Ep 18: Managing the Beast That is Social Media and Making it Work for You with Jon Acuff

Today on the show we welcome Jon Acuff, one of the original influencers of our generation. Jon is a New York Times bestselling author and someone who has built a very large organic social following over many years. More than that, Jon is just an incredibly funny person and humor is one of his gifts.

Inside this episode, we hear all about Jon’s philosophies and how he approaches social media, managing his reputation, and building a strong personal brand. Jon talks about how he baked his humor into his public image, shares some stories about what he did to grow his audience and make money early on, and gives insight into why each part of a personal brand should speak for the whole. He is honest about how he didn’t have a natural gift for correctly representing himself on social media and so he hired a coach who taught him to post content that correctly represents his services.

Jon also gets into the sources of his humor, making the point that it takes work to turn talent into a craft, so that a joke feels spontaneous every time it is delivered. He also shares some of his sources and processes behind coming up with funny material, and how it starts with a real-world observation that then gets tuned by a meticulous revisioning process in writing. Jon also shares some wisdom for those of you who feel you could live your dream if you just took the first step, so tune in for all this and more!




  • Jon’s definition of reputation: it’s not just a story you tell but that others tell about you.
  • Why humor is a central part of Jon’s reputation.
  • An explanation of the ‘thumb test’: being recognizable while partially obscuring one’s brand.
  • How Jon built a following and earned money: his satirical blog that became a published book
  • What Jon won’t do to build his reputation, such as use inauthentic Instagram quotes.
  • The value of being discerning in aligning oneself while growing one’s brand.
  • Jon’s consideration of himself primarily as an idea merchant, speaker, and coach.
  • The idea that good skills take a long time to develop.
  • Jon’s social media strategies since realizing he used Instagram like an old man.
  • The value of posting fairly distributed content related to all one’s professional services.
  • Why it is important to build systems around one’s passion when building a personal brand.
  • Remembering to get past ego and reuse good content for social media.
  • Use the content which does the best rather than what you might think is good.
  • The idea that social media is still in its youth so nobody knows exactly how to leverage it.
  • Where Jon’s jokes come from: watching comedy, observation, and writing.
  • How Jon develops his jokes through a writing/refining process.
  • The way Jon blurs context and contrasting ideas to produce humor.
  • The question of whether likability can be learned.
  • The difference between talent and craft as far as joke delivery.
  • Jon’s advice for people who are afraid of stepping into their dreams.


“I’m not willing to grow my Instagram account using cheesy quotes that I know peopled didn’t say. I know Michelangelo didn’t say that because it sounds exactly like Pinterest and that’s not how a 14th-century Italian painter spoke.” — @JonAcuff

“What I do best is share ideas that inspire action.” — @JonAcuff

“I think great stuff takes great time.” — @JonAcuff

“One of the things that’s a weakness of mine is, the minute after an idea has been shared, it’s a thousand years old in my head. It’s not! There’s so much fear and ego wrapped up in that.”— @JonAcuff

“Nobody’s mad at Bono for singing One. It’s not like people go ‘Ah jeez Joshua Tree again!?’ If anything, it’s the reverse.” — @JonAcuff

“Great comedians are great social commentators.” — @JonAcuff

“Talent is being able to respond to the moment. Craft is being able to hone it and make it feel like the first time every time.” — @JonAcuff

“For me, if I set the sights too big, I get discouraged and I miss the good stuff that I’m actually working on.” —@JonAcuff


Jon Acuff is the New York Times Bestselling author of six books including his most recent Wall Street Journal #1 Bestseller, Finish: Give yourself the gift of done. For over 20 years he’s helped some of the biggest brands in the world tell their story, including The Home Depot, Bose, Staples, the YMCA, and the Dave Ramsey Team. Most recently he’s spoken to hundreds of thousands of people at conferences, companies and colleges. Featured regularly on national media, Jon has been seen on CNN, Fox News, Good Day LA and several other key outlets. In addition, Jon is also a big proponent of social media with blogs that have been read by 4 million people and almost 300,000 twitter followers. In 2010 he used his influence with his tribe to build two kindergartens in Vietnam.


