Jon Acuff (@jonacuff) is the New York Times bestselling author of seven books, including his Wall Street Journal #1 bestseller, Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done. [Note: This is a previously broadcast episode from the vault that we felt deserved a fresh pass through your earholes!]
What We Discuss with Jon Acuff:
- 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 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 joins us to discuss his book Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done.
Listen to this episode 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. Listen, learn, and enjoy! [Note: This is a previously broadcast episode from the vault that we felt deserved a fresh pass through your earholes!]
Please Scroll Down for Featured Resources and Transcript!
Please note that some of the links on this page (books, movies, music, etc.) lead to affiliate programs for which The Jordan Harbinger Show receives compensation. It’s just one of the ways we keep the lights on around here. Thank you for your support!
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Thanks, Jon Acuff!
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:
And if you want us to answer your questions on one of our upcoming weekly Feedback Friday episodes, drop us a line at email@example.com.
Resources from This Episode:
- Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done by Jon Acuff | Amazon
- Do Over: Make Today the First Day of Your New Career by Jon Acuff | Amazon
- Soundtracks: The Surprising Solution to Overthinking by Jon Acuff | Amazon
- The All It Takes Is a Goal Podcast
- Jon Acuff | Website
- Jon Acuff | Facebook
- Jon Acuff | Instagram
- Jon Acuff | Twitter
- Brian Koppelman | How to Make Billions | Jordan Harbinger
- The Darya Rose Show
632: Jon Acuff | Give Yourself the Gift of Done
[00:00:00] Jordan Harbinger: Coming up next on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:00:02] Jon Acuff: I've never met someone who was like, "I sat down to watch Narcos. I ended up doing burpees. I don't even know how it happened." Like we never accidentally or naturally do things that are good for us or productive. That means we have to be deliberate. We have to be intentional. And so I would ask people who have a lot of noble obstacles, "Well, where are you going?" And if you know, you're supposed to write a book and you say, "Well, as soon as the garage is cleaned," what do those two have in common.
[00:00:31] Jordan Harbinger: Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. On The Jordan Harbinger Show, we decode the stories, secrets, and skills of the world's most fascinating people. We have in-depth conversations with scientists and entrepreneurs, spies and psychologists, even the occasional war correspondent, neuroscientist, or gold smuggler. And each episode turns our guests' wisdom into advice you can use to build a deeper understanding of how the world works and become a better critical thinker.
[00:00:57] If you're new to the show — welcome — or you want to tell your friends about it, I suggest our episode starter packs. These are collections of top episodes, organized by topic. They help new listeners get a taste of everything we do here on the show. Just visit jordanharbinger.com/start or take a look in your Spotify app to get started or to help somebody else get started, which again, I always appreciate.
[00:01:16] Now, today, one from the vault. On this episode, we're talking with my friend, Jon Acuff, author of Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done. This is a book about perfectionism, what it does, the harm it causes, and what we can do to navigate through it. We'll explore a concept called the planning fallacy and how overachievers like many of us shoot ourselves in the foot before we even begin. A concept called strategic incompetence and why you should deliberately suck at some things. And we'll uncover secret rules, what they are, how they're made, and how these little invisible scripts affect our lives and what we can do about it. So enjoy this deliberately imperfect episode with Jon Acuff.
[00:01:57] And by the way, if you're wondering how I managed to get these amazing folks on the show, it's always, always been about my network and I'm teaching you how to do the same, how to build your network for free. It's a free course. I don't need your stinking credit card info or anything like that. jordanharbinger.com/course, the course is about improving your networking and your connection skills, of course, but also inspiring others to develop personal and professional relationships with you. It'll make you a better connector and a better thinker. That's at jordanharbinger.com/course. And by the way, most of the guests you hear on this show, they subscribe and contribute to that same course. So come join us, you'll be in smart company.
[00:02:35] Now, here's Jon Acuff.
[00:02:40] So tell us about your new gig here, because Do Over is what we heard about before you, that book about starting. Now, you got a book about finishing. Dare I say a little predictable, but here's the problem. You got a book about starting, obviously, something did or did not happen now that you have a book about finishing. So what's going on here?
[00:02:57] Jon Acuff: I had so many people come up to me and go, "Hey, 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?" And two years ago, I didn't have an answer. And so that's what kind of kicked off this idea was, "All right. Well, why did 92 percent of New Year's resolutions fail? Like why do people get P90X and do four days? Like why did diets fail the third week of January?" And so that's where this book came from. I thought the start was the most important thing and it is important. It's just not as critical as the finish. Nobody gets a metal in the middle of a race, or they shouldn't. If culture is doing its job, you shouldn't reward middle. You should reward finish.
[00:03:37] Jordan Harbinger: That's true. But our psychology kind of doesn't want to do that a lot. I think every person has unfinished stuff that they kind of have a little bit of shame over. High achievers have this even moreso I've noticed, and maybe that's just anecdotal data because that's who I'm surrounded by these overachiever law school nerds and entrepreneurs, but it seems like people who do really well in life generally also have a lot of unfinished stuff and you hear about it all the time. It's an element of shame. Everybody's got that skeleton. Everybody's got P90X, or as I like to call it P4X, because that's about how long I lasted.
[00:04:12] Jon Acuff: Exactly. Until you get yoga. And then like in the '90s, everybody had Bowflex and they were like, "I'm going to get ripped with this thing. It's got like limbs and like bows," and now you use it to dry laundry in your garage. I think part of it is that culturally speaking, we'd celebrate the beginning and we say things like, "Well begun is half done," which sounds good on Instagram. And an entrepreneur is like, "Hey, buy my webinar." And then you go, "What does that mean?" If a doctor said to you, "As soon as I've made your first incision, I'm half done with your surgery," you'd be like, "Well, that's not how anything goes? Where did you get your degree?" And the other thing is like, we go, "The hardest part of any journey is the first step." You're kidding me. We have launch parties, Jordan. There's no middle party. I've never been to a party where the guy was like, "Hey, it's the suckiest part of the project. We're going to have a middle party. We celebrate the beginning. We ignore the ending, and in the middle, we quit.
[00:05:03] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. There's launch parties. There's no, "I'm done with my book tour party."
[00:05:07] Jon Acuff: The first step is a dream, dude. And like Derek Sivers talks about this, where the problem is if you tell somebody your goal, the wrong way, you actually don't do the goal. So what happens is I go, "Jordan, I'm going to run a marathon," and you give me pre-congratulations. You go, "Dude, you're so brave. I couldn't do that. You're so disciplined," and I get dopamine, and I don't actually run because I got enough dopamine. The whole thing drives me nuts.
[00:05:29] Jordan Harbinger: It's true. Because we're really getting the validation we were looking for by getting that pre-validation.
[00:05:35] Jon Acuff: People get insulted, but I very rarely will do a new podcast. And the reason I won't do one, is I don't know the stats. You probably do. The majority of podcasters quit in an X amount of time, because it's hard. The idea of doing a podcast is so easy. The reality of doing a podcast is not as easy.
[00:05:54] Jordan Harbinger: I'll tell you right now, I have the same policy. People go, "I would love to include you in my launch," and I'm thinking, "I would love to give that opportunity to anyone else." I used to do that. I used to go, "Great. Wow, I'm really flattered," and it still is flattering that somebody thinks of you first, but the problem is, out of 10 launches, nine of them would go, "Oh, I never actually made it to launch," or, "I launched with all the episodes that I did and then I decided that I was going to write an ebook or do a webinar," or, you know, "Oh, I'm still working on it." And I'm like, "I recorded that with you a year ago. What are you working on?" And the answer is nothing. It's just, they thought it'd be really fun to talk to entrepreneurs and then nothing happened.
