Clarity First Newsletter,
August 13, 2021

“Summer afternoon, summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.” – Henry James

Clarity First

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

It is High Summer here behind the tofu curtain of Western Massachusetts. This time of year my office is our front porch, where I watch the ballet that migrating birds, resident chipmunks, rabbits, nesting wasps, butterflies and moths perform daily in front of my box seat. This spring a pair of robins built a nest and hatched out four chicks outside our bedroom window. Last week a pair of mourning doves moved into the nest that they left behind to hatch two of their own. Our kitchen counters groan under fresh corn, tomatoes, blueberries, blackberries, plums, peaches and callaloo, fruits and vegetables that taste best exactly one time of year.

I hope that you are finding abundance and joy where you are, too. Happy Friday.

Futures Thinking

The future isn’t what it used to be.

“Just as children expand their temporal perceptions as they age, so too has our species over millennia. Like toddlers, our pre-human ancestors had no sense of a distant future. They lived only in the present. Humanity’s trajectory from tool-wielding hominins to the architects of grand metropolises has been interwoven with our ever-expanding sense of time. Unlike other animals, we have minds capable of imagining a deep future, and we can conceive the daunting truth that our lifetime is a mere flash in an unfathomable chronology.

“Yet while we may have this ability, it is rarely deployed in daily life. If our descendants were to diagnose the ills of 21st-century civilization, they would observe a dangerous short-termism: a collective failure to escape the present moment and look further ahead. The world is saturated in information, and standards of living have never been higher, but so often it’s a struggle to see beyond the next news cycle, political term, or business quarter.

“How to explain this contradiction? Why have we come to be so stuck in the ‘now’?”

Article: Humanity is Stuck in Short-Term Thinking. Here’s How We Escape

Economy, Innovation

Why did Spotify and Skype start in Sweden? Because Swedish homes had government-supported broadband.


Sebastian Siemiatkowski in his company’s office in Stockholm, Sweden  REUTERS/Supantha Mukherjee/File Photo

“As Klarna’s billionaire founder Sebastian Siemiatkowski prepares to stage one of the biggest-ever European fintech company listings, a feast of capitalism, he credits an unlikely backer for his runaway success: the Swedish welfare state.

“In particular, the 39-year-old pinpoints a late-1990s government policy to put a computer in every home.

“‘Computers were inaccessible for low-income families such as mine, but when the reform came into play, my mother bought us a computer the very next day,’ he told Reuters.

“Siemiatkowski began coding on that computer when he was 16. Fast-forward more than two decades, and his payments firm Klarna is valued at $46 billion and plans to go public. It hasn’t given details, though many bankers predict it will list in New York early next year.

“Sweden’s home computer drive, and concurrent early investment in internet connectivity, help explain why its capital Stockholm has become such rich soil for startups, birthing and incubating the likes of Spotify, Skype and Klarna, even though it has some of the highest tax rates in the world.”

Article: How Sweden Became the Silicon Valley of Europe

 

Personal Development

More “nose to the grindstone” does note increase the quantity or quality of your work.

Oliver Burkeman and I agree, the drive to maximize the productivity of creative souls is a surrender to the Industrial Age meme that life is best measured, with a focus on minimizing inputs and maximizing outputs. And while I sometimes veer outside his lines of focusing attention in three-to-four hour blocks, (I sometimes focus six-to-seven hour blocks on this letter, and on other enjoyable projects like a brand study), his observation that life is more than what you produce really resonates with me.

“There aren’t many hard-and-fast rules of time management that apply to everyone, always, regardless of situation or personality (which is why I tend to emphasise general principles instead). But I think there might be one: you almost certainly can’t consistently do the kind of work that demands serious mental focus for more than about three or four hours a day.

“As I’ve written before, it’s positively spooky how frequently this three-to-four hour range crops up in accounts of the habits of the famously creative. Charles Darwin, at work on the theory of evolution in his study at Down House, toiled for two 90-minute periods and one one-hour period per day; the mathematical genius Henri Poincaré worked for two hours in the morning and two in the afternoon. Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens, Virginia Woolf, Ingmar Bergman and many more all basically followed suit, as Alex Pang explains in his book Rest (where he also discusses research supporting the idea: this isn’t just a matter of cherry-picking examples to prove a point).”

Article: The Three-or-Four-Hours Rule for Getting Creative Work Done

Graphic Design, Corporate Responsibility, Social Messaging

A 1963 manifesto continues to find new life and relevance through new generations of designers.

“In the nearly 60 years since Ken Garland self-published his First Things First broadside, the stakes for society and design have spiraled skywards. And his manifesto has evolved accordingly.”

“The late Ken Garland’s First Things First manifesto, written in 1963 on the spur of the moment during a public meeting, has become a tradition of enduring protest that its originator could never have predicted. Last year, the fourth version of the text arrived and it’s the most urgent and powerful iteration to date.”

From the first declaration:

“We, the undersigned, are graphic designers, photographers and students who have been brought up in a world in which the techniques and apparatus of adverting have persistently been presented to us as the most lucrative, effective and desirable means of using our talents. We have been bombarded with publications devoted ton the belief, applauding the work of The Who have flogged their skill and imagination to sell such things as cat food, stomach powders, detergent, hair restorer, striped toothpaste, aftershave lotion, before shave lotion, slimming diets, fattening diets, deodorants, fizzy wattle, cigarettes, roll-ons, pull-ons and slip-ons.”

