013, Jon Acuff has been approached by countless people who tell him, “No offense, I like your book. But I’ve never had a problem starting. I start a million things. Starting is easy! How do I actually finish?”

“Two years ago, I didn’t have an answer,” says Jon. “So that’s what kind of kicked off this idea was, all right, why do 92 percent of new year’s resolutions fail? Why do people get P90X and do four days? Why do diets fail the third week of January? So that’s where this book came from.”

Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done is the result of trying to find the answers to these questions and, more important, drum up actionable steps to combat our collective tendency to leave goals undone.

Part of the problem is that we’re so excited about taking the first step toward a goal and celebrating prematurely that we’re rewarded with our charge of dopamine before really earning it. There are no celebration parties in the middle stretch of a goal.

“We celebrate the beginning, we ignore the ending, and in the middle we quit,” Jon says.

And then, once we quit a goal — whether it’s the third week in January when we stop buying kale or submitting to writer’s block four days into National Novel Writing Month — chances are pretty good we’ll give up for good. If we stumble slightly along the path, our desire for perfectionism kicks in and coaxes us into calling the whole thing off.

“Perfect doesn’t exist.” says Jon. “Amazon has never sold a perfect book. They’ve sold millions of imperfect books people are brave enough to finish. I’ve made mistakes in every book I’ve ever written. In one book, I said that Terrell Owens, the football player, had caught a thousand touchdowns — he’s caught a hundred. I was off by a factor of ten! And every jock on the planet was like, ‘Hey, idiot!’

“And then I made a mistake in Do Over; I called the sensei of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Stick instead of Splinter, because Stick is the mentor of Daredevil…every nerd was like, ‘You loser!’

“You’re always going to have a mistake. But the problem is if you say, ‘My goal is perfect,’ you’ll always get close to it, but never close enough. And even worse, if you don’t hit it, you’ll quit. People who have trouble with perfectionism grade on a pass/fail schedule. If you want to lose ten pounds and you only lose eight, you didn’t almost get there — you failed by two and you quit. That’s where perfectionism is so dangerous.”

Jon points out that not only does perfectionism keep us from accomplishing goals, but it prevents us from getting better. Because we’re aiming for perfect on the first try, not hitting that target discourages us from trying harder next time — or maybe even ensures there won’t be a next time.

“Perfectionism doesn’t have room for growth,” says Jon.

Listen to this episode of The Art of Charm in its entirety to learn more about how to diminish the sway of perfectionism, the often nonverbalized secret rules we carry with us that program our behavior, how to identify these secret rules and loosen the grip of the ones that work against us, what Yo-Yo Ma can teach us about mistakes, the danger of “might as well,” where most goal-setting advice goes wrong, how strategic incompetence can help us focus on whatever goals are really important, the deception of noble obstacles, why perfectionism hates data — and how you can learn to love data, and lots more.


If you enjoyed this session with Jon Acuff, let him know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out at Twitter:

Click here to thank Jon Acuff at Twitter!

Click here to let Jordan know about your number one takeaway from this episode!

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Jordan Harbinger - author of 952 posts on The Art of Charm

Jordan Harbinger has spent several years abroad in Europe and the developing world, including South America, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East, and speaks several languages. He has also worked for various governments and NGOs overseas, traveled through war zones, and been kidnapped -- twice. He’ll tell you the only reason he’s still alive and kicking is because of his ability to talk his way into (and out of) just about any type of situation. Here at The Art of Charm, Jordan shares that experience, and the system borne as a result, with students and clients.


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