45 episodes

The Accidental Creative podcast shares how to build practical, everyday practices that help you stay prolific, brilliant and healthy in life and work. Host Todd Henry (author of the books The Accidental Creative, Die Empty, and Louder Than Words) interviews artists, authors and business leaders, and offers tips for how to thrive in life and work. Listen in and join the conversation at AccidentalCreative.com.

The Accidental Creative AccidentalCreative.com - Todd Henry

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The Accidental Creative podcast shares how to build practical, everyday practices that help you stay prolific, brilliant and healthy in life and work. Host Todd Henry (author of the books The Accidental Creative, Die Empty, and Louder Than Words) interviews artists, authors and business leaders, and offers tips for how to thrive in life and work. Listen in and join the conversation at AccidentalCreative.com.

    Bravery In The Workplace

    Bravery In The Workplace

    This is part four of a series on everyday bravery.







    If there is one place where bravery is most needed (and often most lacking) it’s in the workplace. Brave people create brave workplaces, and brave workplaces ultimately change the world around them. However, in order for a culture to operate by principles of bravery, individuals must be willing to engage in brave actions every day.







    Here are a few principles for engaging bravely in your workplace:







    Own your words and actions. ​Be an individual with a backbone. If you say or do something, accept the consequences, whether good or bad, for your choices. Never throw a teammate under the bus.







    Taking accountability for your actions does a few things. First, it signals to others that they can trust you to shoulder responsibility, and to do the right thing. This is no small matter. If others sense that you’re playing games and that your primary interest is in protecting yourself and your reputation above actually performing, they will tolerate you but will never trust you. Second, it removes the stigma of falling short. If we are doing difficult things, we are going to fail occasionally. A workplace culture in which nothing difficult is attempted requires no bravery. Only teams on a mission to do difficult things need to be brave. Taking accountability for poor results, and attempting to fix them, is a signal of authenticity and courage, and it pushes others to do the same. This is the essence of good leadership. We can never tolerate blame shifting.  







    Is there something you need to take accountability for today?







    Encourage​.This literally means to “put courage into” others. Brave people embolden the people around them, speak words of affirmation to them, and cheer them on to be their best. They are not threatened by the successes of others. 







    Cowards hold back encouragement because they believe that life is a zero-sum game, and that if someone else gets attention for something it will only tarnish their own standing with the group. However, brave people willingly and truthfully put courage into others, recognizing that we need one another in order to succeed. Brave people are outward focused. Cowards are obsessed with themselves and their own needs and feelings. 







    Who can you encourage today? Be proactive about putting courage into others. 







    Embrace personal growth, even when you look foolish.​Some people fear trying new things, learning new skills, or tackling new kinds of projects because they fear that if they fail they will be “found out”. Brave people know that occasional failure is simply a part of doing hard things.







    To grow, you have to stretch yourself to the point of failure. Now, you have to balance this with wisdom, meaning that you shouldn’t attempt things that are obviously well beyond your present ability. (Just because I’ve climbed rocks in an indoor, controlled facility doesn’t mean I’m ready to free climb half-dome.) Intentionally stretch yourself, have uncomfortable but necessary conversations, and push yourself to learn new skills even when you will appear foolish to those around you for a while.







    What do you need to do in order to grow yourself?







    Share your ideas, even when they aren’t received.​You cannot control whether someone else likes your ideas, but you can control whether or not you share them. The regret over inaction is too high a price to pay. If you are in a meeting and you have an intuition that something might work, share it. Share your insights with a peer who is struggling with a difficult problem.

    • 16 min
    Qualities of Brave Leadership

    Qualities of Brave Leadership

    This week's episode of The Accidental Creative Podcast is about the qualities that brave leaders exhibit.







    As I mentioned a few episodes ago, if I had to choose one gift to impart upon every person I meet - one master key that unlocks their potential - it would be bravery. We need radical bravery in our workplaces, our schools, our neighborhoods, and - God help us - in our politics. If more people committed to making brave choices daily, we would see stronger, more effective teams, less corruption, less unhealthy conflict, and more progress on the societal issues that truly matter.







    Organizations need leaders committed to cultivating a culture of bravery, and who themselves are making brave choices in the face of uncertainty. The marketplace needs more business owners who are willing to step up and do the right thing for their employees and their communities, even at the risk of personal cost. And, society needs more people to cultivate brave, empathetic relationships with people who think differently from them.







