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 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
    Avoiding The Advice Trap (with Michael Bungay Stanier)

    Avoiding The Advice Trap (with Michael Bungay Stanier)

    This week's Accidental Creative podcast features Michael Bungay Stanier discussing his book The Advice Trap.

    Have you ever been in a situation where someone offered unsolicited advice?

    "Let me tell you what you need to do..."

    How did it feel? If you're like me, you were probably grateful that they wanted to help, but it put you in the awkward position of either refusing their advice or, if they were your manager, acting on it just to avoid offending them in spite of your better instincts.

    It's tempting to fall into the "advice trap", which is when we lead with advice-giving instead of pausing to listen to the other person, to consider what they really need, and to ask questions that help them arrive at the answer on their own. Not only is this a better way to ensure that we are truly helping the other person, but it's also the best way to help them learn to solve problems on their own. Here are a few things I took away from my chat with Michael:

    Lead With Curiosity

    Ask a lot of questions. You should lead with your curiosity, not your advice. By asking a lot of questions, you will not only better understand what's truly going on, but you will also help the other person learn to think through their problems in a more guided way. This is how a great manager (or peer) can build into team members in a lasting manner.

    Ask questions first, and let the other person sort through the problem in conversation with you.

    Release The Control

    One of the biggest temptations of a manager is to clamp down and attempt to control the output of the team. Brilliant, driven creative pros need freedom to think for themselves and to try new methods for accomplishing their work. When you control your team, the work shrinks until it's only as big as your personal sphere of attention can bear. Instead, you should aim to allow your team freedom to operate within clear principles and boundaries that guide their decisions.

    Lead with influence, not control.

    Give Empathetic Advice

    The worst advice is always the "if I were you, this is what I'd do" type. Why? Because you are filtering your advice through your own lens, not the world of the other person. Instead, when you do give advice first put yourself in the other person's position and try to imagine how it would feel to be in their shoes. How might their feelings and concerns differ from what you'd be experiencing if you were in their situation?

    Before giving advice, imagine that you're in the other person's situtation.

    Once you learn to temper the "advice monster", you'll become the manager (or the peer) that everyone wants to work with.

    • 28 min
    Think Like A Rocket Scientist (with Ozan Varol)

    Think Like A Rocket Scientist (with Ozan Varol)

    Albert Einstein once wrote "The world we have created today as a result of our thinking thus far has problems which cannot be solved by thinking the way we thought when we created them." In order to go to new places in life and work, we need to expand our thinking beyond the confines of our assumptions.

    But how do we do that?

    This week's podcast episode features Ozan Varol, who has just released a book called Think Like A Rocket Scientist. In it, he articulates several strategies for breaking through assumptive ruts and taking your work to a new level. Here are a few of my takeaways from the conversation:

    You Must Question Your Assumptions

    In the past, I've frustrated many managers and peers for my annoying tendency to ask lots of "why?" questions. I've never been able to simply accept the way things are, and that can be very inconvenient when you're trying to make quick progress on a project. However, this tendency has also served me well, because it's frequently allowed me to circumvent norms that are preventing others from seeing possibilities.

    As you think about your current situation, your work, your life goals, what you are pursuing, are there assumptions that need to be challenged? They are often guidelines that have been in place for a number of years, or industry norms that others assume are hard and fast rules. Spend a bit of time this week challenging an assumption or two, and see where your thoughts lead you. Ask "What if...?"

    Return To First Principles

    Over time, it's easy to get distracted with tactics and to forget what you're actually trying to do. In the interview, Ozan shared the story of Steve Martin, who challenged the very conventions of what it means to be a comedian. In traditional comedy, the comedian will create tension and then relieve it by delivering a punchline, hopefully generating a laugh. Martin, however, wasn't distracted by the tactics, and instead realized that the first principle was simply to make people laugh. He would create tension, but not relieve it with a punchline. At first, critics were apalled by his strategy, but audiences warmed up to it, and he became one of the most popular acts in the world, selling out arenas wherever he performed.

    What are the first principles of your work? What are you really trying to do, and how can you return to them and develop new tactics for accomplishing your goals?

    Have A Moonshot

    Right now, many people are simply focused on survival. I understand this necessity. However, I also think this is the perfect time to begin working on your personal "moonshot", or the idea so big that no one else would dare try to compete with you. Physicist Max Planck once said, "At the initial stages of idea formation, the pure rationalist has no place." Many of the world's greatest accomplishments were met with skepticism and scorn at their inception, only to be accepted later.

    What is your personal moonshot? What could you aim for that seems scarily big to you, but that would completely change the trajectory of your life and work?

    To make progress on the other side of the pandemic, we will need to think in new ways. I hope this interview and Ozan's book will expand your perspective and grant you a renewed enthusiasm for what's possible.

    This episode is sponsored by Lightstream. Apply today to get a special interest rate at LightStream.com/accidental.

    • 25 min

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