[00:06:31] One question. As soon as I saw this book, I thought about this and I got to ask, did you plan to write a book about finishing at the time? Or did you actually end up writing the book about finishing as a result of all this stuff about starting and then not actually finishing yourself?
[00:06:46] Jon Acuff: It was through the experience of, I felt like I had launched a lot of books that never got out of the harbor and I wanted to say to people, "Hey, wait a second. This is fine. This is important. Don't get me wrong. But without this piece, you just end up driving in circles and never actually accomplishing the thing." It was frustrating. And as an author, the two things people say to you, when you say you write books, are they go, "What's your biggest book that I would have heard of?" which is so sad because they'd never heard of it. It's like you never say to a lawyer, "Name your most successful case. I'll tell you if I agree," like it's so humbling. But then they say, "I want to write a book," because 81 percent of people want to write a book according to New York Times and less than one percent do.
[00:07:23] Jordan Harbinger: Wow, 81 percent of people? I didn't want to write one before. Who are these people?
[00:07:28] Jon Acuff: We miss a quarter billion books every year, from people who say, "I want to do it." And you're right. Like the problem is scientifically speaking, you remember incomplete goals more than complete. So the things, the open loops, as David Allen would say, that you have in your head, weigh heavier than the stuff you got done. The podcast where you felt like, "I could have gone better on that interview," you think about that more than the ones where you're like, "I crushed that." So it does cost you, dude. It weighs.
[00:07:54] Jordan Harbinger: I think you could get 99 five-star reviews and then someone sends a one-star and I'm like, "I'm going to stay up until 3 a.m. writing a reply to this person, if I can find them online, which I will try to do for the next 45 minutes." And then you realize, "Hey, you know what? Some people just don't like pizza and I don't want to be around those people," right?
[00:08:11] Jon Acuff: Yeah, exactly. Like my wife can't stand the Red Hot Chili Peppers. There's a lot of people that like the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
[00:08:17] Jordan Harbinger: Sorry about your relationship, bro.
[00:08:19] Jon Acuff: We're working on it. Counseling is pretty expensive. That's why I still write books, these lucrative books.
[00:08:24] Jordan Harbinger: In said book, Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done, you mentioned we have the same percentage of being accepted into Juilliard for playing the bassoon as we do of finishing our goals, eight percent. Of course, that's eight percent of people who apply, but in theory, if you have a goal, you're kind of applying to finish it. Eight percent, that's really low. That's a 92 percent failure rate.
[00:08:45] Jon Acuff: Yeah, and the crazy thing, Jordan, is we don't change it. Every year in December, we get wooed back into the new year, new you kind of movement. And we're like, "I'm going to do it this year. Like it's going to be different," and if you say to somebody, "Well, how will this year's diet be different?" They go, "Oh, it'll have more beets." They might eat something different, but none of their patterns have changed. None of their habits, none of their approaches. I asked the lady at the grocery store. I said, "When do people quit their goals?" And she said, "Third week of January." I said, "How do you know?" She said, "That's when we stopped selling kale." And part of what happens is, you blew it once and then you give up. That's where perfectionism comes in.
[00:09:20] Jordan Harbinger: All right. Let's talk about perfectionism because this is the Bowzer to your Mario in this book here. Perfectionism sounds like something that, okay, we get down on ourselves. When you're in a job interview, you say, "Yeah, my biggest weakness? I'm too detail oriented. I'm a perfectionist," right?
[00:09:36] Jon Acuff: I work too hard. That's why I'm jobless, but I give too much.
[00:09:40] Jordan Harbinger: Tell me, though. What is it about perfectionism that's causing us not to finish things? I mean, it makes sense when you say it out loud, but in the beginning, shouldn't me having an awesome plan actually be a good thing for accomplishing my goals, getting into Juilliard and whatnot?
[00:09:54] Jon Acuff: I think an awesome plan is different from perfectionism. Perfectionism doesn't exist. So as a goal—
[00:10:00] Jordan Harbinger: Well, perfect doesn't exist, right? Perfectionism totally exists.
[00:10:03] Jon Acuff: Yeah, perfectionism exists, perfect does it. Amazon has never sold a perfect book. They've sold millions of imperfect books people were brave enough to finish. Like I made mistakes in every book I've ever written. In one book, I said that Tarell Owens, the football player, had caught 1,000 touchdowns. He's caught 100. I was off by a factor of 10 and every jock on the planet was like, "Hey, idiots."
[00:10:25] 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, Splinter is the Ninja Turtle. Every nerd was like, "You loser, I can't believe—" so like, you're always going to have a mistake, but the problem is, Jordan, 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 that struggle with perfectionism grade on a pass/fail schedule.
[00:10:53] If you want to lose 10 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.
[00:11:01] Jordan Harbinger: So you end up with examples, like, the weight loss thing is great, right? It's binary. So you say, "Well, since I didn't lose all 10 pounds, I fail." But isn't the result then, "Fine, you lost eight pounds," where's the problem?
[00:11:15] Jon Acuff: I always say, here's another example, perfectionist have the messiest cars and offices. And you go, "No way, they're deep freaks. They're clean." If they can't clean it at a toothbrush level, they quit the whole project. So there'll be like half coffee cups. There'll be a mess everywhere. So that's where it gets people. And that's where if it's not perfect, you end up writing a first chapter, not liking it — you've done this, Jordan, where you have an idea in your head and before you even write it down, you judge it as dumb and you don't even commit it to paper.
[00:11:41] Jordan Harbinger: Is that not normal?
[00:11:43] Jon Acuff: Or healthy or good? Of course not. And so that's what perfectionism, it just prevents your stuff from seeing the light of day and from getting better. Like if you had said, "I'm not going to do a podcast, unless it's perfect," we wouldn't be on this episode. I guaranteed this year is better than the first one. I don't even want you to peak the first time, I want you to grow into it. But if perfectionism had been loud enough, you would have done one episode, realized it wasn't perfect, and given up. Perfectionism doesn't have room for growth.
[00:12:10] Jordan Harbinger: That's funny, you should mention that. I know so many people who won't launch their show because it's not perfect, which is one of the reasons why you and I don't do brand new podcast interviews and things like that, with shows that haven't started yet, one reason, but I didn't fall victim to that. And I'll tell you the reason was not because we weren't perfectionists, it was because we decided that this was a hobby initially. And it didn't matter at all because all we were doing was drinking and talking and there's no real way to make that perfect.
[00:12:40] It took us maybe half a decade before we were like, "Hey, you know what? This is something we should focus on because it's working really well. And we should probably turn it into a product where we release it on the same day every week and maybe actually do one every week." People always go, "Where the early episodes of the show?" and I'm thinking, "Don't waste your time. Go to a movie instead."
[00:13:00] Jon Acuff: You've iterated every time. You guys sent me an email this time. The first time I was on, you didn't have a mic recommendation. This time, guess what? You're like, "Hey, it would be better for the listener, who we're trying to serve, if you had a better microphone." Guess what? I bought the microphone and now every podcast I do, I use the microphone. And so you don't get to continually improve if you are trying to aim for perfect.
