Todd Henry Feat

Ep #75: Change The World With Your Authentic Voice featuring Todd Henry

todd-henry-headThis week on The Brainfluence Podcast, I am excited to welcome one of the leading experts on creativity, leadership, and an engaged workplace, Todd Henry. Todd is a sought-after speaker and consultant on creativity, leadership, and passion for work. He teaches leaders and organizations how to establish practices that lead to everyday brilliance.

Todd is the author of The Accidental CreativeDie Empty, and Louder Than Words, all of which have been translated into more than a dozen languages. Die Empty was named by as one of the best books of 2013. His latest book, Louder Than Words, is a guide to developing an authentic voice that resonates and creates impact. Bestselling author Tom Rath called it “…one of the best guides to living a meaningful life I have ever read.”

Todd joins us today to share his incredible journey through the creation of his books. Taking the lessons he has learned in his life, business and consulting, Todd has created the ultimate guide to changing the world one manageable step at a time. With his help, you can finally change your life, and the world, with your authentic message and purpose.

If you enjoy the show, please drop by iTunes and leave a review while you are still feeling the love! Reviews help others discover this podcast, and I greatly appreciate them!

Listen in:

On Today’s Episode We’ll Learn:

  • The three elements of the voice engine.
  • Why Todd strives to be an anti-guru.
  • How to tailor your message for the intended audience.
  • Todd’s trifecta of considerations for creating the perfect message.
  • How you create your own mental roadblocks.

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Full Episode Transcript:

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Welcome to the Brainfluence Podcast with Roger Dooley, author, speaker and educator on neuromarketing and the psychology of persuasion. Every week, we talk with thought leaders that will help you improve your influence with factual evidence and concrete research. Introducing your host, Roger Dooley.

Roger Dooley:    Welcome to the Brainfluence Podcast. I’m Roger Dooley, and my guest this week is an expert on creativity, leadership, and an engaged workplace. In his words, he teaches leaders and organizations how to establish practices that lead to everyday brilliance. That’s hard to beat.

His previous books are The Accidental Creative, and Die Empty. They’ve been bestsellers, and have received a lot of acclaim. In fact, Die Empty was named by as one of the best books of 2013. His newest book is Louder Than Words: Harness the Power of Your Authentic Voice.

Welcome to the show, Todd Henry.

Todd Henry:       Thank you, Roger. It’s great to be here.

Roger Dooley:    Great. Either you or your editors have a gift for picking great titles, Todd. The Accidental Creative is enticing enough, but the subtitle is How to Be Brilliant At A Moment’s Notice, and who doesn’t want that? That’s great. And then Die Empty is a really great, two-word title. I always gave Steve Krug, who wrote Don’t Make Me Think, about website design and usability, as one of the best book titles of all-time, because if you meditate on the title for about 20 minutes, you could almost skip reading the book.

Todd Henry:       It’s true.

Roger Dooley:    It encapsulates the content of the book so well in four words, in that case, and you’ve done it in two. Congratulations. Did you and your editors go around and around on this? Or did you just produce that a-ha moment, when everybody said this was it?

Todd Henry:       Book titles are tricky, because you want to make a promise with the book title, but you also want it to be intriguing, in some way. You want it to capture the imagination of the potential reader. It’s hard. We went around and around with Larger Than Words. We struggled to come up with something that captured the essence of the book. I’m happy with where we landed, but we went through a bunch of different options. I would love to say it was this flash of insight that we came upon.

Die Empty was a theme that had been resonating for many years, and I had been using in my work for a long time. It wasn’t … That was something that was always there, just being at the surface. The question was, did we have the guts to use that title? Because it’s a very polarizing title, depending on how you receive that phrase, Die Empty, but Louder Than Words, it’s like anything else. Sometimes you have to dig in the ground a while, before you find gold, and that was the case with this title.

Roger Dooley:    It’s great, all three of them are excellent. How did you get to the point we are, Todd, in telling people how to, in essence, live better lives? That seems like a really ambitious goal, and for me at least, it’d be a recipe for a serious case of impostor syndrome. Did you ever feel that? What’s your journey been to this point?

