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Todd Henry, Founder of Accidental Creative & Author, on Books that Changed His Mindset

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Todd Henry is the founder of Accidental Creative, an author, speaker and consultant. “An arms dealer for the creative revolution”, he empowers creative people and helps them succeed by providing them with the right resources and knowledge.

In 2005, Todd started The Accidental Creative podcast, on topics that help creative pros unleash their best work, with tips from interviews with artists, authors, top thinkers and more (it has been downloaded millions of times).

Todd also published four books on how to succeed as a creative person: The Accidental Creative, Louder Than Words, Die Empty and, his most recent one, Herding Tigers, about how to lead talented, creative people. His work has been translated into more than a dozen languages, and he spends most of his time traveling around the world and speaking on topics related to creativity, leadership, productivity, and passion for work.

From our interview you’ll learn more about the books that left marks on Todd and “paid dividends in his life since reading them”. These are the books that helped him change his mindset, reframe daily struggles, zoom out in order to see the bigger picture, and overcome the effects of bureaucracy on creativity.

What’s your favorite book and why? Business and non-business, if possible.

It’s difficult to say what business book is my favorite, as they all appeal to me in different ways. I’d say that the most influential book on my early career was Orbiting The Giant Hairball by Gordon MacKenzie. It was an insider look at creative leadership from the former creative director at Hallmark, and helped me open up to the effects of bureaucracy on creativity and how to surmount them.

My favorite non-business book is New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton. I re-read it yearly just to savor it.

Was there a moment, specifically, when something you read in a book helped you? Can you tell me about it?

I still remember reading 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People when I was in my mid-twenties and trying to determine the course my life would take. The idea of sharpening the saw hit me hard, and I remember dedicating myself to daily study and improvement at that very moment. It has paid profound dividends in my life ever since.

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What book had the biggest impact on you?

One immediately comes to mind. The first is Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl. Frankl was in a concentration camp in WWII, and lost many family members and friends at the hands of Nazi tyranny. In reading his story, and learning how he managed to survive, I was struck by how he reframed the question about life purpose. He argues that instead of asking “what do I want out of life?”, we should instead ask “what does life want from me?” Approaching daily activity with a mindset of contribution and adding value re-frames many of the trivial stresses and frustrations and helps me to instead focus on the bigger picture of what I’m adding to the world.

What five books would you recommend to young people interested in your career path & why?

So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport, which is the best book I’ve read on career planning and management.

Organizing Genius by Warren Bennis, which is a phenomenal book on leading creative groups.

Letters To A Young Poet by Ranier Maria Rilke, which is a book of mentorship for young artists.

Getting Things Done, which is the manual for personal productivity.

And selfishly, Die Empty, which is my book about unleashing your best work every day.

Links where you can follow Todd Henry or find out more about his projects:

All books mentioned by Todd Henry in our interview:

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