Avoiding One Great Temptation Every New Dream Faces

This is a guest post by Jon Acuff, the author of Quitter: Closing the Gap Between Your Day Job and Your Dream Job. He is also the author of Stuff Christians Like. He is a blogger and active on Twitter and Facebook. If you want to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.

A month ago I was on the radio with Dave Ramsey. And I was terrified.

Two Runners, One Ahead of the Other - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/Squaredpixels, Image #13951814

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/Squaredpixels

Not because of him. He’s an incredibly kind interviewer, warm and funny and gregarious in person. It wasn’t the subject matter that had me scared. We were talking about my new book Quitter: Closing the Gap Between Your Day Job and Your Dream Job. I love to talk about that. So why was I so sweaty, nervous and awkward during the interview?

I stink at being on the radio.

Although I love public speaking, the radio is a completely different animal. There might be millions of people listening—and in Dave’s case there are—but, in that room, it’s just me and him. There’s no audience to react to, no crowd energy to bounce around with, no playground of a stage to soar around on.

So I freeze. I choke up. I go way beyond the “Red Zone protection” the Old Spice Guy has assured me would make me as cool as the Matterhorn in such moments.

After our segment, I talked to Blake, Dave’s producer, and said, “I don’t know how he does it every day. He’s like Michael Jordan in there. Unbelievable. That’s hard!” Without even swiveling in his chair, Blake dropped a bomb on me:

“True, but remember, you’re seeing 17 years of practice and hard work and mastery.”

I wanted to hug Blake in that moment, but it’s awkward to hug people when they’re seated and you’re standing. It never goes well. So instead I thought I would tell you the principle I heard in Blake’s comment:

“Never compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.”

One of the great temptations for us as leaders and dreamers is to compare the start of our new adventures to the middle of someone else’s. You work on your first book and pick up Max Lucado’s 14th book and say, “Mine isn’t as good.” You post your first blog post and look at Michael Hyatt’s 100th and think, “Mine is nowhere near as great as that.” You give your first speech and watch Ken Robinson’s 1,000th at TED and think, “I’m not great like that.”

It’s true. You’re not. Yet.

This is just your beginning. Give yourself the gift of time. Love your dream and your adventure enough to allow it to grow slowly. Don’t be like me, sitting sweaty in a radio chair across from Dave Ramsey, beating yourself up and saying, “I’m nowhere near as good at being on the radio as he is.”

Of course I’m not! He’s been doing it for 17 years, and I’ve been on his show twice. I’m just getting my start, and maybe you are too. Go slow. Get better over time. And never compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.

I gave away 50 copies of Quitter. To qualify, my readers had to comment below. You can find the list of winners here.
Question: Have you ever felt doubtful about beginning a new dream or adventure? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • Jennifer Armitage

    I agree with Artie- “Never compare your beginning to someone else’s middle” is just good stuff applicable to business, ministry and our faith. 

  • carolina girl

     Great blog post!  Can’t wait to read your new book!

  • Holly

     What an awesome impactful statement….“Never compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.”  Thanks for sharing that.

  • Anonymous

    Great post Jon.  There are many times where I “expect” to be as good as they guy who has mastered something on my first go around and it makes no sense.  I think pushing yourself to be the best is awesome, but unreasonable expectations can set us up for failure. 

  • Ampschafer

    I almost always tend to doubt whatever it is I am doing, whether it is a new job, moving, vacation spots, etc. What I have learned over the years is that whatever decision I make, if it isn’t working out, or I discover halfway through that I didn’t listen and discern God’s voice correctly in my decision making, that I can top, turn around, and head the other way.  God’s grace always allows for us to turn back and head in a different direction. Realizing this has made me more bold in making decisions and starting new adventures, especially those I would not have taken before understanding God’s grace.

  • http://twitter.com/jonnydock Jonathan K

    Great post, John!

    My wife and I are just getting started in the ministry as a missionaries to Paraguay, South America.  As part of our support raising process, we are beginning to speak to groups and share our testimony and call.  I have been hesitant about the process and making phone calls because of the fear that I am not a good speaker.  But, the groups that we have already spoken to went well.  So, I am learning that this concept of “comparing” my self to others who are more experienced is useless.  As hard as it is, I just need to let God lead me through this growing process.