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Do Over


One by Bono

Jon Gordon

Gary Gulman

Brian Regan

Nate Bargatze

Maria Bamford

Gary Gulman’s comedy tips

Fleet Feet

Speaker 1: (00:00) So excited to introduce you to I feel like, I mean I’m known for a long time now and I feel like John Acuff and I met kind of when we were both like semi on the rise, just kind of starting out our careers and it’s been amazing to just watch him build a huge platform, a huge following and a fantastic speaking career. He is one of the most dynamic and hilarious presenters that you’ll ever see and I especially feel like in recent years he’s, he’s also, you know, added a level of content that is really, really top notch and it’s just, it shows in every way. And I’m jealous of him because he’s so fricking funny and it’s unfair and there’s not anything he can do about that, but he doesn’t do a lot of this stuff. I called it in a personal favor to him and I said, man, would you come and just sort of like share the story of how John Acuff became Johnny cuffs. So brother, thanks for being here. Speaker 1: (01:00) Yeah, thanks for having me Rory. I’m looking forward to it. Speaker 2: (01:03) So buddy our new Gig is reputation, right? So we’re, we study reputation, we look at what creates reputation. So just like off, you know, off the top of your head, what is your definition of reputation? What are your philosophies about how to build a rock solid one? Are there, is there anything like just just free flow on that concept for a little bit and what do you think of when you hear that word? Speaker 1: (01:28) Yeah, I think I think it was John Morgan who said, your brand, your reputation is a story other people tell about you. It’s not always just the story you tell. And so I think there’s a combination of those two. So I think there’s understanding, okay, where do I fit in a space? You already brought up humor for me. I realized a few years ago that humor was a differentiator for me in our space. Like you and I are in the same space and there’s a lot of people that are amazing at research and there’s a lot of people that are like super intense and they’re gonna swear and like, and there’s a lot of people that do a lot of different things, but I realize there’s not a lot of people that are genuinely funny. They might use humor as like a, you know, like a hammer in a speech, like a tool, but they, they don’t use it. Speaker 1: (02:16) They don’t thread it throughout. They’re not studying it. And so I said, okay, I want part of my reputation to include humor. Like, so I think I look at reputation. I go, okay, what are the two to three words you’re going to own? Or the two to three elements you’re going to say when people think of me like, this is going to fit in my reputation. My favorite idea kind of about reputation. When I worked for Home Depot, I was, before I started my own company I spent time in a lot of big corporate brands and brands that had spent years and millions and billions of dollars building their own reputations. I remember somebody at Home Depot said, you’ve gotta do the thumb test. And I said, what’s that? And they said, can you put your thumb on over the logo? And it still feel like it’s something from us. Speaker 1: (03:03) So a great example of that is you put your thumb over a Nike swoosh mark on any ad. They do a print piece, digital piece, whatever the rest of it screams Nike. The headline does the runner, like they had a photo of a runner throwing up and the copy and every element speaks to it. So I think a reputation like that, you’ve gotta be able to put your foam over elements and go, it’s still me. It still has my feel and I’ve been deliberate to go, here’s what I care about. Here’s where there’s a hole in space and here’s where I can kind of combine all of that. That’s what I think about with reputation. Speaker 2: (03:37) I love that. I’ve never, I’ve never heard that before. The thumb test. I think that’s super, super cool. So, so take us back to the beginning. Okay. So you talked about being corporate and you left. Speaker 1: (03:49) How did this all start Speaker 2: (03:51) For you? And, and what did that look like, like, and, and how did you make money early on? Cause I think that’s one thing, like if I remember right, you know, you started to build a pretty good following with like stuff Christians like pretty much right away. But there’s a big difference between, you know, like we say a lot of times there’s a lot of people that are Twitter rich and dollar broke. Like you can have a big following and not make money. So like how did you get started with like building the following and then also how did you finance your way there? Speaker 1: (04:21) Yes. I mean the following good start. 2008, I had a blog called stuff Christians. Like that was a satire of kind of faith, which again, I saw market and I was like, nobody’s really having that conversation. Like very few people have been like, I’m not a Christian, but Christians are whole areas. Like there’s not a lot of words we assigned to Christians, but like hilarious is not usually one of them. And I’m a pastor’s kid, so I grew up in the church and I was like, well, I think there’s a niche there. So I started this site. I started to get a following and get a following. I mean, the very first way I had money tied to that was I got a book deal. Zondervan published the stuff, Christians like book. And at the time it felt like $1 million. I got paid $30,000 in an advance. Which you go, oh my gosh, it’s amazing. And people would go, are you going to quit your job? And what was funny is after agent after taxes, after everything, I got like 13 grand. And if somebody who worked with one a $13,000 lottery, you wouldn’t be like, Speaker 2: (05:19) Yes, you’re moving to Mexico, Speaker 1: (05:22) Dan cone. And so like that was the first, and then from there I started out people say, Hey, do