Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

Interview with Jon Acuff: How to Be a Quitter

Note: Since I’m speaking at the Quitter Conference today, I thought it was appropriate to dig up this post in which I interview my friend Jon Acuff about how to pursue your dream. Enjoy.

Jon AcuffI had the opportunity to interview Jon Acuff, popular blogger, author and speaker. It was an inspiring and motivating conversation, and I wanted to share it with you.

Jon’s book Quitter: Closing the Gap Between Your Day Job and Dream Job is relevant and timely. In it, he shares his own journey of how he went from cubicle-dweller to full-time author, speaker, and blogger.

My interview with Jon Acuff

Below is the full audio of our twenty-minute interview, as well as a transcript of some of my favorite questions and answers. If you can’t view the interview in your email or RSS reader, click here.

Caveat: The audio quality on this is not great. I recorded it for my own reference (not to air on a podcast or anything), but then decided to share it here. The clicking noise in the background is me typing notes.

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[Click here to download the mp3.]

Jeff: Jon, your new book is about finding your dream. Does everybody have a dream? Are people afraid to name their dreams?

Jon: I think everyone does have a dream — in the sense that we’ve all been uniquely created with something that’s true of us and not true of anyone else…

I think that a lot of times people need permission to dream, because for a variety of reasons they’ve been told that they can’t.”

Jeff: Is there a re-emergence of dreaming in our culture?

Jon: I think so.

There is this sense of great expectation for us — of what’s possible… Where it’s corrupted is where it leads to entitlement.

What I’ve seen is that we all can bump into something that love doing, but if we don’t nurture that, and seed that and grow that, we often become entitled.

Jon Acuff QuitterJeff: What are some signs that it’s time to quit your day job and begin to step into your dream job?

Jon: Part of the challenge is people go, ‘I gotta find my perfect job.” And there’s no such thing as a perfect job. There’s no such thing as a job where you only do the things you love 100% of the day. That doesn’t exist.

Looking for a perfect job often blinds you from finding your dream job.

So what we did is create an opportunity filter. For us that looked like saying,

  • I want to work somewhere where somebody has built a personal brand successfully and humbly.
  • I want to work somewhere in the Southeast.
  • I don’t feel called to a church.
  • I want to work somewhere where faith is part of the culture.

So as we started to build this opportunity filter, what it did was that when the Dave Ramsey opportunity came along, we could plug that in. And another opportunity at the same exact time came along, but when we plugged it into the opportunity filter, it didn’t meet as many of our criteria.

That’s one of the signs when you know you need to go — when you design an opportunity filter, and it’ll range from specific to very loose.

Jeff: Have you “arrived” at your dream?

Jon: No. There’s new opportunity and new challenges. The things you get to do change, but you still have to wrestle with fears and hope.

I don’t feel “done.” I feel like I’ve found a dream job. But now I get to perform in that job.

The voice that tells you, ‘Who are you to do that?’ doesn’t disappear when you get to your dream job. If anything, it gets louder, because it’s frustrated that you’re there.

You only hear voices of doubt like that when you actually start to do things that you’re called to do. If you’re living a flat, common life where you don’t take risks — where you don’t live out of your heart — you won’t get bothered by those voices that much.

Jeff: What’s some practical advice for someone who wants to be a writer and speaker (like you)?

Jon: A big part of it is practice.

People will send me questions like, ‘How do I get paid to do my dream?’ That’s a great question eventually, but the first question is, ‘How do I get great at my dream?’

How do I do 100 speeches for free before I get paid for one? How do I write 500,000 words on a blog before I get to write a book?

That, to me, is the hard work… the willingness to do that.

Jeff: What’s the balance between getting a clear confirmation of your dream and just hustling?

Jon: It is a balance. You need to do the thing that — if you didn’t do [it] — would be killing you. There’s definitely confirmation, but for me… the biggest thing is being obedient to that thing I have inside me that I feel that God has given me.

I’m going to write, because that’s what writers do. I’m going to speak, because that’s what speakers do. If you allow feedback from other people to be the thing that eventually drives you, when they stop giving it to you, they essentially tell you to stop dreaming.

That’s a really powerful control to put into somebody else’s hands.

