Most of what I write in books is simply what I live at home.

As I start to think about writing a new one, there’s a simple lesson from the Acuff house that keeps coming up. Three years ago when we moved to Nashville, people encouraged us to buy a bigger house. It’s not because we’re super rich and wear pants made of komodo dragon. (Do you know of a more difficult leather to make into comfortable pants? I don’t.)

Friends just had an expectation of the kind of house we’d live in and our choice surprised a few of them. Why did we choose a smaller house? Because we want to tell big stories.

Often, we parents fail to see how every part of our life is connected. We fail to see that the size of something boring like a mortgage can impact the size of something awesome like an adventure with our family. So we make big decisions that lock us into long term situations and never see the restraints our lifestyle puts on our ability to tell a story.

The Acuffs, though, go small so that we can go big. Does that mean that when guests come over, they have to sleep in separate twin beds like the Brady Bunch? Does that mean that our air conditioner sounds a little like a jet engine falling down a flight of stairs made of cats? Does that mean our garage door has a curve that is less style and more “wow—that thing is super old?” It does.

All those things are true. But so is the ski adventure in Crested Butte, Colorado. So is the kindergartens we built in Vietnam. So are the guitar lessons we can afford and the painting classes we wouldn’t miss.

Stuff is fun, but it rarely leads to a great story.

And please don’t read this like we’ve done something all that difficult. Jenny and I aren’t roughing it. We don’t mill our own flour or hand knit jeans for our kids so that we can pinch our pennies. We love our house and feel blessed to have one. By global standards we are Donald Trump with less confusing haircuts.

But, we don’t make big purchase decisions without wondering about the story implications. I dare you to do the same.

When you buy a car, when you decide where to live, when you choose how to financially live your life, ask this question:

“What story will this help us tell?”

Jenny and I might not have a mansion, other than the baller one we’ll have in heaven, but we do have a 10-year-old who can play Taylor Swift’s “Mean” on the ukulele because we paid for lessons.

And that’s pretty awesome.


Jon Acuff Headshot Jon Acuff is the New York Times Bestselling author of 4 books. He lives in Nashville, TN with his wife and two daughters. Read more of his work at or on Twitter @JonAcuff.