you want to come speak at our event? Come speak at our conference. And so that was where this world started opening up of wow, there’s all these opportunities and if I’m willing to invest in them, if I’m willing to be brave, if I’m willing to be creative while maintaining my reputation. Like that’s where it’s key. Like you can’t, like you have to know this is what I’m willing to do, this is what I’m not. For instance, I’m not willing to grow my Instagram account using cheesy quotes that I know that I know they didn’t say like I know that you know what’s an example? Like I know Michelangelo didn’t say that cause it sounds exactly like Pinterest and that’s not how a 14th century Italian painter spoke. Speaker 1: (06:09) And so like you have to go, okay, this fits my reputation, this is worth it. But you also have to be brave enough to kind of step out of your comfort zone because you don’t get to grow or expand unless you go, okay, I’m gonna try this. And so for me it’s been this process of going, okay, here’s what I’m doing. Well, how do I get a little uncomfortable and grow it a little bit and say, okay, people are interested in my book recommendations. I’m going to do that as an affiliate, not just do that. Okay, well what does that look like? Or here’s somebody I could partner with. Like I don’t do a lot of these, but I do ones with friends that I think do awesome stuff. So when you’re like, Hey, I’m doing this thing, like that was an easy yes for me because you’ve been incredibly generous to me. Speaker 1: (06:50) And so I think a big part of it is going, here’s who I’m aligned with, here’s what I want to do. But really the money started with a publishing deal. I started public speaking. I was never great at doing ads on my blog. Like I just wasn’t good at monetizing that. I wasn’t interested in monetizing it. The money, like there’s other blogs that had a great run at that. It just wasn’t what I was interested in. So I think you have to kind of figure out these are the faucets I care about and I’m going to try this one and I’m going to be patient with it and I’m going to be interested in it and see, you know where it goes from here. Okay. Speaker 2: (07:25) Yeah I love that. It’s interesting, you know one of the concepts that we talk about is she hands wall and people you know are more likely to break through the wall by being known for one thing and then once you break through the wall then you can expand and do lots of other stuff. And I’ve never thought about you as an example of that but it occurred to me in this conversation, gosh that really was because stuff Christians like was huge. Like if you were a Christian at that time and you were online like you knew about it and that led to your first book deal. Is Your Business model today still like primarily speaking and books? Is that like primarily and I’ve tried a bunch of different Speaker 1: (08:02) Thanks. I tried courses. And I have a lot of friends that they do really well with courses and they’re great at those. But for me I didn’t, I didn’t love doing them as much as I want it to. And I love public speaking. I can’t believe I get to do it for a living. I can’t believe I get to stand on a stage. What I do best is share ideas that inspire action. And so public speaking is so much fun for me on that. So yeah, primarily I’ll do consulting. So there’ll be a client that’ll say, hey, we want to put you on retainer and we’re going to have a one year contract and we want you to come in. Like, what I’m really good at is kind of being an idea swat team. So a company will say, we’re stuck on this thing. Speaker 1: (08:43) We want you to, you know, swing through the window, give us 150 ideas and then swing out. Or they’ll say, hey, we want you to talk and go to these nine meetings of groups you might not have met yet and give them ideas. And so like I consider myself kind of a, an idea merchant where I’m able to say, hey, here’s something you should try. And so yeah, I would say consulting as part of it. I’m starting to do coaching single session coaching because you know, if, if you think about my fee for speaking to a thousand people and I can do a portion of that just one-on-one, then I feel like I’ve extended value. And then there’s been times where I’ve paid for a single session coaching. It’s been wildly helpful. Or then just going, hey, I learned something that costs me x amount of dollars over a 10 year period that I can tell you in 10 minutes and it’ll change your whole perspective about your speaking business, your career transition, your publishing. Speaker 1: (09:36) So yeah, I think for what we do, and like I’m in the reputation business, you’re always saying, here’s my four main things and here’s another thing I’m adding. Here’s something else I’m adding. And it takes time. It’s people come up to me and go, hey, I want to do what you do. And I have to say, well, it’s taking me like a Levon years on top of a 15 year marketing career. Like it’s taken me a long time to go. And I was, I was trained as a copywriter. I W I majored in advertising. And so when somebody says you’re good at headlines, I go, well it’s just cause I’ve been doing it like I graduated in 98 so I’ve been doing headlines for 21 years and I think of a lot of this as headlines. It’s not that I was I was a farmer and then decided I’m going to. So I think I try to paint a realistic picture of like, I think great stuff takes great time. Speaker 2: (10:26) So let’s talk about the time a little bit. Particularly with your social following. That is something that like you just built, I feel like you’ve had a net natural strength for just building a huge social media following and it’s something you’ve done for consistent for a long period of time. What is your, like just again, like your philosophy, your attitude towards social, like you use that example of what you won’t post. How do you, how do you think about