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Tuesday
Mar182014

Ask the Expert: Todd Henry

Our popular “Ask the Expert” interview series connects you with dynamic industry thought leaders. This year we’ve spoken with psychologist, Dr. Debbie Grove about change and author and minimalist, Joshua Becker about fresh starts. For March, I’m excited to have with us inspiring author, Todd Henry to share his insights about next steps.

I recently finished reading Todd’s latest book, Die Empty, and loved it. He encourages us to live each day purposefully and with more urgency. Die Empty is a must read.  I’m thrilled that Todd was available to join us. My gratitude goes to him for his thought-provoking responses. I know you’re going to enjoy his ideas about next steps. Before we begin, here’s more about him.

 

Todd Henry is the founder of Accidental Creative, a consultancy that helps people and teams to be prolific, brilliant, and healthy. He teaches companies how to be creative under pressure, collaborate more effectively, and align their activities around the work that matters most. He's also the author of two books, The Accidental Creative and Die Empty, which was named as one of Amazon’s "Best Books of 2013.” You can connect with Todd on Twitter, Facebook or website. 

 

 

Linda Samuels:  As an author, speaker, consultant and coach, you inspire individuals and teams to “generate brilliant ideas” and live fulfilled lives. How can we best prepare for “next?”

Todd Henry:  We all face uncertainty daily. It’s a fact of the new marketplace, where most of us are compensated for turning our thoughts into value each day. However, in the face of that uncertainty we are not helplessly at the whim of the workload. We can choose to build practices and structures to help position us to bring our best to what we do each day. Tomorrow’s brilliance is rooted in the soil of today’s activity.

 

Linda:  What if “next” isn’t obvious?

Todd:  It’s never obvious, or at least the best ideas typically aren’t. That’s why daily practice is so critical. It’s what allows you to problem find, not just problem solve. Those who see patterns, recognize opportunities, and are poised to take advantage of them when they arise are the people who win the future.

 

Linda:  In your book, Die Empty, you talk about the importance of “making steady, critical progress each day on the projects that matter, in all areas of life.” What is a favorite strategy for moving forward?

Todd:  The most important element of this is defining a through-line, or an outcome that you are committed to. It’s easy to get carried along by the work, or to allow the flow of life to cause you to drift from opportunity to opportunity or project to project, but when you have a specific through-line, or outcome that you are committed to it helps you contextualize all of your daily activities and measure whether they are advancing you toward your overall objectives. It’s amazing how defining what you are about suddenly brings clarity to your priorities.

 

Linda:  What is your most surprising discovery about figuring out “next?”

Todd:  The most surprising thing is that it’s rarely the “a-ha” that everyone seems to crave. Brilliant insights, innovations, and works of art rarely emerge in a flash of fire, but instead are a smolder over time that eventually grows into a blaze. The key is to be mindful, have practices that help you to ask better questions, and to pay attention for those little hunches, moments of insight, or seemingly irrelevant ideas that could be the foundation for something really big. In many ways, it’s learning how to listen to your inner voice even when it seems to be slightly off-topic.

 

Linda:  What has been your biggest personal challenge around taking next steps?

Todd:  I tend to have “shiny object syndrome,” meaning that I tend to bounce from exciting new project to exciting new project. As a result, I’ve had to have other people in my life to keep me focused on the results I’m seeking and follow-through on projects until they reach their intended end. Book projects are good for me, because they are a long-arc project with a dedicated end date, and they are easy to work on in “chunks” of thought, so I get to satisfy the wandering attention span while still making steady progress on a long-arc project.

 

Linda:  Is there anything you’d like to share that I haven’t asked?

Todd:  The most important thing to remember is that today matters. We have a tendency to believe the lie that tells us we’ll always have tomorrow to do today’s work. We don’t. It’s important to spend your finite resources (focus, assets, time, energy) each day in a way you’ll not regret later. Engage with urgency and diligence, because those are the foundation of hustle, and hustle is the best antidote to lifelong regret.

 

Todd, there are so many gems here. Some ideas that resonate with me include that next often isn’t obvious, ask better questions, listen to your inner voice, enlist the help of others so that you can do your best work, and that “today matters.” What wonderful ideas to contemplate and act on.

Please join Todd and me as we continue the conversation. We’d love to hear your ideas about next steps. What are you thinking about?

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Reader Comments (24)

I find that some of my best ideas surprise me - they just leap out at the most unexpected times. I try to be ready to capture them when they bubble up. Todd's comments are encouraging to me to not just let these ideas get shoved onto a list and forgotten. Show up each day and take it one step further!

March 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSeana Turner

Love this post! What resonates with me most is to "build practices and structures to help position us to bring our best to what we do each day." Many people feel that structure keeps them from their best, but as Todd shares with us that is what fuels us. That is a concept I can share with those I work with each day.

