All It Takes Is A Goal

ATG 3: Grade Yourself On A Curve

January 25, 2021 Jon Acuff Season 1 Episode 3
All It Takes Is A Goal
ATG 3: Grade Yourself On A Curve
Chapters
All It Takes Is A Goal
ATG 3: Grade Yourself On A Curve
Jan 25, 2021 Season 1 Episode 3
Jon Acuff

My favorite teachers always graded on a curve. They’d add bonus points to particularly difficult tests. What if you did the same thing with 2020 and 2021? Instead of beating yourself up about the most weirdo years we’ve had in a decade, what if you gave yourself a few bonus points? In this episode I’ll show you how I did it with one of my big goals.

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Show Notes Transcript

My favorite teachers always graded on a curve. They’d add bonus points to particularly difficult tests. What if you did the same thing with 2020 and 2021? Instead of beating yourself up about the most weirdo years we’ve had in a decade, what if you gave yourself a few bonus points? In this episode I’ll show you how I did it with one of my big goals.

Follow Jon on Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook.

Order Soundtracks, Jon's newest book available wherever you find quality books!

Jon Acuff:

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Thank you so much for doing that. I really appreciate it. Okay, back to the show. I love goals. Why? Because a goal is the fastest path between where you are today and where you want to be tomorrow. And best of all, finishing a goal feels amazing. You will never forget the first time someone calls you, "Doctor." You will never forget the moment you finish playing your first song on that guitar you've always wanted to learn. Some of you listening right now have an acoustic guitar in the closet that is like, "Please come get me out of the closet." And you will never forget the first episode of the podcast you record and actually release. That's why restaurants have their first dollar bill framed behind the cash register. They did it! They finished! I want that feeling for you. I want you to have that moment. I want to help you cross the finish line of whatever goal you care about, because the future belongs to finishers. That's why I'm doing this podcast. In today's episode, we're going to talk about why I think that you should grade your year on a curve. Did you ever have a teacher who graded on a curve? I never, like I never really fully understood that concept, so I looked it up recently. It's a process of making sure that grades are distributed across a range of scores. The simplest way a teacher does this is to find the difference between the highest grade in the class and the highest possible score, and then add that many points. So let's say the highest grade in the class was a 92. And a 100 was possible. Everyone in the class gets eight additional points on their score. The 92 becomes a 100. The 85 becomes a 93. The 71 becomes an 80 and so forth. Actually I did that math wrong, didn't I? The first three, I was like, 92 to 100. That's 8. 85 to 93. That's 8. 71 to 80 is 9. I got the math wrong. Now I'm a writer, so I'm gonna call "writer" on that. Like, I had done two math problems correctly, and the third one, whoo! That third one was a doozy. Adding eight to three different numbers? Who could... What am I, a calculator? Ugh! Now the teachers that grade on the curve were always my favorite because it meant I, I always had a chance. Don't you think of Dumb and Dumber when I say that? "So you're saying there's a chance?!" I'm just saying there's a shot. They weren't "gotcha" teachers, that rare breed of educator who is looking for mistakes, instead of victories. I had a few of those growing up. Maybe they came to the profession, jaded. Maybe years of difficult work soured them. But there was a sense that they had a radar for catching you doing the wrong thing, versus finding you doing right. That approach to life is not limited to education. It exists in bosses, marriages, and friendships. If you do 99 things right and one thing wrong, those type of people will focus all their attention on the mistake. But the curve, the curve was something different. It was a gift at the end. A bonus that redeemed a mistake. A surprise that salvaged a misstep. God bless that curve. I woke up the other morning with a question in my head. What if you graded your year on the curve? It's January, that time of year when it's natural to assess the year behind you as you lean into the new year. So, how did you do? What would you score yourself? What worked? What didn't? When I peeled back my year, I found much to my chagrin, that I'm a, I'm a "gotcha" teacher. When it comes to my own life, I have 2020 vision for my mistakes and I'm nearly blind to my victories. There are so many things to fix. So many flaws that are so obvious. So many bad habits, selfish tendencies, anxious thoughts that need to be righted in my life. I never, never grade myself on the curve. If anything, I grade on a pass-fail scale. Either the year was perfect, or it was a failure. Either I strung together, like, a streak of faultless days, or they were all ruined. Some of you right now have already quit your New Year's resolutions, because you missed a day in the first two or three weeks of January. Like you missed day seven going to the gym, and then you're like, "Well, the whole year is a waste. I'll just go ahead and quit my goal." That happens when you grade on a pass-fail. Now that's, that's probably a byproduct of a 40-year relationship with perfectionism. I've been a perfectionist for a long time. It causes me to see my life as a balloon, as if a single mistake could pop the whole thing. But does it have to be that way? Why can't I give myself some bonus points at the end of every year? Why can't I look at whatever arbitrary score I've come up with and adjust it in my favor? Why can't I bump