Clara Chorely is the CEO and founder of Clarity Unlimited which is a coaching company and she’s also beginning a new venture, based on her passion, in Africa. She grew up in England. She lived in Germany, the Hawaiian Islands, India, Rwanda, and now she’s in San Francisco. She’s travailed and worked across four different continents, in 40 different countries, Fortune 500 companies, nonprofits, as a volunteer, pretty much everything. And this interview is fascinating, because she gave a really clear picture into knowing when you’re on the wrong path and the steps you need to take to start making a change. (And listen to the whole interview to find out she feared most!)
Growing up in England, 16 years old – Live Aid was on television and Bob Geldof did this whole big, live celebrity concert and raised a bunch of money for the famines going on in Ethiopia, and we were all bombarded by these photographs. They put these images on television of the classic little African children with the distended bellies and the flies and the snotty noses, the whole sort of stereotype that was so prevalent back then. And I remember seeing those images and something sort of… I don’t know, resonated with me. I didn’t know what it was and I didn’t know why it was. I just wanted to go. I wanted to go to Africa. And it took me many, many years to actually get over there. In that period of time, I sort of ran away from England ’cause I was desperately unhappy, and depressed, like a lot of the British are and were. (That was a joke. But Jasper gets it.)
I had to get out, actually, for my own survival. I ended up going and living in Hawaii. While I was in Hawaii, this whole Africa thing is still going on and I’m traveling to India, Romania, and doing my touring of the world, flipping back and forth between doing some sort of corporate work or paid work in America, and then going “I can’t stand this any longer”. Leaving, and quitting, and going, and working in India for four months, and working in the slums. I opened the first computer center in the Delhi slum. We had it televised and everything. Doing that for a fair while and then going, “I can’t handle this anymore.” Then coming back and getting back into the corporate world again. I did this flip-flop for quite a long time, and it was never satisfying, because I knew I wanted both. I couldn’t figure out how to have both.
And then finally I made it over to Africa. I felt like I should be in Rwanda. I’d read this book, “Tomorrow we will be killed along with our families,” about the genocide. And I was really curious, like how does a country survive and thrive, after a genocide? What happens to trust levels? What happens there? And I showed up and Rwanda. And a very long story short, but within three weeks, I was hired and I was a management consultant over there for seven months. And I did this project. We had a 50,000 population, and pretty big budget, funded by an LLC in America. It was a game changer. It was a total game changer. It was like, wow, I’m getting paid and I’m doing humanitarian work. And I was ecstatic, and I didn’t know how to duplicate it after that – because it was so random, I didn’t expect it to happen again. I was used to the flip-flop and all of a sudden, it was just…everything was happening all at once.
And I came back from there, and I ended up having a few months not really know where I was going and got hired internally at Ernst & Young, which is quite a large accounting firm, doing coaching, team building and organizational development. And then after that, it was time to start my own business, and I just landed myself in that for the next five years of my life. I just built this business as so many people do, when you have to. It’s right at the heart of the recession. I was just working hard to get my money going and create business model. Every day, seven days a week, it was ridiculous and fun and inspiring.
And I became somebody I never recognized. And I went through my financial ceiling very quickly and was successful, very quickly. And started speaking outside the country and yet, there was something really missing and niggled at me and it kept niggling at me and niggling at me and niggling at me. I remember last year, I flew into Ghana, at the very beginning of the year, and something in me just when, “You’re out of the game.” And I was knocked, literally, on my butt. By exhaustion.
I spent the next several months in bed. For somebody who’s been so driven their entire life, it was a profound time. And through that time, I got really clear that Africa needed to be in my work, not something I was gonna do later. I needed to monetize it. I needed a different business model, ‘because what I had wasn’t working, it was burning me out. And slowly I came out of that and started moving towards it.
Fortunately or unfortunately, the first steps I took were get myself into bed, but I didn’t really have any choice around that, because I literally had no energy. And people don’t have to get to that point. We can acknowledge what’s going on in our bodies and in our lives before we have the wake-up calls. I really don’t recommend it, even though, in some ways, it was blissful. Just so much silence and peace, but it was extreme and didn’t need to be that way.