  • Kla

    I was laid off last year & spent all day, every day at my computer looking for jobs, tweaking my resume, & writing cover letters. After a few months of that, I was worried that no one would ever hire me. So I hired myself. I decided to start a freelance web design business. And, yes, I had my doubts that I could pull it off, but I got a couple clients & started slowly. Then, after a few more months, I got hired by a big company & I took the regular paycheck. However, I’d love to be able to qit & really give the freelance thing a whirl. I think I could do it. I need Jon’s book.

  • Adam

    YES!  I am getting ready to go back to school to pursue my MBA.  I’m 31 years old and I haven’t been in a classroom in 9 years.  I bet they have really nice robot teachers now . . . I”m nervous that I am going to fail miserably and disappoint myself, my wife, and my son.  My son is only 16 months old and wouldn’t know the difference, but in my head he would look at me with those soft eyes and would say “C-?? come on dad I thought you were smarter than that. . . . .guess not”.  And then I would curl up in a ball and die. 

  • Louise James

    “Do not dwell on what might have been but work upon your dreams”
    Harley Lovegrove

  • http://twitter.com/Dan_Eberhard Dan Eberhard

     Jon Acuff is a great writer and I am excited to read this book Quitter. 
    I have definitely felt doubtful about starting a new dream/adventure.
    As I am preparing to finish up school, internship, and getting married I am overwhelmed a bit as we are looking to navigate through this time and trying figure out where we are going to live, work, and ultimately start our lives together. The quote from Jon “Never compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.” This is something that is easy to fall into but this is such a good reminder for all of us. Understanding that we are just beginning and yes we should do all that we can to improve but we must not forget that we cannot compare ourselves to someone else because each of our lives are so different! Thanks for the encouragement.

    I would love to have a chance to read this book and today is my birthday! 

  • Cheryl Floyd

    I doubt that I have anything new to bring to the table. What can I blog, write, speak about, teach on, that hundreds haven’t done in the past and thousands aren’t doing right now? And yet, it’s still the desire of my heart. Did God put it there? I will know when he brings it to pass I guess! :) 

  • Drew

    I feel like this everyday, on this adventure I am on.  where’s the path?  where did that limb come from that i just tripped over?  am I heading in the right direction?

  • Mtd430

    Jon, I have the feeling that a book like this will completely change my life for the better. Can’t wait to read it!

  • Mary

     I love that. I’m moved to tears, almost. You guys, Dave and YOU, Jon, are wonderful, inspiring. Try to remember that.  I personally always feel stupid/incompetent/inarticulate/choose-your-own-word-here when I present ideas or teach or write.  Like, even leaving this post.  So, I might even go back to my own blog, where I have written at least four times over the past as many years.  No, that was not a mistake.  God bless you and your willingness to hang out.  

  • http://twitter.com/findo Andrew Finden

     I’m not sure I’ve felt doubtful – I’m just starting my first career (as an opera singer – which is a bit nuts) but I guess I’m a little naive and foolhardy.. I get more nervous about meeting new people – not because I don’t like people, but I’m shy.

  • Jennifer Bast

    Absolutely! I am a singer/songwriter and worship leader. I have only written a few songs and I struggle to write more because I compare myself with Paul Baloche, Chris Tomlin, Nathan and Christy Nockels etc.  I am my own worst enemy. I know that my insecurities hold me back more than anything when it comes to living out my calling. This post was very encouraging. Thanks!

  • Christopher Scott

     I typically just jump in with both feet, lose my motivation and give it up. I seem to never be content or if I am, it doesn’t last long. I’ve started blogs that end up with one post. I get a new job and am ready to leave within a couple years to find something completely different.

    I’m always doubtful, especially since my track record shows I will likely not follow through.

  • Anonymous

    Have I ever felt doubtful about beginning a new dream or adventure?  It is human nature to feel a little doubt, but then you just do it. In my opinion and experience, the doubt comes later.  When I am 4 weeks or 4 months into a new adventure, I sometimes wonder if it will all work out, will it all be worth it. Working through this late-doubt can be challenging, but confidence, prayer, and community all make it work out — one way or another!

  • http://twitter.com/mkokc Mike Koehler

     Doubt washes over me daily as I work towards a great dream. But what can you do? Pray, get up, dry yourself off and keep hustling. John is a nice walking, talking inspiration who has surrounded himself with great leaders like Dave and Michael. 

