“We don’t live in the information era, we live in the insight era”
Information is highly overrated. I remember my college IT lecturer talking through what data, information, insight and clarity are.
Data is unstructured numbers, text and content. It’s “stuff” without form. A spreadsheet with 200 entries is data. The columns give a little guidance, but overall it’s useless without context.
Information is data with context. If I have 5 spreadsheets and 10 facts about eating habits in the UK, I have data. As soon as I pull that data together, with a narrative talking about why we’re killing ourselves, I have information.
This is where most people stop. They’ll collect information and use that.
Insight is asking what’s useful about information. Insight is the equivilent to your car being broken and someone telling you the exact part you need to fix. Information is someone just handing you a massive manual and expecting you to figure it out.
Finally, clarity is action from insight. It’s clear thinking which allows you to make a choice, move forward and make changes. Clarity is a lightbulb moment. Something clicking in your head and giving you an epiphany moment.
We live in a society and economy that highly values being overloaded with information. We love the idea that we can flood our senses with news and information, without taking the time to give ourselves clarity on what to do.
If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed with just how much “stuff” is out there. Or if you’ve ever felt like you’re drowning in opportunities, ideas, tactics, plans, strategies, plans and problems. Then you need clarity.
Clarity isn’t just about being clear on what you need to do. It’s about being clear on what to listen to, what to ignore, what to focus on and what to do next.
We have to learn how to gain clarity on a subject, in the midst of overwhelming
For example, a customer recently sat down with me to talk about expanding their fitness business. He’d been talking to consultants, reading books, interviewing other businesses and all for the sake of hoping to get clarity on what to do with his business.
When he sat down with me, we talked through all the options, tactics and strategies that he had available. Short story, he wants to increase the number of people attending his gyms.
But how? How does he do this? How does he grow his business? There are so many options and every person he talks to gives him conflicting advice.
The SEO expert tells him to focus on driving up Google rankings. The Facebook expert tells him to use social media. The website expert tells him to use landing pages.
None of those tactics offer clarity though. And the beauty of clarity is that even if you’re not an expert, you’ll have a very VERY clear idea on what to do next.
What is clarity?
As we talked about above. Clarity is about being clear on your actions.
It’s not just about being clear on your choices or what your options are. It’s about a higher level of understanding about the direction, purpose and motivation behind your entire life and goals.
Have you ever just “got” something? It just clicked and you realised that it wasn’t as complicated or difficult as you thought it was?
That moment, where your brain lights up and things align to give you a clear pathway, to the end result. That’s clarity.
We experience it a lot as children. Learning how something works. Learning how to do something. And when we’re asked to do that thing, it’s simple for us to do it.
If you’ve ever thought “it’s just not that simple”, that is a LACK of clarity.
Things are simple when you have clarity. Paths are obvious and thoughts are clear. It’s when you know what you need to do.
The problem is that we’re never taught how to get clarity.
Clarity is the most important chapter in this book, because it overrides the whole process.
Purpose, energy, time, motivation, direction and growth can’t happen without clarity. Throughout the entire book and this process, you’ll constantly be challenged to become clear on something again.
Your clarity over your future is also not set in stone. Clarity is a skill and like any skill you can lose it if you don’t practice enough. It also becomes easier to gain clarity the longer and the more you use it.
Over time, you’ll always lose clarity. But it’s important to know that you can always get it back. It’s about giving yourself time every day to be clear on your actions and purpose.
But that’s the entire point right? You don’t know what your purpose is. You don’t know what your goals are.
It’s even worse when everyone around you seems to have perfect clarity on their life and goals. It looks like you’re the only person in the universe who hasn’t got it all figured out.
First, don’t mistake arrogance, ignorance or hope for clarity. Sure, every single person who you consider a success and the most influential people in history, have had utter clarity on their life.
But those around you, who seem to just know what they’re doing, don’t assume they’ve got total control and clarity.
First, it really doesn’t matter even if they do. People who have purpose and clarity, don’t care if you don’t. They’re too focused on what they’ve got to do.
Second, your journey to clarity is just getting started and you’ll be one of them sooner than you think.
If you’ve ever been paralysed by fear of choice or action. Then that’s another symptom of lack of clarity.
Choice of school, eggs for breakfast, drink at a bar, guy to date, girl to date, business to start up, job to join, job to leave. All our choices are guided by clarity.
We have two options when it comes to choice. Blind risk, and clarity.
I’m going to make it extremely clear, right now. Not every choice has a clear outcome or option. You can’t always predict or determine the outcome for every choice.
Sometimes, you have to take a risk. But clarity, at it’s highest level isn’t not just about A or B. It’s not about choice and outcome.
Clarity is about understanding that most things aren’t permanent. Most things can be changed or rectified. There are very few real world choices that are so set in stone and permanent that you can’t change them.
Commitment to a choice can also be increased because of clarity. Being clear on your goals, your purpose, your life and your motivation, can make commitment that much easier.