[00:13:22] Jordan Harbinger: Right, because you start trying to get the perfect on the first try, which since you're saying it's impossible, prohibits us from maybe not trying at all, but at least not going after the first iteration, because why? We're so ashamed that our first try wasn't perfect, we just say, "Screw it."
[00:13:36] Jon Acuff: People don't like to do things that fail. It's voluntary failure too. Let's be clear, like a lot of these goals are voluntary. You started this podcast. A boss didn't say to you, "Jordan, you got to do this podcast." And so if you're doing a voluntary goal, people don't want to willingly increase their run-ins with failure. Very few of us are like, "I love it. I eat it. Like my haters are my motivators." It's not enjoyable and so we try it, we already feel shame about it. Like we bring in the shame of, "I wanted to write a book five years ago, I didn't. I wanted to lose weight 10 years ago, I didn't." We already feel bad and if our first experience is bad, our chances of stopping are exponential."
[00:14:14] Jordan Harbinger: So this isn't about productivity, it's not about time management. It's about ditching perfectionism. You had some funny examples in there of trying to get over perfectionism like the yummy cracker of perfection. What was that all about? That's weird.
[00:14:26] Jon Acuff: Yeah, it was another really successful productivity book that said, "Imagine your perfect dream or goal as a movie. Now, then shrink it down to a size of a cracker and imagine yourself eating it. And now that perfect movie is part of you ." But you and I, one of the things we have in common is our enjoyment of making fun of bad advice, of where people go, "You are the solution you've always been looking for." What does that mean? No, I'm not. In most cases, I'm the problem. I've always been avoiding. To quote a great American poet, Creed, "I've created my own prison." So like the idea that like, I'm my own solution — I think you and I have fun swimming through the Instagram experts that haven't done anything. If I were you, it would make me laugh when I see people selling courses on how to do a podcast that don't have a successful podcast.
[00:15:17] Jordan Harbinger: Those are pretty much the only people that sell those types of classes so far.
[00:15:22] Jon Acuff: What you're doing is you're monopolizing people's dreams. You're taking somebody who's vulnerable and wants to do a podcast and adding a buck onto that dream. And so stuff like that drives me nuts, but the problem is the goal space is full of stuff that says, "Have a huge, crazy goal that terrifies you. It has to be so big. It makes you cry in the fetal positions."
[00:15:40] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. The big, hairy, audacious goal. And I'm like, "Actually, I just have these little ones that I keep hitting."
[00:15:46] Jon Acuff: What we found is people who shoot for the moon, that go too big, almost fail from the get-go. I'll have people say, "I'm going to run," and I'll say, "Okay, what are you going to do?" and they'll say, "I'm going to do a marathon. I'll go either do a half marathon or a 5k or even just a K? Have you ever run a K?" And they're like, "No, I got to do the Iron Man. I saw a bike commercial. I'm getting carbon fiber and wearing skinny clothes." And then they quit a week in, two weeks in, because it's so overwhelming.
[00:16:10] Jordan Harbinger: This is interesting because I see some of this in my life in some areas and not in others. Perfectionism doesn't necessarily have to infect every area of your life. Do you find that it infects certain areas of your life more? Because there are plenty of people who are doing the perfectionism thing with their podcasts, but they have no problem being an awesome athlete and running and triathlons or running a business. What's going on there?
[00:16:32] Jon Acuff: I would say, for me, like my parenting, I don't try to be perfect because I know it's just freaking impossible. I'm much more the type of guy that's like, I'll tell my kids, "These are the 10 things you're going to talk to a therapist about some day. So let me save you a lot of sessions. Here are 10 specific things I just blew and I'm sorry, but like that happened." So like, I don't try to be a perfect parent. I recognize that I'm constantly growing as a husband. The idea that I'll be a perfect husband, that ship has sailed as well. But then other things like writing or public speaking, I might fall into that. But part of it is what's your motivated by, what kind of rules you bring to it, there's a lot of people that have these kinds of secret rules, some would say limiting beliefs is another phrase that they bring to a certain topic.
[00:17:17] Like money, you and I both know a lot of entrepreneur that struggle with a fear of success and they get ashamed when they get successful. And you go, "The whole goal is success." And like 20 years ago, a mom said to them, "People who are rich must have cheated to get there," and so now in their head, they have this thing that only cheaters win and they self-sabotage right when they're starting to go well. It drives me nuts.
[00:17:42] Jordan Harbinger: You're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Jon Acuff. We'll be right back.
[00:17:46] This episode is sponsored in part by BiOptimizers. The last two years have been crazy. We've never experienced anything like it in our lifetimes. We've never experienced such an effect on our mental wellbeing. And if you're a working parent, you've had the extra difficulty of keeping your kids occupied 24/7. While trying to work from home, not an easy task, stress and anxiety deplete your magnesium levels and low magnesium levels then contribute to more anxiety, which is, of course, a vicious cycle. By supplementing with Magnesium Breakthrough, you can break the cycle because you'll be getting seven unique forms of organic full-spectrum magnesium for stress relief and better sleep all in one bottle. Taking Magnesium Breakthrough can help you experience more energy, stronger bones, healthier blood pressure, less irritability, a calmer mood, reduce muscle cramping, even fewer migraines. Simply take two capsules before you go to bed and you may be amazed by the improvements in your mood and energy levels.
[00:18:33] Jen Harbinger: For an exclusive offer for our listeners, go to magbreakthrough.com/jordan and use JORDAN10 during checkout to save 10 percent and get free shipping.
[00:18:41] Jordan Harbinger: This episode is also sponsored by Better Help online therapy. I know a lot of you put off finding a therapist because you have trouble finding one or it's too expensive, or you tried it once. And the therapist was annoying or was not a good match. With Better Help, you answer a few questions. You get paired with a therapist in under 48 hours. If you don't click with your therapist, Better Help makes it easy to get matched with a new one and you don't have to feel guilty about it. It's so convenient to communicate with your therapist, from the privacy of your own home or wherever from your couch, your bed. You can make appointments, have text, phone, or video sessions with your therapist all easily within the Better Help app. Everything is secure. If you're not the type that can verbalize your thoughts and feelings easily, there's even a virtual journal in the app. You can add notes whenever you want, and then share sections with your therapist, which I think is a great idea by the way. Focus on your mental health by keeping an open mind in trying Better Help. See why over two million people have used Better Help online therapy.
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[00:20:07] Now back to Jon Acuff.
[00:20:10] Okay. Let's talk about secret rules. I found this in the book to be quite fascinating. These are great because limiting beliefs, it's got too much woo attached to it now, and it's kind of like, "You can because you believe in yourself."
[00:20:22] Jon Acuff: If you think it, the universe will make it possible. And I always think, "Tell that to a cancer victim." Like they weren't, like, "I wish I had colon cancer," and then universe was like, "You have wished it. Then here, you will receive it."
[00:20:34] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, man. I wish I could teleport you into a conversation I had with this guy who was in this book, The Secret. And when I was like, "What about kids who get cancer?" He was talking about how people who get bad things happening to them have done something somewhere. And I'm like, "Okay, so eight-year-old with leukemia, go." And he was like, "Ah, I'm hungry. See you later."
[00:20:51] Jon Acuff: Exactly. Or like car crash, you know, it's punishing me. So the books, the metaphor I use is, the cuckoo bird doesn't build its own nest when it's going to have a baby and hides its egg in another bird's nest. And then the first thing it's egg does is hatch first and kill all the other eggs. So then the mother bird dies feeding this gigantic species. Like if your listeners go onto Google and say, "Cuckoo parasitic bird," the Google images are crazy. I say, how does the mom that recognized the lie in the nest? And it's the same way that you and I, if we have a secret rule, don't recognize that there's a lie in our head.
