Episode 2: Jon Acuff on social media marketing and avoiding entrepreneurial shame

In the second episode of the Coywolf Podcast, Jon Henshaw shares three excerpts from his 50-minute interview with New York Times bestselling author, Jon Acuff.

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Jon Henshaw: Welcome to the second episode of the Coywolf Digital Marketing Podcast. I’m your host, Jon Henshaw. In this episode, I share three excerpts from a recent interview I had with New York Times bestselling author, Jon Acuff. If you’re not familiar with his books, he’s the author of Quitter, Start, Do Over, and his latest book is called Finish. We had a great conversation. It was long, it was about 50 minutes long. The entire interview is available on Coywolf. The direct link to it is coywolf.io/acuff, A-C-U-F-F.

JH: The first excerpt is from something that I’m gonna be writing about soon, that I’ve been interested in for a long time, and that has to do with what we should and shouldn’t post on social networks, especially as an entrepreneur, especially as a marketer. It’s kind of all over the board out there. You have people who every other post is something political, and then you have people who don’t even touch it. They only just talk about their business. The spectrum is huge, so I was really curious to get Jon’s perspective on that, because he has an interesting approach towards social, so I wanted to share that with you.

JH: The second one highlights Jon’s very non-digital approach to how he, essentially, manages his time and his projects, and looks at his progress over time. I was really interested in what he was doing with that. Then, the last part is a segment about shame, the type of shame that is very familiar to entrepreneurs when they fail publicly. So, these are just three things that we talked about, just kind of three small pieces of the long interview I had with him that I wanted to share in this episode. So, I hope you enjoy.

JH: Okay, so let’s talk, Jon Acuff marketing. Because-

Jon Acuff: Sure.

JH: Because the reality for you is that … and as much as I’m not really sure how much I’d like this kind of label, you are your personal brand. I mean, you are a personal brand. You’re not a brand like Coywolf.

JA: Yep.

JH: You are Jon Acuff, and you can’t avoid it, because what you’ve chosen to do, which is speaking and writing, and a little bit of comedy here and there, it has you and your name and your face all over it. So, what that means is, at least in this day and age, is that you need people to have an affinity towards you. You need to be able to connect with people. You need to, in this world, be on social.

JA: Yeah, yeah.

JH: So, I’m really curious to know how you approach that. I mean, how do you balance that? What’s the real Jon Acuff and what isn’t? I’m sure that all of it’s the real Jon Acuff, but I’m saying, how do you balance between what you think politically, what you think religiously, whatever it might be, and of course, not go to a place that might isolate people who might wanna buy your stuff or hear from. I mean, how do you balance all that?

JA: Well, I mean, I think one of the things is I treat it like a job. A long time ago, people might go, “Why don’t you talk about politics on Twitter?” And to that I would say, “Well, did you email your whole office on interoffice email and tell them what you thought about politics?” ‘Cause if you did that, then by all means, let me tweet something. Like, it’s not my personal account. It’s a business account. It is tied to … I, hopefully, will be the kind of person that has a different conversation with a friend over coffee than I would on Twitter, because those are different medium.

JH: One of the other things you said was that, yeah, you know what? It is a personal brand. I mean, you kind of agreed with me on that, and my social presence is my business, right?

JA: Yeah.

JH: So, what goes through your mind … What’s the purpose of sharing so many intimate, in a sense, details or events in your life? You know, you share with your family and your kids, and whatever. In other words, when I see that, I mean, I see that as just you showing the good parts of your life, which extends beyond personal brand and extends beyond the fact that the account is just simply your business account. I mean, what’s going on?

JA: Yeah, I mean, part of it is it’s just fun. Like, I like to write funny things, and it’s a platform for me to tell a joke to 100,000 people. That’s fun. I enjoy that. I do that … I would say the opposite, like, I would … If you pulled up my Instagram account right now, I guarantee, there’s probably one business post in the last 50. So, if anything, where I’m trying to … Yeah, so I’m looking at it right now. You would be hard pressed to be like, “Oh, he writes books.” Even the calendar, we haven’t done a calendar post in a while. So for me, I’m trying to be better about that, just ’cause I’m like anybody else. I like the fun parts. The sales part is hard. It’s hard to do that. It’s not natural to me, so I’m trying to do a better job of going … I think part of being an entrepreneur is admitting that if you’re not good at that, you don’t get to be that very long. So, I’m trying to get better at saying, what’s the purpose of this?

JA: I do five different email lists right now, which has been really fun, and it’s been successful, but if I’m not selling something from them, and I don’t have them as part of a strategy, that’s just wasted time, and eventually, that doesn’t end well.

JH: So, I was poking around on your site, acuff.me.

JA: Yeah?

JH: And there’s this calendar.

JA: Yeah.

JH: What’s the deal with this calendar?

JA: I love-

JH: This giant calendar.

JA: I love that calendar so much. So, eight years ago, I kind of realized that if I can’t see time, it’s fictional. Like, if I can’t actually see it, it doesn’t exist. Like, somebody would go, “What’s your August like?” And I go, “Probably hot.” I had no sense of what was coming, when it was coming, and so to the data point, I decided, okay, I’m gonna start being deliberate about looking at my year, looking at my month, looking at my week, and there was this huge wall calendar this guy, Jesse Phillips, designed, and it’s 3.5′ x 2′, and I mount it on foam core, and I bring it to meetings. It’s like paddleboard, and I love it. I know what’s going on, and the best part is I put the next year on back of the last year, so when somebody goes, “What did we do last year for that launch?” I don’t have to go, “I don’t know.” I flip it and go, “This is what we did.”

