Book Review: Die Empty, Unleash Your Best Work Everyday


In a nutshell – With its somewhat misleading title, “Die Empty” serves as a reminder of the importance of today. We won’t always have tomorrow to do our best work.

Who’s it for? – Anyone trying to find solace in life by doing what they love to do, instead of what they always need to do.

Quote from author – “Cultivating a love of the process is the key to making lasting contributions.”

Todd Henry, the author of “Die Empty,” explores a topic many of us have on our minds: Doing the things that make a difference in life instead of what is simply required of us. Filling one’s day with work that matters and not getting bogged down with a task-driven routine is illusive. This includes taking time for things we are passionate about instead of giving in to the clutter that Henry claims: “chokes creativity, discipline, and innovation.”

Henry sets the stage by asking readers to reexamine the work that drives them. He points out that many times rewarding work isn’t always fun and requires tremendous effort. One can easily get diverted either by following the path of least resistance or with duties that have limited long-term benefit. What gets lost is the realization that prioritizing and achieving long-term results requires time, work and awareness.

“Die Empty” is divided into three major sections. The first examines why work matters and how skilled people get trapped, “…settling for less than they are capable of.” This is followed by chapters that focus on developing methods and a mindset for producing good work. The last section takes the previously discussed concepts to “…uncover a deeper sense of cohesion and purpose.”

There are plenty of techniques and exercises for self-examination that lead to a life focused more on inventiveness and self-fulfillment. One strategy is to imagine a person who follows you through your day to observe what you actually do – minute by minute, hour by hour. Having this fictional person scrutinize the things you waste time on, or show how often your actions have little to do with what you’re ultimately trying to accomplish, was an eye opener.

“Die Empty” divides decided outcomes into three categories that all work together: Step Goals, Sprint Goals and Stretch Goals. Step Goals are immediate things one can accomplish that keep moving toward a longer term objective. Sprint Goals are short-term projects that take a week or two of concentrated effort to complete. A Stretch Goal is a bigger feat including the development of a long-term skill, a career objective, or growing a new company.

Overall, Henry provides plenty of decent concepts that will help people recalibrate their careers, many of which may sound familiar. “Die Empty” to me is a companion guide to other books such as “Getting Things Done” by David Allen and “The 4-Hour Workweek” by Timothy Ferriss. Although some of the content may sound redundant, Henry effectively mixes in interesting stories, anecdotes and parables that he has both honed himself and borrowed from other successful people.

Asking readers to examine their creative value measured by the remaining days of their lives may seem like a not-so-subtle ploy to buy the book (I know at first it got my attention). Regardless, “Die Empty” has plenty of inspiration and takeaways that will benefit most readers.

By Todd Henry
Penguin Books, 2013
229 pages
Softcover $18, E-read addition $11.99

Chris Wendel is a consultant and commercial lender with Northern Initiatives, a community development financial institution based in Marquette. Wendel lives and works in Traverse City and can be reached at