Embrace Possibility Die Empty by Todd Henry
/Die Empty by Todd Henry

Die Empty by Todd Henry

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Die Empty: Unleash Your Best Work Every Day by Todd Henry

  • Published: April 2015
  • ISBN-10: 1591846994
  • EP Rating: 5 out of 5 (must read)

EP Main Takeaway: Know your purpose and devote most of your time to accomplish it. Actions define us not intentions - you make maps by moving - when you stand still, it's hard to know what to do. Don't focus on being great to others, just focus on delivering great work. Remember the lag between cause and effect - always a delay between planting and sowing.

Ask yourself: What did you fail at this week? (This is your driver for growth)

Our notes:

Die Empty by focusing on your passion.

Managing time in your life is NOT about:
  • Getting everything done today
  • Living like there is no tomorrow
  • Following whims
You want to take advantage of opportunity with responsibility because how you engage in work today will affect how you engage in life; Without a clear purpose, efficiency and productivity rule over effectiveness ***
  • Don't do things just to be busy; operate by design, not by default
Avoid comfort - consistently choose what's right and take a stance for your vision and beliefs
  • Ask yourself "Are you proud of your body of work?"
Engage in these types of activities:
  • Mapping - plan and strategize based on the value you want to create
  • Making - do the work and complete tangible tasks
  • Meshing - work between work; build knowledge and relationships
You don't always know the impact of your work
Mediocrity develops over time; No one strives for mediocrity but it happens if you consistently settle for the comfortable option
7 sins of mediocrity
  1. Aimlessness - the fix is to know your purpose; define the battle you want to fight to get meaningful gain; what is the change you want to see in the world; create a through line for your life - stand on principle;
    • Ask "what can I add" vs "what can I get"
    • Passion doesn't mean you just follow your whims - it's what you decide is worth suffering for;
      • Productive passion: motivates you and is productive to others
      • You can find hints concerning your passion by thinking about what gives you compassionate anger or an urgency to act; what problems are you obsessed with solving even if it comes at your own expense ***
        • What will you stand for today?
        • What do you know you should be doing but ignoring?
        • Where are your open loops? For open projects and commitments; use values and mission to decide which ones to keep and which ones to ignore
  2. Boredom - the cure is disciplined curiosity; Embrace mystery - ask why, how, what if?
    • Don't be the busily bored - reclaim curiosity by targeting engagement mindset vs entertainment mindset
    • Best ideas come during lulls; remove sources of frivolous entertainment; and seek to ask new and better questions, gain new perspectives**
    • Curse of familiarity; awareness gives illusion of knowledge and understanding; deep dive, don't jet ski; take time to test ideas against your experiences
    • Establish hunting trails by creating systems:
      • Before any interaction or activity, create a list of questions you want to be answered ***
      • Create list of must-read books and experiences; keep resources of interesting materials
      • Prototype relentlessly; helps you make progress with low risk
      • Find your bliss station: find place to do life's work; hour and place to bring forth who you are and could be ***
      • Develop possibility thinking and find clear boundaries by redefining problem:
    • For your project, ask yourself:
      • Aspirations - What is the ultimate end if all problems were solved? What is this project aspiring to become?
      • Affinities - What similarities are there between current project and past projects? What is this like? Where have I seen something similar?
      • Assumptions - What are the perceived limits? What assumptions might I be making?
      • Attributes - What are the key characteristics of the problem? What does it look, sound, feel like?
    • When you're blocked:
      • Conceptual (hard to see the big picture) - ask different questions: What am I really trying to accomplish? What is this problem like? What inspires me now?
      • Executional - Where do I feel most constraint? Where do I feel out of control? what do I not understand?
      • Converse with other on ideas that are interesting to yo
  3. Comfort - the fix is not to make comfort your goal; Commit to continual growth and achievement
    • Constantly reinventing and stretching yourself is uncomfortable;
    • Imagine a biographer following you around for the full day and taking copious notes of your actions and underlying motivations and will then write a definitive biography about you that you can't dispute - how will you act? Actions define us not intentions ***
    • Say "yes" - take risk at critical juncture - don't default to comfortable choice; ok if you're not ready
    • You don't grow by doing what is expected of you - ignore "Who do you think you are?"
      • What would you think about your decision when you look back at age 80?
    • Waiting is a less risky form of "no" - give yourself permission. People make maps by moving - when you stand still, hard to know what to do
    • Be personally responsible for your growth
    • When stepping out of your comfort zone, consider the following timeframes:
      • Step - short daily goal (what will I do no matter what)
      • Sprint - one to two weeks
      • Stretch - long-term goal that is outside of your comfort zone;
        • Develop business and work skills
        • Hone mental processes
        • Cultivate relationships
        • Personal/spiritual
      • Step should help you sprint should help you stretch
        • What skills should you develop to add more value to others?
        • Define what you will give up to accomplish it.
        • What are you not doing because of fear, ego, safety, etc?
  4. Delusion - the fix is to cultivate self-awareness, be honest with yourself and understand your skills
    • Common narratives that lead to delusion and affects judgment
      • You should be rewarded for your work
      • Recognition for your work is all important; leads you to lose touch with your own meaning of excellence
