Die Empty – Todd Henry

Die empty . . . I don’t know why, but this idea really resonates with me.

It could be the juxtaposition of living fully with dying empty.

It could be the notion of leaving everything on the table. No hold back.

Or maybe it’s just this sense of purging, of letting it all go . . . a lexical full stop to the old saying, “You can’t take it with you.”

Any way you dice it, I dig it. Die empty.

Catchy though the title is, however, it is a little misleading. I thought this book was going to be about living full-out, no regrets, a better-to-beg-forgiveness-than-ask-permission type of read, reminiscent of Randy Pausch and Mitch Albom. But no. This book is more a life hack–how to live (and work) optimally–rather than an elegy–how to die gracefully. A pleasant surprise.

The book is built around two central structures (premises).
There are three basic types of work that we do each day–Mapping, Making, and Meshing, and
Based on our preferences and proclivity for some combination of these three types of work, there are four types of worker profiles–the Developer, the Driver, the Drifter, and the Dreamer.

Alright, so what does this all mean?

Mapping is, as the word suggests, all the planning and preparing and setting up types of activities you do each day. Think goal-setting, assigning tasks, setting deadlines, monitoring, scheduling, etc. This is the time and effort you spending laying out what is going to happen before you actually begin. This is the work before the work.

Making is creating, whether that creation is something concrete and tangible like a product or service, or whether it’s abstract like an idea or set of ideas, as in the case of a book or a theory or a course. It’s the work you do that creates actual value in the world. Making includes tasks such as designing, writing, making calls, creating reports and presentations–it’s the work you do based on your objectives; it’s the actual work you do that takes you towards your goal.

And finally there’s Meshing. This type of work is less tangible, less obvious–it’s the work between the work. The kind of work that involves learning something new, reinforcing and extending your skill set, keeping up with innovation in your industry, networking, and so on. Nobody pays you for this work. This work produces no immediate outcome. But it is valuable, nevertheless.

According to Henry, how we spend our time working–what combination of mapping, making, and meshing we employ–determines what type of worker we are.

The Dreamer = Mapping + Meshing – Making
The Dreamer lives in his/her head. He/she is very interested in personal development (Meshing) and strategic plans (Mapping), but lacks the follow through, the courage, or the drive to put his/her plans in action (Making). This is the guy at the cocktail party who draws a crowd–everyone wants to hang on to his every word–but he rarely accomplishes much. He’d rather live in his dreams. He’s always moving on to the next great thing . . . in his head.

The Drifter = Making + Meshing – Mapping
These are our quintessential artists, our working artists. They dedicate all their time and energy to creating their art (Making) and following their curiosity (Meshing), but they are poor planners (Mapping). They may not be bound by time and they may not alway have a grand vision. They just move from project to project, whichever way the wind blows, following the call of the muse. As a result, they may not have a collection or body of work to show for it.

The Driver = Mapping + Making – Meshing
This worker profile is extremely focused and driven. He/she likes to plan and check off lists. He/she’s the Git’erDone of the workforce. The Driver is very effective in a narrow set of tasks. Ask him to innovate or to do something a different way, and he’s stuck. Drivers start off strong but over time taper off in their effectiveness because of this rigidness. They are reluctant to give up the old ways and research new (and better) ways of tacking a challenge. Despite their strong focus, Drivers are in danger of being left behind.

The Developer = Mapping + Making + Meshing
The developer is the superhero of the worker profiles. This is the worker who can tap into mapping and making and meshing as needed and as appropriate. The worker knows that the outcome is dependent on the level and quality of preparation and sets about setting up his/her success with a solid plan and the tools to implement them. The Developer understand the importance of time management, execution, troubleshooting and learning from his/her actions. The Developer also understand the importance of looking ahead to the horizon, and innovating as necessary. And while he/she is doing all these things, the Developer is also building relationships. In fact, the Developer operates best through relationships. As Henry writes, “If you want to die empty of regret, with a body of work you can be proud of, you must focus on becoming a Developer.

So there you have it. Be a Developer. That’s the big take-away from this book (at least for me).

There’s more to the book than that, of course, but that’s the most practical piece. Do with it as you will.









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4 replies

  1. Love these profiles! We all hope to be developers I think.

  2. Very interesting. Must read this guy.

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