JA: So, I started to kinda … and I’m not an organized guy. I’m very disorganized, but it gave me this sense of peace to know, okay, I have these two trips, so the stuff I’m gonna plan around that, or, like, if you looked at the calendar I have in my office right now, I know there’s 14 days with a big W on them between now and the end of the year. That means I’m home, I’m writing, I’m gonna be at this coffee shop for this chunk of hours. I put it on my Google Calendar. The act of doing that brings me such clarity in a chaotic, entrepreneurial world.

JH: That’s what I was wondering was, I prefer to have as much digital as possible, but I got the impression that there’s something really helpful and significant in having this be physical and tangible, and something that you see outside the screen.

JA: Well, and not only I see it, but my family sees it. So, it becomes this … Like, we know, okay, here’s where Dad is, ’cause that’s part of being an entrepreneur when you have a family. It’s different if you’re 27, and it’s just you and you have different commitments then.

JA: So, I love that. I love that, some people like the dry erase one, because a lot of being an entrepreneur isn’t lived in ink. I think people probably say to both of us, “What’s an average day look like?” And you go like, “Well, it’s never the same every day.” Today was different than yesterday.

JA: So, no, I find it, and it’s the act of doing it, and I like that it almost becomes like a monument, ’cause I have seven of those in my office, and I can go if I’m curious about, like, “Man-“

JH: Seven?

JA: “… am I doing?” Not seven of this year, seven of the last years. If I’m really deliberate about going, am I traveling more or less? Am I writing more or less? I can go-

JH: Interesting.

JA: … “Wow, I wrote …” you know. And I can measure, like, mid-year I counted, ’cause people go, “Oh, you’re gone all the time.” I was gone 24 nights for business and 26 nights for vacation with my family, so I can say, okay, I feel good about that. I’m deliberate about that, and it forces me as a dad to be deliberate about it, because parenting … Entrepreneurs are the worst at this. They’re super specific about meetings and all these calls, but then they kinda hope parenting will happen organically and just kinda fit in. So, I have to plan that stuff, or I won’t naturally gravitate to being a good dad.

JH: This last excerpt from the interview needs a little bit of set up and context. Recently, Jon Acuff did an hour-long stand-up comedy routine, and the lead up before that was he kind of stuck it out there, and essentially said, “I’m gonna do this. It’s months away, but I’m gonna do this. I’ve always wanted to do it. It’s not even gonna be 5 minutes or 10 minutes or 15 minutes, it’s going to be an hour-long comedy routine.” Which is crazy in itself, but he did it anyways. And the whole thing about that is, it was his way of motivating himself and preparing himself.

JH: However, for a lot of entrepreneurs, myself included, I’ve done things like that. I have put things out like, “Look what I’m gonna do,” thinking that if I put it out in front of the world and to some extent was exposed that, that would force me to follow through or do it. Now, in many cases, for myself and other people, we do follow through, but sometimes we fall on our face, and sometimes we fail. In some cases, we don’t follow through. In all of those situations, a very common feeling that entrepreneurs experience is, I guess you could say a feeling of shame. So, this excerpt picks up on that particular topic about how he put out that he was going to do this comedy show.

JH: You brought up that for years you’ve wanted to do that, and you kept putting it off. Then, what you did was you put it out there. You put it out there in front of everybody. It’s kinda like exposing yourself, but you talk about, in Finish, about the idea around shame and how you should deal with it. So, for somebody who is listening right now, and they’re like, “Yeah, I’ve done it before, and I didn’t follow through and I felt a lot of shame,” or, “The way I went about it did not work out for me.” How would you suggest they approach that the next time around.

JA: I think so much of it is, how are you personally motivated? I think that’s why there’s a lot of bad advice online where people go, this is how you build a company. What they’re really saying is, this is how I built my particular, my particular set of circumstances, in my particular city. Then, we go, well, that’s how you do it. Then, we try to replicate it, and we hate how it feels.

JA: So, when somebody feels shame, a lot of that is, that’s based off of their personal definition of shame. Like, I know I need an audience. I need an audience, I’d like an audience, I do better with an audience. So, sharing it gave me an audience. For some people, if you hate an audience, that pressure is gonna cripple you. That’s going to … You know, I went to-

JH: That’s not the right path for them.

JA: That’s not the right path. It’s not the right tip. It’s not the right trick. It’s not the right tool. I think you learn to eventually start to be honest with what things cause you shame, and then go, okay, is that a thing that I can fix, or is it a thing I need to admit and own and move on?

JA: I feel shamed that I’m not an amazing leader, that I don’t lead 100 people. My wife is like, “But if the word was banker, you wouldn’t feel like you should be a banker.” It’s just because our culture says the pathway is individual, owner, leader, like you’re a leader. And if I’m not wired for that, I feel ashamed of that. Then, I end up saying yes to things I should say yes to, because I think that’s what you’re supposed to. Then, I feel more shame, and it becomes a circle.

JA: So, the key for me there is to go, this is how I am, this is what I’m good at, these are the things that I hate, and they make me feel terrible, I should do less of those things. I’m gonna shape my life this way.

JH: You can listen to the full 50-minute interview on Coywolf at coywolf.io/acuff. Thanks for listening.

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Jon Henshaw

Jon is the founder of Coywolf and the EIC and the primary author reporting for Coywolf News. He is an industry veteran with over 25 years of digital marketing and internet technologies experience. Follow @[email protected]