[00:21:26] A friend the other day — let's talk about the money one. He said, "Jon, that CEO makes $20 million a year. How do you think he sleeps at night?" and I wanted to say, "Probably on Hungarian down pillows and pretty well, like probably after eating some peeled grapes," but in his mind, five million was okay. 10 million, now you're greedy. He had this weird, never spoken, never verbalized, like system.
[00:21:47] And so a lot of times goal books treat you like a robot. They go, "Jordan, if you do these four things in this order, you will have more productivity." And they forget that, like Jordan grew up with a dad that was working on stuff. And Jordan grew up with a mom that wasn't perfect and had a teacher. Like that teacher if you fortunately had the strong enough willpower and like personal character to say, like, "You're wrong about the internet and I'm going to show you." Some people do listen to that teacher and made career choices based off of, "I don't want to get involved with the Internet. Like it's not going to be around forever. Like better find a safe, stable thing." And we're impacted by that teacher. And so that's, what's really fascinating.
[00:22:25] Jordan Harbinger: The secret rules that governance can either be good or bad, then. There were a lot of secret rules where teachers told me, "Oh, you're not good at this. You're not good at that." And for a while, my parents were being told that I had some sort of learning disability and they were like, "I'm pretty sure he's bored because you're a terrible teacher." And then of course, the administrator was like, "Parents always think their child is perfect." And my mom's like, "I'm a special ed teacher. He's not a special ed kid. He's doing these different things in your class. Like he wants to write the book in Spanish, not memorize the Spanish numbers, let him just go do it."
[00:22:55] And since I was not well behaved, they didn't go, "Maybe he's gifted." They were like, "Nope, he's just a dick. I'm sorry to tell you." But there was one thing when we were leaving middle school, I was eighth grade, that's when they separated middle school, there was a teacher that was the French teacher. I was a terrible student in his class, but he was also the football coach. And a lot of the teachers were glad to see me go. And Mr. Wilson was probably glad to see me go too, but when we left, a lot of teachers were like, "Good luck. See you later, blah, blah, blah." He goes, "Take care of yourself, man." And he had this look and like this head tilt where I went, "Oh, wow. He's really worried about me." Like he has stayed up at night thinking, "That kid's going to end up in jail," or like, you know, "I'm going to hire that kid later on to pull weeds out of my garden," or something like that. And I'm going to be like, "Damn."
[00:23:38] And I remember that to this day because he was worried for a reason. He wasn't a dumb guy. He wasn't some old stodgy French teacher with bifocals telling me to memorize a verb table. He was cool and smart, and he had a great way of teaching and explaining things. And he just saw a kid who didn't give a sh*t and it scared him because he knew it was wasted potential. Maybe I'm just wishful thinking here. And that secret rule was, "Hey man, you got to show people what you can do, because you're not going to get discovered over here, man. You got to work your ass off."
[00:24:10] Jon Acuff: And what's really interesting to me about that is I think you know this, but I think there's times you maybe forget. The crazy thing about a podcast or giving a speech is people come up and they'll say, "This thing you said changed my life." And then they'll say something you don't remember saying., they'll say, "Hey Jordan, I know you don't know me, but that episode was for me. I'm in Oklahoma and it hit me right at home. And I know you didn't think." But dude, like that's what's so powerful about — I told somebody today I would pay to do the job I get to do. That's how much I enjoy it. I love to speak, I love to write.
[00:24:41] The podcast is successful, but there's great joy there and part of that joy is you know you're reprogramming some things that just aren't true. So you're saying to people, "Hey, I know you think you're not talented. Have you tried this? Talent isn't one shape. It's a bunch of sizes. The path isn't one way." When you have Brian Koppelman on, he's sharing ideas that people haven't thought of before. So like, that's what's fun about our job, but that's also the power and kind of destructiveness of having a secret rule that holds you back at the very last second.
[00:25:10] Jordan Harbinger: So, how do we find out what the secret rules are and then kind of maybe take the bad ones and do something else with them. Was there a practical here that we can execute?
[00:25:20] Jon Acuff: Yeah, let's do three practicals. So one, you look for a pattern. People say that all the time. If you've been at five bad dating relationships, the one thing in common is you. So I would say, okay, your three last kind of mistakes or failures, what happened? Is there a pattern? Is it that right at the last second you blew up the whole thing or you overshared and it made the conversation really awkward. And you left the dinner party early because you felt like you had been too personal with her, or you rushed three of your last date and relationships with guys or women that weren't ready for it. So one, I look for a pattern.
[00:25:52] The second thing I would do is I would talk to a real friend, a friend that will say, "Hey, yeah, I've noticed this." Sometimes, you're so close to it, Jordan, that you can't recognize it. It's like when you're in a bad dating relationship and you break up and a month later you go, "She was terrible." And your friends are like, "We tried to tell you." Ask a friend. Like I heard this idea on this podcast that I like to listen to. Do you think there's some secret rules I live by that I might not see. Ask a friend and then listen. Whatever they say, your job isn't to say, "You're wrong." Like you're going to get defensive, which is just going to shut them down.
[00:26:25] The third thing I'd say is when you find one, ask the question, what does that mean? So if I said to you, "Jordan, success is bad," and you said, "Well, what does that mean?" I would say, "Then failure must be good." Like take the reverse. So failure is good. Or like, "I don't deserve a good relationship." So what does that mean? "I have to date jerks." That doesn't seem like very good advice. I wouldn't tell a friend that. Like, why do I believe that? So those are three very practical, very easy things you can do.
[00:26:50] Jordan Harbinger: I like that. So essentially we're looking for patterns. We try to listen for the secret rules that we have, maybe write them down. Do you ever do that?
[00:26:57] Jon Acuff: Your head is messy, paper is clean. So from your head take down and go, "Okay. Here's what I think? What does this really mean?" And it's big and scary in your head. It's simple and clean on paper.
[00:27:08] Jordan Harbinger: Right. So you can listen for a rule that says something like success is bad, and then you can say, "You know, actually this is not a good rule for me. I wrote that down and it doesn't make any sense." Like you said, you can take the extreme reverse, and then if you can't spot them or you want to confirm them, you can have your friends say — I've done this with other friends. We didn't call it secret rules, but I had a friend say, "Am I a bad person?" because he was going through a hard time. And I said, "No. But I'll tell you why people are reacting to you in this way, in my observation." And he goes, "Wow, I never—" I told him something about — you know, he's one of these guys who somehow find the negative and he's like, "I was just raised by people who are always bitching about stuff."
[00:27:46] Jon Acuff: Yeah. So that was his language.
[00:27:47] Jordan Harbinger: That was his language. And he goes, "I just never thought that anybody else could do it." And he's like, "Things really do look bad to me." And I'm like, "Yeah, but you live in the same reality as your wife and kids. So is it really that bad because they're fine and you're not, and you're getting depressed." That was a strange thing for him because he had to write a new rule, which was, "It's probably not that bad. And when it seems really, really bad ask myself—" you know, there was all kinds of tangents and branches that could come off of that, but it really changed the way that he thought. And it was good for me too, because I thought, "Well, wait a minute. That was so obvious to me. Where are my obvious things that I'm not picking up on because I'm in the middle?"