social media in general and then do you delineate how you use it? Like between channels? And you know, just like anything you could share of just like the way that you approach it as cause you’re not making money from that. It’s like you’re making money from books and from speaking and then maybe consulting and coaching. But like, Speaker 1: (11:16) Well I, I’m still making like you can still do like affiliate stuff like Instagram with swipe up with stories. That’s a whole other or sponsorships. And I’m just, I’m just kind of on the edges of that so I don’t consider myself an expert there. But an example of that, I originally hired a social media intern because I had kind of a convicting moment where I spoke to a company, 1300 people sales team. It was awesome. I loved speaking of sales teams. I mean, cause you get that like they’re already in motion. You don’t have to convince them to get emotion and their emotion. And I stepped off stage and this woman said, I love following you on Instagram. You’re one of our favorite falls. You’re funny. And then she said, I didn’t even know you wrote a book and I’ve written six books. Speaker 1: (11:57) So that’s a huge reflection of reputation failure on my part because what it means is she’s been along for the ride for who knows how long and I haven’t been clear enough or obvious enough or consistent enough about doing a book. And then she said, you are our favorite Insta Dad, which is not the reputation I’m trying to build. Like, and so I talked to my 15 year old daughter and I was like, am I good at Instagram? And she was like, you use it like an old man. And so I hired for the summer to help me with some things and now I just hired a social media intern and so we came up with, okay, here’s the categories of photos we’re going to post, we’re going to post funny, we’re going to coast encouraging, we’re going to post like interaction. Okay. So the goal of this is to generate interactions. Speaker 1: (12:43) So for instance, somebody did this photo where it showed 15 different styles of like roasted marshmallow and now like at that to me does it like nobody’s going to go, you’re so wise. Thanks for sharing the roasted marshmallow. But they will interact on that and I’ll get to engage with people. So when I say which one are you, it starts conversation and that’s an interaction post where if I show a speaking clip, I know I would say 80% of the clients that booked me to speak will say, I followed you online or we checked out your socials or we look. So if they’re looking there and I haven’t put any clips of speaking, I haven’t done my job like they don’t like, why would you book me? If you come into my Instagram account and all you see are like 50 funny caiso jokes, like that’s fine if I’m just wanted to be my personal account but it’s also my business account and that’s kind of the balance I try to strike. Speaker 1: (13:35) So I also realized I hadn’t put up a picture of myself on there in like three months and that wasn’t out of humility. It was out of like the fear of like, I’m like I’m an introvert, extrovert. Like so there’s this tension there. And so I knew like I have to be deliberate to go like, hey here I am or here I am with a friend. Like, cause when people go to your account, they want to see you, they want to know you. And so I’m learning how to be really deliberate with that. Twitter I go, you know what? It doesn’t have like, it’s an Instagram post is a, is something I want to be deliberate about. The story is less off the cuff. It’s, it disappears. Like it’s more casual. Twitter’s more casual too because there’s a thousand tweets going. Facebook, I kind of consider like Instagram a Mulligan a posted. Speaker 1: (14:20) They’re deliberately, the thing I’m loving lately is linkedin. Like I think linkedin is amazing. Like it’s always been kind of the one people think about last. But when you’re trying to do something business related, I mean I, my, my last book a fit or the one before my last book do over was a career book. I should be Joe Linkedin. Like why am I not being more deliberate? So I think part of it is going, which of these platforms I don’t do much on Pinterest because it’s not, it doesn’t completely overlap with what I’m doing. But I look at it and go, I think Instagram matters a lot right now. It kind of feels like the king. I think linkedin for a certain verticals is really important. You Go, okay, what am I going to put on Linkedin? And then Twitter. Twitter feels really angry right now. Speaker 1: (15:03) Like to me, like a lot of it feels really angry. So I’m kind of trying to be deliberate about, I don’t want to get sucked in too much. I want to create content, but like man, it’s just, especially as we head to an election year, like it’s gonna be crazy town. Right? And so I would say it’s fluid, but the more I can say these are the six buckets I always try to fill, the more deliberate. I think the hard hard part is when you’ve got a passion, you turn into a reputation. It’s hard to then put systems on top of it. And systems, especially if it’s like a passion system sometimes feel like they’re restricting passion. They’re not like they’re expanding it. Like the best systems give such life to, to real passion. And so I’m now going, I’ve been doing this for 10 years, 12 years, whatever. Speaker 1: (15:50) What are the systems I need to make sure I’m really creating good content? And not only that, reusing content, 1% of people saw like one of the things that’s kind of a weakness of mine is the minute after an idea has been shared. It’s a thousand years old in my head. Like the minute. And then like, it’s not like there’s so much fear and ego wrapped up in that like narcissism, like everybody saw it and remembers it like, are you kidding me? Like, no, they don’t. They’re doing their own life and like if it’s good, it’s good to bring it back up and say, hey, here’s this thing. Another thing was how are you serving people? I took ’em a look at my top 15 most popular Instagram posts in the last year based on engagement. 