Clarity First Newsletter,
August 30, 2019

“Let’s face it, the universe is messy. It is nonlinear, turbulent, and chaotic. It is dynamic. It spends its time in transient behavior on its way to somewhere else, not in mathematically neat equilibria. It self-organizes and evolves. It creates diversity, not uniformity. That’s what makes the world interesting, that’s what makes it beautiful, and that’s what makes it work.” – Donella Meadows


Clarity First

A notebook about how we work, and learn, and love and live.

Dear reader,
This missive is one of the last things on my to-do list before Debbie and I retreat for a full-frontal vacation with two of our three adult kids and their partners. (Mia, the youngest, at 25, is starting a doctoral program in neurobiology the week the rest of us slackers are flying kites on the beach.)
Happy Friday. I hope that you are soaking in the fading days of summer, too.


It’s time to give the violent metaphors of evolution a break.

“We’ve taken these metaphors for evolution to heart, reading them to mean that life is a race to kill or be killed. ‘Darwinian’ stands in for ‘cutthroat,’ ‘survival of the fittest’ signifies survival of the ruthless. We see selective pressures that hone each organism for success and drive genetic innovation as the natural order of things.

“But we know now that that picture is incomplete. Evolutionary progress can be propelled both by the competitive struggle to adapt to an environment, and by the relaxation of selective forces. When natural selection on an organism is relaxed, the creative powers of mutation can be unshackled and evolution accelerated. The relief of an easier life can inspire new biological forms just as powerfully as the threat of death.”

Article: Survival of the Friendliest


“At this rate it’s going to be hard for this generation to be remembered as good ancestors.”

“Yes, we know it takes plenty of time and energy to be a good person in the here and now. But due to the major threats facing our society and planet, we need to consider our impact on future generations, too. Writer Bina Venkataraman explains why, and she tells us how we can start acting in ways that benefit those to come.”

Ted Talk: Why You Should Think About Being A Good Ancestor — and 3 Ways To Start Doing It


Right now, the internet is unsustainable. 

“You probably don’t think about it when you’re liking a photo or reading an article, but everything you do online is underpinned by a globe-spanning labyrinth of physical infrastructure. There are the data centers hosting the web and managing enormous flows of information on the daily. There are the fiber cables transmitting data to into our homes and offices, and even across oceans. There are cell towers sending and receiving countless calls and texts on the daily.

“By and large, this infrastructure wasn’t built with a changing climate in mind. Researchers and companies are only now starting to explore how threatened it is, but what they’ve found so far is alarming.”

Article: The Planet Needs a New Internet

Marketing Communications

“We hacked ourselves.”

“After embracing ‘hacking’ in its own design strategy this year, the furniture giant is celebrating customers who alter its designs in creative, unexpected ways.”

Article: Ikea is Sharing People’s Best Ikea Hacks, and They’re Brilliant


Absolute has never sold vodka. They’ve always sold attitude.

“In 1980, the advertising agency TBWA made an ad for Swedish vodka brand Absolut featuring a bottle of its product with a halo above it and the words “Absolut Perfection.” written below.

“The ad was an instant hit and spawned one of the most iconic ad campaigns of the subsequent three decades — all including the Absolut bottle in a variety of creative displays.

“By the time the campaign ended in the mid 2000s, Absolut had created more than 1,500 ads and drastically increased its US sales from a paltry 10,000 cases in 1980 to 4.5 million in 2000. Its advertising budget grew as well, from $750,000 in 1980 to $33 million in 2000. In that time, Absolut went from a newcomer to the US market to the most heavily advertised liquor brand in the world.”

Article: The 21 Best Absolut Vodka Print Ads of all Time

Just sayin’

“With environmental struggles often localized and fought over issues like fracking and pipeline construction, it’s a grave situation when a gas and fracking investor like Edens is the ultimate owner of an ever-increasing number of local dailies and weeklies.”

Article: A Fossil Fuel Baron Just Bought USA Today

Clarity News

A reminder that on Tuesday, September 10, I am convening a DIY Brand Camp at the Smith College Conference Center. I am presenting this daylong workshop under the auspices of the Conway Institute (with all proceeds going to the school). So, a really interesting cohort of very systems minded, wanna-be brand strategists is gathering. Come join us for a day that delivers a delightful garden and pond-side retreat, and a new lens to see and understand how to use your offer and your brand more clearly. Learn more.


A few weeks ago I held up Reina del Cid, the eponymously named “band” that Rachelle Cordova, whose stage name is also Reina del Cid, draws together.

I put the word band in quotes because from where I sit on the YouTube sidelines, her “band” is the amazing guitar player Toni Lindgren. They’re on tour this summer, and they’ve taken to inviting local musicians to local waterfronts to record a cover of a great song.

This one features Megan Mahoney on bass, David Robinson on banjo, and Mike Hedding on mandolin. They performed Otis Redding’s Dock of the Bay, on the banks of the Mississippi in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Ouch, they’re good. I love it when Rachelle gets to whistling…and I love how Toni channels Steve Cropper on an acoustic guitar.

Video: Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay, Otis Redding Cover

Image of the Week

“In 1978, Serote and Thamsanqa (Thami) Mnyele founded the Medu Art Ensemble, an art collective that advocated for an end to the South African apartheid government through creative expression — poetry, graphic design, photography, music, and theatre, or any genre of art their cause could attract. A sensory time capsule of their work and the community they built is currently on view in the Art Institute of Chicago’s exhibition The People Shall Govern!: Medu Art Ensemble and the Anti-Apartheid Poster.

“What was originally a group 15 artists fleeing to exile from the townships grew to boast 50 members from around the world. The exhibition contextualizes the Medu Art Ensemble’s work through Southern Africa’s geopolitical landscape in the previous decade, delving into the daily lives of those who were subject to and resisted the apartheid regime.”

Article: The South African Art Collective That Imagined the End of Apartheid


What’s Clarity First?

If you’re new to Clarity First, it’s the weekly newsletter by me, Mitch Anthony. I help people use their brand – their purpose, values, and stories – as a pedagogy and toolbox for transformation. Learn more.

If you get value from Clarity First, please pass it on.

Not a subscriber? Sign up here.

You can also read Clarity-First on the web.

Leave a Comment