Clarity First Newsletter,
April 24, 2020

“The poets and philosophers were right in their intimations of an open, creative universe. Transformation, innovation, evolution—these are the natural responses to crisis.”  – Marilyn Ferguson

Clarity First

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

Yesterday I connected with a colleague and friend from the left coast. In response to her check-in prompt, I said: “You know, my feelings swing. Some days I feel very optimistic, that the growth at all costs model has finally met its comeuppance. Then other days I feel the heavy weight of how how many millions of lives are being disrupted and lost, and how unprepared we are as a culture to meet this challenge.”

So today I turn to one my teachers, Pema Chödrön, who said: “We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”

The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.

Happy Friday. I’m reminded of what my cousin Susan B. Anthony said about an earlier challenge: “Failure is not an option”.

One Planet

A beautiful short film about what it was like for the astronauts who saw the whole earth for the first time.

Wednesday marked the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, an event that was largely inspired by the impact of seeing photos of the earth from space taken by the crew of Apollo 8. In 1968 that three person crew left earth’s orbit for the first time with the goal of flying around the moon. No one considered, even for a minute, that they would be able to see the earth in space. The mission’s commander, Frank Borman, said later: “What they should have sent is poets, because I don’t think we captured in its entirety the grandeur of what we had seen.” The poet Archibald MacLeish said of seeing the photographs: “To see the earth as it truly is, small and blue and beautiful in that eternal silence where it floats, is to see ourselves as riders on the earth together, brothers on that bright loveliness in the eternal cold — brothers who know now they are truly brothers.”

This film is especially poignant as the earth’s people learn to live with a pandemic that effects us all.

Film: Earthrise, by Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee


Great leaders trust people with the truth. And they make hard decisions guided by values and principles.

“In a time of crisis, like we are in now, with people feeling frightened and uncertain, leadership doesn’t just matter more. It matters exponentially more.

“In moments like these, when the choices we make are so impactful, people desperately want to believe that their leaders know what they’re doing. But they quickly learn that in times like these, leaders either grow or swell — they either grow out of their weaknesses and rise to the level of the challenge or all of their worst weaknesses swell to new levels.”

Article: We Need Great Leadership Now, and Here’s What It Looks Like


In our tumultuous times, adaptability — defined as how well a person reacts to the inevitability of change,  — is a must-have trait.

“Organizations want team members who can take on new responsibilities and acquire new skills as needed in an uncertain world. Not only is it a quality that you should learn to spot so you can hire and retain the right people, but it’s also one that you should build so you can remain indispensable and employable.”

Article: These Days, Adaptability is a Must-Have Trait. Here’s How to Spot It, and Increase It

Try this at home.
For many years, Netflix has allowed teachers to screen documentaries in their classrooms. However, this isn’t possible with schools closed. So they have made a selection of their documentary features and series available on their YouTube channel. This is the good stuff, starting with David Attenborough on nature and Ava DuVernay on racial diversity, for free.


“Our house is on fire. React.”

Greta Thunberg’s organization, Fridays For Future, has released a minute-long spot called “Our house is on fire”. It is named after the activists’ famed speech at the 2019 World Economic Forum in Davos in Switzerland where she called for a reduction in carbon emissions.

The work of Los Angeles-based Creative Agency FF, the ad shows a family of four waking up in the morning and getting ready for their day, while flames spreading around them are completely unnoticed by the parents or the kids. This is a really simple and profoundly effective creative strategy.

Article: Greta Thunberg’s Organization Unveils Stunning and Confronting Global Warming Campaign.


“Hey, we’re a brand.”

This satirical tv spot is outrageously funny because it is so embarrassingly true.”Brands’ heartfelt ads that cut together uplifting and tragic images from the coronavirus crisis have been pouring in since the pandemic began, but here’s one that drops the mic on all of them.

“The film by New York-based copywriter Samantha Geloso, titled ‘Hey, we’re a brand,’ swipes at the myriad sentimental spots that have stitched together found and user-generated footage paying homage to frontline workers, employees still toiling away at essential businesses and people responsibly sheltering in place while highlighting brands’ own efforts to pitch in during the crisis.”