12 of the 15 were screenshots of tweets, screenshots of tweets, 12 of my 15 where my most popular on a photo image based site. Speaker 1: (16:42) Why I’m a better writer than I am a photographer, so if that’s what the people are responding to, I’m not going to feel shame that I don’t have dope photos. I’m going to use deliberate tweets more often because people have gone, that’s what we come here for. That’s what we really like where some people go, you’re not used an Instagram the right way. It should only be photos like no, like you worry about that on your end. I’m going to crush it on my end. We’ll be fine. Hmm. Yeah, that is, that’s wild. What an interesting statistic in terms of, I mean that’s very, very unexpected. You see people doing that all the time. There’s something, there is something the reason they’re doing it, or at least like the reason I’m doing it because it works like crazy. So like I’m not gonna bend to these fake rules people come up with for Instagram, like we’re all trying to figure out, it’s all new. Speaker 1: (17:28) Like we like to act like social media as a hundred years old. It’s not, it’s a toddler. And so when somebody goes, do you want to grow your Instagram account? You got to do these 33 things. These are the rules. No, they’re not like, no, they’re not. And there’s very few rules you have to, with your reputation go, these are the things I’m going to do. Here’s how I’m going to do it and I’m going to be consistent it. The problem with building a reputation is that it’s really boring in the middle, super duper boring and like you have to stay consistent. Consistency is so boring to me. Certain personality types. It’s like, this is amazing. I’ve got my checkbox, great, but for me it’s boring and I have to push through the boredom and go, none of them know. Here’s some, I’m putting, you know, putting a penny into this, but opinions of this and putting a penny into this. And then over time you look up and people go, you’ve been public speaking for x amount of years and your reputation or you’ve built your brand this way. Like that’s what matters. Speaker 2: (18:21) Yeah. I, I was reminded of this, we went and saw Michael Bublé concert last week and I was sitting there and I was just like, he played all the songs that I didn’t know. And the only time I got excited was when he played the songs that I knew. Oh yeah. And I was like, that’s so weird. I’ve heard it’s the song I’ve heard and do a thousand times. That’s the one I want to hear. Yet. I feel that same pressure on like Instagram or something or like take the stairs. A book’s been out since 2012 now. I would never think to share a quote that’s from, from that book from 2012 yet a lot of people, it’s like that’s the thing that they want to see. Like that’s what they, they love the musicians play the same songs for 31 days mad at Bono for singing one, right. God, Geez, Joshua tree again. Like nobody, if anything, it’s the reverse. So yeah, and the other thing, and I think Speaker 1: (19:14) John Gordon’s really good at that. I know he’s a mutual friend. Like yeah, he’s really good at surfacing books and going, hey, here’s an idea. So one, if they saw it and they liked it, they’ll like it a second time too. They might not have been part of the conversation then. And so you can get the, you know, you get to bring it back up and go, hey, and the problem is we feel, I mean, at least for me, I can’t speak for you. I feel lazy in that moment. I think only new ideas count. And I think that’s something that I have to consciously remind myself. That’s not true. Whoever is the inner critic that’s saying that isn’t being honest and let you know, let’s do it. Like let’s share that. I’m never mad when I hear like, like Gary Goldman, one of my favorite comedians does this bit on the state capitols and how they got abbreviated and I could listen to that for 10 years and 10 years from now if he does it again, I’m going to be like, it’s genius. Like I think it’s, I think it’s awesome. I’m not disappointed. I’m excited. Speaker 2: (20:07) Yeah. I think that’s, I think that’s, that is, is interesting that inner critic. So I want to talk about the humor stuff for a little bit cause I think that is, that is one of the book on it. I, I did, you can’t find it anywhere and it’s, it’s been banished from the earth and in the hidden only in certain places. But I did a lot of people don’t know that that was like my very first work was a self published book. I remember. Yeah. You remember like, I forget you that we’ve known each other for that long man. Like we’ve been, we’ve been around a minute. Isn’t that crazy? So, and part of that is because I feel like you’re so naturally funny. I mean, one of the reasons I wrote that buckets cause I was like, I really struggled with humor. And now I’m very, very funny on stage, but it’s, it’s all, you know, I work at it. Do you, do you feel like, like how do you be funny or like, do you study it? Do you work at it or is it just like a gift you feel like you have and, and that’s it. Or you know, like how did you get to, Speaker 1: (21:09) I mean, I do study it. I think my dad’s really funny. I’m the, I’m not the funniest person. My family, my youngest brother who’s a lawyer is the funniest by far. And so I think I grew up around it. My Dad used to take me to comedy clubs when I was in high school. Like we’d go see Brian Regan. And so like, I grew up around like that album is such classic. And so like I grew up around it. I really appreciate it. And then I started realizing like, the great comedians are our great social commentators, like the great, you know, like I’m not a big like dark comedy fan where like, Ugh, I feel gross after hearing it. Like I like, I like to be challenged by an idea or see something