Jon Acuff, best-selling author of Stuff Christians Like, spoke Wednesday in the Massey Board Room about the five lies every entrepreneur must ignore in order to succeed. An experienced speaker and the creator of StuffChristiansLike.net, a blog read by more than two million people in 97 percent of the countries in the world, Acuff has worked with companies like Home Depot, Chick-fil-A, Bose and Staples on their brand positioning and marketing.
In a talk sponsored by Belmont’s Center for Entrepreneurship, Acuff spoke on “5 Lies Every Entrepreneur Must Ignore to Succeed,” captivating a completely packed room of hopeful Belmont students and faculty by delivering his powerful message with a lighthearted and slightly comical spin.
He began by emphasizing the fact that technology and social media have completely redefined our generation’s standards and opportunities among the business realm. Acuff claimed that “consumer behavior has changed” because “our generation is the most over-marketed” generation in comparison to ever before.
The exorbitant amount of information that technology offers allows consumers to research and become aware of nearly anything, and they desire truth in marketing. Acuff brought up an example of change in comparing Nike’s marketing slogan years ago versus now to illustrate this point of truth in marketing. At one point, Nike’s marketing campaign was “Be Like Mike” which inferred to the consumer that by wearing Air Jordan shoes one could be like Michael Jordan. Now Nike’s marketing campaign is “Our shoes work if you do.” This pointed example prefaced Acuff’s message of entrepreneurs being mindful of the lies that can often detour one’s success.
Acuff defined the first lie that many in the entrepreneurial world face to be stressing over “finding the next big thing.” He claimed that many look for the “Eureka moments” when often times the most successful ideas can develop from the “hinge moments,” the small changes or ideas that can have a meaningful impact on business ventures. He went on to show the “hinge moment” of Chick-Fil-A as being the addition of the spicy chicken sandwich. This was not a brand new or innovative idea, but this decision profoundly impacted the profits of the Chick-Fil-A franchise.
Acuff then told about one of his “hinge moments” that led to his raising enough money to build two kindergartens in Vietnam. One day Acuff’s young daughter brought a picture of a starving child in a magazine to him and asked what it was. He replied by saying that it was a child who was starving. To this she responded, “That’s pretend, right Daddy? That’s not real, right?” This small “hinge moment” inspired Acuff to raise $30,000 in an effort to help starving children.
The second lie is what Acuff called the “comparison lie” in which one asks, “Who are you to do that?” He strongly emphasized the importance of not getting caught up in comparisons, encouraging young entrepreneurs to “never compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.” He went on to say that “the secret to being awesome at something is the bravery to be awful at first.”
The third lie that often gets told is “I’m not that creative.” Acuff stressed the importance of thinking and creativity to any successful business. He highlighted the three steps to any successful creative endeavor for one to take is to “imagine, capture and execute.” The most important of these is the execution of a creative idea because that is so often the most difficult to do due to distractions. Acuff claimed that it is fighting a “war against distractions” to effectively complete any idea.
The fourth lie he outlined as being the lie of “believing that the haters are right.” Acuff strongly discouraged the tendency to believe the negativity and not pay any attention to the compliments and encouragement. This can stunt any entrepreneur’s plans and outlook, which is why Acuff reiterates the act of ignoring the “haters.”
The last lie that Acuff pointed out is the “busy lie” which is when one claims “if he/she had enough time then they would do the things that really mattered to them.” Acuff claimed that so many use the “someday I’ll do what I want” excuse and miss out on endless opportunities. Acuff explained that the “busy lie” is harmful to entrepreneurs’ success because “it pretends that the future will be less busy, it makes you a slave of your calendar and not the owner of it, and it gives us excuses.” He ended this portion of his speech by proclaiming “the truth is that everyday you have the perfect amount of time to do what matters to you.”
At the end of his message Acuff asked, “Why do these lies matter?” He then proudly said to his audience, “These lies matter because when you graduate, you’re going to change the world.” Acuff delivered a powerful message of a strategy that anyone can utilize in equipping themselves for the professional business world in the pursuit of their careers.