Twenty years ago, conversations around creativity revolved around creative thinking. Lateral thinking. Metaphorical thinking. Design thinking. Those thinking models remain useful, but what we talk about when we talk about creativity today exceeds creative thinking.
We talk about living creatively and being creative, not just thinking creatively. One person whose work in this field I admire and who’s leading part of this conversation is Todd Henry.
Todd brings a refreshing voice of sanity to being a creative professional or entrepreneur. Think Marcus Aurelius or Thomas Merton meets David Allen’s Get Things Done. The Accidental Creative: How to be Brilliant at a Moment’s Notice offers creatives a practical dashboard to maximizing how to come up with ideas while staying healthy.
His new book – Die Empty: Unleash Your Best Work Every Day – works from this idea: “Don’t go to your grave with your best work in you. Die empty.” It’s as much about character as it is about creativity. He takes little – how we spend time, how we spend money, how we eat – for granted or outside of the creative life.
What books have shaped Todd’s thinking and living? In this Books That Matter feature, you will discover the books that shape this ethical creative’s pragmatic heart and mind. And his view of publishing’s future sounds spot-on.
Share your responses and questions below.
Jeffrey: What one book most took off the top of your head (Dickinson on
poetry) or was “the axe for the frozen sea within” you (Kafka) or otherwise just changed something profound within you? What did it do
for you? Maybe a book that lit you up as a child or that turned you
on as a young adult or last week that salved some pain or turned
your thinking upside-down.
Todd: There are many, but the one that really changed my perspective in so many ways was Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl. It really helped me better understand the nature of purpose and suffering in life and work.
What one detail do you still recall from that book?
That I should cease asking what I want from life, and instead begin to ask what life is asking of me.
The one book you have most often re-read is what?
It’s a tie: Ready For Anything by David Allen, which I re-listen to it once a year, and find that it helps me re-focus and refresh my goals and systems, and John Adams by David McCullough, which I believe to be one of the finest, most elegant biographies ever written.
The kinds of books you am most appreciating or seeking these days
Very good narrative non-fiction that freshly illuminates a topic, or well-written biographies of interesting people.
The kinds of books that most irritate you are what?
Books that are too simplistic or blindly optimistic, overtly agenda-laden, or that paint with too broad of a brush. I am a deep realist.
You will read anything written by whom?
Survey: Roughly what % of books do you read digitally versus in
paper? (What’s your preferred reader?)
I read 50% hardcover, 50% Kindle, though I will often purchase both because I prefer the physical reading experience but find it challenging when on the road.
In a sentence or two, what’s your forecast for the future of
Because humans have finite attention, as more titles flood the market, curation and trusted distribution are going to become increasingly important. Credible voices will become increasingly vital to the publishing world.
Which book would you want every leader to read? Why?
The Leadership Challenge by Kousez/Posner. It’s probably the best book on leadership I’ve read, and offers clarity on issues that often plague leaders in the midst of uncertainty.
The little-known book you most relish and champion is what?
Human Capitalism by Brink Lindsey. He captures the essence of what I see happening in the marketplace. Primarily, those who are able to deal with complexity and turn it into meaning and marketplace value are experiencing increasing opportunity, and those who aren’t prepared to deal with environmental complexity are struggling to find their way.
What I hope most readers of Die Empty come away with is what?
…the importance of being purposeful about each and every day.
Today you are building your body of work.
The question is, will it represent what you care about?