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  • Hey, it’s Marie Forleo and you are watching MarieTV, the place to be to create a business

  • and life you love. There has never been a better time to grow an audience for your products,

  • your services, and your ideas. But with all the noise out there, how do we not only stand

  • out, but also ensure that our work has real impact in the world? Well, my guest today

  • says the key is in finding our authentic voice, and he’s here to show us how.

  • Todd Henry teaches leaders and organizations how to establish practices that lead to everyday

  • brilliance. He’s the author of 3 books: “The Accidental Creative,” “Die Empty,”

  • andLouder than Words,” which have been translated into more than a dozen languages

  • and he speaks and consults internationally on creativity, leadership, and passion for

  • work. His last book, “Die Empty,” was named by Amazon.com as one of the best books

  • of 2013. His latest book, “Louder than Words,” is about how to develop an authentic voice

  • that resonate and creates impact. International bestselling author Tom Rath called it, “One

  • of the best guides to living a meaningful life I have ever read.”

  • Todd, thank you so much for coming on MarieTV.

  • Thank you for inviting me.

  • SoLouder than Words,” you guys, I read this cover to cover. It’s amazing. I have

  • so many notes. I have, like, things circled and highlighted and things that I sent to

  • the team. It’s just brilliant. One of the things that you say that I loved: “Attention

  • for your work is not a birthright. To stand out you must develop an authentic, compelling

  • voice.” Talk to me about why you wanted to write this book.

  • So I’ve noticed over the last couple of years working with creative professionals,

  • people in the marketplace, there’s a lot of conversation about building a platform.

  • Right? And how can you create a platform, how can you grow an audience, how can you

  • get attention for your work? And I think that’s helpful to have that kind of conversation

  • going, but I think we often ignore a… I think a more rudimentary conversation we need

  • to be having, which is how do you develop a voice that’s worth putting on a platform?

  • So I think starting with platform and asking yourself how do I grow an audience, how do

  • I grow attention for my work is kind of putting the cart before the horse. I think first we

  • have to have the conversation about what is it that I want to be on that platform. Right?

  • What do I actually want to get out into the world? What impact do I want to have? I think

  • that’s the first and the most fundamental question we have to ask before you even begin

  • to think about how do I grow a platform and gain attention.

  • I agree with you 100%. So much so. We have the honor of working with tens of thousands

  • of creatives through B-School and that’s one of the things. It’s like, “Well, what

  • are you taking a stand for? What’s important to you? What is the message that you wanna

  • use this platform for?” And that’s why I’m so excited about your book, because

  • I think it is the most fundamental and important question and I think for any of us, whether

  • were just starting out or, you know, I’ve been doing this over 15 years now. These are

  • the questions in your book that I continue to ask myself. And I think it’s for people

  • that arehave been on the journey for a while and want to evolve their platform. And

  • there’s even more brilliance. Again, I have to quote you exactly because it’s so perfectly

  • said. On page 151 you write, “You have to allow the idea to breathe, which sometimes

  • means engaging in activity that is gloriously inefficient.” And you talk a lot about people

  • really don't give themselves enough permission, especially in the early stages, to wander

  • around. Can we talk about this? Because I feel like I see so much about this hacking

  • and mind hacking and productivity hacking and creativity hacking, and in my personal

  • experience there ain’t no shortcuts. You can’t beefficientall the time if

  • you want to do work that really matters. So what’s your perspective on this?

  • I think there’s a real tendency in our culture right now to sacrifice effectiveness on the

  • altar of short term efficiency. Right? And youre right, there’s all this conversation

  • about hacking and shortcuts and all of these things. And that can be effective I think

  • for some things, but not about the things that matter. I think in the long term, I think

  • that we need to be carving out white space in our life, because innovation happens in

  • the white space. When we squeeze all of the white space out of our life were not allowing

  • our ideas to marinate, were not allowing them to breathe, were not allowing them

  • to emerge into their full potential. I think so often there’s a lot of conversation about

  • shipping and getting things out and pushing things into the world, and that’s great,

  • because I think some people because of a perfectionistic tendency they might hold onto ideas too long

  • and never get them out into the marketplace trying to make them perfect. But I think sometimes

  • on the opposite side of the equation, sometimes we push things out before we really have asked

  • the deeper questions about what is this, what am I really trying to introduce, what change

  • do I really want to see through this work or this project or whatever it is? And so

  • we push things out prematurely sometimes without asking those questions. And just stepping

  • back sometimes to breathe, to create some space around that project, can allow us to

  • sometimes make the project exactly what it needs to be in order to resonate.

  • Yeah.

  • Now, that’s not to excuse not shipping. Right? Because we all have to, you know, we

  • can easily slip to the other side of the equation and try to make things too perfect. But, yeah,

  • we need to create that white space. Sometimes we need to do things that are very inefficient

  • in the short run so we can be effective in the long run.

