Clarity First Newsletter,
August 14, 2020

“It is so important that we fight for the future, get into the game, get dirty, get experimental. How do we create and proliferate a compelling vision of economies and ecologies that center humans and the natural world over the accumulation of material?

“We embody. We learn. We release the idea of failure, because it’s all data.

“But first we imagine.” – adrienne maree brown

Clarity First

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

Dear reader, I’ve shared with you how I feel like I am holding the theatrical masks of tragedy and comedy in my two hands.

This week I embraced a lot of mourning. We will not visit our kids in their homes anytime soon. We will be alone on Thanksgiving and Christmas. The retreats, conferences and gatherings that fill me are not happening, and the simple act of hanging out in a cafe is just a memory.

But, this week I am also celebrating new traditions, and new ways of gathering. Tomorrow morning a book club that my dear friend and colleague, Liz Solomon, and I started this spring will meet again. Our first book, Reinventing Organizations, A Guide to Creating Organizations Inspired by the Next Stage of Human Consciousness, completely re-set my understanding and vocabulary about how we embrace change and collective learning inside of organizations.

Tomorrow we are diving into Emergent Strategy, Shaping Change, Shaping Worlds, by adrienne maree brown. The author had me at “But first we imagine”.

Let’s keep going. As my cousin Susan B. Anthony said, “Failure is not an option”. Happy Friday.


So, what do we do now?… We redesign…. wherever we are, as big as we can.

People-owners of the Continental Congress, by Arlen Parsa (original by John Trumbull)

The US wasn’t discovered, it was designed. It can be redesigned too.

“In September of 2019, the documentary filmmaker Arlen Parsa posted a striking image on his Twitter feed. It was an altered copy of Declaration of Independence, a painting created almost 100 years ago. The painting shows a group led by Thomas Jefferson presenting a draft to the Continental Congress. The date is July 4, 1776.

“Parsa’s alteration turned the painting from a hall of fame into a rogues’ gallery. He put a red dot over every delegate who owned people. Of the 47 depicted, 34 (nearly 75%) were engaged in what we would today call human trafficking.”These men, publicly and rightly shamed in Parsa’s image, are called our ‘Founding Fathers,’ yet this affectionate phrase elides their true role in shaping our country. When I look at this painting, I see the co-design team that collaboratively created the United States of America.”

Article: Time to Redesign America


The world is consumed by violent fights and hostile disagreements. Sarah Schulman sees a way out of them.

“Sarah Schulman is a playwright, an author, and a queer activist. She is also a professor of creative writing, and once, a number of years ago, she learned that a male graduate student maintained a blog where he wrote about his crush on her. He wrote that he was in love with her; he wrote that he wanted to fuck her; he wrote about her appearance in a way that made her feel bad. She told her colleagues what was happening, and their response was unanimous: He was ‘stalking’ her. They advised Schulman to report him to a supervisor.”

But rather than bust him, she reached out to him. She described this episode in a book she wrote some years later, Conflict Is Not Abuse. The book’s central insight is that people experiencing the inevitable discomfort of human misunderstanding often overstate the harm that has been done to them — they describe themselves as victims rather than as participants in a shared situation. And overstating harm itself can cause harm, whether it leads to social shunning or physical violence.”

Article: Good Conflict


If you want to win friends and influence people, link your agenda to their agenda.

Ozan Varol makes a great case that if you want to lose friends and alienate people, attack their identity, belittle them (“I told you so”), ostracize them (“If you’re not with us, you’re against us”) or ridicule them (“You’re not a real feminist”).

He suggests instead that we should follow the approach that Joaquin Phoenix used in accepting the Oscar for Best Actor earlier this year for his brilliant performance in Joker:

“’At times we feel, or we are made to feel, that we champion different causes, but for me, I see commonality. Whether we’re talking about gender inequality or racism or queer rights or indigenous rights or animal rights, we’re talking about the fight against injustice. We’re talking about the fight against the belief that one nation, one people, one race, one gender or one species has the right to dominate, control and use and exploit another with impunity.’

“Instead of emphasizing differences between groups, Joaquin cited the similarities between them. Instead of narrowing the circle of connection, he widened it. To him, people championing these seemingly different causes —whether it’s gender rights or animal rights — are in fact championing the same thing: the fight against injustice.

The takeaway? “If you want to win friends and influence people, follow Phoenix’s approach. Link your agenda to their agenda. Explain why your cause furthers their cause.

“Instead of drawing a small circle to exclude people, draw a bigger circle to include them.”

Article: If You Want People to Join Your Cause, Stop Doing This

Where We Work

New jobs data explores how a farther-flung workforce expands opportunity.

“The pandemic has been a grand global experiment in the costs and benefits of a remote workforce. But long before the coronavirus hit, many people worked from outside offices. A new report that looks at pre-pandemic remote-work data found that allowing off-site work could be a way to direct wealth away from the 15 most expensive U.S. metros, where jobs and opportunity have been concentrated in recent years.”