      • You are worth only what you create
      • I have to win everything
      • The person who dies with most stuff wins
    • Helpful narratives:
      • Emulate your superheroes and take on positive attributes
      • List 5 qualities of people you admire and cultivate qualities that intimidate you
      • What resonates with you? Note these when they come and be specific about what you admire
      • What complicates your life? Challenge your assumptions
        • Reflect on your day - what went well? Note patterns
    • Establish a code of ethics
      • Exude excellence, add value, be curious, learn, instill confidence and trust
      • Be authentic and move forward in face of uncertainty
      • Know yourself first and then go out on your own
  5. Ego - overcome your fear of failure; adopt adaptability to learn
    • When things go wrong, the first instinct is to establish a rule to ensure it doesn't happen again; when you make rules, people remove needs for personal accountability and creates unnecessary complexity;
      • Don't strive for control - strive for influence!! *
    • Playing victim relinquishes control; don't knowingly withhold your best work
    • Cynicism forfeits your sense of wonder and makes you discount the obvious
    • Expecting to be accommodated might cause you to withhold your best; your need for recognition should not stop your best work; take a stand for your work
    • Confident vs overinflated ego
      • I can get this right vs I can do no wrong
      • I'm valuable vs I'm invaluable (value because of presence)
      • Strategic compromise is essential vs bend to me always
      • Track record shows competence vs. track record shows invulnerability (rewrites history to protect self-worth)
      • I'm not explaining well vs you don't get me
      • Progression vs protection (Failure not an option)
    • Prevent ego inflation
      • Where am I putting myself ahead of my work?
      • Where do I feel slighted or entitled?
      • Where do I assume success? ***
      • Cultivate service mindset: what can I offer vs what can I get (entitlement)
      • Encourage and recognize others: write note, make call, mark a moment
      • Get real with SWOT
        • Strengths: what unique value can I offer consistently
        • Weaknesses: where am I failing consistently? What skills do I need?
        • Opportunities: where can I add value in coming weeks and months?
        • Threats: where am I most vulnerable with a chance of failing? How can I mitigate failure?
  6. Fear - the fix is to experiment and practice strategic and intentional risk-taking
    • Don't wait to be given permission to do great work
      • Actively seek opportunities to do great work and overcome the risk
      • Don't be afraid to take yourself seriously
    • Walk towards your dreams - be intentional about what you're doing by observing and reflecting
    • Be willing to face rejection; pursue what you MIGHT be able to do
      • Plan for experimentation and play with ideas
      • Apply peripheral aptitudes to work; what other skills do you have
      • Open your eyes and follow inspiration
      • Do the obvious; brilliant work doesn't need to be complex
      • Don't rely on imitation alone
  7. Guardedness - easy to isolate from other people; the fix is to find times and ways to connect with others
    • Don't defer important conversations and discuss differences in opinions
    • Identify people who can be mirrors for you who are honest and trustworthy;
    • Conversations to start at work:
      • Clarity conversation: get info you need to do your work;
        • How does what I'm doing tie into why our company exists?
        • Is there anything we are doing that seems out of character for us?
        • Do I know what is expected of me?
        • What do you expect from me? Am I falling short?
      • Fear conversation:
        • What are you afraid might happen and why?
        • What risks should I take at work?
        • What's inspiring you?
        • How do you feel about the work we are doing?
        • What is the best thing we are doing and why?
        • What is something I'm doing that doesn't make sense?
        • What are the positive things I'm doing?
        • What's something obvious that I'm not doing?
Scan your life for action points - daily checkpoint EMPTY
  • E - focus on your code of ethics; review everything and how you will apply your ethics, what are potential pitfalls
  • M - focus on mission; how will you know you have succeeded? What do you want to do that you're not doing; what needs to go away?
  • P - focus on people. Look at people you interact with and how you will enhance the relationship
  • T - focus on tasks; what absolutely must get done and schedule on calendars
  • Y - focus on you.  How are you developing yourself?


  • Get started
  • Be grateful
  • Dream a little
  • Nurture your process - only thing you can control
  • Don't follow other people's maps; no lasting success without failure
  • Regularly scan for 7 sins
  • Remember that decisive action is necessary
  • Doesn't matter what we expect from life but rather what does life expects from us; stop trying to be great and just be great ***
  • Don't focus on being great to others, just focus on delivering great work
  • Remember there is a lag between cause and effect. Hard to hustle in the lag. Always a delay between planting and sowing. To fight lag, have a clear vision and don't get distracted by other activities; make daily diligent urgent progress ***
  • Choose to quit - it's a strategic choice; don't quit to run away from fear or discomfort
  • Be optimistic - expect best through effort;
  • Ask - What did you fail at this week?  This is your driver of growth
  • Find ways to add value to the market and to the lives of others.
  • When you stop challenging yourself, you stop growing.

Robert Chen

Robert Chen is the founder of Embrace Possibility and author of The Dreams to Reality Fieldbook. He helps people who feel stuck move forward by guiding them to see other possibilities for their lives. He specializes in working with high performers get to the next level. If you're going through a tough time right now, check out Robert's article on How to Feel Better Right Away and if you're having trouble getting what you want out of life, check out How to Always Achieve Your Goals.

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