Todd Henry:       Absolutely, no question. I try hard to be as much as I could. I’m very not a part of the mode of thinking of where people look for gurus, and want gurus, and want people to tell them how to live their lives, and I try as much as I can to be the anti-guru, and instead be a friend, locking arms with other people, and walking through the muck together, because I think that, as a creative professional myself, someone who’s been inside of organizations, someone who’s led teams of people who are trying to do great work, and care about the work, and want to do great work, but are limited, in many ways, by organizational constraints, and some of the injustices of bureaucracy, that can creep up within complex organizations, and things of that nature. Really, it’s easy to be standing on other the other side, saying, “Do this! Do this!” It’s a lot harder, I think, to empathize, to get in the muck with people, and walk … You lock arm with them, and walk through the muck.

I’ve always aspired to write from a position of peer and friend, and not from the position of guru or mentor. Anything that I write about, I try to, as much as possible, excavate what I’m finding out there in the marketplace, with people who are doing it really well, and try to put that out there in front of people, and say, hey, here are some things that are working.

Are these going to work in any and all circumstance? No, of course not. There are no absolute solutions, but here are A) some things that are working for a lot of people, that I think will work for you. Or B) here are some heuristics and patterns, that we can use as shortcuts to help us think differently about life and about work that, again, seem to be working for a lot of people.

That’s the approach that I try to take. I try to use all of the experience, all of the research, and synthesize that into something that can become a more manageable framework. Listen, our work is complex enough. The problems we have to solve, they’re complex enough. If we could have a couple of frameworks to help us put those into manageable buckets, I think it goes a long way toward helping us focus our assets, our time, our energy, in a more meaningful way.

Roger Dooley:    I like the arm-in-arm analogy. I think that a theme in your books is that, helping individuals through the process of living and working, as opposed to telling a manager how to get more out of your people, how to motivate your people, or make them more creative, and so on. You’re taking a bottoms-up approach.

Todd Henry:       I think so, and even when I try to offer advice to people who are managing, it’s always coming from the perspective of the managed, in many ways. Even if, often, you’ll, for example, creating accountability within organizations by ensuring that expectations are clear, and having clear conversations about expectations consistently, and creating an environment where people can ask, if they’re uncertain about objectives, and things of that nature. Where, in a lot of organizations, there’s this paralysis that emerges, because people are afraid to ask questions, they’re afraid to be seen as incompetent. As a manager, I would want people to speak up, if they don’t know what they’re doing, rather than spin their wheels for three days, and then find out that they don’t know what they’re doing.

I’m coming at things from the perspective of somebody on the team. How does it feel to them, to be in an organization where it’s not acceptable to ask questions, it’s not acceptable to clarify expectations? Again, I’m trying to come at it from an inside-out perspective, rather than offering management theory, based upon what I see. Really, coming at it from someone who is in the trenches, and trying to help people through the muck and the mire.

Roger Dooley:    That’s a cultural thing, too, because in the United States, we have a pretty freewheeling culture. Not at every organization, of course, but with the employees able to speak up and interact in a somewhat, peer-like fashion with their manager, is where, certainly in some other cultures, it’s much more hierarchical, where people would never think of asking a question or much less a question or action taken by somebody else or their manager.

Todd Henry:       Very true.

Roger Dooley:    Let’s get to the concept of the authentic voice. I’ve had speaking experts, like Michael Port, and Nick Morgan on the show, and they talk about resonant voices, but in a very different way. At one point, Todd, you say that you need to have vision to create a resonant voice, but you’re not talking about eyeglass prescriptions, or vocal cords, right?

Todd Henry:       Right. When I talk about vision, I’m referring to your understanding of where you want to lead your audience. I believe that all resonant work begins with impact in mind. I think some people think about … When they think about great work, they think, somebody made something that … They followed their intuition, they created something that came out of them, and if people like it, they do, and if they don’t, they don’t. Really, people who create work that, ultimately, impacts the world, that mobilizes people, that resonates deeply, begin with an understanding of A) who they’re trying to reach, and B) where they want to lead that person.

If we want to have a voice that resonates, we have to develop empathy for our intended audience. That doesn’t mean we pander to them. Of course, that doesn’t mean we give them exactly what they want, because that doesn’t serve them either, necessarily. But we have to, at least, begin to understand where they’re coming from, how they’re going to receive what we say, and have a vision in mind for where we want to lead them.

