CNLP 009: Why Work Is Such a Struggle, Social Media and Narcissism — An Interview with Jon Acuff

Why is it that so many of us struggle with work? Does everyone have a dream job? And does social media and leadership make you narcissistic?

Just a few of the issues we touch on today as I interview New York Times Best selling author and social media expert Jon Acuff.

These are just a few of the issues we touch on today as I interview New York Times best-selling author and social media expert Jon Acuff.

AND, don’t miss my  podcast contest! Make sure you enter today. 

Scroll all the way to the bottom to enter this week’s prize—free autographed copies of my book, Leading Change Without Losing It AND Jon Acuff’s Stuff Christians Like—and be entered to win the grand prize: admission to the Orange Conference 2015, plus coffee with me and Jon.

Welcome to Episode 9 of the podcast.


Guest Links: Jon Acuff

Jon on Twitter

Jon on Facebook

Dreamers and Builders (Jon’s Facebook group) (Jon’s satirical blog on Christian culture) (Jon’s blog on getting unstuck in your work)

Gazelles, Baby Steps, and 37 Other Things Dave Ramsey Taught Me about Debt

Quitter: Closing the Gap Between Your Day Job & Your Dream Job   

Start: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average and Do Work that Matters

Do Over: Rescue Monday, Reinvent Your Work, and Never Get Stuck (Jon’s new book coming out April 7, 2015)

Preorder on Amazon

Preorder on Barnes & Noble

Preorder on Books-A-Million

A Free eBook from Jon Acuff

This week, Jon Acuff is giving away a free e-book to you.

Text “GRIT” to 38470 to get a digital copy of The Grit Decisions: How to Make a Decision Involving Grit

Links Mentioned in This Episode

The Orange Tour

Donald Miller

Andy Stanley

Orange (Reggie Joiner‘s next generation ministry)

Worldwide, Only 13% of employees are engaged at Work (2014 Gallup Poll)

Comeback Kid (That’s My Dog)” by Brett Dennen

Dave Ramsey

Check out the podcast archive for previous episodes with guests like Andy Stanley and Perry Noble:

3 Things You Can Do Right Away

You don’t have to be miserable in your career, and what you’re passionate about is subject to change. As one seeks to evolve and explore their God-given talents, he may find himself feeling vulnerable to failure, but that’s OK! Jon talks to us about how to paddle through turbulent transitions.

1. Take responsibility for yourself. Jon said that he was a “serial quitter,” always bouncing from job to job when he got bored after being in a position for less than a year. After much self reflection, Jon realized that the common denominator among all of these “bad jobs” was him. The best-selling author says that when it comes to work, you control a lot more than you think, and you don’t control a lot more than you think. It’s about figuring out where that tension is. You may need to hustle on your attitude, not just your abilities.

2. Give yourself grace and freedom to explore your gift, and acknowledge that fear will come. So many times we ask ourselves, “How do I know what God wants me to do? How do I know what his will is for my life?” We expect God to give us a list of things to do, but He won’t do that. God wants us to rely on Him, to have a relationship with Him, not depend on a list. God is a lamp onto our path, not a lamp onto our mile. His mercies are new every morning, not every year. Sometimes we think that being afraid is failure, but it’s actually staying afraid that’s failure. Know that it’s going to be difficult, and that’s ok.

3. Discover your gift within community. Don’t try to go at it alone. We are often the worst judges at the things we are good at. The talent we have trouble recognizing is our own. When you grow up with a gift, and it comes natural to you, you assume that everyone can do it. You disrespect it. You need relationships that hold up a mirror to tell you, “You really come alive when you (gift goes here).” Community is a big part of figuring out the conversation of your calling versus trying to figure it out on your own. We need people; we need safe people. Join with the people experiencing some of the same things you are.

Quotes to Share from Jon

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Got a question?

Next Episode: Ron Edmondson

Think your church can’t change? Think again. Next week, Ron Edmondson, blogger and pastor, joins us to talk about how to navigate change in a church or organization with a long history.

Enter HERE to Win Coffee with Jon and Me & a Ticket to Orange Conference 2015 & More!

Win a prize every week with our first ever listener contest! When you enter by leaving a comment in the show notes of the blog, it’s also your ballot to win the grand prize. This week’s prize is an autographed copy of Leading Change Without Losing It.

The grand prize, which will be drawn a few weeks from now, is a free ticket to The Orange Conference 2015 in Atlanta in April of next year. Not only does it get you in for free, but you get a coffee with me and Jon Acuff backstage!

We are selecting the grand prize winner from all of the comments shared over the next few weeks so you can enter multiple times by participating each week. And each week one person will win the book of the week. This week’s prize is free autographed copies of my book, Leading Change Without Losing It AND Jon Acuff’s Stuff Christians Like.

So…enter to win by answering this week’s question ­­– 

What is one factor that has positively changed your attitude toward work?

Scroll down, leave a comment.

Your comment is your ballot for this week’s prize AND the grand prize of a  free ticket to Orange Conference 2015 and coffee with Jon and me. Go!


