Are you working with clarity or intensity?

In Founders, Freelancers, Lessons Learned by Jay Clouse

This may come as a surprise to you, but I write a lot. I write this daily newsletter, I write courses for Linkedin Learning, I’m working on some to be announced projects outside of this — you get the point.

That writing takes a lot of pure time. So much time. And so I’m constantly questioning whether I am approaching this work with clarity or intensity.

This dichotomy is something that I was taught by my coach, Chris, and has stuck with me to this day. So instead of paraphrase, I’m going to just share the excerpt of the first chapter of his book, which leads into the first week of his coaching program.

I was 16 years old taking my white Honda Civic out for my first Friday night. I was so excited about my new freedom. My friend, Jerry, was with me and we were going to hang out with friends. The first stoplight I came to after leaving my house was on a hill. is was a crisis. The light turned green and I tried to shift into First gear, but I couldn’t get it to work. The car rattled and shut down…

I was freaking out. My teenage sweat glands weren’t made for this pressure. We sat motionless while the light cycled from red back to green. Again. Rattle. Shut down. When the light was about to turn green for the third time Jerry said,“I’m going to show you a trick.” He jerked up the emergency brake and said,“Go ahead and shift into First. Lightly press the gas.”

The light turned green and Jerry dropped the emergency brake. My car screeched out of the intersection and I quickly regained control. A minute later we were on the highway, riding free.

I want to explain to you what blocks up your leadership. It keeps you from making great decisions; it keeps you from being able to move in and out of the roles you fill in a healthy way; it’s how you get in your own way or become your own worst enemy: You’re trying to force your life into second gear by completely skipping first gear.

If you’re driving a stick shift, you can shift straight into second gear on a flat surface. The same is true in life. You can start out on the smooth stretches of life going straight into second gear. It works. Unfortunately, when you hit the hills of life – the hard times and the complex situations – you may have a lot of success around you, but on the inside you know something is off. Or maybe you don’t have those indicators of success around you and you feel discouraged when all the hard work you’ve put into a relationship or job isn’t enough.

Downshifting isn’t just important when we’re driving uphill. The highest performing drivers in the world use downshifting all the time. They downshift to accelerate momentum in sharp turns and to navigate in and out of heavy traffic. They also downshift to save wear and tear on their brakes. Shifting to a lower gear is the best option for both performing through the hills of life, but also for winning an ultra competitive race.

More intensity isn’t going to fix your problem. More intensity won’t get you off the hill. More intensity won’t allow you to capitalize on the momentum of the turn. I could have tried to ram the car into second gear with as much intensity as I wanted when I was on that hill, and it wouldn’t have worked. I had to learn the finesse of shifting into first gear on the hill. I needed clarity. That’s the same thing you need.

And so, I pose the question again: am I approaching my work with clarity or intensity? It’s literally the question that keeps me up at night.

There’s a world where I am writing these pieces in a much more “strategic” “SEO-friendly” way, but that’s just really not all that interesting to me. Sure, it would result in a higher subscriber rate (probably) which would (theoretically) lead to a better pipeline to the things I sell blah blah blah…

But that’s not really the point of this email list. The next step in the growth of Unreal is its own content marketing strategy, but that means more writing.

You see the quandary.

But, this is part of what I’m excited to focus on for the next 12 weeks. Whenever a new cycle of the accelerator starts, I walk myself through the same roadmapping exercise as everyone else, I submit my own action items on a weekly basis, and I have my own goals.

I’ve been doing this “dogfooding” since the beginning, and It helps me to make sure I’m not working people through a process that works. Spoiler: I get as much out of it as everyone else!

All this to say, I would challenge you to ask yourself the same question. Are you operating from a place of clarity or intensity?