Brief Reviews, VOLUME 8

Jon Acuff – Do Over [Review]

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Do Over: Rescue Monday, Reinvent Your Work, and Never Get Stuck
Jon Acuff

Hardback: Thomas Nelson, 2015
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Reviewed by Becca Nelson 


“Ever feel like you don’t know exactly what to do with your life?  Know who else feels that way? Everyone.” (238)


I suppose it’s convenient that I chose to review Jon Acuff’s book, Do Over: Rescue Monday, Reinvent Your Work, and Never Get Stuck when I was right smack-dab in the middle of my own career do-over.  Though it hasn’t been an easy experience, it has allowed me some rare insight into the message of this book.  It has allowed me not only to ask “Is it good advice?”  but also, “Does it work?”


If you’ve ever been bored out of your mind just thinking about reading anything from the Career section at Barnes and Noble, I would still recommend giving this one a try.  Jon Acuff has a talent for making what could be a dry subject area easy to read and understand.  The entire book is structured around the metaphor of having a “Career Savings Account”.  By making deposits into your CSA, you will be able to withstand any kind of career change, be it voluntary or involuntary.  This makes for a book full of digestible, if somewhat formulaic advice.

He breaks down career changes into four categories and spends the book detailing the four types of “investments” you need to make in your savings account.  Acuff would argue that by building your relationships, skills, character, and hustle, you will be more prepared for any kind of career do-over.  Throughout the book, he provides enough real-world examples to make him believable, and just enough humor to make reading it an enjoyable experience.


I have spent the past five years as a music teacher, teaching full-time and part-time, sometimes at several schools at once.  If you want to hear an interesting story, ask me about the time I moved to Guatemala for a year to teach at an international school.  Though I am an expert at teaching song games and writing accompaniments for a xylophone, I have needed all the help I can get navigating a career change.  While some of his advice seemed obvious to me (go to work, do what your boss asks you to do, don’t spend your employer’s time on Facebook), I did find a lot of help and encouragement in these pages.  I learned about the importance of empathy and generosity, and the necessity of having grit in the face of tasks I don’t enjoy.


Throughout this book, we are challenged not only to think about our career, but to do something.  No action is too small, even if it’s just writing our skills on notecards and sticking them to the wall.  We are encouraged to invest in relationships, to network, to dream, to learn new skills.  When the job search isn’t going anywhere, when you get fired, when you feel stuck, action is going to make the difference between a do-over and a resignation.  No matter how well-written this book is, I am sorry to say that no amount of reading about a career change will make any difference unless it is met with concrete action and forward movement.


Although the premise of the book is that you need a different type of investment for each type of career-change, I would argue based on my experience that for any career do-over, you need all four.  I read the section on relationships right after my last job ended, when I was first reaching out to others for help, and needed that extra bit of motivation to go to that meet-up or re-connect with that former colleague.  I read the section on skills just as I was researching classes and training programs to give me some real, marketable skills other than kindergarten crowd control and playing multiple instruments at once.  I read about character on the day when I wanted to yell at everyone and have a temper tantrum like a three-year-old, and I read about hustle on day I wanted to give it all up and spend the rest of my life watching Netflix.


I think the most valuable section of this book is the section on hustle.  Jon Acuff candidly shares about his own struggles to better his career while also balancing the needs of his family—something which I think many people could relate to.  It’s important to know when to let go, but also when to be brave.  “Hustle tries.  Then it fails.  Then it tries again, because of grit, which is simply being brave when you don’t feel like being brave,” he writes (211-212).  Without bravery, we don’t know what we can really accomplish.  Without bravery, we can get stuck.  If we are brave, no setback is too far, and no failure is too big to learn from.


Did it work for me?  It’s probably too soon to tell, but Do Over gave me that extra bit of motivation to keep moving forward.  Though it’s certainly possible to navigate a career change on our own, sometimes we all need a little push.  We need someone else to remind us to keep going.  Whether you’re unemployed, or looking for a way to make the most of your current job, or working a job you hate and dreaming of a do-over, we all have something to learn.  Though Do Over says a lot of things we probably already know, it provides us with a chance to reflect on ourselves, our career, and where we are headed.


C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at:

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Reading for the Common Good
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