How Do You Answer the Big Question?

What would you do if you could do anything? I often like to ask people this question.  And this is the question we get asked periodically at different times during our lives.  Most of the time I never knew what to say.  I would be envious of those who seemed to know exactly what they wanted from their life and marched after it.  They knew what they would do, and they were doing it.  

I never knew I could create my own life.  For a long time I had no idea I actually could design my very own custom life.  Sometimes you don't know what you don't know.  I took things as they came to me, and lived a lot on auto-pilot.  But all along, things were stirring.  I remember watching the first Lord of the Rings movie in 2001, sitting in my cubicle thinking and knowing there had to be more but I had no idea what or how.  

It is not for the faint of heart.  From that point on, my life took me on an incredible journey.  And now, through more than a few years of deep self-work and excavation, I am doing it.  I am creating and designing a life I love.  Filling it with people I love, and things I love, and finding out what my interests and passions are.  I don't know if there is one true passion.  I guess the thing I think about most is writing.  That is the place where I go deep inside and lose myself.  But I am sure interested in a bunch of other things, like photography, traveling, history, languages, music .  

This life I have chosen is not easy.  In fact, it's damn hard sometimes.  Living with people, scrambling to come up with rent, patching together odd jobs.  But I learned something.  Well, a few things.  40 hours a week working for someone else does not leave me with the energy I need to create.  And writing is that sweet spot, where my dreams touch the Earth.  Now that I have found it, I am not about to give it up.  So I do whatever is necessary to protect it and nurture it.  Quite frankly, I don't want life to be "easy".  I want to always be growing, learning, changing and evolving.  

There is no retirement.  I hope I'm still writing and traveling when I'm 90.  I use that because that is how old my maternal grandmother is, and she just got her first cell phone.  I think the myth of retirement is that, a myth.  We wait and we wait and we wait and sometimes it pans out and sometimes it doesn't.  I refuse to believe the best thing I can hope for is to work some job with great benefits and hope I have enough energy left to do things when I'm 65 or 70.  Who knows if I'll make it that far, or my pension, 401k or Social Security will.  I don't want to "retire".  I intend to live a full, vibrant life.  If I have learned anything, as cliche as it is, there are no guarantees.  

GO!!!  One of my very best friends frequently posts this on my Facebook status updates.  And notice, it is an action word.  So go!!! Go towards your dreams, whatever they are.  Cultivate those ideas whispered in your dreams.  Pay attention and say yes.  I promise, you life will take a magical turn.  But be warned, once you open that door and go, there is no going back.  

Louder Than Words - A Brief Conversation with Todd Henry

I had a great opportunity, after being a preview reader, to ask a few questions of Todd Henry about some of the concepts in his newest book, "Louder Than Words".  

Who is Todd Henry?  Todd is the founder of Accidental Creative and "arms dealer of the creative revolution".  Todd is one of my "virtual mentors" and his second book, "Die Empty" came at a time when I was on a journey to find my passion and his book helped me get there.  

Why should you care about Todd Henry? He has written three books, and his newest, "Louder Than Words", is already an Amazon #1 New Release in Job Hunting & Career Guides.  He knows what he is talking about in relation to creativity in the marketplace, and making a plan for businesses and individuals to share their authentic gift with the world.

What did I learn from Todd Henry?  One of my favorite things he quotes, at the bottom of his website, is this:  "Create fiercely, love well, and die empty."  That about sums it up and tenets I live by.    

If you are interested in learning more about finding your voice, check him out. Get his newest book right here.  It's good.  I know I'm going to have to read it more than once to absorb everything. And, make sure to go back and read his first two books, "The Accidental Creative" and "Die Empty".  I would not have made it is this far on my journey without him.

Me: What is your personal manifesto, or elements of it? 

TH: A few of the tenets that guide my life and work are “I create every day, even when I don’t feel like it”, and “I speak uncomfortable truth, even when it’s easier to appease.” I’ve had to remind myself of these multiple times with clients or while writing, because it’s so easy to acclimate to a place of comfort and forget the core, driving reason for the work, which is to impact lives. 

Me: If you could distill the essence of this book down to one simple sentence, what you want people to get from it, what would that be? 

TH: Develop an authentic voice so that you don’t spend your life building someone else’s body of work. 

Me: I love that you use the word "excavation" in finding authenticity, because that is exactly what it is like.  When the excavation gets hard, when it's down and dirty work, what is the one daily practice that keeps you the most grounded? 

TH: I mentioned it before, but it’s definitely choosing to write every day even when I don’t feel like it. As someone who writes books, I know that if I don’t stay in practice then I will begin to atrophy. Writing is never easy for me, so I really have to make it a discipline. Another one is taking time each day to fill my mind with inspiring thoughts of others. I do this through study time, and through finding space to experience great art, film, and lectures. It’s been an absolutely invaluable aspect of my growth and development.

Me: In writing this book, what is one thing you learned about yourself that you did not expect? 

TH: I learned that I’m often a terrible judge of the efficacy and quality of my own work. I’m in constant self-doubt as I’m writing, revising, and re-looking at research, and without people around me to help me stay calibrated, I would go down the rabbit hole pretty quickly. That’s why relationships, and having people in your life who will speak truth to you, are so critical in staying the course over the long-term. You can survive in the short-run, but without others keeping you aligned, you will eventually spin out. 

As serendipity would have it, this week's email from Marie Forleo featured an interview with Todd, which expounds further on his book.  If you do not know him, get to know him.  But be careful, you just might find yourself becoming an accidental creative.