  1. Rodney Dobbs on November 26, 2014 at 4:21 pm

    When I started focusing on how I can have an impact on other people and not just the task at hand.

  2. Robert Morris on November 25, 2014 at 4:23 pm

    The one factor that has positively changed my attitude about work happened a few years ago for me. I listened to my pastor talk about how “work” was something that was Pre-fall (in other words, it was part of God’s good design) before Genesis 3. It changed the way I looked at work. I now expect “thorns and thistles” to make work difficult and challenging, and have stopped looking for “dream jobs.” Instead, I’ve worked in my career to find places where both my passions and my skills can be used to further the kingdom. The challenges now have become opportunities for growth.

  3. brianbecker on November 18, 2014 at 7:38 pm

    Did anyone else have a problem with the “GRIT” text to 38470? It didn’t work for me.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on December 3, 2014 at 7:32 am

      Hey Brian…Jon just sent me a PDF. I’ll make sure it gets to you via email.

  4. Carey Nieuwhof on November 17, 2014 at 10:17 pm

    You guys have encouraged me SO much with your comments. And I’ll be sending a note to Jon to make sure he sees what you wrote. I know he loves hearing from people.

    And now…this week’s winner is Cory Reid. Cory…congrats. Signed copies of Leading Change Without Losing it and Stuff Christians Like are on their way to you!

    And each of you in entered into the grand prize context of free admission to the Orange Conference 2015 in Atlanta and coffee backstage with me and Jon. Winner of the Grand Prize Draw to be announced Monday December 1st 2014 at 5 p.m.

  5. Queen of Free on November 17, 2014 at 8:59 pm

    I think that embracing the fact that I don’t know everything about my field but that I do have a few pieces of knowledge I can share. It’s arrogant to think we know everything and a lie of the enemy to assume our experience isn’t worth sharing. There’s a tension and a balance that exists allowing us to walk in boldness of telling our story/exercising our strengths and also realizing that the world is big enough that we don’t know it all.

  6. Grant Dodson on November 17, 2014 at 11:13 am

    Another really great podcast…thanks Carey. Listened to it once last week, and again yesterday on the way home from a youth retreat.

    One major factor that has positively affected my attitude towards work is seeing, often times years later, the significance, impact, and success of things I’ve done (or not done) in the past. Far too often we underestimate and undervalue the work that we do, regardless of whether it’s speaking with thousands of leaders, like you do, working with teens and youth workers, like I do, or working in a different field. When we are intentional about reminding ourselves of not just our struggles of the past, but also our successes, it can be a really powerful motivator in our lives.

  7. Bryan Langfitt on November 16, 2014 at 12:51 am

    Loved the podcast with Jon Acuff, always a funny guy with many simple practices to put in action. If I were to point to one factor that has positively changed my attitude towards work, it would be that there is a much bigger picture. A lot of times in ministry this picture looks like a self portrait and can get so bogged down with the tiny details that think you work is focused on your success or feedback received. Much like what you and Jon were talking about, God maps out the path for us and not the markers along the way. When I see myself looking at the bigger picture and knowing that God has it under control, I find myself not getting bogged down and experiencing the grace Christ gives us, as well as allowing the spirit to work in other’s lives. Seeing a larger picture than just myself, not only shapes my attitude towards work, but also my marriage, my ministry, and my relationship with others.

  8. Chris Shumate on November 13, 2014 at 11:54 am

    A few of my notable thoughts from the interview:

    1. “If God gave me a list of 10 things to do, when times for hard I would go to the list and not God. I would worship the list instead of God.” This is paraphrasing some of what Jon said around this point, but I certainly love my lists and have to be careful not to worship that list.

    2. “A career saving account: Character, Relationships, Skill, Hustle. All four are needed.” I wish I had a tangible way to check the balance in this savings account. It would be awesome if Jon (or anyone) would be able to expand on these concepts.

    3. “Hustle is focused, not frenzied. Uncontrolled hustle ruins relationships. Hustle has seasons.” I am working on a side hustle that has been more frenzied that focused. But I try to keep it in control so I don’t ruin relationships, namely my relationship with Christ, my wife and my son.

    4. “It’s not fun to be self-aware when the stuff you’re aware of is mistakes and limitations and gaps in your personality.” Ouch….

    As for the contest question: It is realizing that God is the one who is providing for me and I am to work for Him, not my boss. It’s a Sunday school answer, but quite honestly it’s true. There are issues at all workplaces, right? Even in church ministry. Jesus is my boss. So I have to work for Him. By doing so, I work well for my employer, most of the time.

  9. Matt Hart on November 13, 2014 at 10:53 am

    Over the past couple of months, I have began to feel my calling in ministry change. I have wrestled with this (and still am) but have found great joy in spending time in conversations with those I trust, praying, and developing a plan for what’s next, even though I don’t fully know what that is.

  10. Taylor Jenkins on November 12, 2014 at 5:59 pm

    Right now my job is something getting my through school so it can be very easy to get discouraged in working as a server four days a weak for two reasons:

    1. my passion isn’t in what i do because its a job to get me through school not something I want to do long term.

