Clarity First Newsletter,
April 23, 2021

“The person who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.” – Confucius

Clarity First

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

Regular readers know that I am a big fan of David Allen’s, Getting Things Done. One of  his biggest teachings is that you can never “do” a project. You can only do the very next step in that project, even when you don’t know what the final steps might be.

Confucius reminds us that this practical advice works at all scales, from cleaning your desk, to building a regenerative economy.

I hope that you are entering the weekend feeling clear about your next steps, especially those that involve connection, rest and relaxation.

Happy Friday.

Community, Culture

With good friends, as with great art, our sense of the world is challenged and transformed.

Naima Greens “Kamra and Sonya in Woodridge” and “Activation Residency as a Personal Paradise” (2020).

Last week the NYT T Magazine’s Culture issue focused on the theme of friendship. It featured this delightful ode to friendship.

“I’ve come to believe that friendship — not the Facebook kind, but the real kind — is a kind of romance, and that its resilience to such unadorned truths is its test of strength. (“Better be a nettle in the side of your friend, than his echo,” as Ralph Waldo Emerson put it.) At the same time, a real friend can also be counted on to tenderly shelter our idealism in a transactional world: That person who might help us believe, against all odds, in our own consequence as we go about the delicate business of composing a self — an act of imagination in large part, after all. The moral anxiety of any creative practice — standing, as it does, uncredentialed and fiscally insecure, in dubious relation to necessity — can be acute, and it does something to you when someone else believes in you. I think of Margery Williams’s 1922 children’s book, “The Velveteen Rabbit,” in which a young boy’s devotion makes the titular stuffed animal believe itself to be real — despite what the rabbits in the forest, the kind that hop nimbly about on their hind legs, might say. We all know the pain of having our dreams dispelled by things like pedestrian day jobs, student loans, family obligations and amiable philistines. An artist’s self-conception depends on the durability of our private mythologies, our sense of the possible ignited by those who believe in it, and in us.”

Article: How Friendship Helps Us Transcend Ourselves

Regenerative Economy

How do we translate regeneration into the business universe?

“’Regeneration’ is not a just new word to replace the now-overused term ‘sustainability.’ It is the inevitable next step when moving from degenerative systems that pollute and waste resources to models that restore nature and support communities. It is a new way of thinking — an entirely new level of ambition that implies, ultimately, a new paradigm.

“But paradigm-building is not an easy task. If we want to define what regeneration truly means and make it happen, we need more courageous and fruitful conversations — we must share our refections, experiences and points of view.

“I recently had the privilege to discuss this topic with Carol Sanford, a recognized thought leader in this area, author of The Regenerative Business and founder of The Regenerative Business Development Community. In Sanford’s opinion, when we speak about regeneration, we ‘don’t need to do better or do good.’ She summarizes her vision by saying that regeneration is about ‘building capabilities’ because, in her words:

“’Regeneration only happens in living systems. It cannot happen in things … We have to leave some of our learnings and consolidated knowledge behind and rediscover an ancient paradigm … A paradigm that was existing already in ancient, indigenous cultures and that was totally integrated in living systems.’

“For her, regeneration is about building capabilities while we work simultaneously, not only linearly. It is also about respecting the fundamental essence of the systems in which we are working. And finally, it is about having a ‘systemic vision.’”

Article: Regeneration: Understanding the Paradigm Change and How We’ll Get There


Visualizations for turning famous urban areas eco-friendly

“Global design firm WATG periodically rolls out speculative GIFs demonstrating how famous urban stretches can be realistically green-ified. These “Green Block” initiatives started with London’s Fleet Street (above).”

“Then NYC’s Flatiron district, where Fifth Avenue meets Broadway at the eponymous building.”