  • Jsbguin

    Yes, I am in the process of that transition now. I am looking to transfer from one type of ministry to another.  I love what I do but feel that I am not maximizing the talents that God has given me. At that same time, I wonder if the new adventure will allow me to accomplish the plan that God has in store for me. I have been doubtful about the whole process but I know that God is ultimately in control and will open the doors that I need to best serve in his kingdom.   

  • http://twitter.com/DanaMNelson Dana Nelson

     Have you ever felt doubtful about beginning a new dream or adventure? Always. Every change no matter how exciting or great or wanted is terrifying on so many levels. What if I screw it up? What if I just flat out fail? What if I disappoint (insert name)? But I have been brave (stupid) enough to continue even with the failures, to stumble onto the path of learning. Have you ever felt doubtful about beginning a new dream or adventure? Always. Every change no matter how exciting or great or wanted is terrifying on so many levels. What if I screw it up? What if I just flat out fail? What if I disappoint (insert name)? But I have been brave (stupid) enough to continue even with the failures, to stumble onto the path of learning. 

  • http://randerings.blogspot.com Dawn

    Starting anything new is terrifying to me – but I am slowly learning to not compare myself to others and that is helping.  I love how you put it – I am going to hang that somewhere where I can see it … a lot.

  • http://twitter.com/EricaCGrace Erica Ohnesorgen

    I am in the midst of that doubt right now, actually. Since I moved to Nashville, I had to give up on one of my biggest dreams from childhood..and that was music. Having had no steady job since 2007 when I left Florida, I had ended up selling my precious Fender Acoustic Guitar AND my piano…I figured the dream was just a dream so I let go of it. Now, I am pursuing another dream while trying to work a full time job and the doubt…well, whispers, if not screams daily. It’s hard. Real hard to try and dream a new dream…

  • Deneen

    I really needed to read this…I’m sure it may sound cliche, but I’m in the beginning stages of a job, being involved in a new church plant. Some days, everything inside of me wants to quit, but I know I can’t.

  • http://twitter.com/scottflak STF

    sure doubt tries to cloud what your desire it is to do.    

  • http://twitter.com/altoccb Linda Holland

    My new adventure is becoming Coordinator of Connectional Ministries and Communication for the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church.  Started the job on April 4…storms ravaged the state on April 27.  I was a bit doubtful in the beginning, but as our team rose to the challenges brought to us by the storms, my doubts flew out the window.  Amazing how a crisis quickly defines roles.  God showed me how all our gifts and talents were specifically meant for this time and place and for His purpose.  He amazes me as does the Body of Christ at work during difficult times.

  • Merna

    I’m totally in the middle of doubt right now, wanting to start a new adventurous dream.  I keep staring at the pool and walking around it, terrified to wade in but wanting to….badly! 

  • http://twitter.com/WillDoggett WillDoggett

    With every “big” new dream I face, The place I’m supposed to go/thing I’m supposed to do is the one that takes me the furthest from my comfort zone. In a way it’s staring right into the eyes of “The Resistance” and going where you feel the most fear. Ultimately it tends to be at that place that I have to rely the most on God. 

  • Rex H

     Yes. I’m a pastor who at one point knew that God was moving me on to a new ministry, but because of my nice income, friendships and I ignored it for about two years. Those doubts and fears nearly ruined me and my marriage! Today, I pastor a small church…I’m bi-vocational and couldn’t be happier! Not a day goes by that I don’t thank God for giving me the courage to finally move on to something completely new and adventurous! ! 

  • Bobby

    Just today I heard a great quote about doubt from Steven Futick.  He said “the greatest doubt you’ll face in chasing your dream will be yourself.”  So true.  So YES, I have felt doubtful about starting a new dream, especially concerning stepping out to plant our next campus/church.

  • http://twitter.com/TheRydens chelsea and clayton

     Absolutely. I grew up with a drive and desire to design and art direct for a major magazine title. But through a turn of events I ended up in non-profit. Then I felt a push to drop my title and start from the bottom at a Christian events organization. This was slightly different from my internship at RollingStone magazine. I think whenever your plans for your life and God’s plans for your life differ that much, anxiety and doubt can take hold. When the people around me questioned my decision, I started to think I might just be crazy. After making the jump I can say, without a doubt, I made the right choice and the joy it has brought is unexplainable.

