Author Todd Henry Encourages Creatives to ‘Die Empty’

ToddHenryDieEmptyIf you have gone back to work after the New Year feeling unsettled about the daily grind, you’re not alone. Many creative pros know deep down that they are capable of contributing much more to the world than the mundane tasks that seem to fill their work days. If you have given up trying to do the type of excellent work you know you have in you, then perhaps you should check out Todd Henry’s inspiring new book.

In “Die Empty: Unleash Your Best Work Every Day,” Henry suggests ways to cultivate a mindset and methods that will help you increase the odds that at the end of your life, you won’t regret how you spent your days.

“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,” writes Henry.

The title “Die Empty” refers to the goal of completing your best work before you die. Henry says that if he doesn’t wake up tomorrow, he wants to know that “I have emptied myself of whatever creativity is lingering inside,with minimal regrets about how I spent my focus, time and energy.”  He acknowledges that the “Die Empty” title isn’t exactly a feel-good slogan, but says it challenges readers to approach their work with greater urgency.

Henry believes each of us has a one-of-kind combination of passions, skills, and experiences that we can contribute to make meaningful change. But as he travels across the country giving motivational speeches at corporate events, he meets people every day who have abandoned their contribution and forfeited their best work: “They’re stuck or deceived into believing that the path they are one will eventually become more bearable.”

While unleashing your best work requires sustained effort, Henry says the term “Die Empty” doesn’t mean getting everything done today, following your whims, or living like there’s no tomorrow. Rather, it’s about embracing work with the mindset that will help you make steady progress every day on the projects that matter to you most. It’s about aligning your work around your values, devoting yourself to developing your skills and intuition, and not allowing comfort, fear, familiarity, and ego to keep you from acting on your ambitions. 

The book is divided into three sections. The first three chapters discuss why work matters and why so many people end up settling for less than what they are capable of. The next seven chapters share methods and principles for achieving your best work. The final two chapters offer strategies for adopting the principles in your daily life. 

To get a better sense of what’s covered in the book, you can download a sample of the book from Amazon. Or, you can watch this 49-minute “Creative Mornings” presentation that Henry gave in Cincinnati. (It’s an uplifting way to start the New Year!)

Todd Henry is also the author of “The Accidental Creative: How to Be Brilliant at a Moment’s Notice.” He promotes his company, Accidental Creative, as “an arms dealer for the creative revolution.”  The firm’s mission is to teach people and teams to be prolific, brilliant, and healthy. Henry regularly speaks and consults with companies about how to develop practices and systems that lead to everyday brilliance.


Die Empty: Unleash Your Best Work Every Day

The Accidental Creative: How to Be Brilliant at a Moment’s Notice

About Todd Henry  

The Dawn of Creative Mornings in Cincinnati

On April 26, I attended my first Creative Mornings event. It was the second meeting of the new Creative Mornings/Cincinnati chapter and ran from 8:30 to 10 am at our city’s new 21c Museum Hotel.

Creative Mornings is a monthly breakfast lecture series for “creative types.” Designer Tina Roth Eisenberg started Creative Mornings in New York City in 2009 as a way for creative people to meet.  It is now a worldwide network of 49 chapters, each hosting monthly meetings on a designated theme.  Cities with Creative Mornings chapters include Los Angeles, London, Berlin, Boston, Barcelona, Zurich, Stockholm, Amsterdam, Auckland, Sao Paulo, Austin, Chicago, and Milan.

You don’t have to be a designer to attend. Anyone who wants a jolt of inspiration and the chance to meet other creative types can register for Creative Mornings events.

Before Joe Hansbaeur's presentation, creative pros enjoyed breakfast, art, and conversation at the 21c Museum Hotel. Photo: Nick Dewald
Before Joe Hansbaeur’s presentation, creative pros enjoyed breakfast, art, and conversation at the 21c Museum Hotel. Photo: Nick Dewald

Personally, I consider a “creative type” as anyone who is naturally curious about new ideas — even ideas that don’t directly relate to their day-to-day jobs. Creatives can include designers, writers, photographers, artists, architects, engineers, marketers, educators, urban planners, and entrepreneurs. (I have even met creative accountants!)