Article: The Economics of Remote Work

How We Work

“Ad-hoc interactions—those ‘hallway conversations’—are among the most important things that people miss in today’s work-from-home environment.”

“During the coronavirus pandemic, Zoom, Skype, and other videoconferencing systems have become our lifelines for workplace communication. But while those platforms work well for many kinds of virtual meetings and conferences, their capacity to replicate the kinds of spontaneous, informal interactions that take place when people are together in person is limited.

“Enter Minglr, a new software platform developed by researchers at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Minglr is designed to support the kinds of impromptu, private conversations that individuals have before and after meetings, in the lobby during breaks of conferences, and around the office coffee machine. By making these interactions possible online, systems like Minglr can further boost the desirability and feasibility of remote work, learning, and professional networking.”

Press Release: Introducing Minglr: New Open Source Software Developed at Mit Sloan Helps Overcome the Limitations of Videoconferences by Supporting Impromptu Conversations

Visual Identity

10 experts critique the new Biden-Harris logo

Article: Experts Weigh in on the Biden-Harris Logo: ‘It Could be Scribbled on a Napkin and I’d Be Happy’


Vita Coco uses ad campaign to celebrate NYC bodegas, stores that sell a lot of their product and are hurting right now

“NYC-born beverage brand Vita Coco was originally planning to launch a campaign this year focusing on its Pressed coconut water line, until the pandemic changed the brand’s plans.

“Vita Coco’s marketing team and creative agency, Interesting Development, decided instead to use their marketing efforts to support bodegas – a category of shops that has traditionally been a big source of sales for the brand, and a key part of NYC life that’s taken a big hit as the city became a center of the Covid-19 crisis.”

Article: Vita Coco: Support NYC Bodegas by Interesting Development


Commercial Real Estate is Being Reshaped by the Health Crisis, Offering Both Risk and Opportunity.
Small Businesses Are Dying by the Thousands — And No One Is Tracking the Carnage



The statement that “The Velvet Underground didn’t sell many records, but everyone who bought one went out and started a band” is attributed to Brian Eno, or to Lou Reed. Whether a quote or an apocryphal story, it is largely true. Three of those people are guitarist Dean Wareham, drummer Damon Krukowski, and bassist Naomi Yang. They came together in Boston as Galaxie 500 in 1987 and recorded three fetching and beguiling albums before disbanding in 1991.

In 2005, Krukowski and Yang formed their own record label, 20.20.20 Records, to produce the music that they still make together as Damon & Naomi, to reissue Galaxie 500’s complete catalog, and to release artists that they curate under the rubric International Sad Hits.

“Earlier this year, a concert of covers of Galaxie 500 songs was planned for Record Store Day at Rough Trade Brooklyn, to coincide with the release of Copenhagen on vinyl and the launch of a limited edition Dogfish Head Galaxie 500 beer. The event unfortunately didn’t happen due to the pandemic, but some of the performers are recording home videos which we’re presenting online, prior to the rescheduled ‘RSD Drop’ of the vinyl on August 29.”

Glenn Mercer of the Feelies performing Here She Comes Now. “I shot this in my home basement studio. It’s a song by the Velvet Underground that Galaxie 500 covered. It’s also one of the few songs by the VU that the Feelies never performed.”

Deadbeat Beat performing Oblivious“We recorded our cover in masks with one microphone in a garage. Our video is interspersed with footage taken on our phones throughout the past year.”

The independent label has started a web page where by month’s end all 20 videos will be showcased. They are adding one each weekday until August 28. It’s an easy bet that each of these artists bought some Velvet Underground records.

Webpage: 20 BANDS COVER GALAXIE 500, 2020


Image of the week

The image of the week is titled “Wisdom Lies In/ Not Seeing Things But/ Seeing Through Things”. It is “an unplanned collaboration with elements by Erin Ko, Justin Orvis Steimer, the artist known as EXR, Antennae and Helixx C. Armageddon”. The image was shot by Simbarashe Cha for The New York Times.

It’s one of the examples of street art that have spontaneously appeared on many of the boarded-up storefronts that have become a regular fixture of the streets of NYC.

About the works, critic Seph Rodney observes that “Today’s street paintings contain dispatches that proliferate across the city sphere — lovely, challenging, angry, remonstrative and even desperate. There are two critical things to note about them. They are different from graffiti, which to my eyes is egocentric and monotone, mostly instantiating the will of the tagger over and over again. I am here and you must see me, is the message.

“The street artists in these works point beyond the self, to larger, collective issues. The other pressing point is that these images in chalk, paint and oil stick are ephemeral. Between the time I walked these districts and alerted the photographer to document them, five images had already disappeared. One was a depiction of the transgender freedom fighter Marsha P. Johnson, whose image was marked in chalk on the sidewalk in the ad hoc tent city created near Chambers Street a few weeks ago. It’s since been cleared out by police officers.”

Article: New York’s Sidewalk Prophets Are Heirs of the Artisans of France’s Lascaux Caves

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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