Most of us live with the stubborn idea that we'll always have tomorrow to do our most important and valuable work. We fill our days with frantic activity, bouncing from task to task, scrambling to make deadlines, and chasing the next promotion. But by the end of each day we're often left asking ourselves, 'did the work I do today really matter?' Die Empty is a tool for people who aren't willing to put off their most important work for another day. Todd Henry explains the forces that keep us in stagnation and introduces a process for instilling consistent practices into your life that will keep you on a true and steady course. 'You have limited number of days on Earth. This book sends an urgent message- make them count!' Chris Guillebeau, author of The $100 Startup and The Art of Non-conformity 'In a field crowded with rivals, Todd Henry stands out as a unique and original voice. I love Todd's outstanding thoughts on how each of us possesses a career-in-potential, and it's our challenge to bring it forth so that we can 'die empty.' If you can read this book and not be inspired, you need a 100 percent full-body-and-soul transplant.' Steven Pressfield, author of The War of Art and Turning Pro 'It's a veritable page-turner of insights and new ways to think about how to soak the most creative juices out of your life.' Twist Image 'If you've pondered a life list, books you want to write, trips you want to take, creative projects you want to begin, don't allow those visions to die with you. Let Todd Henry help you make it happen.' Aaron McHugh's Insights Into Work, Life, & Play blog 'Most of the advice is sensible, easy to implement, and a reminder that best efforts are more rewarding than mediocre ones.' Success
Todd Henry is the founder and CEO of Accidental Creative, a consultancy that helps organizations generate ideas. He is the author of The Accidental Creative and a popular public speaker. He lives in Cincinnati with his family.
"You have a limited number of days on Earth. This book sends an urgent message: make them count!" --Chris Guillebeau, author of The $100 Startup and The Art of Non-Conformity
"You have a limited number of days on Earth. This book sends an urgent message: make them count!" -- Chris Guillebeau , author of The $100 Startup and The Art of Non-Conformity
Die Empty is a tool for people who aren't willing to put off their most important work for another day. Todd Henry explains the forces that keep us in stagnation and introduces a process for instilling consistent practices into your life that will keep you on a true and steady course.
How much work did you do today that you will be proud of tomorrow? I don''t mean just how you handled the big things, but also how you addressed the little, seemingly insignificant ones. Did you make progress on what matters most to you, or did you allow the buzz, busyness, and expectations of others to squelch your passion and focus? I''ve been asking these questions of others and myself each day for more than a decade, and they are the main reason I originally felt compelled to write Die Empty . Through my work I''ve encountered many teams of brilliant, sharp, amazing, talented people who have at some point "settled in" or begun coasting on past success. Unfortunately, this often leads to deep regrets. It''s not that these people aren''t getting things do≠ perhaps they are even succeeding in the marketplace. It''s that in "settling in" they are ignoring the small hunches, ideas, and bits of intuition that could lead to something truly remarkable. For this reason, many of us have had to sacrifice long-term greatness on the altar of short-term efficiency. We have stopped unleashing our best work each day. Unleashing your best work means ensuring that your daily mix of work includes the important work that you should be doing for yourself (but may have been ignoring) in addition to the work that you must do as a function of your job. Your best work may include choosing to have the difficult conversations you''ve been deferring, setting aside time to invest in future results rather than just focusing on immediate outcomes, and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone in order to learn a new skill or sharpen your thinking. In short, it means choosing not to defer your contribution, but instead working with urgency and diligence each day as you make progress on building a body of work that represents your real values, hopes, and ambitions. It''s about putting your focus, assets, time, and energy into the work that matters most. Your best work. I have learned that there are no clear rules for success, but I believe there is enough evidence to make this claim: a person who intentionally structures work and life around what matters most to them will find a greater degree of gratification and will ultimately produce better results than those who don''t. Unfortunately, our culture often doesn''t provide for this kind of fulfillment. We spend more time trying to find easy roads to success or comparing our career paths to those of others rather than striving to maximize our contribution in our own areas of influence. It''s clear that a significant share of the energy expended by employees is spent playing politics or clamoring for the next promotion. Many have lowered their sights from working toward the long-term goals of their organization to the short-term gratification they might be able to achieve as individuals. Even those who came in bright-eyed and optimistic have become worn by short-term thinking and eventually settle into the fold. The good news is that we all have the ability to shun mediocrity and can instead live and work by design. If you refuse to settle, then there has never been a more opportune time for you to build a remarkable body of work. The current marketplace might have job uncertainty, but the upside is that it''s now necessary to take your career into your own hands. You can no longer count on your company, your manager, or your industry to define your next steps. Instead, you must stay diligent