Clarity First Newsletter,
August 2, 2019

“Oh lonesome’s a bad place
To get crowded into.”  – Kenneth Patchen

Clarity First

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

Oh, dear reader, I am as upset as you about the hate and vitriol that the man who America calls our leader spews as a strategy to divide us. And I am similarly devastated that so many apparently rejoice and frolic in the venom. It can make me feel very lonely, while feeling crowded by his assertiveness at the same time.

In this context connection becomes an act of resistance. So, today’s letter starts with a challenge: reach out and say hello to someone. Walk into town with an openness to a chance encounter. Invite a shut-in to go to the beach. Pick up the phone and call that friend who you feel bad about losing touch with.

Connection is a healing salve that we all need now. Make your Friday happier by consciously making connection.
Community, Personal Development
“Only connect! … Live in fragments no longer.”*

Loneliness is a serious health condition. One AARP study found that prolonged social isolation can have the same risks as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. A new initiative in the UK, sponsored by the local cops, aims to combat the problem by making it easier for people who feel alone to socialize with strangers.

“For people who feel isolated in their daily lives, the benches are an opportunity to make a connection with someone new. They also give people who want to help the lonely members of their community a way to do so.”

* “Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer.” – E.M. Forster

Article: English Towns Are Installing ‘Chat Benches’ to Combat Loneliness

Purpose, Community, Leadership

Indigenous worldviews and values offer unique understanding of purpose and belonging.

Tribal,” Justin Lincoln

“We live in severely polarizing times. These last several months are a painful reminder of how disconnected we have become from one another as we retreat into our zones of safety. By otherizing‘ those with whom we don’t share identity, we spotlight difference and increase fear. In a less extreme form, this otherizing affects our discourse, our voting, our budget and resource allocation, our education, our housing, our justice, and so much more. At its height, this otherizing leads to the personal and group violence that punctuates our daily lives, that boldly declares the “other” as less than human, giving permission for the very violence that occurred. It’s a vicious and rapidly accelerating cycle, one all-too-familiar to Indigenous people.

“While in today’s discourse, across the political spectrum, the word “tribalism” is used to describe the otherizing and retreat of people to their own groups, to their camps of like-minded and similarly positioned friends and families, I believe that this is gross misuse of the term. This phenomenon is the antithesis of what the tribal nations that make up Native America represent.

“Indigenous peoples and groups from around the world may be our best instructors of the value brought by the group—of the tribe. Tribes of Indigenous peoples are about organizing, not otherizing. Tribal communities are a way to recognize kinship and shared responsibility, instill and preserve culture and reciprocity, and apportion and steward resources. The ties of a tribe define one’s primary relationships, while recognizing or even mandating a wider set of relationships.”

Article: Taking Back “Tribalism”: What We All Can Learn from Tribal Nations

Social Messaging

Art with an activist bent can engage and inspire—if it offers hope.

new study of activist art about climate change suggests that art can be an effective form of activism—if artists create compelling works that call attention to the problem and offer hope for a solution.

Article: How Art Can Inspire Viewers Toward Climate Action

Marketing Communications

To err is human; to forgive, divine.

“Social media has raised the stakes for brands. Customers, most often angry ones, have a forum to air their grievances. I see it constantly on Twitter, and have admittedly participated myself, when air travel goes terribly wrong or quality falls short of expectations.

“The good news is that it’s recoverable. Brands that react swiftly, thoughtfully, and transparently are the ones who win. And by win, I mean they don’t necessarily lose customers as a result of their actions, inaction or missteps.”

Article: When Brands Apologize, Customers Often Listen and Forgive


“Sometimes I wonder if the young read novels and poems because they are the only ones who can.”

Irina Dumitrescu is an essayist and scholar of medieval literature. She wrote this essay while watching her son learn to read. She notes that we are always learning to read.