myself up a grade or two? What would happen if I admitted that all the years that require a curve, of all the years that require curve, 2020 was the one? And maybe 2021 is too? Allow me a brief football metaphor. When an NFL game is played in a foot of snow outside in Wisconsin, does the team use the same exact plan they'd use inside a dome in Atlanta? Is the game plan identical or do they adjust? When the weather is terrible, whether it's rain or snow, you pass a lot less. Why? Because it's difficult to catch the ball. It's difficult to throw the ball. Suddenly, in moments like that, the running game becomes critical. You do less Hail Marys and more handoffs. Yards are acquired one or two at a time instead of 30-yard bombs that stretch the field in a matter of seconds. It is a slow plodding game because that's what the weather has dictated. The next day, when Monday finds the team watching game film, the coaches don't criticize the quarterback or each other for not throwing enough. No one says, "Last week when we were playing inside in Atlanta, we had way more receiving yards. We really failed when we played the Green Bay Packers in that foot of snow." They don't do that at all. They they grade on a curve. In a temperature-controlled, meticulously sculpted grass field dome, 300 passing yards is amazing. In a foot of muddy snow, with visibility of feet, not yards, with hands that are concrete blocks from negative temperatures, 100 passing yards is good. The conditions change the grade. Can we all admit it snowed a lot in 2020. And it's probably going to snow a lot in 2021, too. There's good here! There's always good here, there is. There's positive things about this year. There are positive things about last year. There's always good if you look hard enough, but even the most positive person has to admit that the drifts are deeper and higher than usual. My neighbor, for instance, is a pilot. He doesn't know what will happen with his job. I've told him to work on a side hustle, but it appears that it's very difficult to build an airport in your backyard and fly your own 747 out of your neighborhood. Like if you want to end up on the next door app, start landing 747s in your cul-de-sac and see how long someone's going to be like, "Did anyone else notice that huge airplane? And then also, like, coyotes? I'm getting a lot of both like big airplanes and coyotes." My other neighbor is a musician. 30 tour dates became zero with very little warning. My other neighbor is a special ed teacher with four kids of her own. Virtual school is virtually impossible for her right now. You know this. We all know this. For months we've all said, "I can't wait for this to be over." What's the "this?" The global pandemic? The economic crisis? The political unrest? The lockdowns? The masks? These are weird, weird days, and I don't think they're going to end. I think they're going to evaporate. I think it will be gradual. The fog clearing slowly, burning away bit by bit, as a lazy sun rises higher and higher. It won't be a single day when it's all over. We'll probably have months and months of reawakening. Of better things blossoming on their own accord. Seeds pushing through the concrete of 2020 instead of bursting forth all at once. We'll look up and eventually we'll realize we did it! We made it through! Our families, our neighbors, our communities. The world threw everything it had at us from every possible angle and we're still standing. That day is coming. That, that train has already left the station, you just can't hear it yet. We can't see it yet. But it's somewhere. Somewhere far away, perhaps. But it gets closer every day, which leaves us waiting. We are all waiting. We're trying to assess last year and live in this new year. And as we do, I think we should all grade on the curve. If 2020 was a normal year, maybe I deserve a C-. If I was still a "gotcha" teacher, looking for my mistakes, perhaps I'd point out all my flaws, and I'd nitpick my 2020 to death. But this is not a normal year. With the curve, I'm ,I'm gonna get myself in A. No, strike that, I'm getting an A+. Was I perfect? I wasn't. There are regrets and mistakes aplenty. Some days 2020 push me down a flight of stairs. Some days, I just threw myself down that flight of stairs on my own accord. A rumbling, tumbling tangle of sweat pants and Netflix bingeing. But that doesn't matter because this year's curve is so very generous. I put that theory into practice last year with my running goal. In 2019, I ran 1000 miles. It was the most I've ever run in a single year and one of the largest goals I've ever accomplished. It took me until December 18th to complete. I was able to achieve that in part because I ran two half marathons that year, one in the spring in Nashville, which is super-duper hilly, and one in the fall in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, which is so flat and so amazing. Now in 2020, I wanted to hit that goal again. But then this crazy thing called COVID happened and every race I wanted to do got canceled. I also just got into a bit of a funk and I didn't run for weeks. It's interesting that sometimes when I'm stressed out, I do less of the things that I know help me alleviate stress. Have you ever done that? Like in a stressful moment, you stopped doing all the things that you've known for years will actually help you. You'd think in my mid 40s. I turned 45 last December, which is, I think that's midlife if you live to 90. But you'd think in my mid 40s, I wouldn't need to be reminded that running is good for me. And yet for a solid month. I didn't run a mile. I eventually picked things back up in April and started to work again on my goal in earnest. In September, I ran the math. Like I looked at the numbers, I use Strava to keep all my stats together, and I realized I wasn't going to hit it. I was going to miss