that I hadn’t seen before and go, wow, that was really smart. Speaker 1: (21:51) That’s, that’s, you know, I’ve never looked at it that way. So I studied people, like I mentioned earlier, Gary Gulman, Nate Barr, Gutsy Maria Bamford I think is amazing. And so I study it and then I also like if I’m in situations where I’m riffing with somebody, I’m kind of practicing it, if you will. And then like I do work at it where I write it down and I’m going, okay, that, that was funny, that wasn’t funny. And then I’m, I’m listening to the jokes I find in, in the audience like I’ll, I’ll probably do it a practice like 90%, and then there’s 10% on leaving it open for the moment. And that’s often the best stuff. And so you’re always finding new jokes even in material you feel like you’ve done 20 times, 30 times. But then I wrote, I wrote a 50,000 word essay book that’ll probably never see the light of day that was just comical. Speaker 1: (22:43) Looks at things. I did this like six months ago and it was stuff like, I’m like what would be an example? Oh Hey like yeti coolers. Like how, how crazy? Like how just the idea that you had put a sticker on your car to let other people know how you keep things cold. Like, like, like in 1990 nobody had an Igloo sticker and I was like, I love any blue. I want you to feel how I keep ice like that. So like, or the idea that you need a cooler though, keeping meat cold for nine days for your kids, three hours soccer game. Like how much room for error do you need? Like even soccer games, eight days in 24 hours of margin of error in case it goes over time. Like just or like that they sold the handle as an accessory. Like the mud there. Speaker 1: (23:31) The handle is an accessory, like the idea of like, oh you want to be able to hold it easily, that’s extra you like, so just like taking a look at your life and going, okay that’s a weird thing. I’m like, why is that? And then I, but I would say my writing process is, I write the idea first. Whether this is an Instagram post, any sort of reputation thing. I create speech book, Instagram posts, I write the idea down. I don’t try and get the words right. I just try to get the idea, what’s the general idea. And then I do a pass where I try to get the words closer to right and then I make it positive cause I sometimes like my inner voice is like the counting crows. Like it sounds like the song round here you’re like, oh that’s kind of mopey. Speaker 1: (24:14) And then I get a positive and then I make it funny. And so those are kind of like, I’m constantly kind of trying to layer this and going, okay, here’s a point I want to make. What’s the way to say it? What’s the way to say it where it’s funny and you remember it and what’s the hook like? Okay, well then let’s say like regardless of I’m speaking at a company or a college, I’m going, where’s it funny? And then I did, I finally did like a for a comedy, a comedy set at Xannys last fall. I’m a 60 minute set. Took me like three months to write. Learned a lot about comedy there. So, yeah, I just, I don’t know. I love it. I respect it. I love people who are great at it. Speaker 2: (24:54) What does that mean? That, so when you say social commentators, like do it, how do you like the Yeti is a good example. I mean the Yeti thing is a great example like that, but, but what, what do you do to make your brain recognize it and then how do you go from recognizing it to making it funny or is it just pointing it out? That is what’s funny. Speaker 1: (25:18) No, I think, I mean, I think there’s a pointing that out. Like I think you’re trying to say stuff that everybody’s thinking, but nobody is saying. And to see it from a different angle. So for me, like this is my, I write down five to 10 ideas every day in this notebook and I’ll, you know, I’ll kind of, and there’s no quality, it’s just like I’m trying to capture, I’m trying to capture and go, okay, so here’s an example. So like I saw a sticker in a parking lot. I did, I’ve seen a million times and it was, it said my, I don’t know, my, my Weimer Reiner is smarter than your honor student. I thought that’s an interesting sticker. And I thought, well, what does that really mean? Like I like, and then I thought like, I’ve never like dogs when like they throw up well eat their own, throw up. Speaker 1: (26:02) Like I’ve never known an honor student to do that. So like I’ve never had like somebody go, our honors students are great, but like when it funders, we have to put thunder shirts on them real quick or they freak out. Like at pep rallies they lose it. Or like Kyle is great at calculus, but if he gets a problem you really liked, he urinates everywhere. So excited like for the idea at like, so then I, so then I back up and I go, the funny thing there is when I see that sticker I thing where did you go to high school? Like how bad was your honors program? Like a dog will eat a dead chipmunk on purpose. Like that’s a weight or the sticker that says who rescued who about rescue dogs? And I want to go, well, I mean it’d weird if like a dog just showed up in your cubicle at work. Speaker 1: (26:46) And I was like, come on, we’re going home. Like I think you probably went somewhere and got him. Like that’s a weird, like to look at that and go, what does that mean? And so I think you look at that, seeing it from a different, that seeing it from a different way, different angle and going, what does it mean? Why is that funny to me? Is it funnier to more people than just me? Cause there’s some things where I’m like, that’s ridiculous and maybe two people think it’s funny. And then there’s other things where you go, Oh wow, that, you know, like that’s something that I could see a lot of people finding humorous and then you just kind of shape it. And I think a lot of it is the right word is going okay. Like Jerry, you know like Seinfeld talks about that all the time, like the right word. Speaker 1: (27:27) Like he has a joke about somebody’s name looked like a periodic, you know, an element from the periodic table. And it said like, and his name was Boron and Boron was the right element there. And he went through like 20 elements. So it’s, you know, you’re kind of trying to find, okay, this is the word that’s going to be interesting. This is the element that’s going to catch them off guard. This is the thing that’s going to kind of stop somebody. How do I, you know, how do I communicate it? And that’s what I mean, that’s what I think is really funny to me is when it’s a situation and it often, it’s where everybody’s thought through it. Like so. So for instance, I did a joke about being on an airplane and how weird it is to be sitting next to somebody in a business suit that’s probably going to fly to negotiate a $10 million deal and they have to beg for the whole Canton Ginger Ale. Speaker 1: (28:19) Like they have to ask the flight attendant like can I, can I have the whole kit? And it’s such a power play because the flight attendant can be like, no, you get two inches of soda, three cubes. And then like the guy gets into and he’s like, I can handle my drink. I’m on earth all the time. Like we’ll look at that. Or like when you’re on a plane and you’re talking to a stranger next to you and then you reach that awkward moment where you just decide, yeah, this is over. And you slowly put on your headphones, which is like this, oh we’re, you’re like enjoy the rest of your life. This is over. Like you can’t do that. And on the ground, like if you were in an office somewhere and somebody who is talking to you and you just, all of a sudden we’re like, Yay, that would be weird. Speaker 1: (28:56) But we do that on airplanes all the time. And so finding stuff that a bunch of people relate to and then going, what’s the twist? What’s the, you know, what’s the small difference? Like what’s the little bit thing that makes it really, really funny and it’s gonna make people go like, oh, like I get that like Gary Goldman, who I keep mentioning, but I think he’s one of the best comedians out there right now. He’s doing a whole series on how to write great material on Twitter free series. He’s up to 200 points now, but I saw him do a joke. He said, essentially, I’m going to butcher it. But he essentially said in the 70s he realized he wasn’t a real man because he saw star wars. And when Princess Leia said to Han Solo, I love you. He said, I know. And he said, every time a woman’s told me, I love you, I’ve said y. Speaker 1: (29:46) Show your work and the phrase show your work is genius because what he’s taken this phrase from a math problem that a little kid would do and applied it to like a deep emotional, relational truth of like, I feel inadequate, but he’s done it in a way that it’s funny, but if you’ve ever felt inadequate, the idea of somebody saying I love you. And you’d saying why like that is there’s so much wrapped up in that and he’s taking you into a place you might not have gone if you weren’t laughing. And that to me is brilliant. Speaker 2: (30:14) Yeah. That, I mean it is, it is such an art form, but there is, there’s a certain amount of like systemization Speaker 1: (30:23) Oh 100%. But there’s also, I’ve asked you this, do you think you can teach likability? Speaker 2: (30:31) I think you can. I know you can teach people, you can teach how to make people laugh. And I think that does help with likability, but like true, authentic likability. I Dunno Speaker 1: (30:43) About that. It’s tough, dude. That’s tough because I think that’s a, that’s an intro like for me, when a speaker has good content but they’re not likable and they might not even want to be likable. Like it’s just weird. Like if, if you said like, Hey, the reason they didn’t listen to that example is like, it came from a place of like you are a superstar and were amazing like that. Like it didn’t, I don’t know. Likability is one of those as you explore reputation. I can’t wait to see y’alls thoughts on that. Speaker 2: (31:13) Yeah, I mean it’s, it’s, it’s, it really is interesting. I mean you could definitely make people laugh and I think laughing helps a lot with like ability in some of it. Some of it is natural, but even you as funny as naturally funny as you are, it’s like you can, you can still see how you’ve trained your brain to like look for things and then shape them away and then have like a process for it. Speaker 1: (31:37) Oh yeah, like my favorite like one of my funniest moments where it was just, I was speaking to 300 people and you have to like, I would say crew like talent is being able to respond to the moment craft is being able to hone it and make it feel like the first time every time. So this like this woman, 300 people really quiet auditorium, I’m almost done and I’m like three minutes from being done. I take one last Q and a question and this lady like in the second row scrunches up a water bottle like so loud it stops the whole room and I’m like, you were so close to being done. Like you waited this entire speech or like I can’t wait a second longer and she’s crushed it and like the crowd lost it. She was laughing and it was just one of those where like themed it. Speaker 1: (32:20) Like there is the practice, practice, practice and then there’s the being able to react to it and see if it’s funny like how do you, you know, how do you do this? What is it like I spoke a in Portugal at an EO event that we both done and I followed the world record holder for the tallest ever surfed. This guy from Brazil was like 82 foot wave crazy. And so right after I followed him and I was like, I mean like it’s fun to follow him cause we both done brave things like he surfed the world, saw us wave. I felt like the hotel pool was a little cold, like a cup like degrees too. And like it’s just in the moment but it makes the crowd go, okay, we’re all in this together. So