Often, we think our voice is what we say. Our voice isn’t what we say. Our voice is also how we’re heard. How we’re heard is often much more important, actually, than what we say. It’s important for us, as people who want to have resonant voices, or who want to do work that will ultimately shape and impact the world around us, which I hope we all do, or else why are we spending our effort to do it. We have to begin with an understanding, in some measure, of the impact we want that work to have. Which is, essentially, how I define vision in Louder Than Words.

Roger Dooley:    When you talk about impacting your audience, and changing the world, how does this relate to, say, a mid-level marking guy in a company, who’s working on a small brand, or something like that. How is that person going to change the world, and who’s the audience that they’re aiming at? Are we talking about the audience of customers? The audience of co-workers or managers?

Todd Henry:       Sure, yeah. You still have … When you’re introducing an idea into your organization, there is still an intended audience for that idea. Or if you’re trying to persuade someone, there’s still an intended audience for that idea. Often, we center in so deeply on the idea itself, but we don’t consider, who is the person I’m trying to reach with this? And how do I want to mobilize them? How do I want to move them?

There’s this trifecta of considerations that I give in the book, that came out of my conversation with a company, called Epipheo Studios, which is a video production consultancy, and a brand design consultancy, as well. They say, whenever they create any piece of work, they always want to make the audience the hero for their work, not the person communicating, not the product, not the idea, but the audience is the hero.

They said there’s a confluence of three things that they want to do. They want to focus on what am I passionate about? What do I care about? What message do I want to get across? And then what does the audience care about? What are going to be some touchpoints that will provide me with some traction with the audience? Typically, this is where we stop. We stop by looking for the overlap of the Venn diagram, of what do I care about, what do they care about? But there’s a third, confluent factor here that we can look at, which is, what are some themes, some ideas, some resonant messages that are already present in the culture, that already have some momentum, that perhaps I can somehow contextualize my idea within, so that we can introduce it in a way that’s going to be more readily received by others?

When you consider, and you build a platform around message, piece of work in that place, it’s more likely to connect, because it’s not just what you care about or what your audience cares about, it’s also taking into account some of these undercurrents, some of these themes. For example, the mid-level manager. If you’re trying to sell an idea into your manager’s manager, or to somebody that, maybe, you don’t have a relationship with, you can begin thinking about, okay, what is the idea? What is it that I care about? What am I trying to do? What concerns right now, does this person have and what are they trying to do? Where do I want to move them to? But also, what are some other themes that I’m hearing? What are some things I’ve heard them say in the past? What are some other ideas that they have introduced, that this is similar to, in some way? How can I shape my message, so that it will hit at that confluence of me, them, and ideas that are already resonating? That will increase our chances of hitting the sweet spot.

Roger Dooley:    That makes a lot of sense. I think there’s, in some psychology terms, I guess, you might talk about the cognitive fluency of the idea, if an idea is already familiar to somebody, then a similar idea will be more fluent, it’ll be easier to process, and generally, people prefer things that are fluent.

A brand that sounds something like another brand, even though people may not process it consciously as such, will be a little bit more likable, than one that is either unfamiliar, or hard to pronounce.

Todd Henry:       Yes, and it’s not … Of course, like anything else, this isn’t hard … This is more of an art than a science, in many ways. It would be easy to try to develop some sort of Frankenstein’s monster of a communication of a message or an idea, that doesn’t hit the sweet spot, because it’s so fabricated. That’s why it’s important to center in on all three of those factors. It has to be rooted in something that you care about, you have to be invested in the idea, invested in it deeply. It has to come from a place of authenticity, and also take into account where you want to move the other person, and you can’t compromise that either, just in order to make your message resonate.

Roger Dooley:    Makes sense. Todd, one idea that I found in the book that resonated with me, was the concept of a U-curve, for just about everything, projects or anything else. I’ve written a couple of books, one published, one nearly so, and I can identify with the thought of, you start off a project, and things are all clicking, and making sense, and coming together, but as you get deeper into it, suddenly it spreads out into this big, messy pile of stuff, that you’re not sure if it’s ever going to come together. You simply have to keep plodding through, and eventually, you get to the other side of that U-curve, and things start to get easier, and make sense again, and so on.