March 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEllen Delap

Many thanks for being the party-starters. It's always wonderful to "hear" your voices.

@Seana- Surprising, leaping, capturing, bubbling…all great words to describe the idea process. Great to know that you found encouragement from Todd's words to move things forward on a daily basis.

@Ellen- It's an interesting point you bring up…the tension between too much and not enough structure as the backdrop for functioning at our best. Like most things, it's probably a matter of knowing yourself to figure out what "enough" really means.

March 18, 2014 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

I am a big proponent of living every day and not putting things off that are important. Like Seana I have ideas that pop up, usually when I am thinking of something else. I love Todd's "through - line" I think that is what most people struggle with. Great article again Linda.

March 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJill Robson

"Tomorrow’s brilliance is rooted in the soil of today’s activity." Everything we do today is a foundation for whatever we build in the future, is a consistency path that will define the various points of the journey we'll achieve in our life,. If we keep focus on important thing every day we can live the life we want.

March 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNacho Eguiarte

Wow! Great piece Linda! So many things popped for me in reading it!

As you know, I'm a firm believer in building "practices and structures to help position us to bring our best to what we do each day". Without the support of my best practices, my own "shiny object syndrome" would probably prevent me from getting much of anything done in a given day.

I appreciated Todd's reminding us of the importance of listening "to your inner voice even when it seems to be slightly off-topic" - that voice has gotten me into some scrapes, but it more often than not has brought wonderful awarenesses into my life.

I agree with Todd that "Those who see patterns, recognize opportunities, and are poised to take advantage of them when they arise are the people who win the future." He seems to be one of those individuals and I look forward to reading his book!

Best,

Andrea

March 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea Sharb

I love that Todd states that it's not always an "aha" moment that needs to propel us forward to our next. My favorite gem is that "brilliant insights, innovations, and works of art rarely emerge in a flash of fire, but instead are a smolder over time that eventually grows into a blaze."
I'm such a believer that there are great opportunities in our little "hunches." It's so important to connect with our inner voice and pay attention, which is often challenging when we keep moving. For me, I need to be still to really listen.
Great insights in this interview, Linda!

March 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNancy Borg

Great interview Linda! Glad to see I'm not the only one with "shiny object syndrome"! It's tough to focus on the task at hand sometimes when something else new and exciting comes into play!

Thanks for sharing!

March 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne Heide

Thank you for all your enthusiastic responses and additions to the conversation.

@Jill- Yes...Finding that "through-line" and then using it to help with focus, prioritizing and meaning.

@Nacho- You pulled out one of my favorite quotes from this interview. It speaks to persistence, growth, and great outcomes.

@Andrea- No surprise about the things that "popped" for you. What we listen to can be of benefit or pull us off course. Learning how to listen and how to ask better questions are integral to this. You're going to love Todd's book!

@Nancy- Oh yes…another favorite Todd quote with fire, smolder, and blaze! Again makes the case for persistent, consistent, and focused effort.

@Suzanne- The pull of the "shiny object" is difficult to resist. I love Todd's strategy of using others to help keep him focused on the chosen commitments and priorities. Great to know our strengths, challenges, and when to reach out for help.

March 18, 2014 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Your interview has really piqued my interest, Linda. The challenge to "die empty" is tantalizing. That title suggests that we have some finite amount of creative stuff in us. On the other hand, I sometimes find that the more I do, the more I can invent to do: creating breeds creativity. In either case, bringing forth whatever is best in us is a worthy daily practice. Can't wait to read this book!

March 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMargaret Lukens

Margaret- So glad to have you with us. I'm not sure that Todd is suggesting we have a finite amount of "creative stuff" in us, but that we have a finite amount of time to live. He encourages us to tap into the best of who we are, discover the unique gifts we have to offer, be purposeful in our days, and use our time to bring those gifts to fruition. I know you're going to enjoy Todd's book. Will you keep me posted?

March 19, 2014 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Such a thought-provoking interview. I agree with Nacho: "Tomorrow's brilliance is rooted in the soil of today's activity" is a lovely call to action. It reminds me that although our day may not go as planned or hoped, it is important and there is an opportunity for something new to emerge. Also I find that I am curious now to look for the "patterns." What new opportunities await?

March 20, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDenise Lee

Hi Denise- Great to "hear" your voice! Patterns, opportunities, hope…salient words that you selected. Today marks the first day of spring. With it, I'm sure that many new opportunities will emerge. It's exciting to think about what might be possible, isn't it?

March 20, 2014 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

I too struggle with "shiny object syndrome," which is rather surprising (even to me) as my MBTI type is ISTJ, and ISTJ's are typically very methodical and focused. I wonder if it's the result of my age, or if it's common with entrepreneurs who have so much more freedom to explore ideas than most employees.

