A few years ago, I read a book called Die Empty by Todd Henry. It’s not what it seems at first glance. Dying empty doesn’t mean literally emptying yourself every single day. It’s about getting your best work out of you, living in a way that you feel good about, and climbing under the covers with a satisfied, shit eating grin every day.
When I love a book, I usually read everything else by the author. Todd Henry was no exception. After reading Die Empty, I dove into The Accidental Creative (his first book and podcast with the same name that I also recommend), and then, Louder Than Words.
My favorite quote in the book, Die Empty was one that stopped me in my tracks.
“The most valuable land in the world is the graveyard. In the graveyard are buried all of the unwritten novels, never-launched businesses, unreconciled relationships, and all of the other things that people thought, ‘I’ll get around to that tomorrow.’ One day, however, their tomorrows ran out.” Todd Henry
This totally changed how I thought about graveyards, and last week, while traveling in Boston, the kids were fascinated with the graveyards and the ghost tours. The kids want to know if they’re haunted. They also ask questions like, “Is everyone in there dead?”
"Um, I think so."
This time walking past the graveyard, I felt a pang of curiosity. Did these people die empty? This is also where Paul Revere and Samuel Adams are buried. Did they die empty? Did they have ideas and dreams inside of them that never saw the light of day before they laid to rest?
Then, as I recalled Todd Henry’s quote, my curiosity turned to sadness. And not just because they didn’t have the luxury of reading the book and being spurred to take action on their dream or otherwise, but because the unfulfilled potential in the graveyard must be huge. "Huge" being a very scientific and specific measurement of course.
That curiosity rang through my mind the rest of the day. How many people did I pass on the street (especially in the financial district with intense faces) aren’t doing what they want to be doing? How many people have a half written book in Google Docs that they haven’t touched in a year? How many people have something important to say to someone, but are too scared? How many people are afraid to be vulnerable? Living in fear of being judged?
It was after I read the book Die Empty, that I wrote my first book. I wrote it like a speed demon in just a few months. I wrote it like I desperately had a message to get out. I’m glad I did it, and I’m very proud. If I hadn't read this book, I might be still boring my friends by saying, "I'd love to write a book someday."
Earlier this year, I quit my corporate job so I could do more of the work that I love. I needed to do more work that lights me up so that I could die just a little more empty.
I know I’m on the right track because it’s just been a few months since I’ve made a bigger promise to myself to die a little emptier, and I go to bed every fucking night with a smile. I smile and say to myself, “Holy shit, this is my life. Thank you.”
What do you need to do right now, today, or this week, so you can die just a little more empty?