In this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, I interview Todd Henry. Todd teaches leaders and organizations how to establish practices that lead to everyday brilliance. He is the author of five books (The Accidental Creative, Die Empty, Louder Than Words, Herding Tigers, The Motivation Code, Daily Creative) which have been translated into more than a dozen languages, and he speaks and consults across dozens of industries on creativity, leadership, and passion for work. He’s the author of a new book — The Daily Creative.
Even if you don’t think of yourself as creative, you’d probably be surprised by how many creative tools you use every day. You solve problems, design, write, invent, or in other words―create. But the pressure we feel to continually create value with our minds can cause tremendous stress and eventually neutralize our ability to be effective in our roles long term. In this episode, Todd Henry talks about thriving as a creative pro and how to establish practices that help spark your creative energy every day.
Questions I ask Todd Henry:
- [1:50] Could you describe Daily Creative in your own words?
- [5:28] How did you collect and organize thoughts for each daily entry?
- [7:22] Are there more words than a traditional business book?
- [7:54] Talk to me a little bit about how much harder it is to write short.
- [9:03] Would you say you have to pay more attention to your writing when it is short?
- [10:52] Did you feel like you had to kind of bring yourself out of the advice category and position it as though you are going to walk alongside them through the journey?
- [17:53] Who did you write this book for?
- [19:12] Where can people learn more about your work and grab a copy of your book?
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(00:48): Hello, and welcome to another episode of the duct tape marketing podcast. This is John Jan and my guest today is Todd Henry. Todd teaches leaders and organizations, how to establish practices that lead to everyday brilliance. He's the author of five books, including the accidental, creative and die empty and hurting tigers. I'm just trying to think I've probably had you on here for most of them today. We're gonna talk about a new book called the daily creative. So Todd, welcome back.
Todd Henry (01:15): Thank you. It's great to be here and I am a huge admirer of your work. As you know, we've had many conversations about that. So it's always a joy to talk with you. I know you're a huge admirer. You're also a huge copycat cuz I invented the daily book. So
(01:34): Yeah, exactly. Yeah, no, it was definitely John Jantsch with the ator of the format. And I appreciate I, I am following in your footsteps, so thank you.
John Jantsch (01:42): No, I, I absolutely love it. The format is proven. It is a very different kind of book. So let me, well, well first let's do this. I'll ask you to just describe the book in your own words.
Todd Henry (01:52): Sure. So daily creative is a daily reader for creative pros to help you be prolific, brilliant and healthy. The idea is that every day you'll open up basically a surprise package and it will challenge you or provoke you in some way about how you approach your life and your work that day. And there's very intentional. I mean, and there's not really a rhyme or reason to it. It's not like, oh, this week we're gonna talk about focus and next week we're gonna talk about, you know, relationships.
(02:15): Instead. I want it every day to feel like a surprise because that's often what life feels like. You know, you, you don't, I mean, work is not predictable. And so every time and my hope is people go through this multiple times, right? It's not something you read it. And then you're like, okay, I'm done with it. It's something that hopefully you can go through multiple times every time you read it, it'll be like stepping into a new stream.
John Jantsch (02:33): Yeah. I used to say that too, because the thing about a daily book it's dated, you know, there are three, did you do 360 6 or 360? 66? Yep. Yep. Nice. Gotta get those leap here. People
Todd Henry (02:54): Absolutely. And you know, this is what's interesting is yeah, I know we're sort of joking about, you know, kind of being the originator of the format, but there are a number of daily readers that I've been going through for years and years. And I still go through them right. Every year I have, one of my favorites is by CS Lewis or it's not by him, but it's a collection of his writings from just all of his different works. And every morning I pick it up and I read something from it and it provokes me in a different way every time. And so, you know, in the middle of the pandemic, you know, I think a lot of us kind of felt a little bit like we were drowning a bit, you know, with all of the uncertainty and the last thing you wanna do when somebody's drowning is drop them a 300 page manual about how to swim.
