Die Empty

Todd Henry

Reading by Liz Helgesen (Download file)

Image of the WeekI remember a meeting in which a friend asked a strange and unexpected question: “What do you think is the most valuable land in the world?”

Several people threw out guesses, such as Manhattan, the oil fields of the Middle East, and the gold mines of South Africa, before our friend indicated that we were way off track. He paused for a moment, and said, “You’re all wrong. 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.”

That day I went back to my office and I wrote down two words in my notebook and on the wall of my office that have been my primary operating ethic for the last several years: Die Empty.

I want to know that if I lay my head down tonight and don’t wake up tomorrow, I have emptied myself of whatever creativity is lingering inside, with minimal regrets about how I spent my focus, time, and energy. This doesn’t happen by accident; it takes intentional and sustained effort. But I can say with confidence from my own experience and the experiences of others I’ve worked with that the effort is well worth it.

You’ve probably heard “No one ever lay on their deathbed wishing for another day of work.” I think this saying is wrong, and perhaps a little dangerous because of what it implies. First, I believe a great many people do regret not having treated their life with more purpose, and would give anything to have one more chance to approach it with the kind of intention and conviction that imminent death makes palpable. They know that they consistently ignored small twinges of intuition, inspiration, and insight. They recall how they cowered away from risk in favor of comfort. They spent their days regretting their past decisions rather than taking aggressive steps to redirect their life in a more hopeful direction.

Second, this saying presupposes that work is an inherently miserable act that people engage in against their will, or that it’s something that necessarily pulls us away from the people and activities we really care about. But work encompasses much more than just how we make a living. Any value we create that requires us to spend our time, focus, and energy—whether in the context of occupation, relationships, or parenting—is work. Humans, it seems, are wired to find satisfaction by adding value through toil. Thus, for centuries work has been a deeply ingrained part of our identity and our understanding of our place in the world. I believe that the more you apply self-knowledge to how you engage your labor, the more satisfaction you will find in the very act of work, and thus the more joy you will find in life.

I hope we all can find a focused understanding of what’s really important and make a commitment to chase after it with gusto rather than simply settling in for the ride.

An excerpt from Die Empty.

Seed questions for reflection: How do you relate to a much broader notion of work as any context where we create value through toil? Can you share a personal story of a time you got a focused understanding of what was really important to you and made a courageous commitment to that value? What helps you live in such a way that you may die empty?

Add Your Reflection:

8 Previous Reflections:

  • link
    On Jul 1, 2021 Bob wrote:
    WE ALL have many small deaths before the final departing of our soul from our human body. They come in the form of losing a loved one, a divorce, a disease or illness that limits us in some way. However, the deaths that many people regret the most is the death of dreams or goals unfinished or not pursued. I am a 74 year old male, retired since 60 and I have more goals on my bucket list I am pursuing. I may not make them all, but I am giving them my best shot. I just had cancer surgery, the kind only men can have, but I am moving forward. I like the quote, "The good old days of tomorrow are the days you are living today." Make your " good old days" RIGHT NOW!

    Post Your Reply
  • link
    On Jun 9, 2021 Shyam Gupta wrote:
    To "Die Empty " is to die with no regrets of unfulfilled agenda, with no pending plans. This is possible when , after careful and deep evaluation , wehave arrived at our main purpose in life and when wehave fully spent all my energy, time and focus in that pursuit.
    It is our inner self, our intuition, out gut feeling, which keeps on guiding us. We just need to quieten ourselves and listen to it and then pursue it whole heartedly.

    1 reply: Bob | Post Your Reply
  • link
    On Jun 8, 2021 Anilkumar Pandit wrote:
    Space occupied by me while living is the most valuable one for me. It can accumulate, hold, and transmit the energy that I generate. Its connectivity is boundary-less with the boundless universal spaceand it never ceases on death.

    Post Your Reply
  • link
    On Jun 7, 2021 Nchimunya Bbebe wrote:
    I dont think we can regard the grave as the most valuable place because we have not retrieved those undone aspirations for our use. The most valuable place is our head and heart because if well nurtured, we can extract so much value from there while cherishing things that matter in this life.

    Post Your Reply
  • link
    On Jun 5, 2021 David Doane wrote:
    Author Todd Henry says the graveyard is where undoneendeavors are buried and is the most valuable land in the world. To me, that's saying the most valuable place is where you find what's dead and not done.The most valuable place is the placethat Iam alive, using my creativityand not having regrets. It's the place that I use and empty what I am. Work is effort to accomplish a goal. Toil is strenuous exhausting work. Work can be toil but doesn't have to be. You can achieve value through work or toil that is of value to you. As many have said, if you do activity you love you never work a day in your life. I was in my early twenties when I got at least some understanding of activity that was really important to me whichresulted ijn the courageto leave the career path I was on and commit to work that is stillvaluable to me. Pursuing what is of value to me, actualizing my potential, helps me to die empty.

    Post Your Reply
  • link
    On Jun 4, 2021 Jagdish P Dave wrote:
    There are many reasons I have for working. One of the reasons is for survival and for meeting my and my family's basic needs. There is something more than justsurviving.My core values are fulfillment, deep contentment and joy. I am clear about my purpose and intention for working hard. I engage my energy fully not only to meet my needs and aspirations and my welfare. I also devote my energy for serving others selflessly. This is my way of living spiritually. I discovered my path of living fully by going through some hard and painful times in my life. I learned valuable lessons from my pain. My pain helped me understand pain of others empathically. My mother used to sing a song thatconveys the way we learn empathy for others. It is by going though our own painmindfullywe can understand the pain of others and cultivate empathy and compassion. The good news is that we are wired for empathy and compassion. Like any other skills we can cultivateempathyand compassion for ourselves and f... [View Full Comment] There are many reasons I have for working. One of the reasons is for survival and for meeting my and my family's basic needs. There is something more than justsurviving.My core values are fulfillment, deep contentment and joy. I am clear about my purpose and intention for working hard. I engage my energy fully not only to meet my needs and aspirations and my welfare. I also devote my energy for serving others selflessly. This is my way of living spiritually.

    I discovered my path of living fully by going through some hard and painful times in my life. I learned valuable lessons from my pain. My pain helped me understand pain of others empathically. My mother used to sing a song thatconveys the way we learn empathy for others. It is by going though our own painmindfullywe can understand the pain of others and cultivate empathy and compassion. The good news is that we are wired for empathy and compassion. Like any other skills we can cultivateempathyand compassion for ourselves and for others.

    When I live mindfully I do not have any regrets or remorse for not living fully. Living life mindfully and fully is dying empty. Fullness is emptiness. This is a paradoxical truth.
    Namaste!
    Jagdish P Dave








    [Hide Full Comment]

    1 reply: Neelam | Post Your Reply

Search Awakin Readings

Or search by year, author, or category.

Subscribe to Weekly Email

Every week, we send out a digest with a reading and inspiring stories to our global community of 93,091 people. Subscribe below.

(unsubscribe)

Contact Us

If you'd like to suggest a thought or want to drop us a suggestion, drop us a note.