Brilliant work is no accident. It’s forged daily by those willing to engage their work with urgency and diligence, and to empty themselves of whatever is burning within them.
However, in the fray of day-to-day work it’s easy to get lulled into complacency and comfort. You wake up one morning wondering where you are, how you got there, and how to get back to a time when there was more passion and clarity.
Don’t allow your best work, whether in your job, in how you embrace relationships, or in what you build, to remain inside of you. Strive to empty yourself so that you don’t take your best, most valuable work to the grave with you.
Below are some of the foundational principles that formed the underlying foundation for my new book Die Empty (releasing Sept 26!) about the nature of making a contribution and the urgency of embracing your opportunity today. (By the way, if you pre-order the book now and register at DieEmpty.com, you’ll gain access to our book club, over 12 hours of never-publicly-released exclusive AC podcast content, a workbook, and more. Learn more.)
Your days are numbered. Finite. They will someday run out.
This is indisputable. We live with the stubborn illusion that we will always have tomorrow to do today’s work. It’s a lie. Today is all you have for certain. How are you using it?
You have a unique contribution to offer the world.
This is not feel-good fluff, it’s reality. You are building a body of work today, whether or not you’re being intentional about it. How to spend your finite focus, assets, time, and energy determines the nature of this body of work, and at the end of your life, it will stand as the greatest testament to what you really value. Additionally, your combination of passions, skills and experiences is unique. Thus, your body of work is something that you offer that no one else ever could. In its current state, does it reflect you?
No one else can make that contribution for you.
Waiting for permission to act on your contribution is the easy way out. So is playing the victim or politics. We all must deal with the time and circumstances we’re dealt. Refuse to wait for an easier or more comfortable opportunity. It’s not coming. The time is now.
Your contribution is not about you.
You may be recognized for your contribution, and if so that’s fine. You may also labor in obscurity doing brilliant work your entire life, and that’s fine too. There is an over-emphasis on celebrity in our culture, and it will eventually be the death of us. Fall in love with process, and commit to adding as much value to others as you can.
The path forward is backward.
To discover your contribution you must get to bedrock. Don’t be a mirror, passively reflecting the priorities of others. To discover your contribution you must do some serious excavation. You must get past the rubble to the bedrock principles that will drive your life, come hell or high water. However, you discover these principles through action, not through passive contemplation. Action yields clarity. Get moving today, even if in a small way.
Your contribution comes into view over time like film in a darkroom, not instantly like a digital photo.
Expect that your contribution will become clear over time as you act. It will develop slowly like a polaroid photo, giving you clues as you experiment, fail and succeed. Patience is required. This is a long-arc game, but it must begin now.
You must curate your life around your contribution.
What you plant today you reap in a few years. You must structure your life around your contribution, building practices and activities that cause you to take new ground each day. The love of comfort is frequently the enemy of greatness. Break out.
You have one job to do today: get whatever is in you out.
Your one and only job today, and every day, is to get whatever is in you out. Not tomorrow’s work, not yesterday’s work, but today’s. On my computer monitor is a note that reads, “Can I lay my head down tonight satisfied with the work I did today?” If I have made my contribution that day, I can rest with a clean conscience.
To die empty of regret, you must embrace seven pursuits:
1. Define your battles
2. Be fiercely curious
3. Stay out of your comfort zone
4. Know yourself
5. Be confidently adaptable
6. Find your voice
7. Stay connected
Do not be dulled, friends. Do not allow the lull of comfort to cause you to abdicate your contribution. Stay sharp. Keep your edges.
Nothing – nothing – is worth giving up the most valuable thing you have to offer.
Don’t take your best work to the grave with you. Choose to die empty!
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