But in the essence, the first step I had to take was to slow down and actually stop. You have to put self-care first. You have to put introspection first, self-awareness first, because it’s very easy in business, whether you’re working for somebody or working for yourself, or you’re in the transition, or you’re doing both, it’s very easy to get into the to-do list.” And every day becomes an in-the-now, and I’m not really sure exactly what I’m working towards anymore, but I’m very, very busy, and its very important, and very much in the grind.
And I hear so often from people in businesses, especially, you get to an executive level or some level with your business, they’re like, “I don’t have time to stop, and do a yoga class. I don’t have time to stop and take care of myself,” but you’ve got to. You’ve got to. It’s the only way to see what’s really going on, and to change the course if you need too. And I think that was the first step I took – to stop and get really honest with something that was really difficult to get honest about, because I was very identified with being a successful business owner earning the money I was earning and looking like I have like stuff together. And I had to let a lot of that go.
Sometimes you don’t necessarily want to stop. Sometimes nature decides, well, it’s time – I’m going to make you stop whether you want to or not. I’m not married with children, so lucky me, right? In some ways. But in some ways, not though, because if you’re married with children, then you notice that energy lag a lot faster, and there’s also somebody, there as accountability partner.
I think one of the first signs is loss of fulfillment, like there’s some sense that there’s something missing which can cause levels of irritability. I think people start to notice that they’re not quite being who they feel they are. There’s a lack of alignment there. “I’m a little less patient with my kids and I don’t know, I just yelled at my partner and I’m not entirely sure where that came from, ’cause all he did was break an egg.” There’s this sort of I don’t quite feel me. They may even start to notice a lapse in productivity. So checking out of things a little bit more like, oh, all of a sudden, I’m spending more time on Facebook or I’m daydreaming more, or the stuff I should be doing, but I’m not doing it. So sometimes it’s avoidance, and sometimes, it’s an increase in habits like drinking or eating or the way we self-sooth when things are getting difficult, so those are some of the things I’ve heard and seen and experienced.
So what would be some good first steps to get your head around all of this and get yourself on the path to change? I think that depends a lot on your personality style, obviously. I have a bias in this and it’s gonna come across really loud now right now – and that is you get help. There so many of us that run around, as lone rangers, doing it all, and trying to figure out our lives alone as. And now obviously, I’m a coach, and I’ve always had a coach. I usually have at least one or two people that are coaching me on different areas of either my business or myself. And once a year, I go and I do something, like a week-long deep dive into something, because what I’ve noticed is if I’m growing and I’m dealing with what’s going on inside of me, then my business is growing and my life is growing, and my relationship are growing.
So for some people, like just going and getting help: hiring a coach, getting online, finding somebody that can really help with you know career transition coaching, for example, although you have to be careful you don’t land with somebody who’s just focused on your resume, but looking for an external support. You can ask your friends and say, “Hey, what have you done in the situation? Hey, this is what’s going on with me.” Starting to talk about it is really important. For some people journaling is really an avenue into insight. For me, I feel like I write the same stuff all the time. I look back at my diaries when I was 18. It’s like, “Really? Have I grown at all?” But journaling could be really powerful for some people.
For some people, they love to sit and meditate, just giving themselves five minutes a day can be a game changer. So I think it’s the next step, the first step is the acknowledgement of “okay, something’s rumbling here. Something’s not fitting. Something’s not right. Okay, I’m gonna go get help for it or I’m gonna help myself”.
Favorite Books: The Slight Edge by Jeff olsen; Thrive by Arianna Huffington
Favorite Resource: Infusionsoft
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Guest: Clara Chorley – Clarity Unlimited
Clara Chorley is the CEO and Founder of Clarity Unlimited. She has an extensive and unique background as a Career Satisfaction Coach, professional speaker, business consultant and humanitarian.
Clara grew up in England, has lived in Germany; India; the Hawaiian Islands; Rwanda; and now resides in San Francisco, California. She has traveled and worked across 4 continents and 40 countries with organizations as diverse as Fortune 500 Ernst and Young, and humanitarian Millennium Village Project.
Clara has been a volunteer for international humanitarian causes for over 15 years She is author of the best seller book T.U.R.N.: 4 Steps to Clarity in your Life and Career, and has been interviewed by multiple radio shows, plus View from the Bay. She is featured in the documentary film Achieve Your Ultimate Success, is an international speaker and proud TEDx presenter. Clara is trained in Voice Dialogue, a certified facilitator, and member of the National Speakers Association.
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