[00:28:26] Jon Acuff: And that's a dangerous game of self-awareness. I don't like when I hear podcasts and they tell you something that's difficult and they go, "It's super easy. Just raise like a million dollars next week with your friends." Like this is heart work. So that's part of it is most goal books address the brain and they forget the heart. I mean, for me, it was, I used to have a rule that a speech had to be perfect. So I memorize them. And one time a client pulled me aside and was like, "Hey, I got some." And he said, "15 people in the review of you said you seemed fake and over rehearsed and mechanical and with no passion," and they were right.
[00:28:59] It wasn't fun to hear, but my secret rule of, "It has to be perfect," has changed into, "Mistakes make your human. Mistakes have humor in there. They take the tension out of it." Like Yo-Yo Ma talks about that all the time. Like once he's made the first mistake, then he can relax into the humanity of the performance. And if Yo-Yo Ma's like, "You know what? I'm okay making a mistake," I should probably be okay too.
[00:29:19] Jordan Harbinger: So we talked about the planning fallacy, overly ambitious goals, which stopped forward momentum. We sort of touched on what you call the danger of might as well, which is like, "Well, you had a half a cookie on your diet, so you might as well order chili cheese fries now."
[00:29:34] Jon Acuff: It's the single french fry principle. Like, "I had one, might as well go for a thousand." I also see this happen around the Super Bowl. People go, "I'm going to a Super Bowl party. There's not going to be any healthy food, I might as well—" and then that cascades, like four weeks later, you're still living off the chili dip rationale of like, "I've already broken the diet. All bets are off."
[00:29:53] Jordan Harbinger: It really is dangerous because you find yourself going, "well, you know, today I already ate a bunch of crap." And it's like, you do realize that you don't have to eat 8,000 calories because you already had three, right?
[00:30:03] Jon Acuff: You can recover the day. Or, I mean, but the flip side is when people will tell me, "I want to run five miles every day. I only have time for three, so I'll do zero." Here's a sign, an easy practical sign your a perfectionist. If you'd rather get an F than a B-minus. If the thought of a C-plus is worst you, that you don't even try. So that's where, you know, like, "Okay, I'm accepting a zero instead of a C-minus because then at least I can say, 'Well, it would've been perfect if I tried.'" And you want to say, "A B is way better than an F, infinitely better than an F," but that's where perfectionism is.
[00:30:36] Jordan Harbinger: Motivation wise, and in terms of getting this stuff done or strategy-wise, I should say, you have this concept in the book, well, you have two concepts in the book that I thought worked really well together, which is like the shame versus strategy kind of motivations here, strategic and competence. I'd love that. Can you tell us about strategic and competence for a minute?
[00:30:54] Jon Acuff: Yeah, so the idea is that you have two choices and the phrase strategic incompetence came from this book two awesome hours. And then I started to really research the idea. So most people try to do too much, most goal setting books will tell you, "Jordan, oh, you have a financial goal. You should have a physical goal and a relational goal and a spiritual goal. Have one goal for each of the seven main areas of your life." Like a lot of us have heard this, but if you were going to learn German, I wouldn't say, "Jordan, you should learn six other languages at the same time, Swahili, Norwegian, Spanish." That sounds terrible.
[00:31:24] And so what happens is we add new goals to our life where what we're supposed to do is say, "Okay, as I do this new thing during the season, I'm going to deliberately suck at these five things. So as I finished my book, I'm not going to get four months ahead in the podcast. I'm going to be committed, but I won't expect to do these extra things." The parenting one I used in the book is when we had two young kids under the age of three, my yard was terrible and I did not care. Like you could have been on fire. I was just trying to survive to bedtime. Like my only goal when I had two kids under the age of three was to get to bedtime. I always joke every parent has put their kid to bed when it's still sunny out.
[00:32:01] And like, they can hear other kids playing and your kids are like, "Why are you using blackout shutters, dad?" And you're like, "Piped down, it's midnight in China. We're celebrating the new moon, just go to bed." And so I think especially moms you see this. They talk about mom guilt or mom shame when you try to do too much and inevitably fail, you feel ashamed, or you say ahead of time, "During the season, I'm not going to do these three things and that's okay."
[00:32:24] Jordan Harbinger: So you basically say, "Effe it, I'm not focusing on these maybe blesser important items and I'm doing so deliberately." Not in the moment. "I'm planning to not care about the lawn. I'm planning to let the playroom become a nuclear disaster area until they're 11 and I can force them to clean it up. That's the way it is. Yep, I know there's spiders in there. Oh, well that's what's happening."
[00:32:49] Jon Acuff: It's insignificant stuff, but it can be significant in the sense of — you know, I had a book come out. As I tour to talk about it. I don't hold myself to creating great writing. Like I would be such a jerk to myself. If I said, "I don't care that you're traveling four times a week, you still got to find — I want you in the terminal D like in between flights, creating great prose" Screw that.
[00:33:12] Does writing matter to me? It does, Jordan. Is this the wrong season for me to think I'm going to get deep writing done? It is. And so that's where I argue that. If you're in the middle of budgeting season, like if you're listening to this right now and you're in charge of like preparing next year's budget, you might need to say, "My inbox is going to get a little crazy because I got to do the budget. The CEO is concerned about the budget, not my email. Is email important? It is, but for this month, for this week, whatever, I'm going to suck at these five things and I'm not going to feel ashamed about it."
[00:33:40] Jordan Harbinger: I love that. I thought this book was really great, especially if you find yourself taking on too much or bailing on things because you won't have time to make them amazing and perfect.
[00:33:52] Jon Acuff: I call them noble obstacles. You know, the example in the book is my friend, his wife's like, "Clean the garage," and he goes, "Oh, I'll do a yard sale." And he's never going to do that, but he gets to go, "I can't do it until I have a perfectly planned yard sale." She would love him to throw it all away. We're talking one afternoon on a Saturday. Throw it all in a dumpster, you're done. He's like, "No, I got to label it. I got to sort it. I got to figure out what the HOA says about yard sales. I got to do dah, dah, dah," and he feels like, "But I'm trying to make us money."
[00:34:19] It's like when I'm Brian Regan, the comedian talks about the microwave instructions on Pop Tarts. Like if you can't wait for a Pop Tart to pop out of the toaster, because the microwave instructions are like microwave on high for three seconds. Like whose breakfast is like, "I can't have a five second food. I need three seconds. I already have two seconds going somewhere else." But it sounds so tempting to get the info and then never go on vacation, never do the challenge.
[00:34:43] Jordan Harbinger: I love the noble obstacles. What can we do about these? Because again, overachievers people with really good rational brains, these folks are — it's hard for me to disagree because they go, "Look, I have my week planned out in 15-minute blocks, just like you do. And I've got all these things prioritize. And I have a plan for my learning for the next 18 months." And on its face, it's like, "Man, you do have all this stuff figured out." But really a lot of it is just this mirage, this sort of sham. They spent three weeks planning out their entire year, but it's not going to get done. They just made the plan. So they feel like, "I'm done. Now, I can rest. I hired a trainer. I don't have to go to the gym. I hired the trainer already."