(03:32): And I felt like, as I was thinking about what my next book was gonna be, I thought, you know, there are a lot of people right now who just need to build some daily practices to help them stay engaged. And so I thought instead of dropping another 300 page manual about how to, you know, create on demand, maybe what I'll do is just take some of the best stuff that I've written over the years and kind of divided up into daily actionable nuggets since that's really, that was kind of the Genesis of it. I wrote the book that I needed, honestly. Yeah. And I'm, and what's interesting is I've never written a book, John, you know that when you write a book, you have to be ready to read that book about 20 times before it comes out, because it's basically what it entails when you're editing and all that.
(04:08): Um, I've never written a book that I immediately started reading the moment it was published. And this book I've been incorporating into my daily practice because I wrote the book that I need to read. I need to remind myself of all of these things as well.
John Jantsch (04:19): Yeah. And, and plug for my own book, the self line entrepreneur. I, I did the exact I've said the exact same thing. Yeah. I was burned out frankly, as a writer. Um, and I needed something felt like I wanted to do something different and this kind of my, actually my agent is Ryan holiday's agent Ryan holiday, the daily stoic, of course. So, and actually my agent, Steve Hanselman, curated and participated in the creation when he was an editor at Harper of the daily Drucker, which is a big inspirational book of mine, of Peter Drucker's work. Right. And I think that, I mean, I think there's so much to that idea of you, you get to the point where you can, you're mature enough to write a book that you needed. Right. I mean, mature enough to understand that
Todd Henry (04:59): That's exactly right. And also, I think often, you know, like in your case, you're stepping into a deeper stream and you're drawing from not ancient wisdom, but you're drawing from aged wisdom right. In your case. And you know, in my case, it's the same thing. You know, a lot of the stories or the essays in the book are drawn from anecdotes or stories or illustrations of things that I had heard or experienced over the years that had been helpful to me in some way. And I didn't wanna, I didn't wanna forget about those things. You know, I wanted to make sure I continued to apply them well.
John Jantsch (05:28): And I noticed some accidental, creative showing up some Ty showing up. I mean, so I think I don't mean passages, but I mean certainly themes and ideas from it.
(05:36): And I was gonna ask you that, you know, how did you collect and organize? And you already kind of let that out a little bit, that it was, I wanted surprise, but you clearly had to have a spreadsheet somewhere that said, here's what my 366 doubts are, didn't you,
Todd Henry (05:49): you know, what's interesting is I didn't have a spreadsheet sheet actually. Right. But I did have a plan going in. I wrote this book in about three months. Wow. Well to about two and two and a half months, which, you know, you can appreciate how crazy that is. That was basically five entries a day, Monday through Friday for two and a half months is what it took me to be able to do this. It was a really crazy time, you know, trying to get this done. But what I would do is once a week I would sit down and have a planning session and I would look at what I had written.
(06:18): And I would think about what I had yet to write about or, you know, ideas or stories that I had yet to share. And I would map out the week on Sunday evening and say, okay, Monday, I'm gonna write these five Tuesday. I'm gonna write these five Wednesday. I'm gonna write these five. And I mean, there's a lot of words. Normally when I write a book, I write about 500 words a day over the course of about a year. That's about what it takes me to write the drafts typically. And in this case I was writing, you know, thousands of words a day to try to get these done. But, but it was a really interesting and stretching experience to do this. And I think in the end it ended up, I think, I think I captured everything I wanted to try to capture. There was a, an underlying organ organizational principle, which was focus relationships, energy stimuli, and hours, the five elements of what I call creative rhythm.
(07:03): So, you know, many of the entries tie back to focus. Many of them tie back to relationships, to energy, to stimuli or the things we put in our brain to help us spark ideas and how we use our time effectively, not just efficiently. So that was kind of the organizing structure, but it wasn't like, oh, today I'm gonna write about focus and tomorrow it's gonna be relationships. It was kind, kind of bounced around a little bit intentionally
John Jantsch (07:22): and total word counts probably more 30, 40,000 more words than a traditional business book. Right? Yeah.
