Todd Henry’s first book, The Accidental Creative, is one of the better nuts-and-bolts books for anyone that has to be creative at work, from designers to salespeople to CEOs. His new book, Die Empty, is even broader in scope. It is a call for all of us to use our time allotted, every day of it starting today, to do the best work we are capable of. And like his previous book, he provides the nuts and bolts with which to build that life.
Henry is very good at giving a holistic view of work with a few simple words or devices to remember as you go throughout your day. For instance, his “Seven Deadly Sins of Mediocrity”—“A-B-C-D-E-F-G,” or Aimlessness, Boredom, Comfort, Delusion, Ego, Fear, and Guardedness—is a great mnemonic device.
The cornerstones of his books, however, are his simple equations for success. In Die Empty, Henry’s equation involves the three kinds of work we all do: Mapping, “planning, plotting your objectives, and setting priorities.” Making, “actually doing the work.” And Meshing, “the work between the work” such as “acquiring and developing new skills [and] reinforcing or enhancing your knowledge.” Planning and prioritizing (mapping) the work you do (making) everyday is important, but Henry explains in why meshing may mean even more to your long-term success:
Acquiring new skills and adapting to complex, uncertain environments isn’t easy … It requires persistent attention and near-constant effort to maintain a trajectory of growth. As such, it’s easy to grow tired or lose your drive. However, when you stop growing, you start dying. In much the same way that an organization needs to be persistently innovative in order to maintain market share, individuals must take a personal commitment to lifelong personal innovation through skill development, risk-taking, and experimentation in order to avoid stagnation. The seeds of tomorrow’s brilliance are planted in the soil of today’s activity
And, with his signature formulas, Henry shows how lacking any one of the ingredients can lead to eventual ineffectiveness:
Mapping + Making – Meshing = Driver
Making + Meshing – Mapping = Drifter
Meshing + Mapping – Making = Dreamer
If you can combine all three you become a Developer who is “constantly weaving together available resources and opportunities to create value,” the most assured way to do the work you’re meant to do, do it to your full capacity, and “die empty.”
That title, Die Empty, is a grim one, but the message of the book and instructions therein are not. It could just have easily been titled “Live Full,” but that would have been boring, a quality that could never be assigned to Todd Henry’s work.