  • I love that. So much of my work, like, I have things that I’ve written, there are projects

  • that, you know, something that we have that’s been in the incubation for years. And there’s

  • a part of my brain, right, that wants to get it done and get it out there. But I think

  • there’s the wiser part of myself that watches it over time and watches it get better. And

  • whenever my brain starts to want to beat myself up because I’m like, “Look at all those

  • things I’ve wrote and I never use them,” I have to remember, it’s actually part of

  • the layering process, that wandering around that gets to the real good stuff. And I haven’t

  • heard many people talk about that because it’s just go, go, go, push, push, push,

  • so I was so happy that you created this container for us to say, “Yes, you don't have to be

  • so efficient all the time and the really meaningful stuff comes when you let yourself wander a

  • little bit.”

  • It does and youre right, I mean, success I think comes in layers. It doesn't come all

  • at once. I mean, for most people and we, you know, we talk about unicorns, we talk about

  • the outliers, the people who just shoot straight to the top. And success often is not as substantive

  • and it doesn't last often as much for people who shoot straight to the top. They don't

  • have those layers of experience and learning. Their body of work isn’t going to be as

  • substantive. Sometimes it is, sometimes, you know, but I think that we have towe have

  • to recognize that it takes time. Anything worth doing takes time.

  • Yeah.

  • Building a body of work you can be proud of takes time. And a lot of people, like yourself,

  • you make it look very easy because youve been doing this for a while. Right? And so

  • people look at you and they think, “Well, I wanna be just like Marie.” But the reality

  • is that it took you a long time to get to the place where you can make it look easy.

  • And I still struggle. I mean, I still go back into the writing cave, I still have those

  • same fears. Am I gonna have anything worthwhile to say? You know, am I gonna run out? And

  • so I think also too it’s really important to have that conversation, you know, this

  • is your third book, you know, so clearly this isn’t your first time out of the gate. But

  • I think it’s important for people that have been creating well to also say those things.

  • I personally never find it easy. You know? Even though whatever it looks like on the

  • outside, it’s still, there’s… but it’s good challenge.

  • It is. And I think we don’t… that’s the thing. I think we don't talk about the

  • struggle. The struggle of making things, the struggle of creating, the battle against ego,

  • the battle against pride, the battle against the fear of failure. And we don't talk about

  • those things. We show everybody the finished product and say, “Ta da, look what I made,”

  • but we don't talk about the, you know, the long slog that we had to walk through in order

  • to get to that place where we finally felt some resolution about who we are and what

  • were doing in the world. And the process of developing your voice is the process of

  • walking through that long slog. And it’s gonna be ugly, youre gonna lose your bearing,

  • you know, youre not always gonna know exactly where youre going or what you're trying

  • to do. But it’s the courage to continue, the courage to continue taking small risks

  • day after day and pushing into uncomfortable, unknown places. The people who have the courage

  • to do that or the people who eventually wind up in the place where theyre building a

  • contributive body of work that really matters and that is ultimately unique.

  • Yes. And tagging off of that, one of the other things you talk about that I love is that

  • every creative project having a U shape and that so many people misinterpret the bottom

  • of that U when they are struggling as theyre being, you know, theyre doing something

  • wrong, theyre on the wrong path, maybe they should quit. Can you tell us more about

  • that U shape?

  • Yeah. So this resulted from a conversation I had with Lisa Congdon, who is a brilliant

  • artist. She said that one of her art school teachers told her that every creative project

  • has a U shape and it’s like walking into a canyon. Right? So when youre on one side

  • of a canyon and youre looking across at your destination, you can see the other side

  • of the canyon. Everything is clear. I mean, you can see the path and everything, you know,

  • because you have a bird's eye view of everything. And then you start hiking down into the canyon

  • and you get to the bottom and all of a sudden the bushes are scraping against your thighs

  • and the path becomes a little bit more murky and you can’t quite tell where youre

  • supposed to go and you can’t really see your destination anymore. And when youre

  • in the bottom of the canyon and you can’t really see your destination and everything

  • is more murky, I think a lot of people start to question their sense of direction, they

  • start to question is this a worthy trip to begin with? Should I have even done this?

  • Was this wise? And then the sun starts to go down and you hear animals, you know, all

  • around you andat least that’s what I imagine what happens. And you start to get

  • afraid and you start to think maybe my life is on the line here. And then you start to

  • hike up the other side of the canyon and suddenly your destination comes in view. It’s a long

  • way off but you can see it again. And then right at sunset youre standing on the other

  • side, you can see the sun go down, it’s beautiful, totally worth it, it’s amazing,

  • you can see where you started. We all go through that as part of a creative process. It’s

  • like hiking down into a canyon. And so you start off with excitement and enthusiasm and

  • it’s so clear, you know exactly where youre gonna go. And when you get in the middle

  • and I don't care who you are, I don't care how successful you are, I don't care how many

  • successes youve had before, how celebrated your work is, it always in the middle feels

  • like a slog. It always feels like I’m never gonna get out of this, should I have even

  • started this, what if I fail? Especially if you have eyes on you. Right?