Get the full interview

The above is just the “best of” from my interview with Jon. We also talked about:

  • What’s next for Jon
  • How he found his dream
  • His 18-month quitting process
  • Working through issues of entitlement to nurture your dream
  • Dealing with positive and negative feedback

If you enjoyed reading the transcript, check out the full audio interview. It’s full of a lot more content and definitely worth the listen (despite my cracking voice, random typing, and a cough or two).

Become a quitter

If these ideas resonate with you, you should probably check out Jon’s book, Quitter, which I recommend. You can get it on Amazon (affiliate link).

Also, keep an eye out for the next Quitter Conference. It’s a great event that is encouraging lots of people to take the jump into their dreams.

What are you doing to close the gap between your day job and dream job? Share your own “quitter” story in the comments.

About Jeff Goins

I write books and help writers get their work out into the world. I am the best-selling author of four books, including The Art of Work. Each week, I send out a newsletter with free tips on writing and creativity.

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  • I’m in that process right now. At the beginning of next year, I’ll be leaving my job to do what I love part-time. I’m getting everything lined up now so we’ll be ready to make the plunge.

    It will be my dream in that in combines IT, writing and social media and I will still have free time to work on other projects. Since it is a part-time job, the finances will be significantly less, but it will be worth it to do what I’m passionate about.

  • I got to read an early manuscript of Quitter. I read it again when the book arrived at my door. Although there’s great content about finding your dream job and moving towards it, there was one piece that affected my life almost immediately. It was the chapter about finding value in the job that you’re in; looking it as something that is funding your dream. It was like a light switch went on. My day job is beginning to fund my dream job. How cool is that? I took a trip this summer and my day job paid me while I was chasing my dream! Eventually I’ll get there, but I’m not feeling the frustration and irritation with my day job anymore. I’m actually excelling in it. Jon’s book is a good read, and has practical things you can start using right away. Go pick it up. PS- Good interview. 😉

    • I LOVED that chapter, Jenna. Jon has a lot of wisdom packed into this book. It’s deeper than simply, “Go quit your job and here’s how.”

  • This is a very encouraging interview.  I love the fact that Jon is very realistic with his Quitter message.  It reminds me of Dave Ramsey’s approach to finances.  At the end of the day, it’s all about taking the right steps and a bunch of those beginning steps are PRACTICE steps.  

    Go Win,


  • Mbetters

    Practice makes perfect.  I love how Acuff talked about the importance of those annoying baby steps, like speaking at a rehab center, etc. in order to further your dream.  It just goes to show that for most people, success is more of a journey than an adventure.  It’s not always about fighting lions, but rather swatting flies and hunkering down to achieve your next, daily small victory.

    • I found the part about practice to be incredibly humbling. I want to fight a lion.

      • Mbetters

        lol, Who wouldn’t?  Sometimes, though, I feel like lion’s are just a horde of flies 🙂

  • Great stuff. Thanks for all of this jeff and jon

    • You’re welcome. Thanks for reading, Kyle. You’re example of this stuff.

  • “I’m going to write, because that’s what writers do. I’m going to speak,
    because that’s what speakers do. If you allow feedback from other people
    to be the thing that eventually drives you, when they stop giving it to
    you, they essentially tell you to stop dreaming.”

    Shoot, what an intense thing to say. Feedback for me is analytics and comments. Another reminder I need to take power back.

    Here’s another resource in a similar vein that I found recently: https://www.tobiasbuckell.com/2011/08/25/writers-and-pellets/

  • I recently discovered that I have about 5 dream jobs. I want to figure out how to combine all of them into one career.

    • I’m challenged with just picking one and actually chasing it.

      •  Yeah….me too.  Picking ONE and sticking with it seems to be a bit overwhelming.

  • “How do I get great at my dream?” Such a great question.Thank you for sharing these questions from the interview. You both are inspirational. I plan on listening to the audio this afternoon.

    You might try a video interview next time. Here’s a great how-to article from @MichaelHyatt:twitter 

    • Audio was all Jon could do. I’m working my way up, man!

  • Merwyn Mathias

    Jon has got it right. Many people do expect their dream job to be perfect. But this never happens and leaves their dreams unfulfilled. 

    Truly as he said, getting hired into a job and performing it are on two extremes. Thanks Jeff.

  • I just finished reading Jon’s book and I really loved it!  I am trying to “fall in like” with my current job now as I put more actual effort into building my dream business.  This interview just helped solidify what I had just read.  I am making progress toward my dream and I think I’ll actually be able to begin putting a real time table on when I can do the transition very soon. 