Todd Henry (07:29): Yeah. I always tell people, I wrote a book that was a third longer than any book I've ever written in about a third of the time has ever taken to write a book. So, yeah.
John Jantsch (07:36): And that's really interesting because I think I took longer to write my daily than any book I've written because I've found it grueling mm-hmm
(07:45): And talk to me about this idea. I mean, every entry is, I don't know, four or 500 words maybe tops in your book, right? Couple 300, probably 2, 2, 300. Yeah. Two, 300. Right. So talk to me about how much harder it is to write short
Todd Henry (08:00): It is well, and that's kind of the secret to it is the, I'll say the final entry was about 300 words. The first draft of the entry, however, was probably six or 700 words. The hard part was getting down to that 300 words because it's hard to express an idea in 300 words to really do an idea justice in just 300 words. So the hardest part was the editing. When we fi, when I finally got the draft done, and then I'm like, oh, this is gonna be a 1500 page book if I don't do some editing to this.
(08:30): And so that was really the hardest part as you know, you very well it's that, um, I forget the source of the quote, but it's the old thing of, you know, if I have more time, I would've written a shorter letter. Yeah. And that's kind of the way it felt with this book, you know? Yeah. But I think we got down to the essence. I think we got down to the core of it, but yeah, we wanted to include, you know, all kinds of other stuff that we just weren't able to. I mean, maybe that'll be version two, right? Yeah. Version two will be, you know, 366 more ideas or something.
John Jantsch (08:57): I, I find that it's just going to, that. I would've read a short letter. It's actually easier to write longer because you can be lazy when, when every sentence has to at least like two or three sentences and there have to deliver a gut punch, so to speak, you really have to pay attention to what you're writing, don't you
Todd Henry (09:15): oh. A hundred percent. And you have to really know what you're trying to say. You have to really understand the kernel, the essence of the paragraph, and be able to deliver that almost poetically. It almost has to feel like poetry in a way, because if you don't, it's just gonna feel like you just rambled on for a couple of paragraphs and then, you know, okay, well, what was that? I have no idea what that was about. And so it is really hard to do that. I think that's the hardest part of any job or any business, right? I mean, think about the people you work with and you're trying to help them get down to the core of who they are in the value that they deliver their customers or, you know, how they position themselves in the marketplace. I mean, the hardest part is getting down to that core essence and being able to describe it very succinctly.
(09:59): You give somebody five minutes and they can tell you what they do, but can they do it in five words? That's a lot harder to do.
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(10:40): Let me ask you this also because it really, the intention is somebody is going, you're gonna be with them every day. I mean, that's the goal, right? So, um, there might be a tendency to say, here's what you should do.
(10:52): Did you feel like you had to kind of bring yourself out of the advice category and more like I'm gonna walk alongside with you?
Todd Henry (11:01): Yeah. It was really difficult to do that because you do wanna be prescriptive. Right. Right. And the reality is people don't need, it's not 366 commands, you know, like do these things. I'll give you an example. Today's entry with, I mean, again, which I read right along with everybody else who's reading the book right now was about how you define greatness. And the entire injury was about, you know, how you define greatness, defines you. And if you haven't really thought about how you define greatness, you're gonna spend your life chasing vapor. You're gonna spend your life chasing everybody. Else's definition of greatness. And so the prompt or the question today was how do you define greatness for yourself and for your work?
(11:33): What does that look like? Don't care what everybody else thinks, what this greatness look like to you today this week, you know, this year. And then chase after that, that doesn't feel like advice or a command. It feels more like somebody saying, Hey, remember that thing that you once knew very well, but have forgotten because you're so busy and you lose sight of it. Well, I'm here to remind you of that tap on the shoulder. Hey, remember, you know, you need to have a clear sense of what you're aiming for. You're probably not gonna hit it. You're gonna hit somebody else's target, not your own. So that was, that's really kind of the tone I tried to strike in the book is more of like, it's more of like 366 helpful reminders or provoking thoughts along with a corresponding challenge. Like my friend that is, you know, I'm sort of hugging you, but I'm also sort of kicking you in the butt at the same time.