    More than almost any other place, our workplaces need brave leaders. We need people who are committed to standing in the gap, protecting their people, and fighting for the mission of the organization even at personal expense. 







    Here are a few principles that brave leaders abide by:







    Brave leaders assume accountability for their actions. Many leaders revel in the glory that comes with success, but brave leaders are also willing to put themselves on the line and be accountable when their actions fail. Many are familiar with Dwight Eisenhower’s letter to the Allied troops on the eve of the D-Day invasion in June 1944. It begins, “You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you.” Inspiring leadership, for sure. However, fewer people are aware that Eisenhower wrote a second letter, only to be delivered in the event of an unsuccessful landing.







    "Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based on the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone."







    Brave leaders are willing to accept responsibility for their actions, including their failures. Are you avoiding accountability for your actions, or pointing fingers at others when you fall short?







    Brave leaders have the uncomfortable conversation.​ It’s far easier to avoid difficult chats with direct reports, but brave leaders recognize that it’s more important to be effective than to be liked. It’s never comfortable to discuss performance issues, to deliver uncomfortable news, or to challenge someone’s attitude, but these are the kinds of conversations that brave leaders (cautiously and wisely) step into because they know that their position demands it. Is there an uncomfortable conversation you need to have, but have been avoiding? 







    Brave leader speak truth to power. ​As a leader, you must be willing to defend important principles when you perceive they are being “ground up” in the organizational gears. Cowards “go with the flow”, especially when  speaking up might mean losing their organizational standing, but brave leaders are willing to abide by their principles even at personal cost. As my friend riCardo Crespo often says, “you can’t lie to the person in the mirror.” Brave leaders can look themselves in the face every day knowing that they are living out their principles and standing up for what they believe to be proper and just. What principles are you willing to defend,

    • 16 min
    Bravery vs. Cowardice (part 2)

    Bravery vs. Cowardice (part 2)

    This is the second episode of a series on the importance of bravery. Just to re-cap, in the last episode I gave this definition of bravery:







    Bravery exists whenever someone a person engages in right action at the potential expense of their own comfort.​ Cowardice, on the other hand, exists when someone chooses self-protection at the expense of right action. It is possible to appear brave to others while actually behaving in a cowardly way, or to appear a coward to others while doing the brave thing. 







    In order for something to be considered an act of bravery, it must be sourced in the desire to do what’s right even at the risk of personal cost. Which begs the question: how do you decide what’s ​right?​







    On this episode, I want to share a few distinctions between everyday bravery and cowardice, then on upcoming episodes I’m going to share the specifics of what this means, especially in a work context.







    Understand that every single person at times exhibits remarkable bravery, and also cowardice. This isn’t something we all get right a hundred percent of the time. However, we all have the ability to choose our response to our circumstances, and simply stopping to consider what “right action in the face of discomfort” means can help parse brave action from cowardice.







    So, here are a few qualities of brave people versus cowards, and how they play out in work and life:







    Brave people are protective, cowards exploit.​ If your actions are to protect someone or something vulnerable, whether a person or ideal, then there’s a good chance it’s right action. However, if your intent is to take advantage of someone or to deprive them of something they might otherwise enjoy, it’s certainly not. Now, please understand that I’m not talking about marketplace competition. When we compete in the marketplace, we agree to certain rules, one of which is that someone will likely lose the competition. I’m talking about leveraging advantages to exploit those who don’t even know they are being exploited. That’s the definition of cowardice, because it’s hidden action that if revealed would look really bad. Are you exploiting others?







    Brave people reveal truth at the right time, cowards conceal it.​ Brave people know that the truth is never really a threat, but even if it costs them their livelihood or relationship, the cost of inaction is simply too vast to take the easy way out. This gets to the issue of character. A willingness to face the truth is critical if we want to exhibit everyday bravery. Is there any place where you are hiding from or concealing the truth? 







    Brave people consider context and scale, cowards think right now. ​The brave choice is the one that takes into account nuance and context, is empathetic, and scales in a positive way. Cowardly action is only concerned with immediate consequences. My actions today have resonant consequences tomorrow, and next month, and next year. Brave people think about those consequences, not just getting what they can while they can. Are you thinking about the downstream consequences of your actions? 







