The 3 Most Important Things I Learnt From Reading “Die Empty”

I read this amazing book by Todd Henry a while ago and I’m excited to share the most important things I took away from the experience. 

On Death

Most of us don’t think about death, or try as much as possible to avoid the topic. The few of us who embrace the topic in our minds are mostly afraid, or indifferent. But Todd finds death to be the greatest motivation to live your best life now. It’s astonishing to see that this is a pattern. Most people that make a mark in the world, think very often of death. In his words, we’re all going to die and we need to make a contribution. An apt example of the way the thought of dying can be a significant tool of living a gratifying life is seen with Steve Jobs who said

I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself ‘If today were the last day if my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘no’ for too many days in a row I know I need to change something. Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I have ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything—all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure—these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that I am going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap  of thinking you’ve got something to lose. You’re already naked. There’s no reason not to follow your heart.

On Work

The way we are introduced to work as children is so wrong. Work is good. Work is what makes us human, what gives us fulfilment. The ish is to find work that is meaningful to you and valuable to others. The author defines work like this;

Work is not just about you, or making money. Work is about your contribution. You way of making the world a better place. There are more details into what work really is and types in the book. The types of work include planning, doing and personal development. The important thing is to find the balance between all these three elements. Some people are great at planning but they don’t do very well with doing. Some people plan and do very well but they remain on the same spot because they don’t bother to improve in themselves and evolve. Work is dynamic, always moving but the most important thing is that it is relevant. This is how to find joy in work. Pure untainted joy is realizing that you are contributing the best that you can to the world. 

On Passion

All my life before I read the book, I never knew passion meant to suffer for or with something. It’s that thing you can go the extra mile for, not because it’s not hard or you’re not tired but because you love it. You love it so much, you are  willing to suffer for it. And so when you realize this I guess the obvious question you ask yourself is what am I willing to suffer for? That act of self assessment, I have come to learn from the book, is called choosing your battle. You see the world is so screwed up that you as an individual can’t possibly help with everything. You can’t contribute to every single cause, but there is a particular problem you are well equipped to  solve, just by being you. It sounds like a motivational work-up just to get your blood pumping, but believe it or not, it is true. Todd goes on to give points to find such problems that we are naturally predisposed to solve. 

  1.  Compassionate anger
  2. Hope/aspirations
  3. Obsession

So ask yourself; what am I angry about? What do I hope to do or be? What am I totally obsessed with? And if for a while, your answers are consistent. There, that’s your passion. That’s the battle you are willing to fight. That’s the battle you will most likely win because you will be willing to stick to it when it’s hard and you’d rather go to bed. Sometimes you have to go through things you don’t love to get to where you do love. Todd shares the story of one of the best American football players, Curtis Martin, who claimed to not like the game at all throughout his life. Even when he got a chance to play, he was going to reject it. But then, his pastor told him he could use the fame and the popularity of an athlete to influence and mentor young adults. So when Martin went training, he wasn’t playing for the game in itself by for a greater purpose or aspiration in mind. He fought to be the best, not just for the sake of being called the best but to use that position for what he really wanted. So know that your passion most times might not be a clear wide road, sometimes it’s zig-zag. What’s important is to define who you are, and what you want and keep your eyes on that, through whatever phase you might be in. 

Be sure to die empty 😉

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