Article/Video: This Montage Takes the Piss Out of Pandemic Montages

Just for Fun

This parody of Simon and Garfunkel’s Sounds of Silence is hilarious and frighteningly close to the bone at once.
Video: Confounds the ScienceVisual Identity

Land O’ Lakes realizes that native peoples are not mascots or logos.

“Minnesota-based dairy brand Land O’ Lakes has completed a significant change to all their packaging, removing the iconic Indigenous woman kneeling in a field holding a box of butter while wearing traditional, native garb. According to the brand, the update is now part of a new strategy emphasizing the farmers that make up their co-op. With the Native American butter maiden erased, they now highlight the phrase “Farmer-Owned” above the wordmark.”

“As the rebrand reaches more people, some like Peggy Flanagan, Lieutenant Governor of Minnesota, herself a member of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe tribe, praised the move, saying in a tweet, ‘Thank you to Land O’Lakes for making this important and needed change. Native people are not mascots or logos. We are very much still here.'”

Article: Land O’Lakes Removes Native American Mascot From Their Packaging

Personal Development

The idea that hustling can save you from calamity is an article of faith, not fact—and the Covid-19 pandemic is starting to shake the collective faith in individual striving.

“When the coronavirus crisis began, I started writing myself ambitious to-do lists on giant sticky notes—because when every cultural certainty starts collapsing in my hands like wet cake, writing ambitious to-do lists is how I calm down.

“I would exercise in the mornings and write in the evenings. I would cook. I would sort out my finances. By week three, I would finally finish my book. I would organize my time so I had no time to feel any emotion other than manageable, everyday anxiety about my workload, with occasional breaks for feeling appropriately grateful that I still have a job I can do from home. Unfortunately, somewhere between writing those to-do lists and watching overpromoted incompetents invite their voters to kindly die to keep the economy going in the manner to which it has become accustomed, the entire concept of linear time seemed to disintegrate, which really played havoc with my calendar.”

Article: Productivity Is Not Working


This week I’ve had Fiona Apple’s new album, Fetch the Bolt Cutters, on repeat. It’s her first new album since 2012, and she is said to have started it 2015. She recorded it in her home studio in Venice Beach with a three piece band, Amy Aileen Wood, an indie-rock drummer, bassist Sebastian Steinberg, of the nineties group Soul Coughing, and Davíd Garza, a Latin-rock singer-songwriter and guitarist.

The album was worth the wait. Her fearlessness, her willingness to reveal her distinctive voice in new and completely different ways, and her bare and frank honesty feel especially welcome right now. Google it. There are quite a few long form articles about her and the album worth reading, including one in The Atlantic, Fiona Apple’s Survival Guide to Isolation, and one in The New Yorker, Fiona Apple’s Art of Radical Sensitivity. There are also some great short blog posts about the album, too, like Austin Kleon’s Do What You Know How to Do.

Album: Fetch the Bolt Cutters

Image of the week

The image of the week is titled, Albin Dahlström, circa 1906 – 1908, by Hilma af Klint. Klint has now been recognized as the very first abstract painter, a painter who was dismissed because she was a woman. A painter who artists like Kandinsky, Mondrian and Klee clearly “borrowed” from.

Halina Dyrschka’s documentary, Beyond the Visible (trailer) about the Swedish painter – which premiered at Hot Docs last year is here to introduce us to a remarkable woman and her revolutionary work, set it in the proper cultural and political context and restore her place in art history.”

“Here are the bullet points: af Klint, who spent most of her life in Sweden, was almost certainly the first abstract artist. She was working in the form at least five years before Vassily Kandinsky’s blue period began in 1911. But because she was a woman, and women were not considered capable of artistic genius, she was ignored and her contributions overlooked, while male contemporaries like Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian and Paul Klee were hailed for canvases that seem to owe a massive debt to af Klint’s compositions.

“Like af Klint’s paintings, Beyond The Visible is as much a political act as it is a work of art. Dyrschka makes her case slowly and deliberately, layering details out for us: this happened on this date, this letter confirms this theory, these people were in this place at this time.”

Article: Review: Beyond The Visible Restores a Revolutionary Artist to History

Thank You

A bow to my friends and co-conspirators Pam Coffield and Leigh Rae for sharing resources that ended up in this week’s letter.

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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