    Brave people are principle-driven, cowards go with their gut.​ Brave people have a framework for making decisions that is so ingrained that their actions in the face of adversity are almost automatic. Cowards just “wing it” and do whatever feels best in the moment. Do you have a framework for making decisions, or a set of principles that guides your behavior? In Herding Tigers, I offered a framework for developing one as a leader, which is essential so that your team knows where you stand and can follow you with confidence. What are your guiding principles? 







    Brave people face consequences,

    • 18 min
    Fear Of Missing Out (with Patrick McGinnis)

    Fear Of Missing Out (with Patrick McGinnis)

    Is the grass truly greener on the other side of the fence? Many creative pros spend their career wondering if there is a better path for them, or whether they're missing out on something that everyone else knows about. This can result in hopping from job to job, or never really fully embracing the opportunities in front of you because you're always "hedging your bets" and looking for a better option. Patrick McGinnis coined the phrase Fear Of Missing Out in a college paper several years ago, and he's just released a book by the same title to help us work through our anxiety about forgoing opportunities.







    Here are a few key ideas to help us avoid FOMO:







    Move Toward, Not Away From







    I've had many conversations with people who never seem to be satisfied with their job. They hop from company to company thinking that there has to be some place that will better mesh with what they're looking for. The problem is that these people are often chasing vapor. They are perpetually moving away from something they dislike, not something they aspire toward. People who thrive learn to move toward their ambitions and goals, not just away from discomfort.







    Is there any area of your life or career where you are simply moving away from discomfort rather than toward your goals?







    Be Decisive







    Another hallmark of thriving professionals is that they are willing to be decisive in the face of uncertainty. That doesn't mean that they make foolish or rash decisions, however they don't wait for absolute certainty before moving forward. Instead, they make decisions with the best information they have knowing that if they make a mistake they can typically navigate back on course.







    Is there an area where you are paralyzed because you are being indecisive? What decision do you need to make?







    Don't Compare, Except To Improve







    There are two kinds of comparison, and one is harmful and one is beneficial. The beneficial kind of comparison is when we look at someone else's performance in order to gain insights into how we can improve our own skills. By studying those who are great at their craft, we can see where we are deficient and establish a course of action to help us improve. The harmful kind of comparison is when we become envious about what someone else has, or fear that we are being "robbed" of opportunity because another person possesses something that we want. This can lead to bitterness, self-destruction, and eventual hopelessness.







    Compare yourself to others in order to improve, not to stew about what you're missing out on.







    Don't worry about what's "out there". Be present this week and tackle the opportunities in front of you.







    This episode is brought to you by Hoefler&Co, online at typography.com. Right now, as an Accidental Creative listener, you can save 15% on your next font order by using the code “accidental” at checkout, when you visit typography.com/accidental.

    • 23 min
    The Hero Myth

    The Hero Myth

    If I had to choose one gift to impart upon every person I meet - one master key that unlocks their potential - it would be bravery. We need radical bravery in our workplaces, our schools, our neighborhoods, and - God help us - in our politics. If more people committed to making brave choices daily, we would see stronger, more effective teams, less corruption, less unhealthy conflict, and more progress on the societal issues that truly matter.







    Organizations need leaders committed to cultivating a culture of bravery, and who themselves are making brave choices in the face of uncertainty. The marketplace needs more business owners who are willing to step up and do the right thing for their employees and their communities, even at the risk of personal cost. And, society needs more people to cultivate brave, empathetic relationships with people who think differently from them.







    My ambition with this manifesto is to inspire an epidemic of everyday bravery both in and out of the workplace.







    Bravery Is Not What You Think







    To begin, we need a good definition of what bravery actually ​is​. Most of our cultural reference points for bravery involve heroic actions like storming a beach, risking everything on an unlikely business deal, or casting caution to the wind on a massive career change.







    Yes, those actions ​can​ be brave, but the call to bravery is not just about mustering courage in the face of overwhelming odds.







    Bravery exists whenever someone a person engages in right action at the potential expense of their own comfort.​ Cowardice, on the other hand, exists when someone chooses self-protection at the expense of right action. It is possible to appear brave to others while actually behaving in a cowardly way, or to appear a coward to others while doing the brave thing. Others may not always know your internal considerations, and may filter your actions through their own biases.