From the fourth version:

“We, the undersigned, are designers who have been raised in a world in which we put profit over people and the planet in an attempt to grease the wheels of capitalism and keep the machine running. Our time and energy are increasingly used to manufacture demand, to exploit populations, to extract resources, to fill landfills, to pollute the air, to promote colonization, and to propel our planet’s sixth mass extinction. We have helped to create comfortable, happy lives for some of our species and allowed harm to others; our designs, at times, serve to exclude, eliminate, and discriminate.”

Article: The Evolving Legacy of Ken Garland’s First Things First Manifesto

Fashion, Culture, Entrepreneurship

StereoType clothing blends traditionally masculine and feminine elements, giving kids more ways to express their authentic selves.

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“Strolling through a kids’ clothing store is a lesson in gender stereotypes: The girls’ aisle is awash in pastels, sequins, unicorns, and princesses; the boys’ aisle is grounded in blues, greens, dinosaurs, and trucks. This presents problems for kids who don’t feel like they fit neatly into these gendered categories, or parents who don’t want their kids to feel trapped by these over-simplified notions of gender.

“Elizabeth Brunner, a San Francisco-based fashion designer, wanted to give her 8-year-old twins more clothing options. So she launched her own kids’ clothing label, StereoType, which offers comfortable clothes for everyday wear that aren’t explicitly masculine or feminine, but have qualities of both in each piece: There are black track pants embellished with sparkly stripes down the side; a comfy French terry blazer with colorful patches and gold trim; and a frilly purple skirt that can also be worn as a cape. The pieces, which cost between $30 and $129, are available exclusively on the StereoType website.

Article: Inspired by Her Twins, This Mom is Designing Clothes That Flip Gender Norms on Their Head

Indigenous Peoples, Learning

We are invited and challenged to learn more about the lands we inhabit, the history of “our” lands, and how to co-create a better future going forward together. 

Our house is built on land that was once inhabited by the Pocumtuc people, part of the Mohican tribe. “They were decimated by warfare with the powerful Mohawks, from what is now New York State, by small pox epidemics after European contact, and also from warfare with the European settlers and their allies.” The European settlers, in turn, were justified to take the land as their own by the Doctrine of Discovery, the first international law, one that granted the rights to land not occupied by white people to the white “discoverer”. Click it, it explains so much. The Pocumtuc’s central gathering place was where the Deerfield River meets the Connecticut River, a place just a few miles from “our” yard.

This screen grab shows where the the Deerfield River meets the Connecticut. This was a primary village place for the Pocumtuc people. As I write this, Debbie is swimming, as she does every day she can, in the south-dipping elbow of the Deerfield that you can see on the map just a mile east of the Connecticut.

I learned that the Pocumtuc lived so close to where we live by Googleing it. But this ambitious website project lets me see where hundreds of native tribes called home before colonists claimed their land as their own.

“The mission of Native Land is simple: Native Land Digital strives to create and foster conversations about the history of colonialism, Indigenous ways of knowing, and settler-Indigenous relations, through educational resources such as our map and Territory Acknowledgement Guide. We strive to go beyond old ways of talking about Indigenous people and to develop a platform where Indigenous communities can represent themselves and their histories on their own terms. In doing so, Native Land Digital creates spaces where non-Indigenous people can be invited and challenged to learn more about the lands they inhabit, the history of those lands, and how to actively be part of a better future going forward together.”

Let’s get started. Indigenous lives matter. A lot.

Website: Native Land

Grammar

“Does civilization depend on the proper use of ‘who’ and ‘whom’? Let’s steel ourselves for a closer look.”

“Does civilization depend on the vulnerable ‘whom’? Yes. No matter how bad the news, we must not stop caring. To paraphrase Carson, the butler on ‘Downton Abbey,‘ ‘Keeping up standards is the only way to show the bastards that they will not beat us in the end.’”

Article: Comma Queen: To Whom It May Concern

 

Oneliners

Article: The Math That Says Egalitarianism Is Possible

Article: German Animal Shelter is Posting Profiles of Adoptable Pets on Tinder.

Article: We Should All Be Playing in the Dirt More… According to Science.

 

Playlist

Last week while performing a concert in Kansas, Dave Grohl, of the Foo Fighters invited a fan onto the stage. He asked her if she played guitar, and when she said yes he took his off and handed it to her. She stepped up to the challenge and totally nailed it. This video makes me smile so much. Have I ever mentioned how much I love rock and roll?

Video: Foo Fighters – Monkey Wrench w/ fan playing guitar Live Bonner Springs, KS


Dave Grohl might be the most cool-dad rock star of all time. Remember when he did the drum battle with Mandy Bushnell?

 

Image of the Week

The image of the week is titled Generation, shot by Portugal based photographer Sandra Ventura. It earned her the first place honor in the People category of the 2021 Black & White MonoVisions Photography Awards.

Article: Spectacular Winning Images Of 2021 Black & White MonoVisions Photography Awards

 

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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