Todd Henry:       Right.

Roger Dooley:    How does that relate to the concepts in your book?

Todd Henry:       This concept came from an artist, named Lisa Congdon, who shared with me that her art teacher had taught her about this, because she was struggling with getting in the middle of a project, and losing sight or losing hope of what was going on. This art teacher said, every project has a U-shape. You start off, everything’s clear, and then, as you progress, you go down into the valley of the U, and all of a sudden, things become more obscured, it’s harder to see your ending point. This is where you have to push through a lot of the challenges, and complexities that you didn’t anticipate. Everything’s clear at the beginning, but it becomes complex in the middle.

It’s at that point that a lot of people, frankly, Roger, start to settle in, they start to get comfortable, they start to say, “Maybe this is close enough. This is good enough. This is where I need to end up with my work.”

It’s unfortunate, because I think a lot of people, were they to push through that bottom of the curve, and push up the other side, could end up in a really great place. For many of us, when we get to that place of, we’re in the bottom of the canyon, the hardest thing, for many people, is they’re doing their work in isolation, they don’t have people around them who can keep them aligned, keep them fired up, keep them charged, keep them on the right course. Especially, people who are a little bit more successful.

You talked a little bit about the impostor syndrome thing, starts to creep in for a lot of people in the bottom of the U, because when they’re isolated, when they don’t have anyone around them speaking truth to them, or helping them stay aligned, or focused, or keep them moving forward, and you feel like you’re alone in the bottom of the valley, it’s easy to give up, it’s easy to settle in, it’s easy to second guess yourself.

Roger Dooley:    I think at that point you say, “I thought I knew about this topic, but I guess I don’t know as much as I thought.”

Todd Henry:       Absolutely right.

Roger Dooley:    You definitely begin to doubt yourself.

Todd Henry:       I’ve written three books in about six years now. Written three books, and published three books in six years. Every single one of those books, at some point, felt, to me, like an unwieldy project. It seemed simple at first. I had great research, I had a great outline, and then I got into the middle of writing it, and I realized, maybe this isn’t exactly what I thought it was. Especially the last two books have been that way. I got in the middle and I realized, maybe this isn’t quite exactly what I thought it was going to be.

At that point, you have a choice you can make. You can say, “No, it’s exactly what I thought it was going to be, and I’m going to make it that,” or you can say, “I’m going to be honest, I’m going to follow my intuition, and I’m going to write what I believe to be true, not what I wish was true.” That’s difficult, as you know, Roger. That’s a difficult thing for a writer to do. As a writer, you owe it to your audience to write what you believe to be true, what you see is in front of you to be true, not what you wish would be true, so that it would be more palatable to the reader. That’s a challenging thing to do sometimes, because it’s easy to suffer from confirmation bias, to only look for patterns that we want to be true, because they fit within some sort of existing worldview.

In the bottom of the U, all of these things start to take shape for us. That’s why it’s important A) that we have people around us to keep us aligned, but B) that we maintain that vision of the change that we want to have, because that’s what’s going to allow us to sustain, and push up the other side of the curve, and hopefully, ultimately, to get to the place we originally intended to go, or to a much better place with our work. Rather than giving up at the bottom of the canyon.

Roger Dooley:    I could see where that would be particularly difficult in some organizational circumstances. We’re talking about book projects, and art projects, and so on, that tend to be, more or less, solo efforts, where maybe you get a little bit of encouragement, but undoubtedly, in some organizations, you’ve got folks who are actively telling you why what you’re doing won’t work, and making it even tougher to get to the other side.

Todd Henry:       Absolutely, and I’ve spoken with many of these people, who, in some cases … I’m certainly not advocating this in any and all circumstances, but people who have, quite literally, put their lives, their careers on the line, in order to fight for an idea that they thought was the right idea. Again, I’m not advocating that in all circumstances. You have to, obviously, take measured risk, when you’re doing that. You have to believe in the idea, but for some people, we can be working alone together, inside of organizations, because even though we’re doing the work together, and we’re communicating, and we’re talking about the work, but we’re not talking about how we’re doing the work. We’re not really doing the work together. We’re doing it in concert with one another, we’re doing it in parallel to one another.