  • Jason

     I wish my answer to the question was, “No!”  If it were, I probably wouldn’t need a copy of the book… but I am tempted to quit on my dream (in fact, I was reading Maxwell’s new book today, and wrote in the margin, “Thank God for this book… I was about to throw in the towel on this whole dream thing!).  Thanks for doing what you do John… I caught a portion of your blog today about the advice a church planter should receive.  Our dream is to plant again (my wife and me that is)… but we’re afraid because of the disappointment we often face in ministry (even the disappointment of being laid off from a plant recently).  We’re being stirred by God’s call to plant again… thanks for the forum to open up and dream again!

    Jason

  • Korimeyers

    Yes I’ve been doubtful! 4 years ago after being a stay at home mom for years i went back to school and got my Master’s degree in counselung. After a year of looking for a job and not finding one, I am opening my own private practice June 1st. I’m still a little doubtful and scared but I am excited to take this leap and live my dream.

  • Kristid

    I’m there right now.  I have been debating even leaving a comment because if I were to actually win a book, I would have a bit more difficulty finding an excuse to stay where I’m at.    That is a bit terrifying for me.  I have had numerous people tell me I need to write a book.  I don’t even want to hit publish on my blog!  I find myself a bit too comfortable in my ‘situation’ as a single mom (i.e. victim)…using it as an excuse to stay ‘stuck’.  I don’t want to be ‘here’ anymore, but the fear of taking a step where I might fail again keeps me immobilized.  I know your focus is leadership.  My life and focus was my husband….supporting him, seeing him succeed and raising our eight beautiful children.  I  want to find a purpose outside of him…to be able to see the sun shining bright, even if he is not in it.  I want to step out and learn to live again.

  • http://twitter.com/Mom2HalfDozen Karen Stevens

     YES!  Our family has decided to homeschool starting this fall.  I’ll have 1 in middle school, 2 in 2nd grade, 1 in 1st grade, 1 three-year-old, and 1 two-year old.  “Doubtful” hardly covers it but, yes, you could say that I’m doubtful.  AND, I’m traveling internationally as a short-term missionary this summer with my husband and 6 of our church friends.  Not only have I never traveled outside of a few states, I’ve also never done anything under the title of “missionary”.  I’m definitely in a season of being doubtful about lots of things….

  • cur3t

     “Never compare your beginning to someone else’s middle,” is liberating for so many who wish to attempt to do great things and look to others like Francis Chan, Franklin Graham, and Tony Campolo and think, ‘I’m just not that good…’.
    The two times I have seen Jon live he is a great communicator who told us, “I’ve given away in my blogs enough to fill five books. If you want to write, write and think about publishing later.”

    Once again great stuff from both Jon and you Michael!

  • http://twitter.com/scheidj Joshua Scheid

    Five months ago today, I finished my last exam of my first semester of seminary. Five months ago tomorrow, I finished my last breath as a bachelor and began second most significant adventure of my life: I got married (the greatest adventure has been following Christ into God’s story). I looked with envy upon the many fruitful, faithful marriages that have inspired me and the pressure – this calling of marriage – had me feeling like a firefly under an elephant’s descending foot. Five months later, adjusting to marriage hasn’t been every bit of bliss; but the beautiful blessing of marriage is learning to love. We remain grounded in the wisdom of our marriage mentors and confident to continue our new adventure together!

  • Melissa

    I am actually feeling doubtful right now – I’m a 40 yr old single mom of a 15yo daughter, I work full time, and for some crazy reason I just applied to college. It’s something I’ve wanted to go back and do well at this time for almost 20 yrs. Doubt creeps in and I find myself asking myself “Can you really buckle down and do it this time? Do you really think you can fit this into your already too full schedule and be successful at this? Are you flipping crazy?”. Still, here goes nothing! I’m praying I get in!!!

  • http://twitter.com/melissahatfield Melissa Hatfield

     I feel doubtful all the time.  My feet like solid ground but my heart wants to soar.  As time continues, the war between the two has grown in intensity and although I fear sometimes that my heart will fling me over the edge,  I am more fearful that my feet will win….

  • Trusthimtochangeyou

    I’ve got the dream, just in the waiting phase for a few more things to find eir place for the dream to become a reality.
    Can’t wait to check out this book.