(12:20): That's kind of what I wanna do because I think that's what we need sometimes. Well, and
John Jantsch (12:24): I think as I read that, which I did today, uh, one of the things that comes out in that is like, not like you have to have these great, you know, Harry audacious goals, you know, type of language. It's like, no, you get to define it, but you better. Yeah, that's right. I mean, it can create somebody else's definition of mediocrity, but you get to decide
Todd Henry (12:43): that's right. Or, you know, greatness to, you can mean, I am able to show up fully and freely for my family every single day. Right. That can be greatness for you. And you know what your job is a means to that end for you. And that's fine. That's great. Maybe your job's the way you make money. You don't have to go out and build an empire.
(13:01): You just have to make enough money that you can show up for your family every day. And that's your definition of greatness. Congratulations. If you did it today, you pursue greatness in your life. Right. You know, for other people, they have different understandings of that. They have a different sense of calling and different arenas and that's fine too, but you have to have some understanding of what you're trying to do, or you're gonna spend your entire life chasing everybody else's definition of greatness.
John Jantsch (13:22): So one thing that I did with the self-reliant entrepreneur, and I wonder if you would, uh, allow me to ask you to do the same. Why don't you read today? Do you have the well, I'd love to
Todd Henry (13:31): I do. Let me turn around and grab one out of the shelf.
(13:37): I have one right here. Okay. And I will tell you, I'll just, why don't I start with January or I could read the entry.
John Jantsch (13:47): We just talked a little bit, let let's read the one we talked about, cuz there's some context and you and I are recording this on September 7th.
Todd Henry (13:53): We are, let me look the September 7th. And by the way, that was part of what, and I'm sure you had the exact same thought with your book and the format. Part of the coolness for me is I wanted to create a cadence of thousands of people or hopefully eventually tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of people thinking about having the same conversations on the same day. You know, every single day, like September 7th is the day that we think about greatness and our definition of greatness and teams can talk about that. Or people can talk about that.
(14:20): I think there's something cool. I think you create that cadence. That's how culture begins to change inside of organizations and you know, just in the world in general. So, so September 7th, how you define greatness? What does the word greatness mean to you? Think of someone you consider great. What qualities do they exhibit? What really makes them great in your mind? Is it what they've accomplished? How others recognize them or what others say about them? The work they leave behind some inevitable quality of character or personality. I believe that how you define greatness will determine a lot about the direction of your life and career. In fact, how you define greatness ultimately defines you because it determines well, you will choose to spend your time, energy focus and finite resources. Have you ever considered what greatness really means? How will you know when you've achieved it? If you don't take time to define greatness for yourself, you might spend your entire life chasing vapor or someone else's idea of what it means, how you define greatness, defines you. And the question for the day is how do you define greatness for yourself and your work and how will you know, when you've achieved it?
John Jantsch (15:18): So I'm wondering if there are any listeners, am I asking this hypothetically that actually gave you a little scare because I think that, you know, again, our mutual friend, I think Steven Presfield wrote a blurb for your book. You know, that whole idea of, if you felt that feeling of a little bit of fear, that's the thing you definitely better look at
Todd Henry (15:49): Yeah. I, well, it, and it is meant to be not provocative, but evocative. Yes. And I always strive to do that with my work. I wanna evoke, I don't wanna provoke provoking just means I'm gonna stick a finger in your chest and force a response.
(16:01): Right. But I want to call out of you something that is great in you call out of you, something that you deeply suspect to be true, but maybe have never been able to put language to. And I think that's what, you know, what your work does for me. John, is you give me language for things that I know, but just don't know how to talk about sometimes or I suspect. And you know, I just, but I just don't know how to really articulate. And you do that for me. And I think that's what good writers do is they give people language for things that they've always felt, but didn't necessarily recognize. And so that's, again, that's kind of what I'm trying to do with this. And so if people feel that sense of weight, oh my goodness. You know, that sort of really evokes something in me.