  • Yes.

  • Especially if youve had success. In the middle you say, “If I fail, what is this

  • gonna mean?” because you feel like the stakes are really high at that point. And I think

  • sometimes people think, “Well, the more success you have the easier it gets,” and

  • I think it’s actually the opposite. I think that once you have a lot of eyeballs on you

  • and people are judging you and looking at you, it, in some cases, becomes even harder.

  • So the reality is that everybody feels that way, everybody questions themselves when they

  • get in the middle of a long arc project like that. And the only solution is to try to keeps

  • your eyes fixed on the direction you think you should be moving and continue slogging

  • up the hill. That’s the only way to get through it. And the reality is everybody goes

  • through that, we just have to keep pushing forward.

  • Love it. Totally love it. The other thing that really resonated for me in the book was

  • your stories about DJ Z-Trip and his comparison of the creative journey to climbing a tree.

  • Can you share that with us?

  • Yeah. So Z-Trip is this brilliant DJ who has kind of shepherded this movement called the

  • mashup movement, where he takes rock and he takes hip hop and he kind of mixes all these

  • different genres together into one composition. And I was asking him, I was at a concert and

  • we were kind of sitting around backstage and I said, “Tell me, how do youhow did

  • you find your voice as an artist? How did you develop your voice?” He said, “Well,

  • this is what it was like for me.” He said, “So we all have roots. Right? And our roots

  • are our influences and those roots grow up into a trunk, into a tree trunk. And so we

  • all start as artists, we all start by climbing the trunk. So were kind of hugging the

  • trunk, our influences, were staying close to our influences. And once we get a certain

  • way up the trunk we have to decide, am I gonna step out on a branch? Am I gonna move away

  • from the trunk? Am I gonna step away from my influences?” And so whether youre

  • a writer, entrepreneur, whatever, we all reach that crossroads. We have to say, “Am I gonna

  • step away from my influences and start to find my own thing?” And he said, “So I

  • just started stepping out on a branch and I said I’m gonna choose a branch, I’m

  • gonna make myself unique, and this is what I’m gonna do.” And so thinking I’m being

  • really quick witted I said, “Well, what happens when you get too far out on the branch?

  • You get too far out and the branch breaks because, you know, branches are really tenuous.”

  • He said, “Well, the thing is, most people aren’t gonna follow you too far out on the

  • branch. They might follow you for a while, but if you have enough courage and you get

  • far enough out on the branch, people aren’t gonna go out with you because the branch gets

  • really thin and theyre afraid it’s gonna break.” “And so what if it does break?”

  • He said, “Well, that’s the beautiful thing. Once the branch breaks it falls to the ground

  • and it forms a new trunk and then people start following you. They start imitating you and

  • now youre the trunk, youre the influence.” And I thought that’s a brilliant articulation

  • of what the creative growth process looks like. Because we all began by imitating our

  • heroes, by imitating the people who inspired us, even closely imitating, emulating. Right?

  • Absolutely.

  • But at some point we have to be willing to make a decision. We have to make choices to

  • deviate from our influences and be bold and be unique. We have to decide. And that word

  • decide comes from the root word that means to cut off. I think a lot of times were

  • afraid to decide because were afraid of missing out on opportunities. But the reality

  • is, brilliant contributors, resonant voices are people who made the decision to deviate

  • from those influences and to carve their own path, to do something unique, and to go out

  • on the branch even when it seemed like the branch might break. Right? To push out into

  • those uncomfortable places.

  • You know, which leads right into where I wanna go next with you, was another brilliant thing

  • that you talked about in the book, which I talk about a lot: comparison. You know, we

  • all start out having influences and people that we admire and people we look up to and

  • we emulate their work. But I think at many points in the journey you can get sidetracked

  • if you are constantly looking to the right and to the left and anyone else in your industry

  • and youre following what everyone is doing and you see someone have success with a certain

  • strategy or doing a certain thing and you wanna go chase them. You talk about running

  • your own race. So I’m just curious whether it’s your own personal experience or experience

  • with any clients, what has that been like for you in terms of running your own race?

  • It’s a real challenge because I think you see what other people are doing and you see

  • what’s working and the tendency is to want toyoure on this path, theyre on

  • this path, the tendency is to want to maybe steer your path over to what you see working

  • or to seesteer toward where all the people are, where the audience is, where the eyeballs

  • are. A funny thing happens when youre running your own race: your peripheral vision can

  • be a blessing and a curse because if you see people coming up on you and you turn, you

  • start looking at them, your body will naturally want to run, you know, toward that person.

  • Your body goes where your eyeballs are. And I think the same thing applies in the marketplace.

  • I think that peripheral vision can be good because you can learn from what other people

  • are doing, you can study them and say, “Hey, is there anything theyre doing I can apply

  • to what I’m doing to make myself better and more resonant?” But you don't want to