like no, I’m a, I could talk about that for hours. I’m a geek at that. Speaker 2: (33:04) I think there’s something, there’s, there’s definitely something magic about that that spartan spontaneity in the crowd is much more forgiving. It doesn’t have to be as genius if it is taught, if that, if it’s that timely and it has an even bigger effect than if it, if it was a genius. Well planned line is sometime not as effective as just a spontaneous like in the moment line. You experienced it Speaker 1: (33:28) Together for the first time and that feels genuine and that’s fun like we had. It’s, it’s kind of creating an inside joke moment in the moment. Speaker 2: (33:36) Yeah. Yeah, totally. So where do you want people to go to connect with you if they don’t, if they don’t know about you and they want to follow along, where would you direct people? Speaker 1: (33:46) Definitely Instagram. I’m just John a cuff. J. O n a. C. U. F. F. I’m on Twitter, same thing. John a cuff. My website is [inaudible] dot me. And then my latest book is called Finish and it’s about finishing the goals you care about because people have a really easy time starting in a really hard time finishing. Speaker 2: (34:06) Yeah. Yeah. I remember you said you wrote the wrong book cause you wrote start first and then the brewer came back and wrote, wrote, finish after. That really stuck with me. So the, I guess the last little thing I would just leave you with John was, so let’s say somebody is out there, you know, and they’re, they’re listening to this right now and they’re going, yeah, Gosh, I wanna I want to speak in front of people. I want to, you know, inspire a lot of people on social, I want to write books and, and for whatever reason they’re feeling blocked or they’re feeling trapped, you know, like they have to stay in a certain job or they’re not sure that they can do it. And they’re kind of in that moment of where, you know, they’re deciding about stepping out. What would you say to, to that, to that person that’s kind of like, yeah, I don’t know if it work. I don’t know if I could make money at this. I don’t know if I can, you know, break through all the noise of everybody else. You know, I know, you know what it’s like to be in that moment and not be sure if you’re gonna be able to make it, you know, on your own. Speaker 1: (35:06) Yeah, I would say one be really kind to yourself. The super, super kind because if feeling that doubt isn’t failure, like that’s appropriate. Like I feel that anytime a new, you know, I launch a new thing, there’s that feeling. And we always, you know, we always think other people don’t feel it, but I want 100% seal that the stress, the, you know, the comparison, oh that person had this huge moment and blew up. Like I’ve had to mute people I know, cause like it lead me to a good place to just get this steady stream of their amazingness. And I’d love to say like, no, I’m on the sidelines just cheering. Like, but there’s times where I’m, I’m trying to work on something and all that insecurity is loud. So I’d say be kind to yourself. You’re not the only one who thinks that. Speaker 1: (35:52) And then just be small with it. Like go, go and build it in small ways. Like, I think sometimes I, you know, I talked to the owner of fleet feet the other day, she’s brilliant and she fleet feet is this running store in Nashville and she was saying how she trains people to kind of chunk up marathons and she says, I never want somebody to run a 26.2 marathon like as their goal because it’s so large. What I say is run the first 10 k okay and get it to 10 k which is 6.2 miles. And then she said, run to a half marathon, which is 13.1 miles. She said then run to 20 miles, which is you’ve already got, you’ve got 20, that’s a huge milestone. And then run to where you only have a five k left, which is you’ve only got 3.1 left. Speaker 1: (36:37) And she said, chunk it up so that mentally you can actually do it. So if you were going to say, I want to be a speaker, I want to write a book, I want to have a platform like awesome, but find a really small, where you say, okay, I want to have a hundred subscribers on youtube. Like and that’s it. Like a hundred would be amazing. And then get there and go, okay that’s awesome. And then I want to get to a thousand or then I want to get to 200 like for me, if I set the sites too big, I get discouraged and I missed the good stuff that I’m actually working on. And then my, you know, the, the thing I always say like if you want to do something you love, like the way I kinda think about it, it’s only two things. Find something you love so much, you’d do it for free. Speaker 1: (37:18) We’ve all heard that. But the second part we don’t hear often and they can get so good at it that people pay you a lot of money to do it. Like those are the two elements. Like find something you’d like. For me, writing books, sharing ideas. Like, I love that. Like nobody loves a delayed flight, but I’ll, I’ll put up with a thousand delayed flights because I got to be on stage for an hour. Like that hour was crazy fun to me. It’s worth like, oh, I just spent the night in Baltimore unexpectedly. Yeah. It’s not my favorite thing, but I’m willing to pay that tax because what’s on the other side of that is so amazing. So find something you love so much that you do it for free, but then as you think about your reputation, add that second element. It’s so good at it that people pay you a lot of money to do it. That’s to me where it gets really magical. Speaker 2: (38:02) I love it. John ACOF my friends, this is someone who has built from scratch, been a huge influence in my life, made a huge impact in the world. Brother, thank you for your inspiration, for your encouragement, and to helping us laugh all along the way. A really good appreciate Speaker 1: (38:19) You, man. Yeah, thanks for, I appreciate it.

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