This is because clarity helps you understand that in fact, most of what we’re told to worry about, doesn’t matter.
Almost everything that we’re told to focus on, worry about, be conscious about and be careful of. Doesn’t matter a single bit.
What if something goes wrong? What if people don’t like me? What if this isn’t the right choice? What if I can’t pay the mortgage? What if my life is over?
All of those things, are probably not going to happen.
Popularity, friends, what others think of you, social status, intelligence, money, finances, taxes, rent, bills, experiences. On a very real level, none of these things matter.
Those that do matter, will matter because you’re clear on them. We’re so focused on what everyone else tells us to worry about, that we’re not clear on what we want to focus on.
Clarity becomes very very uncomfortable for people because it becomes clear that their previous choices haven’t been in their best interest.
My previous life of drinking, snorting drugs, weed, shit food, lazy friends and spending money on video games was clearly a series of bad choices. Becoming clearer on what I wanted, what I really wanted, made me feel pretty awful about the previous choices I had made.
It’s not just about a drug fuelled past either. 2 years of my life (a blink compared to others), was dedicated to a meaningless dull job that meant nothing to me or my life. I hated it. It was total boredom.
I thought that maturity and growing up, meant subjecting myself to a crushing life of corporate grey.
I gained severe clarity when I was fired. I was told I just didn’t “get” marketing. I clearly didn’t fit in with the corporate culture and needed to leave.
It became very apparent that I was working in a job that I didn’t like, for a manager I didn’t respect. I was surrounded by unhappy and unfulfilled people. Yet I had to make sure I impressed them.
I was pretty depressed. I had managed to swing from one extreme to the other and still wasn’t happy.
You might have noticed that I’ve only mentioned the word happy once so far. That’s because happiness is overrated.
At it’s core, the big problem most humans face is that we believe by adhering to a handful of golden rules, we’ll keep happiness.
Not find it, or have it. Keep it. Like there is a switch that suddenly stays on and we stay happy.
It doesn’t work like that. Babies are happy when someone jangles keys in front of them. Sports fans are happy when their teams win. I’m happy when I’m eating.
But I don’t just want happiness. I want stress. I want anger. I want exhaustion. I want faith, fear, excitement, love sadness and hate.
I want to feel as many emotions as possible. The opposite of happiness isn’t sadness. It’s boredom. It’s apathy or melancholy.
The opposite of happiness is no clarity. Clarity IS happiness. It’s all emotions. It’s being clear in your mind that what you’re striving for and what you wake up for and the choices that you make matter.
They matter to you, to your family, to your loved ones and to the world.
Before we move into the methods for giving yourself clarity. I want to end this section, explaining that you clarity will change over time.
We get older, priorities change, things fall out of favour and new opportunities come along. Clarity is knowing what to ignore, what to embrace and what to stay with.
Clarity is confidence in your decision, even if you don’t know all the answers. It’s about removing the fog and haze from our vision and minds.
Clarity is what we can give to ourselves and perhaps most importantly, give to other people. If you can give clarity to others, you’ll be forever seen as a genius.
Accept that what was clear once, might not be clear later. What you want now, might change and the clarity you get now isn’t going to last forever. You can always shift clarity and focus on new things.
It’s like learning how to learn
Getting clarity, is like learning or education.
Learning how to learn, is as important as the knowledge that’s passed down. Getting clarity and being good at getting clarity, is as much about being clear on how to get clarity.
Some children learn better when they’re shown. Others through reading or experimenting.
There are many models for education, as there are many models for finding clarity.
For example, some people prefer taking 10 minutes in the morning to sit quietly and contemplate their options.
Some might call this meditation, prayer or reflection.
Others will take a long walk and let their subconscious take over and work on the problem in the background.
Coaching, group workshops, watching videos, writing, teaching. They all have their role to play in gaining clarity and you might find you use all of them at one point or another.
However there are often two parts to getting clarity. First, are the actions taken to achieve clarity. Reflection, meditation, long walks, sleeping on it. Often it’ll become obvious what we need to do and that presents the second part.
Accepting clarity. Unfortunately, accepting the knowledge that we’ve uncovered or the choice that seems obvious to us, can be easier said than done.
Often, clarity provides us with a choice that isn’t perfect. It might upset people, appear to be difficult to accomplish or go against everything else you’ve been taught.
When we come to this realisation, we’ll reject the thought because of the implications it has.
Most of the time, this realisation isn’t going to destroy the world or ruin your life. But it can be awkward to finally realise that you don’t love this job or you don’t want to run a business this way.
So you have limiting beliefs enter you mind and they dissuade you from acting on your clarity.
“No one else will believe I can do this” or “I’ve been told by other people that I can’t do this” or “if I do this, no one will respect me”.
The path to clarity means learning how to overcome these objections. We need to learn how to develop clarity as much as learn how to act on clarity.