and alert and plot your own course. Opportunity abounds for those who are willing to step into the heart of uncertainty, find their voice, and commit themselves to battles worth fighting. Now more than ever, we are each accountable for plotting our own path. George Bernard Shaw once wrote, "I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no ''brief candle'' to me. It is sort of a splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations." I believe that the most gratifying life you can live is one that''s committed to ideals that go beyond your own comfort and enjoyment. This doesn''t mean living a life of martyrdom or always shunning pleasure. Rather, it means that to build a remarkable body of work you must commit to doing the right thing even when it''s uncomfortable and to emptying yourself every day rather than deferring action. Since Die Empty was published, I''ve received countless e-mails from artists, managers, entrepreneurs, writers, and others expressing that they have adopted the ideal of emptying themselves and acting on what matters most each day. My wish for you is that you will muster the same courage and take action today on the things that you''ve been holding back. Unleash your best work, and refuse to take it to the grave with you. Choose to die empty. 1 Die Empty Alas for those that never sing, But die with all their music in them. --OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES, THE VOICELESS In February 2011, the artist, designer, and urban planner Candy Chang transformed an abandoned home in her New Orleans neighborhood into a living work of art. She had recently lost someone she cared for deeply, and was reflecting on the meaning of life and what truly mattered to her. She was curious to know if other people had similar thoughts about living with a sense of urgency and purpose so she created an enormous chalkboard running the height and width of one side of the abandoned home. She then stenciled the words "Before I Die . . ." at the top of the wall, and created dozens of spaces with the words "Before I die, I want to _____" in grids across the surface. Chang provided the chalk needed to fill in the blanks, and waited in anticipation to see what would happen. Would people participate? Would it be vandalized? Would anyone even notice? She didn''t have to wonder for long. The installation was an immediate hit, as neighborhood residents and passersby filled it with their hopes, dreams, and aspirations. Some of the contributions were impersonal and matter of fact, and some were deeply personal: "Before I die I want to . . . sing for millions." "Before I die I want to . . . write a book." "Before I die I want to . . . understand." "Before I die I want to . . . tell my mother I love her." "Before I die I want to . . . be someone''s cavalry." Word quickly spread, and visitors began showing up from throughout the region to inscribe their dreams and creative aspirations on the wall. It wasn''t long before others were inquiring about creating installations in their own communities. At present, there have been more than one hundred "Before I die . . ." installations in cities across the globe, and Chang and her collaborators have developed a tool kit and detailed instructions for spreading the movement. Why did Chang''s project take off quickly and become so widely covered by international media? I believe it''s because the "Before I Die . . ." wall resonates with what we both know and fear to be true: we have only a certain amount of time available to us, and how we choose to spend our days is significant. We''re also aware that there are things we would like to do and experiences we would like to have before we die, many of which are desires we''ve suppressed for months or even years. We feel the ticking of the clock, and the accompanying sense that we may be missing our opportunity to make a contribution to the world. However, we often ignore these impulses as a result of the relentless pragmatics of life and work. Your days are finite. One day, they will run out. As a friend of mine likes to say, "You know, the death rate is hovering right around one hundred percent." Many people I know spend their entire life trying to avoid this fact. They fill their lives with frantic activity, bouncing from task to task, and no matter how successfully they perform in their work, as they close up shop for the day they are left with the question "Did the work I did today really matter?" Others I''ve met are incredibly successful at, vested in, and highly compensated for their work, but over time they''ve grown stagnant. They sense they have something more to give, but they can''t quite put their finger on why they''re stuck in first gear. They have a nagging suspicion that they are capable of contributing more--maybe even being truly brilliant at something --but have no road map for unlocking what that contribution might be. This begs the obvious question: How do you set in motion a course of action that will allow you to unleash your best, most valuable work while you still can? The marketplace is filled with (often simplistic and unhelpful) platitudes about living a life of fulfillment, landing your dream job, and discovering your purpose, but when you are in the midst of the fray it can feel futile to think about anything other than hitting your deadlines and chasing the next promotion. It''s easy to get lost, and wake up many years later in a strange land asking yourself, "Who am I, how did I get here, and how do I go back?" The only way to avoid this scenario is to instill consistent practices into your life that keep you on a true and steady course. An ounce of preventative discipline today is worth a pound of corrective action later. This book is about cultivating the mind-set and the methods you need to unleash your best work each day, and to increase the odds that, at the end of your life, you will not regret how you spent your days. Don''t Die Full of Your Best Work In my first book, T
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