For 20 years, New York Times best-selling author Jon Acuff has helped some of the biggest brands in the world tell their story, including The Home Depot, Bose, Staples and the Dave Ramsey Team. He’s spoken to hundreds of thousands of people across the country at companies like Microsoft, Nissan and even Comedy Central. Featured regularly on national media outlets, such as Fox News and CNN, he’s also written for Time, the Harvard Business Review, Reader’s Digest and MSNBC.
At Regent’s Executive Leadership Series (ELS) luncheon in September, Acuff talked about his sixth and most recent book, Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done. He shared with the more than 300 guests assembled in the Founders Inn ballroom the surprising reasons why people don’t finish what they start and how to overcome those barriers to finish strong.
The husband and father of two hopes Finish, released on September 12, will help his readers stop being haunted by the “ghosts” of their unfinished goals: “It’s my fastest start to any book, and it has the most widespread reaction. It has 92 percent five-star ratings on Amazon. I’ve just never had a book that was so clear.”
Acuff said the goal of Finish is to help people successfully complete the things they start: “I very rarely meet any team leader or any individual who says, ‘Nah, I finish everything. I’ve already got that.’ More than likely they say, ‘If my three employees could finish more, I’d be in heaven.’”
He added, “It’s increasingly rare to find somebody who finishes, and rare people are more valuable. So, if you want to make yourself more valuable to your team, to your community, to your neighborhood, be one of those rare people.”
When asked about the importance of Regent University’s motto, Christian Leadership to Change the World, Acuff replied, “Christianity just becomes a big echo chamber if we don’t do stuff like that. It’s us talking to us, and we become kind of insulated if we’re not equipping leaders to go out into the world.”
He commended Regent for training men and women of faith to have an influence in places and situations where pastors don’t get to go: “The pastor isn’t leading the quarterly budget review at a big tech company. The Christian who comes to Regent who’s been trained in how to handle business is going to be in that spot and should be in that spot.”
Acuff began his presentation to the ELS crowd by exposing the emptiness and inaccuracy of feel-good platitudes that are prominent in society, especially social media, and have even found their way into the business arena. “Pop culture tells us, ‘Well begun is half done. The hardest part of a journey is the first step. The finish line doesn’t matter, only the courage to start.’ But I started to look at all that.”
He didn’t like what he saw: “Well begun is half done? That’s not true. The hardest part of your journey is the first step? That’s not even a little true. The middle is a lot harder than the beginning. We have launch parties when we start something. There’s no ‘middle party.’ The finish line doesn’t matter, only the courage to start? If I said that to you in the middle of a marathon, you’d say, ‘Don’t talk to me. That’s terrible advice.’ We’re a culture of starters.”
Acuff pointed to statistics that indicate 92 percent of all New Year’s resolutions fail. He encourages people to be better goal-setters, so they increase the possibility of finishing what they start: “You have a better shot of getting into Juilliard and being a professional ballerina in New York — an 8.6 percent chance, tiny dancer — than you do of finishing a goal.”
He continued, “If 92 percent of your neighbors were mauled by bears, you would treat your neighborhood differently. But we don’t change, and we keep starting, starting and starting. … Starting is fun, but the future belongs to finishers.”
“If you want to be rare, valuable and have a healthy business, do the things nobody’s doing. Nobody is finishing right now,” he insisted. “We live in a distracted society. If you figure out how to finish, you’re a unicorn.”
For tickets to an upcoming Executive Leadership Series luncheon or to learn about sponsorship opportunities, call 757.352.4245 or visit regent.edu/els.