Jon Acuff’s self-help book fails to inspire

startNow. Right now. It is time to begin the trek on the path of working on all of those dreams and goals you have been putting off. Remember those dreams you have placed on a dusty shelf in a dark corner of your mind because you thought they were impossible or you were too scared to try? Do it now!

Or at least, that is the message you might assume to be the focus of Jon Acuff’s recent New York Times bestseller book called Start. But when reading the book, you begin to wonder when he will start getting to the point.

Classic motivational writers and self-help authors like Dale Carnegie, Norman Vincent Peale, Zig Ziglar, and even modern writers like Joel Olsteen and Dave Ramsey have set the bar high in the genre of self-help books. Jon Acuff hasn’t yet reached that bar.

Acuff puts a new spin on the self-help and motivational book genre with a simple style and a lot of humor. Unfortunately, there are many things annoying about this book, one of the many things being that he’s just not funny.

When someone picks up and buys a self-help or motivational book they want to be inspired, but the reader may wonder through the first half of Start if Acuff even believes in himself. He doesn’t write with confidence. Why listen to a motivational speaker who does not even have confidence in himself? How is he going to stir that motivation up in his audience?

Acuff claims to lead his readers on the path to “awesome.” He invites his readers to look out at the horizon from the top of an imaginary tower to the lands of Learning, Editing, Mastering, Harvesting, and Guiding, which are the titles of the main chapters.

Another irritating aspect of the book includes the language, which lacks a natural rhythm and resorts to simple words like “awesome” so many times that it makes one want to throw the book across the room. Acuff’s attempts at humor also rely on sarcasm and constant reference to pop culture.

The book would easily be cut in half without every use of the word “awesome”, the endless attempts to make a joke, and the many occasions on which Acuff veers off-topic.

Also, Acuff insists throughout the book that he is a Christian. But besides occasionally mentioning his mission work, he never quotes scripture, discusses Christian values, or talks about how God wants the best for you in your life. He never seems to approach topics from a Christian angle in his book.

At times, the author does bring out some good points. Acuff tells the reader to find their passions and, if you have several, to go with the one you enjoy the most or just pick one and not to let indecision block your path. “You can’t be “anything you want,” but you can be something even better: the best version of you. That’s always more enjoyable than trying to force yourself to be something you weren’t designed to be,” writes Acuff.

Midway through the book, Acuff finally gets serious and actually makes those good points. If he would stay serious and focused throughout, the book would have been much better.

The old saying “don’t judge a book by its cover” was never more true than for this book, since the cover screams at you to pick it up with its bold and intelligent cover.

A simple design that stands out with the word “Start” written in a bold red contrasting the white background. The full title on the cover is Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average, Do work that Matters, Start, with a picture of a switch that has been moved from the words “average” to “awesome.”

The bold and in your face cover may deceive prospect buyers because Acuff’s writing is not bold or dramatic at all. The visuals may display the change from “average to awesome” as easy and exciting, but the author’s writing does not imply that at all. As easy of a read as the book is, one may struggle to finish because it is so dull and boring.

This is not Acuff’s first book or attempt at writing. Acuff is probably best known for his blog Stuff Christians Like, which inspired his first book by the same name. He also wrote the Wall Street Journal best seller Quitter: Closing the Gap Between Your Day Job and Your Dream Job.

Acuff joined Dave Ramsey’s team in 2010 as a full time author and speaker, and mentions this several times in the text. Clearly, Acuff idolizes Ramsey, to the point where Acuff even used his Facebook to repost an Amazon review someone wrote of his book calling it “a love letter to Dave Ramsey.”

Unfortunately, that’s just not what most people are looking for in a motivational book.

Overall, readers looking for motivation to start a project or help with pursuing a goal would be better off starting somewhere else.

– James Osborne, Contributing Writer


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