“While each of the GIFs last mere seconds, they belie months to years of research into viable, practical ways to make city streets more eco-friendly, as well as attractive. The green measures are meant to serve ‘as a living, breathing solution to air filtration; reducing car noise, impact and pollution; and increasing green corridors for urban dwellers and visitors to interact with nature. The solution encourages cycling and walking, replacing paved paths with lush native greenery; and enhances curb appeal for restaurants and retail – providing untapped commercial opportunities for increased foot traffic and outdoor dining and shopping.'”

Article: Before/After Shots of Cities Going on Green Diets

Writing, Creativity

“I have no idea where I am going.” 

Regular readers know that Austin Kleon is one of the inspirations for this letter. When asked to write a post about self-promotion he wrote a one sentence reply: “Write something that you yourself would want to read.”

He calls himself a “writer who draws”. Last week he wrote and drew this article about watching Paul Elie (author of The Life You Save May Be Your Own and Reinventing Bach) interview James Martin about his new book, Learning To Pray, and writing as a spiritual practice.

Article/Drawing: Writing as a Spiritual Practice

Branding, Corporate Social Responsibility

Broader environmental sustainability will be the next competitive advantage and will drive a massive business transformation.

“‘Brands have no choice but to listen to consumers and to broader societal trends. The COVID-19 crisis accelerated the importance of climate change and consumers are increasingly greener and demand sustainable brands,’ says Thomas Husson, VP and principal analyst at Forrester, adding that it’s a ‘phenomenon’ seen across the U.S. and Europe. ‘Broader environmental sustainability will be the next competitive advantage and will drive a massive business transformation.’

“This Earth Day, many brands including SodaStream, Levi’s and Hyundai are continuing their sustainable efforts from years past, while brands like TikTok and Tinder are making waves for the first time.”

Article: Earth Day 2021: How Brands are Responding to Consumer Demands for Sustainability

Strategic Positioning, Brand Strategy

As we come out of lockdown, solid foundations and a clear brand strategy are vital to guide short-term tactics and ensure long-term value.

“Now is the time for businesses and their marketing teams to review their strategic positioning. As we come out of lockdown into a world that has changed, it will pay organisations to ensure they are taking advantage of market forces as they are now and differentiating from competitors where there is an advantage to be gained.”

“Spending time now, as we leave lockdown, refreshing your brand strategy for the world we live in today will provide your business with firmer foundations to compete and grow with real confidence and energy. This will also help maximise chances of success in new direct channels.”

Article: Don’t Waste a Good Crisis – Take the Opportunity to Rebuild Your Strategy


The counterintuitive way to be more persuasive

“If you have 2 strong points and 1 weaker one, your argument may actually be made weaker by adding the extra point. As Niro Sivanathan, an Associate Professor of Organisational Behaviour at London Business School, explains: Arguments don’t add up. They average out.

“Next time you’re making your case, consider sticking to your strong arguments.”

Article: The Dilution Effect
Ted-Talk: The Counterintuitive Way to be More Persuasive



The Bad Science Behind the Anti-Transgender Healthcare Laws

And the Sorriest Bus Stop in North America Is…

How to Make Virtual Office Hangs Suck Less



“Mix a bit of yodeling with Tuvan throat singing, add in a pinch of Sardinian cantu a tenore, fold in compositions from cutting-edge composers and you have the vocal group Roomful of Teeth. This eight-voice ensemble, which includes the 2013 Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Caroline Shaw, is gleefully dismantling the traditional definition of ensemble singing right before our ears (and teeth!).

“Musical descendants of the innovative extended vocal techniques of Meredith Monk, the Teeth tend to make sounds — some sweet, others alarming — that you probably haven’t heard from a group of humans.”

Tiny Desk Concert: Roomful of Teeth, NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert

Article: Roomful of Teeth is Revolutionizing Choral Music


Image of the Week

The image of the week is titled Pencil Art…. It’s by New Delhi-based photographer Navin Vatsa. On his Facebook page he says Art is immortal…Be Artistic.”

Art of Communication…

He says: “Photography is my meditation, my stress buster.”

Instagram page: navinvatsa

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.

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