[00:35:19] Jon Acuff: No, but that's like bullet journal. If you're spending more time coloring the bullet journal entry than you are doing the activity that you're writing down in the bullet journal, if you're spending an hour creating this flowery kind of visualization of your day, but then you don't actually do the day, it doesn't work. So I guess I'd say two things. One, asks the question, is it working. Like it's like when people come up to me and they've done this to you, they'll say, "why should I listen to your podcast?" Or, "Why should I buy your book?" I always say, "Maybe you shouldn't." I'd rather say, "Maybe you shouldn't. Read the free chapter online. Like I'm not going to force you. If your life needs it, then for it."
[00:35:53] The second thing I'd say is noble obstacles are hiding spaces that I talk about. A lot of it will go there naturally. And ask yourself, "In a week, where do I go naturally with my time?" So for instance, I've never met a human who accidentally or naturally just starts working out. Like I've never met someone who's like, "I sat down and watched Narcos. I ended up doing burpees. I don't even know how it happened." Like we never accidentally or naturally do things that are good for us or productive. That means we have to be deliberate. We have to be intentional. And so I would ask people who have a lot of noble obstacles, "Well, where are you going?" And if you know you're supposed to write a book and you say, "Well, as soon as the garage is cleaned." What do those two have in common? Like if somebody said to me, "I can't do a book until my garage is clean." I'd say, "You know, most authors like Hemingway, that was his process too. He was like, 'First step, like go marlin fishing drunk. Second step, clean out the garage. Third step, write the book.'" Like that's insanity.
[00:36:49] Jordan Harbinger: I love the idea of, again, strategic and competence to nip this kind of thing in the bud and picking things. You can either bomb, simplify or pause, and just say, "Look, I'm not doing this until later because it's this huge cognitive drain."
[00:37:03] Jon Acuff: And it's not forever. Your listeners right now are like, "I have all these things I can't quit." Agreed, but you can ask for help. You can deligate. The simplify one, a mom I put in the book said, "I can't stop feeding my kids, but I can make easy meals." The biggest sham parents do is breakfast supper. Like you tell your kids, you're doing breakfast supper. They're like, "Oh, yay." And in your head, you're like, "I just have to scramble some eggs, you sucker." Or like my friend's mom had make-your-own-sandwich night. You talk about a sham, like, make your own sandwich. She's outsourcing the whole meal and the kids are like, "Yay, make your own sandwich." So I think that there are things you can simplify. And remember, it's for a season. You and I aren't saying, "Hey, quit email." Like that's dumb. We aren't saying, "Stop everything you ever do." We're saying, "In this season, be really deliberate about what you do with your time."
[00:37:51] Jordan Harbinger: This is The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Jon Acuff we'll be right back.
[00:37:56] This episode is sponsored in part by My First Million podcast. If you're the type of person who's always thinking about new business ideas or wondering what's the next side hustle I should spin up, check out the podcast, My First Million. The hosts, Sam Parr and Shan Puri have each built eight-figure businesses and sold them to HubSpot and Amazon. Smart guys, I know them personally. They're not fake guru weirdos. Each week they brainstorm business ideas that you can start tomorrow. They can be side hustles that make you a few grand a month or big billion-dollar ideas. So many interesting episodes in this feed, like business opportunities for stay at-home moms or how a guy from Georgia made $44 million from a Chrome browser extension. There was one on vending machines that I really liked. They also chat with founders, celebrities, billionaires, and get them to open up about business ideas that they've maybe never shared before. So search for My First Million, that's My First Million on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts.
[00:38:48] This episode is also sponsored by Progressive. Progressive helps you get a great rate on car insurance even if it's not with them. They have a nifty comparison tool that puts rates side-by-side. You choose a rate and coverage that works for you. So let's say you're interested in lowering your rate on your car insurance, visit progressive.com. Get a quote with all the coverage you want. You'll see Progressive's rate and their tool will provide options from other companies, all lined up and easy to compare. All you have to do is choose the rate and coverage that you like. Progressive gives you options so you can make the best choice for you. You could be looking forward to saving money in the very near future. More money for a pair of noise-canceling headphones, an Instapot, or more puzzles, whatever brings you joy. Get a quote today at progressive.com. It's just one small step you can do today that could make a big impact on your budget tomorrow.
[00:39:32] Jen Harbinger: Progressive Casualty Insurance Company and affiliates. Comparison rates not available in all states or situations. Prices vary based on how you buy.
[00:39:39] Jordan Harbinger: By the way, you can now rate the show on Spotify. Please do so if you have Spotify. All you have to do is search for The Jordan Harbinger Show in your Spotify app, on your phone. Doesn't work on desktop yet. Not sure why. When you search for the show, there'll be three dots in the upper right-hand corner, you click those, you click a rate show, and you give us the rating that hopefully, we deserve, or, you know, maybe a better one just to be nice.
[00:39:59] Now for the rest of my conversation with Jon Acuff.
[00:40:02] In the book, there's a lot of great stuff that unfortunately we don't have a lot of time for us. So I want to touch on some of it. You talk about making things fun in order to reward yourself. Do you motivate yourself using fear or reward? You go through that process. And you talk a lot about hiding places, emails, social media apps, money traps, creative energy vampires, noble obstacles, being one of those. And I want to jump back into that because you do have some types of noble obstacles that I think are quite funny, such as, "Okay, I need to eliminate all my distractions first," or the if/then. Can you go over — the if/then is actually funny because we all do this and it's ridiculous when you hear someone else do it. But when we do it, it's like, "Well, mine makes sense."
[00:40:42] Jon Acuff: So when you read it, what was your if/then? Like, did you have one that you were like, "This is an example of how I would do it."
[00:40:48] Jordan Harbinger: Actually, this is a great one. I wanted to start working out with somebody who — I won't name their names because I'm still friends with them. But I wanted to work out with them. And I worked out a bunch and I got in really good shape. I couldn't even hold onto the pull-up bar for more than like 30 seconds. I went to being able to do 30 some odd pull-ups in six months or a year. And I remember he had quit because I got better than him faster than he expected. And he was kind of leaning on me to be the less fit guy than him in this arrangement. And I remember asking him why. And he said, "Well, I really don't want to get too bulky. And I remember thinking you're at least 30 pounds overweight. If you're worried about bulk, it's not going to happen because you're hitting the gym too hard. That's for sure."
[00:41:28] Jon Acuff: So like another if/then, so the if/then is like, "If I do this, this bad thing will happen. So I'm actually being noble preventing it." So they'll go, "I'd love to start a business, but if I do, then I'll probably become a workaholic and my wife and I will get divorced. So in order to preserve our marriage, I can't start a business I've always wanted to." And the wife is usually not going, "Don't start it. We'll get a divorce." The husband is just afraid. Or they'll say, "If I start a podcast, I'll have to work on it like 900 hours a week and then I'll get fired." But yeah, the bulk up one where guys are like, "I don't want to have to buy new clothes," and you're like, "Homie, you were like five years from new clothes."
[00:42:05] A lot of the people that listen to this show are entrepreneurs or marketers. They'll say, "If I promote my book, then I'll become too promotional and I don't want to bother people. So I'll just hide it." And I always say, "That's great. Just next time write a diary, not a book." It's funny to me that some of my listeners, when I tweet this out, will go, "I didn't know he had a podcast. That's awesome," and you, on your end, might think, "I tell people about it all the time. How do you not know?" Every time I go to a city for an event and I say, "I'm coming Boston, I'm coming, I'm coming, I'm coming. I'm coming." And then inevitably the day after when I post a picture of the crowd, somebody goes, "I wish you had told us." And I feel like I overtold. And so like, you have to say, "Okay, do I have these weird if/thens that just aren't true?" A lot of the book is getting rid of the fake rules that really aren't honest.