  • http://twitter.com/CalebMcNary Caleb McNary

     I think for me the doubts about pursuing a dream come when I’ve sold out for a dream only to fail pretty spectacularly! Sure there are tons of lessons that come from failing, but its hard to regain confidence for the next go, and not walk in intimidation or fear.

  • bill

    we need to bulid a new building but I want to quit before we even get started :( 

  • Laurie

    Oh yeah – not just in the big things either. I get even “tweet anxiety” when I compare what I have to say to yours! :-) Love your stuff though.

  • Tammy

    Yes, blogging is one of those areas for me. It’s easy to look at successful blogs that have taken off and compare mineto them. The quote is profound. Thanks for sharing your experience on the radio, John.

  • B. Robb

     Thank you @mhyatt:disqus for allowing @jonacuff:disqus to share about his new book with us. It is much appreciated. Training to be a pastor, the concepts in this post are things I often deal with. It is so easy to look at those who have been at it for years and say, “Wow, this pastor, this musician, this minister or leader is so great at what they do. Why am I not being more effective? Why am I not having more of an impact? Looking at them and their influence, do I really have what it takes to pursue my dream/vision for ministry and leadership?”  Sometimes this can be discouraging.  At times, it would be so easy to let some dreams go, simply because it doesn’t seem like I am “as good as that guy.”  I think that a lot of young leaders, like myself, can relate to this.  I have big vision for ministry and I know many others in the same boat. I would love to learn how to better deal with this temptation to quit and how to pursue my dreams in the midst of disappointments and discouragement and I hope to be able to share my learning experiences with others to encourage them in pursuing their dreams as well, therefore I feel this book would be an incredible resource.  Thank you again for sharing with us! to share about his new book with us. It is much appreciated. Training to be a pastor, the concepts in this post are things I often deal with. It is so easy to look at those who have been at it for years and say, “Wow, this pastor, this musician, this minister or leader is so great at what they do. Why am I not being more effective? Why am I not having more of an impact? Looking at them and their influence, do I really have what it takes to pursue my dream/vision for ministry and leadership?”  Sometimes this can be discouraging.  At times, it would be so easy to let some dreams go, simply because it doesn’t seem like I am “as good as that guy.”  I think that a lot of young leaders, like myself, can relate to this.  I have big vision for ministry and I know many others in the same boat. I would love to learn how to better deal with this temptation to quit and how to pursue my dreams in the midst of disappointments and discouragement and I hope to be able to share my learning experiences with others to encourage them in pursuing their dreams as well, therefore I feel this book would be an incredible resource.  Thank you again for sharing with us!

  • B. Robb

     Sorry my post somehow posted my comment one on top of the other.

  • DK Daniel Kim

    This is such great wisdom.  What a post!   The “professionals” can make us want to give up right away or strive to become better, more than ever before.  The latter takes place when we remember that it’s not fair to compare someone’s middle to our beginning.

  • Anonymous

    I’m starting something new… Again.

    After founding and failing a non-profit, I’m embarking on the quest of writer/speaker guy. Like yourself, I question my performance all the time. Most recently, things haven’t progressed as easily as I thought they should. Is it me? Am I really doing the right thing? Do I deserve this? Will I screw it up? – all of these questions deeply reveal my focus on self. Ultimately, I’ve connected to a deeper understanding of one simple fact: this is not about me. I have to trust that in every move, every word, and every effort, I’m simply expressing who He has made me to be. Not who I’ve made me to be. It’s really taken a lot of pressure off and helped me to enjoy the process… And the journey. Thanks for the transparency. And the reminder.

  • David

    I’ve already quoted this: “Never compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.” Thanks for that.

    Answer to question: Yes. The church we started 7 years ago took us 3 year before we finally decided to move ahead. Fear crept in a few times, plus discerning timing, etc. Finally did. Moving forward ever since.

    I’m presently deciding to finish an MA degree I started before the church plant – discerning that step and will likely move on it in the next 6-10 months.

  • Tami Shields

     My most recent collide with doubt when stepping into a career long dream came this past January when I left a classroom of 22 1st graders only to take on the 65+ teachers in my school as an Academic Coach. I’m still not sure I am the right person for the job but I am trusting that my principal knows what she was doing when she asked me to take the position. I am also trusting that through study and perseverance, I will become the Academic Coach my principal thinks I am and the one my peers need., I will become the Academic Coach my principal thinks I am and the one my peers need.