In those circumstances, it may be that the best thing for you is to find a strong network of people outside of your organization. Of course, there are things you can’t talk about. You can’t talk about anything that’s confidential or proprietary, things of that nature, but you can seek advice, you can seek encouragement, you can seek other forms of alignment from people outside of your organization.

There’s a great myth, that brilliant work is done as a solo sport, but the reality is that we’re all a reflection of the people who have influenced us. You need to have people around you, who can help you stay aligned, and help you stay inspired, especially if you’re doing difficult work, and especially if you’re in a hostile environment at work.

Roger Dooley:    Sometimes, even the process of talking through something or explaining it to somebody, even if they aren’t an expert, just explaining it, then suddenly, the answer that you’ve been seeking on your own for hours suddenly pops into your head, because you’ve had to translate the problem into different words. I find that certainly to be true with the occasional, weird technical issue that comes along, where you’re beating your head against the wall, and then you start writing that email to a support group, saying, “Okay, here’s my problem,” and then about halfway through the email, you slap your head, and say, “Oh, I think I’ll try this first.” Sure enough, that’s it.

Todd Henry:       A lot of time … I find this in the idea generation work that I do, a lot of times the roadblocks in front of us are mental constructions. They are fossilized assumptions that we’re holding about what is and what isn’t possible, and our mind is great at weeding out irrelevant information. If we deem something to be irrelevant, we’ll ignore it as a factor, but once we start putting it out there for other people, and we say, “Oh, wait. I need to explain this thing first,” and you realize, I’ve fossilized around an assumption that is not valid. It’s not a valid assumption, and that’s what’s been limiting my ability to see the solution that’s right in front of me.

Sometimes it’s only when we are forced to confront those assumptions, because we’re explaining it to someone else, or because somebody pokes a finger in our chest, and says, “Hey, why are you thinking this?” That’s when, suddenly, the path becomes illuminated.

Roger Dooley:    We talked briefly about vision, but what are the three drivers of developing your voice?

Todd Henry:       These are the three elements of the voice engine, and I call them that, because they do seem to drive compelling, resonant voices. There are different markers within these three categories, but the three broad categories are identity, which is a sense of who you are. Is your work founded upon whether … Again, as an organization or an individual, is your work founded upon something that you generally are invested in? Or are you fabricating a shell? When many people talk about personal branding and some of these types of things, what they really mean is, let’s fabricate some kind of shell that makes other people like you more, or makes you more appealing to other people. Those efforts, ultimately, fall flat.

We find this when companies do great brand architecture, as well. What they’re really doing is they’re excavating, and then they’re figuring out a way to package what is already there. They’re not fabricating something. We have to do a similar thing.

There are a couple of markers within identity that we can look at. The first is authenticity, which, Roger, is a thoroughly overused word, and I completely acknowledge that. I know. That was a point of wrestling with, are we even going to put that on the cover, because it’s such an overused word. I think people think of authenticity as complete transparency, complete vulnerability, I might cry in front of you, but basically I’m going to open the kimono, and if you like me, you do, and if you don’t, you don’t. That’s a bit of a shallow understanding of authenticity.

What matters, as it relates to authenticity, more than any of that, is are you invested in your work? Do you care about what you’re saying? Can people see that you have skin in the game? In order to get to a place where you are infusing yourself into your work, to the point that people can see it, you have to understand what you care about. You have to understand the principles that guide your most important work. What is it that fuels your best work?

Many people have never stopped to think about that, because they adopt the modus operandus of their organization, or whatever Franken-monster-type mission statement that’s been handed down to them, but they’ve never stepped back to ask, what do I really care about? What are the best elements of my work? That’s authenticity.

The second marker under identity is uniqueness, which is about the willingness to make bold decisions in the face of uncertainty. You have to be willing to follow your intuition, your unique combination of passions, skills, experiences, listen to that intuition, and make bold decisions. Most people who are accomplished, the people who listen to this, are probably very accomplished professionals, and they would probably say, “No duh. I know I need to make bold decisions,” but that’s not how we act. That’s not how we behave in practice. Instead, what we do, is we try to be really fuzzy right up until the last minute, and then we make a decision. That lack of clarity trickles down to the people on our team. If we’re not making bold decisions, in the face of our uncertainty.