    Bravery exists in an environment of high agency, and high optimism.​ When there is a lack of either agency (belief that individual actions can make a difference) or optimism (there’s a possible better future), the environment is ripe for potential cowardice.















    Leaders can help cultivate a culture of brave action by focusing on increasing both the level of perceived individual agency (by giving permission to speak and act), and the sense that a better future is possible for employees and for the organization as a whole (by tying decisions and actions back to core operating principles.)







    What bravery is:Bravery is doing the right thing, as best you know it, even when it’s the uncomfortable thing.​ It’s needed now more than ever in the marketplace, in the political realm, and in our schools and neighborhoods. Most bravery in the world is exhibited in small, everyday actions, not big efforts.







    Bravery is a choice, not a trait.​ People who choose to do the right thing in the face of personal cost are choosing to sacrifice their life and comfort for a better future. They are not superhuman. They are perhaps the most ​fully​ human.







    Bravery is always empathetic.​ It’s about the other, not about yourself. The other might be a person or a core principle, but the brave person is always looking outward when deciding. The coward looks inward and to his own interests.







    Bravery is action in spite of fear.​ People who act bravely feel fear and insecurity as much as everyone else. It’s just that they choose cause over comfort.







    Bravery is willingness to fail in the pursuit of what matters.

    • 16 min
    Protecting Your Mindset During This Season

    Protecting Your Mindset During This Season

    The biggest challenge that we’re facing right now as creative pros is not necessarily economic or physical, it’s psychological.







    I believe that those who come through this season not only having survived, but ready to thrive, will be those who are able to adopt a mindset that is realistic yet focused on possibilities and not limitations. Yes, current circumstances are hitting everyone in different ways and are much more challenging for some than others. And, I want us to focus today on a few beliefs that I find creeping into the mindset of many people I’m chatting with these days, and hopefully identify them and learn to counter them before they rob us of our focus, our goals, and our sense of curiosity and possibility. 







    I’m tired of not being tired.







    That sounds like a strange thing, no? But really, it’s very normal and natural.







    As humans, we are wired for rhythm, which means that we thrive in cycles of tension and release. One of the dynamics that’s been causing grief among many friends and peers that I’ve been chatting with is that all of our days seem to run together. Every day is very similar to the last. There is no rhythm, no tension and release, no ups and downs.







    As a result, I want to challenge all of us to consider a few “lies” that I’ve been believing - or allowing to limit my thought process and approach to this season - and see if perhaps they might be affecting you as well. 







    Everything is subtraction. 







    This is a phrase I used with a friend who asked how things were going. What I meant was that, unlike in normal times, in the midst of this pandemic there is little opportunity for adding anything new and good to life. Instead, it’s mostly just subtraction. Good things are being taken away without the opportunity to add new things to the mix.







    This is a lie, but not obviously so. In fact, this is very much what it feels like. For example, in the core part of my business, which is traveling and working with clients and speaking to groups, I’ve only experienced the removal of opportunity, but not the possibility of new ones. In normal times, even when things were dry there was always the possibility of something good just around the corner. Now, it’s just subtraction.







    However, if I step back and look more holistically at life, it’s easy to see why this is a lie. So many wonderful things have been added to my life in the midst of this time that I didn’t even realize I was missing. We’ve been having very long family dinners each day where we get to re-connect with our kids without the rush of “I need to get to my homework.” My wife and I have been taking long walks in the evening. We’ve been able to connect with friends via virtual happy hours in a way that we just didn’t when everyone had so much going on. 







    So, when I say “everything is subtraction”, I really mean that only in a business sense. If I were to look at life as a whole, there have been many opportunities and gifts during this season. Yes, it’s hard, and I hope it ends as quickly as possible, and it’s certainly taking more of a toll on some than others, but it’s important that we be able to step back and consider the entire set of our experiences, and not just the painful ones.







    Where have you seen some semblance of good in the midst of this time? Spend a bit of time reflecting on it, even writing a few paragraphs about it, and see if you can find something to be grateful for even in these difficult times.







    This is the new normal







    We hear this all the time in the media, so much so that I’ve largely stopped paying attention to what they’re saying.

    • 18 min

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