Clarity First Newsletter, August 24, 2018

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

This week my wife, Debbie, and I finally saw Won’t You Be My Neighbor. The film delights because it allows the viewer to simply sit in the presence of Fred Rogers, an enlightened teacher. My only other experience with this kind of contact bliss I find when I sit at the feet of Amma.

The film is powerful because the purity of his spirit makes the abject shock and fear that he displayed in response to events like 9/11 starkly uncomfortable. As Trump continues his relentless assault on decency, respect and fairness, I can only imagine how Rogers would wince in pain if he were alive to see it.

But, I can also imagine the smile and twinkle he’d show when he got a glimpse of the myriad ways people are learning that diversity, sharing and education are not luxuries, they are essentials.

Here’s what I scooped from the stream this week. Happy Friday.

via MIT Technology Review


Maps of Twitter activity show how political polarization manifests online and why divides are so hard to bridge.

John Kelly and Camille François have been filtering who is following whom on Twitter, and what they’re interested in. They cluster like-minded people together, and then color-code the kinds of content they commonly share. The maps they make with the data show the real shape of our polarized political landscape. You won’t be surprised to learn that “the middle is a lot weaker than it looks, and this makes public discourse vulnerable both to extremists at home and to manipulation by outside actors such as Russia.” But, I do want to know what the truth looks like, especially when that truth is uncomfortable.
Article: This is What Filter Bubbles Actually Look Like

Image via Democratic Socialists of America

New Economy/Change and Transition

Workers and employees have more opportunities today than ever before to become capitalists and invest in the businesses that employ them. 

“Within the next decade, we expect worker- and employee-owned companies to grow in popularity thanks to three mutually reinforcing trends: First, renewed interest in ensuring the economic viability of local communities suggests that Baby Boomer owners about to retire are increasingly likely to want to sell to workers. Second, evidence is mounting that worker- and employee-owned enterprises outperform their competitors, especially during economic downturns; a recent Rutgers study found that converting to worker and employee ownership boosts profits by as much as 14%. Third, as a result of strong performances by worker- and employee-owned companies, it is becoming easier for workers to overcome arguably the biggest hurdle to worker buyouts: financing.”
Article: Why the U.S. Needs More Worker-Owned Companies

Learning/Change and Transition

How do we train our workforce to be globally competitive at a time of artificial intelligence, automation, globalization, and other innovations that we can’t even imagine? 

Penny Pritsker, the former US secretary of commerce, thinks that in a changing landscape diverse stakeholders have a lot to gain by collaborating with each other. She also thinks that governments have a clear role in workforce transformations. “Just saying we have a skills gap isn’t going to solve the problem. We need to create mechanisms and initiatives and institutions that will actually address the challenges that we’re facing.”
Article: Promoting Cross-Sector Collaboration: An Interview with Penny Pritzker

Personal Development

It’s good (and healthy) to be skeptical of self-help.

Austin Kleon is an artist who unwittingly found himself a guru in the self-help business. Last week, with the same matter-of-fact and bald-faced approach that earned him this role, he summarized some of what he’s learning about the category.
Article:  5 Thoughts On Self-Help

Business Models/Value Proposition

“A subscription relationship with a customer has business attributes that resemble an annuity.”

If you’ve been wondering about subscription models of business, Tren Griffin has been thinking about them. He does a really good job of explaining how they work and who they work for.
Article: How Subscription Business Models are Changing Business and Investing (the Microeconomics of Subscriptions)


Highlight the remarkable.

DDB Group Germany has developed a smart print campaign for Stabilo Boss highlighter pens. The simple concept features old photographs of scientists, engineers and politicians. In each a highlighter has been used to call attention to a woman who helped change the course of history, but who has been overlooked. All ads feature the same headline: “Highlight the remarkable.” The copy for this one reads “Katherine Johnson. The Nasa mathematician responsible for the calculations resulting in Appolo 11’s safe return earth.”
Article: Brilliant Ads By Sablio Highlight The Unnoticed Women Who Made History.

Typography/Visual Identity/Content Marketing

They’re called classic typefaces for a reason. They’ve worked for others.

The folks at Icons8 took the time to name the fonts that the hottest start-ups are using to build their visual id’s. Then they made a website where you can see the most popular fonts, pairings, and examples of their uses.

Why? They sell icons. We care about type, and by inference, icons. It’s love.

“Summary: According to our fonts study, designers of the best startups don’t use the trendy, cool fonts (surprise). Instead, they rely on old good system fonts, some of the popular Google Fonts, and they misspell font names a lot.” Their report reminds me that Apple is still using Garamond, a classic face, after all these years.

Thanks, content marketers who care about your audience. We’ll use this. And I’ll remember you for icons, too.
Interactive website: Fonts That People Actually Use



Last week we lost the Queen of Soul, when Aretha Franklin passed. It seems only fitting, then, that this week we honor the woman who is called the Queen of Neo Soul, Erykah Badu.

The Neo Soul descriptor was coined in the late 90s to name the new soul music that younger people were making from new blends of R&B, jazz, funk, hip hop, electronic and African rhythms.

Twenty one years after releasing her first album, Erykah Badu is still playing and touring with her long-time MC and accompanist, RC Williams. Recently they stopped by the Tiny Desk offices with a 7-piece band to show just how loose musicians can get when they listen to each other again and again.

Writing on Felix Contreras said: “Some folks around the NPR Music office said they felt an almost spiritual connection to Erykah Badu during her visit to the Tiny Desk. And that was before she and her band even played a single note.”

This is jazz music, plain and simple. Badu is relaxed, confident and completely in command of the beat, which she establishes by sliding the words ‘peace and love, ya’ll’ onto a stand-up bass line. How many band leaders do you know who are so relaxed that they keep their feet up on the desk for the whole concert? Her band is cohesive, cool, and sensitively responsive. This concert is a very special treat. I only wish it were three times as long. The spirit lives on, Aretha. And the spirt still makes us move and rejoice.
Tiny Desk Concert: Erykah Badu


Image of the Week

The images of the week are collages by an interdisciplinary artist from the UK who goes only by the name Martha. She posts on Instagram using the handle @smallditch.

She reveals nothing more about herself, but Danielle Krysa, writing in her fabulous blog The Jealous Curator (motto: Turning jealously into get-your-ass-back-in-the-studio inspiration) has filled the vacuum with a fantasy: “I’ve decided to imagine the rest. Here we go … Martha heads out on her lunch break {because on one of her posts she said “this helps me get out of the office”}, carrying a little box of tiny, stiletto-clad legs in her bag. As she walks down the street to pick up coffee – and or lunch – Martha keeps a lookout for the perfect leaf, feather, or piece of trash. And she finds it. Every damn time. The end.”

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