Being clear is a simple art.
It’s one of those things that is very simple — but takes a lifetime to master. Like cooking or painting or yoga. There are some basic principles to understand. There are steps to follow. There are things that work and don’t work.
It’s one of those things where if you practice, you will improve. But before you practice, you need to learn the basics. When I teach people to be clear, I teach the basics. And then we practice. And then we share the tips and tricks we learn along the way.
It’s one of those things where we can help each other. I find it really hard to be clear — to keep clear — when I’m only relying on myself. But I find it easy to help other people be clear. And I find it easy when other people help me.
I know some basic principles of how to be clear. I know the steps to follow. I know some things that work and don’t work. But the real challenge is to practice: to remember to practice, to take the time, to stay motivated.
It’s easier to practice when there’s a community to support you. It’s easier to practice when there’s a culture that’s supports the work. A community that understands the basic principles of how to be clear and wants to practice. A culture that values clarity and seeks it out — where it’s easy to ask for and offer help with being clear.
And this is my vision of getting everyone clear.
A clear morning in Northern Ireland. Summer 2017.
Being clear is nothing special
Everyone knows the difference between being clear and being unclear. It’s nothing clever or complicated.
It’s the difference between knowing exactly what you want or not exactly knowing what you want. It’s the difference between being able to explain something truthfully so someone else understands it or not being able to. It’s the difference between having an idea and effortlessly turning it into reality or having a vision and stumbling and straying and getting lost in the fog.
When I talk about being clear what I’m really talking about is clearing the way for creativity. Clearing the path so that creative potential turns into creative expression — whether that’s as an artist, an entrepreneur, an inventor, or a cook — or basically anyone who is alive and feels things and wants to do something. Another way to say it is that being clear just means being able to live and work in the world in such a way that we are able to understand our needs (and other people’s) and act in such a way that we are able to meet them.
Three ways to be clear
I have for a long time helped people get clear: talking them through something that’s stuck until it flows again. But years and years ago I decided that I didn’t want that process to depend on me being in the room. That’s why I developed the Very Clear Ideas process: to capture a way of getting clear that people could go away and use for themselves.
Now I have three tools. When you want to be clear on what you’re doing, use Very Clear Ideas. When you want to be clear on how to get it done, use Initiative Mapping. When you’re clear on what you’re doing and how to get it done, but it’s just not happening and you don’t know why, use Identity Yoga.
And I want to make these three tools so popular that they are everywhere. Not out of some self-aggrandising desire for fame and recognition (well, not only that anyway…). I want them to be everywhere because I want to be part of a community that understands the basic principles of being clear and wants to practice. I want to be supported by a culture that values clarity. And I want that because it will help me to be clear.
There is magic in being clear
When I’m clear about what I’m doing, it actually happens. When I’m able to clear away the things that stand in the way (normally in my own head), then work becomes effortless. When I’m able to make clear deals with the people I work with — and come to an understanding of what each of us needs and how we serve each other — then working relationships become enriching and enjoyable.
I love it when people want to get clear on how everyone contributes to a piece of work (and how everyone benefits from it), because it means the right people end up doing the right things.
I love it when people want to clear away bias and prejudice — because it means that what needs to get done might actually get done.
I love working with people who have clear ideas, because it means I know what they need and how (or if) I might help them.
A clear vision
I want there to be a shared culture of clarity. I love that you can find people in Holland and Ireland and France and Australia and America and all over who use the same steps — the same set of seven questions — to get an idea clear. I love being able to show up at someone’s office and, if I don’t have my Very Clear Ideas cards with me, being able to use theirs.
I want there to be a shared language for talking about being clear. It’s so helpful to be able to talk about how ideas turn into reality in a way that is simple and useful. There is a little vocabulary: talking about needs and ideas and authority and authorship, talking about ‘who is helping who with what’, talking about the source of an idea (thank you Peter Koenig), talking about initiatives and identity.
Again and again and again I end up working with people who are stuck and who are suffering because they are trying to talk about work as a personal and creative endeavour, but they’re trying to do it using an opaque, industrial set of words that don’t actually help to illuminate the process of bringing an idea into reality. Words like CEO and vice-president and productivity and performance and…you know, all those words.
I want there to be a community — communities — that support the work of being clear. If I want to learn yoga, I can go to a class. I can buy a mat and a book. I can watch a hundred thousand different teachers on YouTube. If I want to learn how to cook or paint or mend my bike — evening classes, Google, bookshop… I want the same for being clear.
Find out more about how to be clear at howtobeclear.com.