Die Empty Book Review
Want to win my copy of Todd Henry’s Die Empty? Shout me on social media & I’ll send it to you with a favourite passage marked for your enjoyment.
Death is scary when we’re not ready for it (which is usually always). The idea that we are alive on this earth for a limited amount of time to accomplish X/Y/Z things is kinda intense. I used to have mild panic attacks or wake up in the middle of the night fearing that I wasn’t being productive enough with the billion ideas I had cycling through my brain. Pretty lame, right? Perhaps this slightly morbid inclination was what drew me to download Die Empty: Unleash Your Best Work Every Day by Todd Henry. Seeing the title alone resonated with me because I had this inkling that there was a lot of fuel inside of me that needed to get out of neutral and boosted to launch control. Here’s my Die Empty book review.
Here lies [name].
They did [blank].
What I liked about Die Empty was that it wasn’t a book about accomplishing the most or accomplishing “anything.” Henry writes about us harnessing our individual passions and skills not for fun or randomness but out of a responsibility to contribute them to the world. I think sometimes we get confused and think that these contributions are about the end result. I would by lying if I said I didn’t wish to be an award-winning writer or an expensive marketing consultant somewhere along the way. But the reality is that doing anything significant isn’t going to manifest off only a wish.
Before I Die
One of the neat examples Henry shares is of Candy Chang’s “Before I Die” art project in New Orleans. She used an abandoned building as a chalkboard canvas for the city to answer a simple query:
“Before I die I want to ________”
The project took off and has since spread to over 70 countries (with over 1,000 walls). See – we all think the same things, but very rarely are we open and honest about these thoughts.
The way Henry breaks up the book is in to three sections: understanding work and the contributions we make, then cultivating the mindset to bring forth the best work we’ve got in us, and lastly, some strategies to build on. At the foundation of any supercharged work or contributions that you make there has to be a sense of purpose. There has to be an understanding of why you’re doing what you’re doing, how it connects to your inner values, and the priority it plays in your daily life. He shares part of Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford commencement address as follows:
“I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”
Are you doing something that you really, really don’t want to be doing?
Action The Wish Work
So you’ve answered what you want to do before you die or had an epiphany about what wish work revs your engines (wish work to me is not just your “day job” or income-generating work, it can be stuff that you do to contribute to the world).
So now what?
I, personally, have struggled with “purpose paralysis” many times over. The feeling of being overwhelmed or unsure of where to start, or that I’m potentially crazy for thinking that my wish work has importance. According to Henry, two things paralyze our creativity:
- Not defining success
- Not defining failure.
And the thing that I learned from this book is that the ball gets rolling (and continues to roll) if I can keep redirecting myself to remember the why of my wish work. I get out of that in-between grey area of not wanting to now success or failure.
No one launches off in to unfaltering diligence without missing a beat. So you have to learn strategies to stoke and sustain your sense of urgency to do great work. Otherwise, it is all too easy to defer things till tomorrow (because, guess what, then there will always be more “other work” you don’t like to do that will help you to post-pone your wish work time). Waiting for circumstances to change means you are not doing what you are supposed to be doing.
So work through this book. Find what you’re looking for. And put the pedal to the metal.
Pick up a copy of Die Empty: Unleash Your Best Work Every Day for your bedside table.
P.S> So excited to read his other book, The Accidental Creative. Let me know if you’ve read it!