(16:40): Good. That's exactly what I'm trying to do. And that doesn't mean you have to come up with the answer today. It doesn't mean, you know, oh, if I don't define greatness right now, my life is gonna be, you know, way off course. But hopefully it does inspire you in some way to at least consider what are you trying to do? What are you aiming for you? Who are you trying to become? Cause I think it's a much more interesting question than what are you trying to do? Who you're becoming is way more important than what you're doing because ultimately that's how you're gonna step into and, and then really envelope the calling that is put in front of you. Yeah.
John Jantsch (17:10): And of course the first step to that is awareness. Who am I is right. Absolutely. Is the first question to who am I becoming? Right.
Todd Henry (17:16): That's right. And we discover who we are by doing things right. Yeah. By going out, but not by sitting around thinking about it or wondering, or Naval gazing, but by going out and doing things and trying and failing and adding value and figuring out, oh, maybe I don't, I'm not really all that good at that. Right. And that's how we, that's how we discover ourselves. And then we figure that out and we start trying to find ways of adding value and building a portfolio.
John Jantsch (17:39): So you, you mentioned at the very beginning of this, that you felt like you wrote the book you needed, but I assume at some point you were, you had a thought here's who needs this book or here's, you know, here's the ideal person or, you know, here's who I'm writing this book for. So how would you describe that person in a way that might help them realize this is a book they need?
Todd Henry (18:00): I wrote this book for people who are somewhat into their career. So they have responsibility that they carry on their shoulders, but they haven't yet arrived at their ultimate career ambition. And they're facing the weight every day of having to create under pressure, having to deliver value under pressure. And that weight never relents. They lay down one weight and somebody piles two more on their shoulders. And that's what it often feels like when you're working in an organizational role. And so that's really who I wrote this book for it's people who are creative professionals. There are two words as part of that name, creative meaning, Hey, we get to solve problems and make things. And that's wonderful professionals means we have to show up every day and do the work, whether we feel like it or not. And so I really wanted to help creative professionals have some framework for how they approach their days, that would help them to be prolific brilliant. And most importantly, I think healthy because if you don't get the healthy piece, right, you're gonna lose the prolific and brilliant piece as well.
John Jantsch (19:03): I think that's a great place for us to wrap up Tom, thanks so much for stuff. And by the duct tape marketing podcast, uh, we were talking about his book, the daily creative, where would you like people? Well, I will sort of ask you another question on our going out here. Where would you like people to connect with you? Obviously the book will be available anywhere, but also what are your plans for maybe trying to build a community around this?
Todd Henry (19:22): Yeah. So you can learn more about [email protected] That's my personal site, but we're [email protected] We're actually building out an entire community. Then we have tremendous plans around what we're gonna do with daily creative, including, you know, building out some tools for creative pros to use in their day to day life as well to implement a lot of this stuff. So I'm very excited about that, but right now there's actually a [email protected] and go and join your fellow creative pros and even get daily, creative delivered every day, you know, audio and email and have some conversation around these topics with me and meet up and all those kinds of fun things.
(19:55): So we have big plans right now for daily [email protected]
John Jantsch (20:00): Awesome. Well, thanks again for taking the time and hopefully we'll run into each other one of these days. Soon out there on the road
Todd Henry (20:06): would love that. Thanks John
John Jantsch (20:07): Hey, and one final thing before you go, you know how I talk about marketing strategy, strategy before tactics? Well, sometimes it can be hard to understand where you stand in that what needs to be done with regard to creating a marketing strategy. So we created a free tool for you. It's called the marketing strategy assessment. You can find it @ marketingassessment.co check out our free marketing assessment and learn where you are with your strategy today. That's just marketingassessment.co I'd love to chat with you about the results that you get.
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Everybody’s online, but are they finding your website? Grab the online spotlight and your customers’ attention with Semrush. From Content and SEO to ads and social media, Semrush is your one-stop-shop for online marketing. Build, manage, and measure campaigns —across all channels — faster and easier. Are you ready to take your business to the next level? Get seen. Get Semrush. Visit semrush.com/go to try it free for 7 days.