“‘Read,’ like ‘love’ or ‘think,’ has a thousand meanings pressed into one deceptively elementary verb. We use it in a way that tends towards simplicity. It is the connection of sounds and concepts to standardized squiggles, to trails of ink on squares of paper, scratches carved into sticks, glowing lines of curved neon, careful stitches poked through a tight canvas. It can seem a basic skill, at least to those who have left the learning of letters behind.”

Article: Reading Lessons

Personal Development

The “shortest possible crash-course version” of Yale’s most popular course ever

Photo courtesy of Yale University

The most popular course taught at Yale is called “Psychology and the Good Life”. The reason it is so popular is likely that its’ lessons “are widely applicable—they address fundamental features of the human mind that make it difficult to appreciate things that seem like they’d be great. ‘Our minds are filled with a ton of little glitches that make it hard to enjoy the great things that we have,’ as Laurie Santos, the psychology professor who teaches the course, puts it.”

At this year’s Aspen Ideas Festival “Santos presented the ‘shortest possible crash-course version of the class,’ covering two primary ‘glitches’ (and how to counteract them) in less than an hour. ‘You can’t just shut off the kinds of biases that I’m talking about,’ she said. ‘But we can understand them.’”

Article: The Yale Happiness Class, Distilled

Organizational Learning and Change, Graphic Standards

How the Guardian went digital, and how it manages it’s graphic standards today.

At the start of 1995 only 491 newspapers were online worldwide. 18 months later that number had grown to some 3,600. The Guardian, then a small lefty UK paper was one of the first to make a serious play to learn how to navigate what was then called the Information Superhighway. Today they are powerhouse of internet journalism. Alan Rusbridger has an in-depth story at Longreads that chronicles how they pulled it off: How the Guardian Went Digital.

Of course digital style standards are a completely different beast than print standards, and lucky for us the Guardian shares their’s online.

If you are responsible in any way for the development or the maintenance of digital style standards, this is required reading.

Digital Style Guide: Thinking Outside the News in Boxes

Clarity news

Early bird registration is open for the Fall ’19 Pioneer Valley offering of the DIY Brand Camp. 

Learn how to identity and attract the clients and supporters who need and want what you do best, and have fun doing it. 

I’m a proud member of the Board of Trustees of the Conway School of Landscape Design. I know of no other graduate program that teaches a systems thinking approach to the ecological, community and land use planning challenges we face. Part of my commitment to this almost 50-year old pedagogy is to donate all proceeds of the Fall Valley DIY Brand Camp to this amazing little school with an outsized impact.

I’d love to see you at Smith College on September 10.


One of my favorite daily e-letters is Dave Pell’s Nextdraft (he signs off as “Managing Editor, Internet”). On Monday he had a one-line post: “Lizzo. Tiny Desk Concert. You’re Welcome.”

OMG, thank you, Dave. It is not unusual that a Tiny Desk Concert opens my mind, moves my feet, and raises the bar on what great music sounds like. But I don’t ever remember a “Tiny Ass Desk Concert” (Lizzo’s term) that had me crying and laughing at the same time.

Do yourself a favor and give yourself over to the magnetic power of Lizzo. “Because if you can love my big brown ass you can love yourself, everyday.”

According to the Tiny Desk post about the concert “there were as many people as we’ve ever had at a Tiny Desk concert, hanging on Lizzo’s every word”.

Image of the Week

The image of the week is by Japanese photographer Shin Noguchi. “With his discreet, poetic and enigmatic approach to his art, Shin Noguchi captures the subtleties and complexities of Japanese culture without relying on staged scenarios or clichéd imagery… Drawing on Mark Twain’s maxim that ‘truth is stranger than fiction’, Shin sees the scenes he photographs as ‘more beautiful and full of human touch than the carefully choreographed movies of Charlie Chaplin, Alfred Hitchcock and Federico Fellini, or the plays of Shakespeare.’ With humour and tragedy in equal measure, contained in visually compelling and formally satisfying compositions, he transforms street photography from its traditional snapshot, hip-shot perspective into a cinematic view of the drama of everyday life.”

Article: Shin Noguchi Photographs the Bizarre and Beautiful Details of Public Life

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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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