Huge Growth Doesn’t Happen in High Gear

We have two 4-wheel-drive vehicles and love to spend time on back roads, dirt roads, and even off roads. One of the things that surprised me the most when we first started getting into this was how slow you really do need to take it in order to get to the most spectacular places, to climb the craziest climbs, or to navigate the narrowest paths. 

I pretty much live my life full throttle the rest of the time, so this was an important lesson for me! In previous leadership roles and as I’ve built my business, “pedal to the metal” is a refrain that has served me well. And/but – it’s not the one that has prompted the most growth. 

While an every day operating system of “hustle, grind, and high output” is certainly a success factor for a lot of individuals and a lot of organizations, it’s not where the growth happens. I think of times of major production and high yield as the implementation periods. It’s where we put together what we’ve learned and how we’ve grown so far and put it into action. We’ll learn some things during these time periods, sure, but not at the rate that we do when we slow down and get more deliberate about our direction. 

The first challenge is shifting out of high gear. For most vehicles with this capability, you actually have to stop the vehicle in order to shift into low 4-wheel-drive so you can navigate what is in front of you. This is a slowing, and yes, a stopping. (Doesn’t mean you’ll be there for long!) It’s countercultural, for sure, especially in United States capitalist cultures. But don’t confuse a quick pause or even a longer stop with failure! Use that time to get into the correct gear for what the work in front of you requires. Skipping this step can land you in a ditch or wind up with you backsliding down the very hill you’re trying to climb. 

Once you’ve changed gears, it’s time to make progress. Disengaging from high gear and “full steam ahead at all times” functionality is critical for success for three reasons:

  1. The downshift gives you a chance to set your course and make sure you’re at an appropriate pace for the task ahead. Essentially, you’re making sure you’re resourcing yourself appropriately for success.
  2. Even on a wide dirt road, there are multiple paths you can take or lines you can follow (or create!). Moving forward in a lower gear helps you proceed mindfully and intentionally – choosing the best line possible instead of moving too quickly and making mistakes.
  3. Just because you’re going forward in a lower gear, it doesn’t mean you’re not making progress. In fact, temporarily taking your foot off a full press of the pedal allows you to see things you might have missed otherwise. Take a good look around when you’ve downshifted – this is always where I discover important information I was moving too fast to notice!

And of course, once you’ve tackled that hill or crossed that rocky terrain and find yourself with a smooth, open road in front of you once again, shift back into high gear and get moving! After all, the world needs what you have to offer. 

- Nicole



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