The Creative Mornings theme for April was “The Future.” Here in Cincinnati, Joe Hansbauer talked about the future of Findlay Market, a city-owned “downtown grocery store” that has been in continuous operation since 1852. The popularity of Findlay Market has surged as more people and restaurants seek wholesome, locally grown food. Hansbauer talked about how expansion plans for Findlay Market will create opportunities for young farmers, food entrepreneurs, and retail and residential developers. Some of the old, unused industrial and residential buildings surrounding the market will be restored for new uses.

Videos of all presentations are uploaded to Vimeo for public viewing. So, to see how speakers in cities around the world view “The Future,” you will be able to watch the videos from the April meetings of Creative Mornings chapters. The global theme for May is “Backwards.”

Starting a Chapter

If there isn’t a chapter in your city, you can request an application on the Creative Mornings site.

The Cincinnati chapter was organized by Jeremy Thobe and Joe Kruessel of the interactive design agency US Digital Partners.

After watching Creative Mornings videos from other cities, Thobe and Kruessel created an application video explaining why Creative Mornings should be held in Cincinnati. The video highlights Cincinnati’s strength as “a brand city” and recent success in building a culture to attract creative, young professionals.

CreativeMornings/Cincinnati Application Video from CreativeMornings/Cincinnati on Vimeo.

“We are all really excited to see the growth and renewed enthusiasm around Cincinnati’s creative community,” said Thobe. “We have so many great people and companies in our city that we really feel Cincinnati deserves to be a part of the global creative conversation that Creative Mornings has started.” (I agree!)

As a writer, I also know that a good way to solve a creative challenge is to step away from the computer for a while. Taking a walk, exercising, or absorbing new sights, sounds, or ideas can be great ways to fire up the imagination. So I was excited to learn about Creative Mornings in Cincinnati.

“I have always been interested in learning about other people and topics that are not necessarily related to my career,” said Thobe. With Creative Mornings/Cincinnati, “We hope to inspire our community. We hope to connect our talent, showcase our successes, and get people excited to go back to work and create something wonderful!”

The 21c Museum Hotel

Cincinnati’s 21c Museum Hotel is the perfect setting for Creative Mornings. Adjacent to Cincinnati’s Contemporary Arts Center and across the street from the Aronoff Center for the Arts, the 21c Museum Hotel combines the amenities of a boutique hotel with a contemporary art museum. The art museum is open to the public (free of charge) to provide “an oasis where art challenges, amuses, stimulates conversation, and provokes new ideas.”

Kentucky natives Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson opened the first 21c Museum Hotel in Louisville and are expanding into Bentonville, Arkansas, Durham, North Carolina, and Lexington, Kentucky. Through 21c Museum Hotels, Brown and Wilson are achieving their goal of collecting and exhibiting the work of living artists and integrating contemporary art into the daily lives of more cities.

In the 8,000 sq. ft. of museum space at the 21c Museum Hotel in Cincinnati, visitors can enjoy curated exhibitions, site-specific multimedia installations, poetry readings, film screenings, artist lectures, and live performances. Shown here are works by American artist Judy Fox in the “OFF-SPRING: New Generations” exhibition.
In the 8,000 sq. ft. of museum space at the 21c Museum Hotel in Cincinnati, visitors can enjoy curated exhibitions, site-specific multimedia installations, poetry readings, film screenings, artist lectures, and live performances. Shown here are works by Judy Fox in the “OFF-SPRING: New Generations” exhibition.

The first Creative Mornings/Cincinnati event at the 21c Museum Hotel featured Bill Donabedian, the organizer of Cincinnati’s Bunbury Music Festival. Tickets to his presentation were snapped up so quickly that the creative types who manage the 21c Museum Hotel provided a larger meeting space to accommodate everyone on the waiting list.

If you are ever in Cincinnati (or another city with a 21c Museum Hotel, I encourage you to check it out!


Creative Mornings Chapters and Videos

Creative Mornings/Cincinnati

21c Museum Hotel

Cincinnati Findlay Market


WCPO Digital posted an article I wrote about the meeting.

WCPO: Findlay Market CEO: New opportunities, spaces, businesses part of growth plan