I remember feverishly taking notes during Jon Acuff’s Opening Keynote session at my very first Marketplace & Academy in Nashville. I hadn’t actually planned to write anything down, but I ended up typing the insights and ideas Jon shared as fast as I could on my phone. The thought-provoking ideas Jon shared in his session (along with his humor and humility) really resonated with me. How many of you were there and remember his session?

Watch this video of Jon sharing an overview of his opening keynote to spark your memory. In short, Jon challenged us to consider replacing “business as usual” with innovation and retention, and left us with the question of “What if you could go from ordinary to extraordinary?”

Whether you were in attendance, not in attendance or simply forgot the message that Jon Acuff shared, hear this: you must escape average and choose awesome. Business as usual will simply not work. This just may be why Jon’s keynote struck a chord with me. I am always wondering “What if?” As my former and current colleagues know, I have a lot of ideas as well as opinions and I am not afraid to share them.

Jon’s book, Start: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average and Do Work That Matters states, “You used to turn sticks into swords or dirty flip-flops into glass slippers. You climbed tress and made forts and thought being a doctor wasn’t out of reach. Nothing was out of reach. Then, somewhere along the way, you lost it.”

This passage from Jon’s book is so true. Why don’t we take more risks, have more fun and go after things that scare us after we “grow up”? Kids have notoriously active imaginations which are fully engaged and revealed during playtime. In a child’s mind, anything goes. What if you still thought like a child? What if you still had the imagination of a child? What if you weren’t afraid to fall like a child?

What if you use the following list to go from ordinary to extraordinary?

  • Sign up for Jon Acuff’s blog. I promise you will not regret it. Here are some of my picks:
  • Watch the Marketplace & Academy sessions you missed or reconnect with presentations you attended.
    • Free for full conference registrants with code (contact me!)
    • $399 for all 24 sessions
    • $99/track (Business Operations, Children & Play, Industry Trends & Relations, Sales & Marketing and Financial Management)
  • Inc.com says: Don’t try to increase your own power. Boost the autonomy of others.
    • “Think about ways to limit your power and encourage others to step up to the mic, make big decisions, and take initiative.”
  • Learn from other business leaders. Inc.com created a list of books recommended by top TED speakers.

After Jon’s speech, I wanted more information so I started following him on social media and read a couple of his books (no, I am not stalking him). I still use Jon’s insights and ideas three years later as inspiration—there’s still time to implement ideas from conferences you attended that were put on the back burner. I have been to three ASTRA Marketplace & Academy conferences since I heard Jon Acuff speak, but I continue to seek out ideas from his blog, books and social media updates to gain new perspective.

We all leave conferences and educational sessions with the best intentions to try something new, share ideas with staff or implement an innovative strategy but…we get back into routines and move forward doing business as usual. What if we didn’t leave those ideas from the past in the dust? I challenge you to think back on a Marketplace & Academy session or keynote speaker that struck a chord with you. What can you implement now that you didn’t back then?

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Ahren Hoffman, CTRS, CPE is the Director of Education & Training at ASTRA. Ahren has been a member of the toy industry since 2007 developing content for toys and play products, contributing to publications and actively taking part in the lecture circuit presenting to organizations and professionals in the field of child development as well as members of the toy industry. Ahren oversees the development and enhancement of education and training materials for ASTRA members to keep a pulse on topics shaping the toy industry. Contact Ahren at ahoffman@astratoy.org.