Riding the Clutch

The ability to manually move up and down the gears has never been more useful. COVID-times calls for flexibility and proactively protecting your self, your team, your organization.

This requires forward projection – analysing what you see ahead and getting into the right gear for that situation.

I never owned a car with automatic gears until recently. In North America, to drive a manual gear car means restricting your choices, and the resale value is terrible – because no-one knows how to drive a manual car, or as it is called here, a ‘stick.’

Driving an automatic is much simpler, such that you forget you are managing an engine at all. All the mechanical work is automated. I get lazy when I am driving; I often don’t recall a drive at all at its completion. Autopilot.

Riding the clutch is different. You are waiting for the precise moment to shift, computing together your speed, the road conditions, the opportunities and challenges of the cars ahead (and often behind). Sometimes it is a slow, continuous process of moving from stationary to top speed, listening to the engine whine and reviewing the rev counter.

Other times, you drop from 4th to 2nd to execute a sharp turn, making the engine work hard to decelerate; or you use the gears to manage through snow in preference to the brakes that might cause a skid.

Belaboured point: life, at the moment, is not a simple brake / accelerator bifurcation. We need that extra dexterity that comes from making choices that work exactly for your own circumstances and tastes. Eventually, if you ride the clutch for too long or too hard, it blows. But in the short term, it gives us control.

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