the goal. I was too far behind and I didn't have a shot at 1000 miles. Usually, that's the moment I give up. Like I know that. In my history, I know that's a give up moment. I say something like, "Oh, my goal is impossible. I can't hit 1000 miles. So I should just stop running altogether. Like, what's the use?" Instead of finishing out the year and running another two or 300 miles. I grade myself on the pass-fail scale, I feel like I've failed, and I quit. If I can't be perfect, why bother? I've long said that perfectionist would rather get a zero than a C- and that's exactly what I was about to do. It's so true, by the way. The perfectionists in your life have the messiest cars, and they used to have the messy offices, like, nobody's going to offices right now, but they have the messiest cars, like there's water bottles everywhere. And they always move the stuff out of the passenger seat like it just got there that day and you're like, "I'm pretty sure this Taco Bell, like this Taco Bell, like it has the little Chihuahua dog on it. This is an old bag of Taco Bell food." And the reason why is that if a perfectionist can't clean their car perfectly, like if they can't get out a toothbrush and like brush into that little spot where french fries gather between your seats, like, they won't even do anything. They'll have like the worst car. That's what a perfectionist does. They'd rather get a zero, not try, than get a C-. But then a question popped into my head. What if walking counted this year? For my 1000 mile total, it'd always been running, but what if, with 2020, this crazy weirdo year, what if walking counted? My immediate response was, "No, no, it doesn't, it doesn't count! It's a running goal! Walking is for wimps!" Like that's the voice that I talked to myself like it's just like a tough voice like, "No, it's for wimps! Like walking doesn't count. It's a running goal." But this question was persistent. And it was the kind of question that wouldn't leave me alone. Have you ever had one of those like, where you've got this thought that just keeps kind of bothering you? Like you hear it at the grocery store, you hear when you're driving, you hear it in the shower. It was that kind of question. And then another question jumped up. And here's what that question asked. What do you do, Jon, when you see an Iron Man crawl across the finish line in Kona? So it's that moment. It's that final moment and some athlete, some triathlete is crawling across the finish line, like with every last ounce of energy and effort they have. I asked myself, what do I do in that moment? And I know what I do. I cheer. I cheer! And it's true! When I see someone completely spent, crawling with every last ditch effort, I applaud their grit, their bravery, and their relentlessness to get it done, to finish. "So then," this question, this conversation in my head continued, "So then why do you cheer When a stranger crawls and criticize yourself when you walk?" Ooh, that's like, that's the tweetable question right there, isn't it? "Why do you cheer when a stranger crawls and criticize yourself when you walk?" Oof! That one, that one left a mark. Why am I gracious with others and hold myself to an impossible standard? What if... What if walking did count? What if a lap around the neighborhood with my wife counted? What if a walk through the woods with a good friend counted? What if the cooldown walk after a run counted? What if, and this is crazy, what if it all counted? I decided to try it. On September 16. After running five miles, I saved the run in the Strava app and then I started a new session to record my cool down walk home. It was only 0.84 miles, but I felt like I had jumped a tremendous gap. I'd leaped over the "Quitting Canyon", I had cleared a monstrous, admittedly self-made wall. By the way, those are the worst walls, the ones we make for ourselves. I'd soared from the land of Judgment into the land of Kindness. 0.84 miles was a micro-distance. But it was more than that. It was a gift. A gift I was giving myself. I was grading on the curve. I hit my 1000 mile goal in 2020. I actually ended up at about 1050 miles. I walked 155 miles, which means I gave myself a bout a 15% bonus. I graded on the curve about 15%. But it's bigger than that. If I didn't walk that 0.84 miles on September 16, I would have quit running within a few days. I would have given up my whole goal, because it couldn't be perfect. Instead, I declared that walking counted, and then I proceeded to run an additional 242 miles in 2020. That's the part that kills me. If I hadn't given myself a little bit of grace, I would have missed 242 more miles, that 0.84 turned into something much bigger. That's what happens when you grade on the curve. It might not seem like much at first. It might seem silly. Some perfectionist voice inside you might scream, "That doesn't count!" But I'm here to tell you that it does. I'm here to tell you that a little bit of self-kindness always turns into something bigger than you expect. And I'm here to tell you to put down that red pen, find less flaws, and give more bonus points. Grade 2020 and 2021 on the curve. Thank you for listening today. If you liked this episode, please review it and subscribe so that you don't miss any of the ones that I have coming up in the future. See you next week. And remember, all it takes is a goal. This episode of the podcast was brought to you by Medi-Share. Text JON, J-O-N to 47474 for more information. Huge thank you to Medi-Share for sponsoring it. J-O-N to 474747.

Producer:

Thanks for listening. To learn more about the All It Takes Is A Goal podcast and to get access to today's show notes, transcript, and exclusive content from Jon Acuff, visit Acuff.me/podcast. Thanks again for joining us. Be sure to tune in next week for another episode of the All It Takes Is A Goal podcast.