  • Jeff, I’m so glad you decided to ship with the audio even though I’m sure you wanted it to be better. I’ve read Quitter twice and I love Jon’s transparency about his process of finding his dream job-good and bad. Did this interview change anything about the pursuit of your dream job(s)?

  • Completely agree with the ideas of Jon!

  • That voice that says, “who are you to do that?”…..
    Oh, I know that voice SO well.. we are like BFF’s … seriously, but I really hate her, lol.

    It’s like a fear of success.  You get excited about something…. and it’s like.. whoa!  I actually did it.. and even “worse”  people like it!   And it kinda freaks me out!  Why is that?  Guess I need to read this book!   Thanks for this, Jeff and Jon! 🙂

    • You definitely should read it, Denise. It’s quick and compelling!

  • I remember watching a TED talk in which the guy started with, “How many of you hate your job?” and upon whatching hundreds of hands go up, admonished the crowd, “Come on people, it’s 2008. There is absolutely NO REASON you should still be doing a job you hate.”

  • Mle_ii

    Only problem I had with the file is it was named mp3, but it’s mp4.  After changing the fine name it worked fine in the audio player I was using.

  • such rich wisdom in these words. thank you for this great interview, guys.

  • Great interview, Jeff!

    In pressing passed that voice everyday (“Who are you?”), I’m finding a lot of great connections and opportunities.

    See you around the tribe!

  • This so resonated with where I am now, and where I want to be. THANK YOU for this!

  • I love your point about finding balance between getting clear confirmation of your dream and hustling.

    Going for your dreams is HARD WORK. I find it gets easier with time, though.

  • Scott

    Insightful interview! I read Jon’s book and appreciated his transparency–along with his clever turning of a phrase. Especially memorable to me in the book is the part in which he dispels the myth that quitting a job to pursue a dream without having laid some groundwork, so to speak, is an admirable thing to do. The best approach is to adopt the attitude that you’ll “fall in like” with your job until you’re really ready to make the jump to the pursuit of your dream. 

  • perfect timing to read this post. just this a.m. in my morning pages i wrote that i’d like to not quit my high stress hospital job and be a full-time writer/blogger.  this has been my dream for five years and it seems i’m maybe a half step closer to that possibility than in 2007.  

    entitlement versus dreaming versus hustling.  On point.  Got it.   I struggle almost daily with Why Bother?    And then a reader will email me. Someone who read my blog or my book will contact me.  Then I remember my mission:  to be the most effective communicator i can be for the sake of others.  That is my opportunity filter. 

    thanks for posting about Quitter. I signed up for Quitter emails and also for Jon’s blog. Thanks for getting him on my radar!

  • I don’t do dreams. Dreams are too ephemeral, too deceitful. I always had such a big imagination and when I stepped out in trust, the rug was ripped from underneath me too many times. Now I am older, wiser and hairier, and instead I take one step at a time which, when that step is walked alongside God, is tremendously exciting. God’s ideas are so much bigger than mine could ever be. 

    This past year I have begun speaking publicly, blogging and writing again. It is cathartic. Mighty oaks from little acorns grow, as we say (do you have that expression in the US?). One day at a time.

  • Katharine Trauger

    What I am doing to speed the termination of my day job. Oh, I think I am prolonging its forever aspect, really.
    You see, I am a wife of a very viable guy. I work hard to make sure he is healthy, I think it’s a permanent position. And it is my “dream job”, the thing I always hoped to do.
    I love ironing, cooking, laundering, vacuuming, duction, and ALL other aspects of being a wife to this man.
    I do not really want “the perfect job”, if by that you mean a job outside the home.
    I also do not want to become a speaker or traveler, although I have accepted several speaking gigs and they involved travel. You see, it disrupts the wife thing. Lots.
    However, there is a book inside me and it is over half written. I do want to share my insides with everyone who will. It is a hard world for that newly-acquired dream. Publishers no longer publish. They only hire printers. I have to do all the rest.
    Which truly makes me feel like a quitter.
    Except for the voices I can hear, crying for my book.

    • Katharine Trauger

      * vacuuming and DUSTING . . .

  • Can’t believe I hadn’t read this before now! The thing that gets me the most rests in the this idea of doing the things that if you didn’t do them, they’d be killing you! I know this far too well! So glad I “happened” to come across this today! Needed it very much!