The question I would pose to people is, is there something that you’re intuition is telling you, that your gut is telling you, based upon your circumstances, that you need to decide? Which means, from the root form, to cut off. I need to cut off other options, and commit to an option. Is there something you need to decide, that you’re deferring, you’re putting off? That you know you need to decide, because it’s trickling down to your team? That’s a marker of uniqueness. When people can see what it is you stand for. There’s no ambiguity about it.

The second driver of the voice driver is identity, and we talked about this, but there are a couple of markers within that driver. The first is precision. Can people tell, very clearly, what you mean when you communicate? A lack of a clear vision, often trickles down into a lack of precision in your communication. Are you precise? Do you cut, when you communicate? Can people see I’m in, I’m out. I agree, I disagree. Or are you fuzzy? Again, we like to be fuzzy when we’re not certain, but we have to be clear, even when we’re not certain, if we want to communicate a vision, and cause our message to resonate.

The second marker under that bucket of identity is consonance, which is an internal consistency within how we communicate. I don’t know about you, but I’ve known many leaders in my day, and I’ve certainly been inside of organizations where I’ve seen this play out. One day they’ll say one thing, the next day they’ll say something else, and there’s no internal consistency in terms of how they communicate or their style or where they’re coming from. It makes it hard for people to predict where they’re going to be in three weeks on a topic, so it creates paralysis within the organization, because people don’t want to invest their time and energy, until they know for sure it’s going to bear fruit, organizationally. We have to be careful to foster consonance, within how we communicate, as well.

The third driver of the voice engine is mastery, which is owning your platform. It’s the ability to deliver in such a way that people say, that person clearly knows what they’re talking about. You can have great sense of identity, a great vision, but if you’re not a master of what it is you do, a master of your craft, then you’re not going to be compelling. You’re going to be un-credible. People will not listen to what you have to say.

There are a couple of skills that we can develop in this area. The first one is empathy, and I believe that some people have empathy as a natural part of who they are, it’s baked into them to a certain degree. But I think that empathy is a skill that we can develop, if we learn to. I think we have to develop the skill of empathy, and the second marker within that is timing, the ability to understand the best time to deliver a message or to deliver a piece of work, so that it will have better odds of connecting with, of resonating with our intended audience. We can’t time everything perfectly, but we can prepare ourselves to be able to deliver something, a piece of work or an idea, at a time when it’s most likely to connect. That’s what we talked about earlier with those three forces: The U, them, and ideas building in the center of that, is really, in many ways, a function of timing.

Those are the three drivers, identity, vision, mastery, and within those are the markers of authenticity, uniqueness, precision, consonance, empathy, and timing, that seem to be present among voices that resonate deeply.

Roger Dooley:    When they all come together, what happens?

Todd Henry:       When they all come together, your message resonates, and then people who hear your message or your idea, they become a carrier of your message. I’m sure you’ve met many people, I’ve met many people as well, leaders, whose words, for some reason, they tend to carry beyond their immediate sphere of influence within an organization. You find people, in other divisions, adopting their language, and carrying their message, because their voice resonates. When they communicate about something, it resonates deeply within the organization.

This is what we want to aspire to. We want to aspire to be the kind of people whose voices, when we communicate an idea, carry far beyond our immediate audience. People begin to carry our message with them, because it is cogent, and because it deeply connects with something that, maybe, they can’t even put their finger on. It just deeply connects with them.

Roger Dooley:    Where should somebody start this process, other than buying your book, which should be the obvious first step. After they do that, and read it thoroughly, how do they get started? What’s the first thing they should do?

Todd Henry:       The first thing I would recommend for people is, start with identity. Start with, what do you care about? Start with, what are the pillars of your best work? A very simple way to do that is to sit down, take an hour with a piece of paper, and on that piece of paper, start writing down moments in your life, in your career, where you believe you have been the most resonant, when other people have clicked with what you’ve said, when you’ve had a project that, for whatever reason, was disproportionately successful. Start writing down those moments in your life, when that has happened.

Then you can start looking for patterns. What is it about those moments that made me resonant? There are a couple of things that you can look at as potential points for fuel for your best work, to help identify what will make you unique, and will make you someone that has a clearly different sense of identity and platform.

