Jon Acuff Awkward Sharp

Pictures Are No Longer Worth A Thousand Words…Except This One

“Hey, you want me to take your picture?” a guy in line behind me nicely asked.

“Sure! Want me to take yours, too?”

We were both buzzing because we were standing a few feet from Jon Acuff at Inkwood Books in Tampa. Acuff is a guy who made his mark with, a funny and poignant blog that unlocked something, allowing Christians to lighten up and laugh at themselves. He became an inspiration for me and many others, because he was a regular guy who rose from obscurity using only his wit, words and blog. And things have really taken off for him. He has now landed two books on the New York Times Best Seller list, including ‘Do Over,’ the book he was about to sign for us at the bookstore. I also met Jon three years earlier on his signing tour for his first best seller, ‘Start.’

Thanks to an early arrival, I was third in line. Waiting to shake hands with someone you always laugh at in blogs, books and Twitter posts, well, it feels a little like getting ready to jump out of a plane. Or more like hopping onto the improv stage. Partially because it usually works out great, like this time. He was full of energy and willing to chat a while (Side Note, he was also thrilled about the title of my upcoming book, ‘Byepolar: A Memoir’).

When our conversation finally ran out he wished me luck and I started to walk away. “Hey, your picture!” the guy behind me reminded me, holding my phone up.

Jon quickly took his spot and we both faced the camera, but the guy behind us threw us a curveball. “Don’t smile!” he said. Oh, so he’s trying to make a funny picture where neither of us looks happy to be here. That’s pretty funny, I thought. So I complied, doing my best to conceal my happiness. And sure enough, then he took another picture, “okay, smile!” he said. Cool, mission accomplished. Or so I thought.

When I was walking to the Starbucks where my wife was writing, I decided to check the photos.

“Oh no!” I said, stopping in my tracks and stomping my foot on the pavement. “No, no, no, no! It’s way too blurry!”

I was looking at the “Smile!” picture, which truly was too blurry to post to Facebook or to show friends. The “Don’t smile!” picture was far less blurry. But the huge problem with that was that I had a grumpy mug in the picture, like I had just landed in the county jail. Meanwhile, Jon was smiling like a happy NYT best seller should.

At first sight I thought it was a complete wash. But after some thought I realized the opposite – it was one of the greatest pictures I ever had taken (excluding every photo taken with my wife, of course!).

Increasing The Value of Pictures Today

Like I mentioned, three years earlier I also met Jon at a book signing. That time my wife was with me and she is an excellent iPhone photographer who doesn’t pull any tricks, so she got a wonderful picture of Jon and me. Both of us smiling. As I sat down by my wife in the Starbucks I reminded myself of this, that I don’t need another smiling photo of the two of us, I got that three years ago. And let’s face it, we all look at those smiling photos and forget about them one minute later.

Here we are at a Books A Million in 2012.

Here we are at a Books A Million in 2012.

They say a picture’s worth a thousand words, but let’s face it, that phrase was made long before iPhones were around. Today most are barely worth 15. “Yes, here we are, both of us smiling and looking completely unnatural.” Since a majority of us were raised with a mom or uncle saying at our birthday parties “look at the camera! Now smile! Oh, now smile with your sister. No. Smile!” we all know the drill, so that just isn’t as special anymore.

But this picture was absolutely worth 1,000 words. I realized that as I looked at it, so I decided to take a risk and post it to Facebook and I got a really good response. Plenty of Facebook likes and even several people approaching me in person about it (which means it’s really special). If it was just two smiling guys then, well, nobody would have given it a second thought.

So I took a risk. I might look like a gomer in it, but that’s what makes it funny.

Speaking of improv comedy, this is something I learned on the stage. Take risks! Standing in front of an audience and not know what’s next is a scary place and it may seem easier to not do anything too daring or outside of the box, but this made everything boring and uninteresting. Life’s the same way. We can just say, “well, I look pretty ridiculous, so I’ll just delete that,” and that’s ultimately fine, but safe sounds kind of boring, doesn’t it?