Die Empty sounds excellent, and fits perfectly with my yearly "one word" of MAXIMIZE. I plan to read it soon.

March 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJanet Barclay

Late to the party, but I see it's still going strong, so I'm delighted to be here! :) Creativity is all over my life's vision board, as much for creative pursuits as for creativity in thinking, problem solving, and living, so I'm intrigued by his book and have already been over to his blog!

Besides what others have said are gems, which I agree with, I'd add: (1) I feel challenged to find more of my creativity by Todd's comments. (2) I read that Todd believes we are all creative and yet, so many people do not identify themselves as being creative in any way. (3) We're really talking about "being organized" with our time/tasks, so that we can find this creativity. But how he talks about all this is far more interesting and tantalizing ! (4) Contextualizing is so powerful in our splintered lives.

Thanks so much for inviting me to the party.

March 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSue West

Welcome to the "party!" Always wonderful to hear what resonates with you.

@Janet- It's funny about the shiny objects, isn't it? Sometimes they can be tiny objects with a gentle, but still distracting pull (other people's agendas, requests) and other times they can be that "brilliant" idea we just have to follow. They require awareness on our parts. OK to be pulled as long as it fits with our overall goals. There's a mix each of us have to find between flexibility and focus. Quite the dance.

@Sue- Never late. Always welcome. What an awesome outcome for you from this interview: "find more of my creativity." And just have to say, love that sentence you shared, "Contextualizing is so powerful in our splintered lives." Wow! Pulling the pieces together. Thank you, Sue.

March 21, 2014 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Thank you, Linda, for this wonderful 'Ask the Expert' interview with Todd Henry. As those who've responded already have mentioned there are many take a-ways from this interview. I particularly like the theme that "today matters". I agree whole heartedly that it's easy to drift along in the flow of routine and to put off more challenging decisions or activities. The idea of 'defining a through-line' and 'contextualizing all the daily activities' really resonated with me. It's a concept that I will share with some of my clients!

March 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDiane Quintana

Thanks for the kind and excellent comments, all. So good to know that some of the concepts are resonating!

Agree that the through-line, or context for your work is the most challenging aspect of all of it. It can be a struggle to gain traction when it seems like most everything is disconnected, or isn't really propelling you in a meaningful direction. I'd encourage you to step back and examine some of the high and low points in your life, times when you've been especially effective or moved (emotionally or otherwise), and see if there are any patterns. This is always an effective exercise for me and for the organizations I work with.

March 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTodd Henry

Diane- I'm with you that "today matters!" How often do we live in the past or the future, but forget about today or now? Today matters speaks to many things including mindfulness, being present, recognizing the power of now. Following your comment, Todd added some more thoughts about the "through-line," which you and many others have highlighted. Loving this conversation. Thank you for joining in.

March 22, 2014 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Todd- Wonderful to have you with us to continue the conversation. As you can see, you've got a lot of new fans that are excited by your ideas. Thank you for expanding on the "through-line" concept, which has especially resonated with us. What an interesting exercise you suggested to step back, notice, and find patterns. It's encouraging that you not only suggest this technique to clients, but use it yourself. I'm going to challenge myself to do this. Anyone else game?

March 22, 2014 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

"...it’s rarely the “a-ha” that everyone seems to crave... but instead are a smolder over time that eventually grows into a blaze."
How true, Todd! Thanks for the wonderful interview, Linda.

March 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Hetzer

Linda- Great to "meet" another Linda. Thank you for your supportive words and for joining the conversation. As spring appears, here's to nurturing the smolder that will ignite into a blaze!

March 24, 2014 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Coming to the party a little late but I can see why. Just had the pleasure of reading not only this treasure-filled interview but everyone else's comments. Lucky me:-))

I too find the idea of the through-line motivating and energizing. It's so easy to get swept away, especially when we are living and working with a number of conflicting priorities. Often, I don't know where I end and someone else begins.

What I find especially affirming is the notion that we never really know what is next and that it takes practice. That resonates with me strongly. The idea of practicing daily even if I feel disconnected or uninspired. I find that often it's in the putting one foot in front of the other, even if the visibility isn't great, that sparks momentum and inspiration.

Thank you Linda and Todd!

March 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterYota Schneider

Yota- You're not late. I'm so glad you stopped by. It IS easy to get "swept away," isn't it? That "through-line," if we can define it, can help to keep us focused and grounded. Like you, I too found the notion of uncertainty for next, refreshing…almost liberating. It takes off the pressure to just know. Instead we have to trust a bit more (our intuition, and maybe be a bit braver about our fears.)

March 25, 2014 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

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