    2. It can be hard to work in school because you are balancing school work, getting ahead in life and in both those things not draining yourself and getting tried.

    in saying this the best way to keep joy in your job is realizing its not about me.

    For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.

    – Galatians 5:13

    If I go into work with that attitude to invest love into others you will not walk out of the work place without Joy

  11. Brent Dumler on November 12, 2014 at 2:42 pm

    This is easy… willingness to take on new roles that I’m not completely qualified for. In the past 23 years, all of my career transitions have required a significant learning curve for me. This has not always been easy for me, but I’m learning that discomfort usually brings along a good chunk of opportunity for growth.

  12. Brian Smith on November 12, 2014 at 9:42 am

    When I realized that that every single person feels overlooked, overburdened, and overworked it changed how I viewed myself and my co-workers. Now I think “I am not really as overworked as I think I am,” and know when I think of others, I think “they are overworked” (or at least they think they are which is pretty much the same situation). This frees me from making excuses for myself, and from being judgmental at the same time.

  13. […] be thrilled. But here’s the thing. God doesn’t seem to work that way. On a recent episode of a podcast I follow, Jon Acuff talked about how he believes God doesn’t give us a person-specific list of […]

  14. Brandon Kelley on November 11, 2014 at 11:45 pm

    Finding out what my calling is changed everything for me. As I live in that calling, work is an adventure, a purposeful endeavor, not just a paycheck.

  15. Will Laohoo on November 11, 2014 at 3:09 pm

    Some years ago, I made an unwise decision in my career that somewhat mirrored the way that Jon describes the beginning of his career. I left a good job for an uncertain opportunity, which didn’t end up working out. A few years out, I’ve recovered from that, but being in a rough place in my career and seeing where my career skills can be used other than my day job has helped me to develop a better appreciation for it.

    I still think there will be more for me in my career than what I’m currently doing, but I’m more recognizing the value of developing that type of stuff on the side. I haven’t necessarily been great at doing much on the side right now due to different obligations I have in addition to work, but I do recognize that I can’t blame others for where I find myself.

  16. Cory Reid on November 11, 2014 at 12:48 pm

    I’m a young(er) leader, towards the beginning of my 40 year journey to retirement. Listening to CNLP and a couple of other podcasts has been a real challenge to me to find my value in the workforce. It’s so easy to turn a routine into something mundane or a case of the Mondays. I think the most powerful force to consider is your impact. I tell my team all the time that you can control two things – what you do, and how you react. What drives you, or what helps change your mood, is all within your grasp.

    Meg Jay talks about identity capital, where what you’re doing may not be a direct benefit to your bank account, but is a major factor in your experience level, personal beliefs, etc. This has been my approach to work that has revolutionized me. Stuck in one place at the leadership structure? Find a way to invest that into your identity capital. Doing the same report you’ve done the past 24 months? Find a way to add more data, invest in your skills.

    Tying to what Jon said about relationships/hustle/character/skills, you can always improve those things, no matter what day of the week, or how many times you’ve been through that same routine day in the past five years. That personal investment is what shines at the end of it.

    I now try (and sometimes fail) to approach my work as traning. Sure, I may not work here forever. But I do work here now, and I feel better knowing that I am maximizing not only the company’s potential, but also my own on a daily basis.

  17. Steve Kahler on November 11, 2014 at 12:37 pm

    The Lord has given me the work, so therefore gratefulness is my attitude. Even if you are in a secular work environment, the Lord put you there for a purpose, whether you can plant the seed of the Good News to one or 100 people, gratefulness for the platform and the providing for my family.

  18. Chuck on November 11, 2014 at 11:40 am

    Hustle has seasons. That really hijacked my way of thinking about what he calls “hustle”. I’m in a career where hustle is obligatory. But like Acuff is getting at…there’s a right way and a wrong way to hustle. Most of us (me included) do it wrong. Touche’!! I totally need to revamp how I hustle….
    PS, you guys have AWESOME chemistry!! The way you play off each other and genuinely laugh along with each other made the show sooo smooth. Knocked it out of the park, you guys!!

  19. Joe Robideaux on November 11, 2014 at 9:42 am

    The factor that has positively changed my attitude about work is my realization that for a long time I was less scared of the feelings associated with “what ifs” and more scared of working really hard and then being frustrated and bitter if the end result of that hard work didn’t pay off.

    In other words, it was easier to be lazy and wonder what my career in ministry would have looked like if I had worked really hard. I was scared to death I’d bust my butt, turn 65 one day, and be bitter about how my hard work hadn’t paid off.

    I realized I was operating out of so much fear and a lack of trust that God would be as faithful to me as He promised. So, about 3 years ago, my work habits changed, I found more joy in work and stepped out to be a part of planting a church. I couldn’t imagine doing or being anything else now.

    I wonder if the fear I struggled with is what keeps so many people from following big dreams and finding more joy in who they are. It really is easier settling for “what ifs” as opposed to working hard not knowing what the fruit of that work will be.

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