A disclaimer is in order. I have been a Todd Henry enthusiast since I read his first book, The Accidental Creative: How to be Brilliant at a Moment’s Notice. His regular podcast is on my weekly “must listen to” list. I was thrilled when I heard the title and theme of his second book. I’m what business guru, Ken Blanchard, calls a “raving fan” of Todd’s work. Admittedly, I’m biased not just because we share the same first name.
Die Empty: Unleash Your Best Work Every Day is about how we can unleash our best work each day and increase the odds that we won’t regret the work we’ve done when we come to the end of our life. It’s about living full so we can die empty.
What I Like Most
What I like most about Todd’s writing is his courage. He doesn’t hesitate to call out the fluffy platitudes that we are fed in too many business and career books. He doesn’t shy away from saying that success and our best work will require effort and self-discipline. Those two things go against the grain of our comfort driven culture. I was practically cheering out loud when he said, “You cannot pursue comfort and greatness at the same time.”
One popular fallacy Todd takes on that resonated with me was, “The Passion Fallacy.” We are told countless times to just “follow your passion” and the money will follow you. Besides the obvious impracticality of this advice, (How many of us actually do get paid for playing video games all day?) Todd points out that it is a selfish approach to finding meaningful work. Eventually the passion dies down and we are left searching for a different obsession.
A better approach is asking, “What value can I add?” instead of “What can I get?” When we pose the question this way, it correctly reminds us that we are not the center of the world. We know that when we are the center of our own world, it’s a very small world…after all.
Another example of Todd’s courage occurs in the chapter titled, “Finding Your Voice,” which tackles discovering our unique expression of value through our life’s journey. He challenged me when he wrote, “Great work results when you stop doing only what you know you can do and instead begin pursuing what you believe you might be able to do with a little focused effort.” In the infamous words of television character Barney Stinson (Played by Neil Patrick Harris on How I Met Your Mother), “Challenge accepted!”
Todd’s writing tone is one we would find from a buddy who is sitting across the table having coffee with us. It’s friend to friend encouraging conversation rather than top down pronouncements. In addition, his stories are nicely balanced with practical applications and probing questions at the end of every chapter.
This is the type of book I can see myself rereading on a yearly basis to keep myself on track in fulfilling my life’s mission.
The message of the book is simply stated: “Don’t go to your grave with your best work still inside of you. Choose to die empty.”
May that be true for us all.