A review of Todd Henry’s “Die Empty – unleash your best work every day”

“Die Empty” has a lot of really great material for entrepreneurs.  Today’s post focuses on Chapter 3 and the 7 Signs of Mediocrity from A-G.

  • Aimlessness. The basic point here is that it is impossible to achieve your goal if you don’t have clarity on what that goal is.  He also points that “Aimlessness” is particularly painful because there is no gratification to be had from victories based on luck. Aimless work feels futile.
  • Boredom. “The cure for boredom is intentional and applied curiosity.” I left my corporate job because we had transitioned from a team that valued innovation, to one that had converged tightly into a highly specialized, technical team, focused on efficient delivery.  Telling your boss that you are “bored” is hard and even risky. It requires what Laszlo Bock in Work Rules!, refers to as “psychological safety” and trust. Organizations that support honest conversation will stay  aligned with both their teams and their organizational purpose and interest.
  • Comfort. It’s easy to understand the temptation to rest on your laurels. I’d argue that it is appropriate and healthy to bask in success. However, as someone who has recently taken a huge leap of faith, I am reminded that often the biggest risk is not taking any risk.
  • Delusion. Henry suggests that you need to cultivate self-awareness. I would add to this both from my perspective as a data researcher, entrepreneur and also as a yoga teacher. As a data geek, I’ve learned that data is a powerful tool for providing a broader perspective.  As a yogi, I’m increasingly aware that reality is how you define it. I’ve been reminded recently that, sometimes the problem isn’t you, but the people you surround yourself with. If you have a vision that no one can see, you need to either manifest it so that others can see it, or find people who see it and will help you bring your vision to life. If you can’t manage any of that you may need to accept that you are nuts. As an entrepreneur and design thinking consultant, my advice to you is prototype, test and get feedback.
  • Ego. Creativity is about connection and trying something new.  Ego is about the individual and does not allow for the brilliant connections that occur outside of the self.  Ego-driven folks often have a fear of failure and avoid being open or  vulnerable to criticism. Henry suggests adopting ego focused folks to adopt an attitude of “adaptability”.
  • Fear. It’s not just fear of failure that holds people back. By definition, creativity pushes the frontier and goes into the UNKNOWN.  One of my biggest fears as a kid was swimming in the deep end of the pool, it represented a fathomless depth where anything out of my imagination could grab my leg and pull me down.  The thing is, once you explore unknowns, once you turn on the light, fear goes away. Of course, then it’s on to the next scary thing.
  • Guardedness. I might even reframe this as a (Lack of) Generosity.  Henry writes, “Great work happens in the context of community.” HALLELUJAH!  The old economy was built on “stuff” and therefore was defined by scarcity. The digital economy, or what I like to call the exponential economy is limitless and is defined by the energy, engagement, and value.  Companies that make the digital / data shift understand this shift in mindset.

So Full disclosure

I picked this up right as I was contemplating leaving my 6-figure gig at a Big 4 consulting firm and I was bored out my mind. Henry’s book confirmed what I didn’t want to admit,specifically that I was in the land of the mediocre. 

Resources worth checking out. 

7 Signs You’re Slipping into Mediocrity
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