[00:42:50] Jordan Harbinger: There is a lot of shaking off — what do you call it? Lying to ourselves is essentially what it is.
[00:42:56] Jon Acuff: Self-deception.
[00:42:57] Jordan Harbinger: Self-deception. Yeah, I knew there was a flashy term for it. And I want to make sure that people don't think, "Oh, it's a book where I'm just going to find out all these horrible things about myself and then feel bad," right? It's about replacing the habits.
[00:43:07] Jon Acuff: No, it's all about like, here's what to put in its place. Like the fear reward thing, it's not about saying, "Oh, you have the wrong form of motivation." It's about going, "Oh, the reason it's really hard is you're a bird trying to swim." Like imagine if you a bird flying, that would be amazing. That's what I think people get out of the book is they go, "For 10 years, I've been trying to be a fish. It turns out I'm a bird and I'm a pretty awesome bird. But my mom told me I was a fish. Hooray, now, I'm finishing things." But the best part is, as I tour with this book, people hand me the books they've written. I got a t-shirt the other night from somebody who was like, "I made a t-shirt company because I learned how to finish. This is my first product. Thanks for doing that." I love that. That's what's fun.
[00:43:47] Jordan Harbinger: Finishers make things easier and they make things simpler. That was something that I took away from the book. And you hammer that home pretty well. This is an important concept because we tend to throw obstacles and hurdles in our way, as we mentioned before. And sometimes they're time-based or sometimes they're task-based, but they're always going to be something that we'll throw in our way, whether it's an if/then or whether it's turning a garage cleaning into a 13-step project. And we have to figure out how to be honest with ourselves. And the book does a really good job of being more honest with ourselves. A lot of us, especially as entrepreneurs and things like that, where it's almost like we're trying to be miserable so that we feel like we're working harder or we're sticking with things we hate because it's part of this plan. One concept that would love to hear more about is the idea that perfectionism hates data. This is kind of the perfectionism kryptonite, data and measurement.
[00:44:42] Jon Acuff: It's amazing. And the reason it hates it is that it's realistic. And we're often told like, "Dream beyond bigger than your reality," or like, "Sometimes you've got to jump off a cliff and grow your wings on the way down." I'm like, "That's never how gravity works." With data, there's a couple of different examples, but I like to say data kills denial, which prevents disaster. So for instance, I launched something recently and I thought, "It's going to be huge. We launched it to 10,000 people. I'll get X percent of sales." Few people bought it on the first day. And fortunately, my business partner said, "Hey, remember, we always have a small percent on the first day. The last day is really where we close strong." And if he hadn't had that data, I would have been disappointed from the results.
[00:45:25] Data is not emotional. Data is your friend. Data just wants you to make the best decision. Like I counted calories for a month and I was shocked. The difference where like, I'd go to a steak restaurant and I'd say, "Can I have horseradish?" And they'd go, "Do you want the cream or raw?" And I'd go, "Bring both." I look it up. The cream was 220 calories. Raw was seven. We liked the idea that ignorance is bliss. "I can eat whatever without consequence," but data just goes, "Hey, just so we're clear. I want you to know this is what's what, and you just got to be careful." Data didn't ruin the meal for me. The calories existed, data just made sure I knew them.
[00:45:57] And I think entrepreneurs especially have a hard time. When an entrepreneur shows me their plan for growth and if I go, "Show me your sales from six months ago." And they go, "Ah, no, we're talking about the future. Not the past." I know there's no way, like you're doomed.
[00:46:11] Jordan Harbinger: I see this all the time and we talk about this with some of our entrepreneurial friends. We try not to be dicks about it, but basically you'll hear someone say something like, "Oh, well, you know, I have this. This is going to happen and this is going to happen and this is going to happen." And you go, "Okay," like you said, "Show me your sales data." This, isn't a wee-wee measuring contest. It's about going, "Okay, you're going to grow from what to what. We need realistic stuff here." And you know, if I ask, "How do I take my show from 3.8 million to 10 million?" It's a different question than someone else going, "Yeah, how do I get to 10 million?" And you go, "Oh, what are you at now?" "Well, I'm thinking of launching in three months." "Okay. Well, let's talk about this in eight to 10 years."
[00:46:45] Jon Acuff: Yeah, exactly. Or like I had a friend and he said — I won't mention his name, just like your weightlifter guy. So my friend was like, "Hey, I've got a rush finish my book. I won't have time for as much editing because I want to launch it at an event." And I said, "Well, how big is the event?" He said, "400 people." I said, "Okay, I sell 10 percent of a crowd, but let's say you're twice as good as me at selling. So you're going to sell 20 percent of the audience. So that means 80 books. You're going to make $5 a book. So just so we're clear, you're going to release a poor quality book that you have to live with for years to make $400. So after taxes, 280." And of course, he's like, "Oh, I didn't—" But the data is what tells you that. He was emotional like, "I got to launch it big."
[00:47:26] I guarantee you there's people that talk to you about launches like, "I really have to launch it on a certain day." And if you go, "But why? What if you added a week to the timeline and it was twice as good because you were able to Q and A?" and they go, "No, no, no. I want it. It's got to be on this Tuesday. We've been telling people." Then you go, "How many people did you tell? A hundred Twitter followers? But why?" Data tells you the truth.
[00:47:47] And I'm not a data guy naturally, like I've been an idiot most of my life where I will work a hundred percent harder on my exercise and not look at my calories at all. It wasn't until I started going, "I feel like I might be shooting myself in the foot with all this queso. I don't feel like this is helping." And then I looked at it. I was like, "I would have to run a marathon every day to eat what I've been eating." It's just helpful. And it's simple.
[00:48:09] Jordan Harbinger: So how do we get started with this? What I worry about is, "Oh, good. I need data," and then someone goes, "All right, I'm going to spend the next six months researching the type of data that I need. And then I'm going to find the best program to measure the data in and the best ways to measure it."
[00:48:21] Jon Acuff: Weigh one, weigh one to two things, like it'd be ironic to become a perfectionist reading a book against perfectionism. So I would say if you're at a business, find the easiest things you can measure. Numbers of times you worked out — let's do health real quick, numbers of times you worked out, distance you ran, what you ate, your pounds. Pick two that are easy to measure. Always do the easiest ones first. And here's why, once you get a little data, you get excited.
[00:48:46] Data is contagious, dude. I guarantee you started to look at data on your downloads and stuff like that and then you and your producer are like, "Dude, if we do better with two forms of data, imagine what would happen if we had four." Star with small, let it grow. Like I guarantee you didn't do a deep data dive right away. But now dude, it's fun. Like once you get a taste, you get hooked on data. So start small. If it's your business measure, revenue, expenses, the obvious things. I would beg you, beg you beg you don't invent new forms of data. Don't try to do 10 forms of data. You'll cripple yourself. You'll hate it from the beginning. Fall in love with one or two forms and make better decisions with it and then grow it over time.
[00:49:27] Jordan Harbinger: I can relate to podcasting quite easily. There are a lot of people — since we're on the subject, I'm not obsessed with this topic, I swear. But they'll start their show and they'll go, "100 downloads. This is great. Everybody's got to start somewhere." The next week, 200 downloads. "This is amazing at this rate, we're going to be at a hundred thousand downloads in X number of months," and then week three, it's like 212 downloads. And they're like, "Oh," and then the week after that, it's, "Well, our feature expired. And then, we sort of stopped the promo blitz so it's at 175." And then the next week after that, it's one 50 and they go, "Yeah, screw this."