One of them is, what angers you? Immediately, people go to, “I’m angry, when I’m insulted, or I’m slighted in some way.” Or “I’m angered in rush hour traffic, when somebody cuts me off.” That’s not what I’m talking about. What I’m talking about is compassionate anger. Compassion, it means to suffer with. When you experience something that fills you with compassionate anger, it means that you are mobilized to move. Many of us don’t pay attention to those kinds of things. What are those moments in your life, where you’re filled with compassionate anger? What fills you with that? Why does it happen? And how can you use that as fuel for your work?

Much of my work is fueled by what I see as the use and abuse of creative professionals in the marketplace. Listen, organizations organize. That’s what they do, and they’re great at it, and they’re great at finding efficiencies. That’s great that they’re able to do that, because that provides stability for everyone else, and certainly for all the people in the organization. But there are also little injustices that can emerge within trying to make everything efficient, and creative work is not always efficient. Work that ultimately changes the game is not always efficient. Sometimes it’s gloriously inefficient, in the moment, but very effective in the long run.

Those are things that fuel my best work, and stoke my fire. Another one is what moves you emotionally? Guys, what makes you feel like you have something in your eye? What makes you cry? This is another thing that we often overlook. We like to remove emotion from business, but if you look at people who are driven, and people who resonate, there is a well, often, of emotional drive within them. I am moved by the stories of underdogs, and the best work that I do, Roger, is fueled by that love of underdogs, and my desire to walk alongside them, lock arms, walk through the muck. Even my language, I think, is often descriptive of that love of the underdog. When I talk about what I do, I say I’m an arms dealer for the creative revolution. That’s my little tagline, but it’s because I love underdogs. I love working for underdogs, laboring on their behalf.

How can you begin to identify some of these things in your life? And there are many more examples that I give in the book, but some of these points of traction, you can start infusing in your work to make you truly unique, to make sure you’re actually putting more of who you are into what you do. I think that’s a really good first step for people, to start to identify, and develop an authentic and compelling voice.

Roger Dooley:    I suppose, finding your passion is right up there with authenticity, in terms of an overused term, but there is an element of truth in that. That if you can identify those areas that engage your emotions, you’re much more likely to be successful in those areas.

Todd Henry:       I agree, and the word passion, in its root form, comes from the word that means to suffer. I love to reclaim that word, passion, because I think we use passion to describe anything that we like. When we talk about passion for work, what most people mean is I want to like the tasks that I do all day. That’s, I think, what they mean at the bottom of that, but the reality is, is that very few people, who are contributors, like what they do all day long.

Now, they like some of it, and hopefully we can navigate to where we like more and more of the tasks we do, but very few people get to do what they like all day long, at least if they’re serious about making a contribution. The question we should ask is, what matters so much to me? What principles? What contributions? What things matter so much to me, that I’m willing, if necessary, to suffer on behalf of them? Which is, I believe, a much more healthy, and much more contributive way to think about passion, because it means sometimes I’m going to like what I do, sometimes I’m going to be in love with what I do, but I’m not always going to like my tasks, but I’m going to love the outcome of having engaged in my work.

If more people adopt that mindset, and again, it can begin with asking some of those questions about what fuels your best work, what motivates you. If more people adopted that mindset of passion, I think it would completely change the game for many organizations.

Roger Dooley:    It pretty much goes full-circle, back to the U that we were talking about, that if you have that emotional drive going, that will help get you through the trough, where you’re caught up in the morass, and to the other side.

Todd Henry:       Absolutely.

Roger Dooley:    Let me remind our audience, we are speaking with Todd Henry, author of The Accidental Creative, Die Empty, and the new book, Louder Than Words: Harness the Power of Your Authentic Voice. Todd, where can people find you and your stuff online?

Todd Henry:       The best way to find me as at my personal site, which is Two D’s. T-O-D-D, and you can get to my podcasts from there, all of my books from there, all of my writing, as well as all of the other work that I do.

Roger Dooley:    Great, and we will, of course, have links to all of Todd’s resources on the ‘Show Notes’ page, at We’ll also have a text version of our conversation there.

Todd, thanks so much for being on the show.

Todd Henry:       Thank you, Roger.

Thank you for joining me for this episode of the Brainfluence Podcast. To continue the discussion and to find your own path to brainy success, please visit us at

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