“Die Empty” Raises Your Productivity Levels to Full


If remnants of entrepreneurial burnout remain after a break, or if an aimless sense of self plagues you with self-doubt, read Die Empty.

die empty

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The book Die Empty: Unleash Your Best Work Every Day seems to be a self explanatory topic for entrepreneurs. After all, achieving your best work every day is how small businesses thrive and build profitability. But the author, Todd Henry (@ToddHenry), seems to really understand the reality that entrepreneurship is rooted in creativity. And creativity invites enough disorganization and mess to discourage an entrepreneur out of business. To get past any mess, you must pour yourself into your work effectively.

Henry also wrote The Accidental Creative: How to Be Creative In A Moment’s Notice, and founded a productivity consultancy called The Accidental Creative.  With these facts as a foundation, you can safely assume that Die Empty covers productivity. But the book not only excels at productivity, it excels at selecting the right inspirations that makes the effort that you pour into your work the best GSD – Getting Stuff Done – possible.

Knowing If What You Are Doing Is Adding Up to A Difference In Life

Die Empty is about selecting the work that feels like you are living like there is no tomorrow. It’s about how you should view your work and its impact in the world. The avocation you choose should reflect what is important to you. This challenges a number of popular assumptions and old sayings such as, “No one ever lays on their deathbed wishing for another day of work”.

Here is Henry’s take on the saying:

“This saying presupposes that work is an inherently miserable act that people engage in against their will or is something that necessarily pulls us away from the people and activities that we really care about….I believe that the more you apply self-knowledge to how you engage your labor, the more satisfaction you will find in the very act of work, and thus the more joy you will find in life.”

To that point, the chapter titles contain particularly inspiring titles to help you find that joy and bring clarity to the chaos you may have. Be Fiercely Curious and Be Confidently Adaptable were my favorite titles.

Three types of work are outlined:

  • Mapping – which is about planning a project.
  • Making – which is service.
  • Meshing – work between work, the additional tasks that may not connect to sales but are becoming a part of it.

Each type of work is combined to create a descriptive word about your work and how it can be viewed. The description is based on the order of word type and whether that type is added or subtracted.  A Meshing + Mapping + Making is a description for a developer. Meshing + Mapping – Making is the description of a dreamer.

Assessing these types helps a starting entrepreneur gauge what they are really doing to make their dream a reality. Henry offers this thought on keeping it real with respect to business or personal development:

“You need to be purposeful about engaging in all three types of work. This won’t happen by default, only by design. All of us have a tendency to gravitate toward one of the three kinds of work at the expense of the others, and while the negative effects of neglect may not be evident in the short term, they can be disastrous in the long term.”

The opening chapters explain why work should matter, while chapters four through ten address principals that will best help you engage. Each chapter is meant to challenge comfort, the idea that you must stretch your comfort zone to be successful. Check out this quote from my favorite-titled chapter, Be Confidently Adaptable, in which Henry questions excessive cynicism:

“Cynicism causes us to forfeit our sense of wonder, and perhaps worry that our work will become the target of someone else’s ire. Because of this I see many people struggling to avoid making anything that seems on the surface to be too simple or obvious….unnecessary complexity can severely reduce the value of a solution by solving problems that don’t need solving.”

What I Liked About This Book

The author strikes the right balance for avoiding over enthusiasm versus being too grounded to be inspiring. It’s a similar tone to Adrienne Graham’s book No You Can’t Pick My Brain, though with difference in results. Not knowing how to value your offerings is at the core purpose of Graham’s book’s.

In Die Empty, you may know your value, but you are struggling with establishing how to be productive in a way that matters to your value, as well as to your wallet and to your soul. The inspired commentary will speak to creative types and freelancers. Entrepreneurs from both of those groups will benefits as well as small business owners who are grounded – if not overwhelmed – with day-to-day worries.

That balance I describe is artfully executed with each suggestion or support for a point made. When Henry writes that you can not get everything done today, he shares the Japanese word Karoshi which translates to death from overwork. And even in the opening pages, Henry laments that he struggled writing about death since it’s not “the kind of feel good warm and fuzzy sentiment” yet found that “I can’t not write this book.” It’s good honesty that should keep readers wanting to turn each page, then read to think deeper about their own efforts.

If remnants of entrepreneurial burnout remain after a break, or if an aimless sense of self plagues you with self-doubt, read Die Empty. Considering just a few of Henry’s outlooks will replace your last worries with renewed inspiration to deliver your best in business.

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Pierre DeBois Pierre Debois is Associate Book Editor for Small Business Trends. He is the Founder of Zimana, a consultancy providing strategic analysis to small and medium sized businesses that rely on web analytics data. A Gary, Indiana native, Pierre is currently based in Brooklyn. He blogs about marketing, finance, social media, and analytics at Zimana blog.