[00:49:58] Jon Acuff: But I would say, especially at the beginning, your data should lead to better decisions, not more shame. So, if you find yourself measuring something that makes you hate what you're doing, it's the wrong thing to measure. The goal of data is to provide you with information so you can make amazing decision. You know, you find the points of data that you go, "Okay, when I do this thing, it's so much better for me. When I know this, or when I tweeted this time, or when I focus on this one thing, it's so much better for me." Because the problem with the person you described the fictional person is they never reach out.
[00:50:29] That's the other thing about your emotions. Your emotions and perfectionism go, "You're the only podcast or that ever saw dip in the third month. And this is indicative that it's time to quit." Most people won't go, "I'm going to shoot a podcast guy I like a question and he's going to respond back and go, 'Welcome to the party.'"
[00:50:43] Here's an example. My daughter is 14. She started an Instagram page. She just started a photo based one. She's got a new camera. She wants to do photography. She invited her friends from the one page to join the others. She said, "Dad, a hundred people saw it. Only one followed me." And I got to say to her, "Welcome to social media." There's so many authors I know that go, "We're speaking to a hundred people today, probably sell 80 books." And I'm like, "That's adorable. You think 80 percent of the crowd is going to do that." Or like, I got an email list of 10,000 people probably have like 9,000 open it, maybe 8,000 click through. And you're like, "Yeah, yeah, yeah, dude. That's what we're all doing." This is no lie. I had somebody send out an email for 150,000 people. It wasn't my list. It was somebody else's list. And I was like, "Dude, how many books did it sell?" He said seven. And I was like, "Like 700?" He was like, "No. Seven. As in one more than six, one less than eight.".
[00:51:34] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, that's scary actually all those stats there. I want to wrap with this though, because I love the meta and the zoom out when people aren't finishing something, a lot of it's perfectionism, a lot of it is what we're mentioning here, but I think the unasked question is, what value are we getting out of not finishing? Because at some level quitting, not finishing, leaving things on the table has to outweigh the value of actually finishing.
[00:51:59] Jon Acuff: I think that sometimes people, if they're honest would say, "By not finishing, I never have to get criticized." You know, Jordan, if I work on a book for 10 years and I never publish it, I never have random strangers on the Internet telling me I'm dumb. That's the thing.
[00:52:14] There's this great section from Chaucer and it's this story of this guy who builds a boat and he builds boats. He's amazing, but he always tears them apart at the last second. And they go, "Why does he do that?' And they say, "Well, he's afraid of the water." Like, and if he finishes the boat, he actually has to get in and go out into the water and it terrifies him. If you're afraid of criticism, you'll almost launch a podcast. You'll almost write a book. You'll almost start a business. But then right at the last second, you won't. So that's part of it. Part of it is if you're always working on it, people will give you credit for being like, you're such a hard worker and you never actually have to produce.
[00:52:47] Or sometimes what people get out of not finishing is they look noble to the people. So they go, "I don't want to be so busy, so I just kind of accept this small life," and people go, "You're such a good dad," and they don't realize you're teaching your kid, you shouldn't chase your dreams. If you've been struggling with something for a while, you owe it to yourself to ask that question and be kind to yourself with the answer. That the answer isn't designed to make you feel like, "I knew I was a loser. That's what I'm getting out of it is I get to be a loser." The question is designed to give you some information that you can then operate on.
[00:53:19] Jordan Harbinger: Jon, thank you so much. Brilliant, I love it. The book title is Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done.
[00:53:27] I've got some thoughts on this episode, but before I get into that, I wanted to give you a preview of one of my favorite stories from an earlier episode of the show with Jonna Mendez. She was the chief of disguise for the CIA in Moscow during the latter part of the Cold War. We'd really get into the weeds and how they hid people and hide spy gear in one of the most hostile espionage environments, anywhere in the world.
[00:53:48] Jonna Mendez: We invented technology that didn't even exist yet. The small batteries, for instance, they're in our watches and our phones and all of that stuff today .
[00:53:56] Jordan Harbinger: You're kind of like Q from James Bond, but it's the CIA.
[00:54:00] Jonna Mendez: We could create any kind of character over your face, masks that came out of Hollywood. We'd say, "Great. Go down to the cafeteria and have lunch." This was at CIA headquarters where everybody knows everybody in the cafeteria and they would go and discover that no one paid any attention to them. You go, "Wow, I'm hiding in plain sight."
[00:54:20] They were following us just every minute. The case officer would step out of the car. The driver would hit a button. This dummy would pop up wearing the same clothes as the guy that had just left. Trailing surveillance would come around the corner and then they follow that car all night. They never knew.
[00:54:37] And if they could get to those people, they would execute them. They were feeding people into these crematoriums feet first alive.
[00:54:44] Jordan Harbinger: Unbelievable.
[00:54:45] Jonna Mendez: A really valuable agent said, "I'll work for you on one condition. And that is that you give me the ability to take my own life." Eventually, everybody got arrested, so they arrested him and we had put that L pill we gave him in the cap of the Montblanc pen. It was cyanide and he knew where it was. And they said, "We want you to write your confession." So they brought him his Montblanc pen.
[00:55:08] Jordan Harbinger: For more with Jonna Mendez, including some incredible spy stories that will really perk your ears, check out episode 344 of The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:55:16] Jon is such an interesting, funny guy. Obviously, the book was also funny. There's a lot we left out that's included in the book as well. He's a very self-aware guy. He knows how to get himself to do stuff like writing three best-selling books. So I'm inclined to trust him at least when it comes to perfectionism. And what's really funny about the examples here is I don't care who you are when you read these, you go, "Oh yeah, I've done that. Ah, I've done that too. Oh, there's a system for that." I mean, it's that there's this almost universal tendency to, at least, procrastinate or some level of perfectionism, I think, especially among overachievers, like frankly, many of you listening to the show right now. So a big thank you to Jon Acuff.
[00:55:54] Links to all things Jon Acuff will be in our show notes at jordanharbinger.com. Please use the website links when you buy books from any of our guests. It does help support the show. Transcripts are in the show notes. Advertisers and deals and discount codes, all at jordanharbinger.com/deals. I'm at @JordanHarbinger on both Twitter and Instagram or connect with me on LinkedIn.
[00:56:15] I'm teaching you how to connect with amazing folks and how to manage your relationships using the same systems, software, and tiny habits that I use every single day. It's our Six-Minute Networking course. It's free. I don't need your payment information. None of that nonsense. It's all at jordanharbinger.com/course. I'm teaching you how to dig the well before you get thirsty and build relationships before you need them. Frankly, most of the guests you hear on the show also subscribe and contribute to the course. So come join us, you'll be in smart company.
[00:56:42] This show is created in association with PodcastOne. My team is Jen Harbinger, Jase Sanderson, Robert Fogarty, Millie Ocampo, Ian Baird, Josh Ballard, and Gabriel Mizrahi. Remember, we rise by lifting others. The fee for this show is that you share it with friends when you find something useful or interesting. You know somebody who's a perfectionist, has a little bit of that planning fallacy, never gets anything done, share this episode with them. I'm sure they will eventually listen and then eventually thank you. The greatest compliment you can give us is to share the show with those you care about. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show, so you can live what you listen, and we'll see you next time.
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