Clarity First Newsletter,
February 19, 2021

“Life is the dancer and you are the dance.” – Eckhart Tolle

Clarity First

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

Typically I don’t make any attempt to link the image of the week to this opening statement. But this week the image is just too beautiful and just too powerful to post without comment.

It reminds me of the old adage: “If you hit a wall, climb over it, crawl under it, or dance on top of it”.

Happy Friday.

Futures Thinking

Imagine otherwise. Aim for a plural, collective, celebratory, environmentally aware, and creative future.

Futurist and futures designer Monika Bielskyte is mapping out a radical framework for futures studies called Protopia Futures. Read this interview to learn more about it and two protopian sci-fi scenes that she created with Spanish designer and futurist Mario Mimoso. Photo credit: Linas Masiokas

“As citizens of the world, we currently face many challenges, including an impending environmental disaster, racial injustice and many forms of inequality ranging from gender to economic. And although we try our best, it is difficult to imagine them being ended. But futurist and futures designer Monika Bielskyte has a radical project that is endeavouring to do just that. In it, she maps out a futures framework freed from the shackles of the binary oppositions, stereotypes and power struggles that currently make these challenges even harder to overcome. Her project, Protopia Futures, is anchored in the aim to inspire us to ‘imagine otherwise’, and echoes post- and decolonial scholars such as Ruha Benjamin and Edward Said. It aims for a plural, collective, celebratory, environmentally aware, and creative future.”

Article: Protopia Futures

Economy, Inclusion

Why can’t everyone have well-funded schools, reliable infrastructure, wages that keep workers out of poverty, or a comprehensive public health system equipped to handle pandemics?

Margaret Bourke-White/The Life Picture Collection — Getty Images, via Art Resource, NY

“Over a two-decade career in the white-collar think tank world, I’ve continually wondered: Why can’t we have nice things?

“By ‘we,’ I mean America at-large. As for ‘nice things,’ I don’t picture self-driving cars, hovercraft backpacks or laundry that does itself. Instead, I mean the basic aspects of a high-functioning society: well-funded schools, reliable infrastructure, wages that keep workers out of poverty, or a comprehensive public health system equipped to handle pandemics — things that equally developed but less wealthy nations seem to have.

“In 2010, eight years into my time as an economic policy wonk at Demos, a progressive policy research group, budget deficits were on the rise. The Great Recession had decimated tax revenue, requiring more public spending to restart the economy.

“But both the Tea Party and many in President Barack Obama’s inner circle were calling for a “grand bargain” to shrink the size of government by capping future public outlays and slashing Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare. Despite the still-fragile recovery and evidence that corporations were already paring back retirement benefits and ratcheting down real wages, the idea gained steam.

“On a call with a group of all-white economist colleagues, we discussed how to advise leaders in Washington against this disastrous retrenchment. I cleared my throat and asked: ‘So where should we make the point that all these programs were created without concern for their cost when the goal was to build a white middle class, and they paid for themselves in economic growth? Now these guys are trying to fundamentally renege on the deal for a future middle class that would be majority people of color?’

“Nobody answered. I checked to see if I was muted.”

Article: The Way Out of America’s Zero-Sum Thinking on Race and Wealth

Marketing, Corporate Social Responsibility

If consumers are to embrace sustainable products en masse, they need better information to be able to make an informed choice — and this is where marketeers have a vital role to play.

“A recent review of online sustainability claims in the EU found that a whopping 40 percent was deemed as ‘greenwashing,’ with false and exaggerated claims. This kind of mis-information is not only frustrating for consumers, it is preventing the advancement of a sustainable and/or circular economy. If consumers are to embrace sustainable products, they need better information to be able to make an informed choice — and this is where marketeers have a vital role to play.

“Here are seven steps to success for authentically marketing your company’s circular wares.”

Article: 7 Tips for Engaging Consumers on Circularity

Community, Mutual Support

What the Buddha, the Harvard Study of Adult Development, and the Pandemic teach us about community.

Illustration by Carole Hénaff

“As leader of one of the most important studies of human happiness, Dr. Robert Waldinger knows how essential it is to feel we are part of a community. In this time of separation, he offers five ways to keep our connection alive.”

Article: The Buddha on Zoom

Communication, Writing

“In the butchery of cover letter editing, one removes metaphors with chainsaws, cauterizes complexity with hot iron, and amputates anything more ambiguous than a grunt.”


A-J Aronstein is a dean at Barnard College where he runs the career advising center. His work has appeared in the New York Times, The Paris Review Daily, and the Los Angeles Review of Books. In his spare time he edits cover letters. He apologizes for what he has done to language in the service of those letters.

“At worst, cover letters strain one’s faith that words convey meaning at all, let alone that sentences can shimmer, steal breath, or gird spines. I spend each day climbing mountains of junky paragraphs, scavenging for hunks of usable scrap—like so much copper wire—my senses deadened by the incessant clang of multipart adjectives.

“’I am detail-oriented,’ they write.

“’My skills are well-suited,’ they aver.

“’I am a team player,’ they fart onto the page.

“As if these injuries to the expressive purpose have no consequence for reader and writer.

“I describe cover letter composition in terms akin to the balancing acts of trick seals nosing beach balls aloft in exchange for applause and morsels of fish. In less than one page of text, a cover letter describes one’s qualifications by achieving three objectives: (a) expressing authentic-seeming interest in an organization’s mission and culture, (b) demonstrating adequate proof of having mobilized pertinent skills in previous contexts, and (c) communicating with sufficient obeisance to norms of professional décor.

“If you want to be a seal, I’m the best trainer in the circus. We can be done in minutes.

“But to understand cover letters will take longer.”

Essay: The Art of the Cover Letter

Trends, Forecasts

20 predictions that, like all predictions, should be taken with a grain of salt.

Trend forecaster Emily Segal. Image via Brooklyn Magazine

At the start of every year, trend forecasters create reports that predict what the near-term future will bring. As a trend forecaster herself, Emily Segal, has read tons of them “so that you don’t have to”. So, what do these professional speculators of the future think the next few years will hold?

“Many of the themes are predictable: automation, artificial intelligence, climate crisis and climate-related migration, virtual reality and augmented reality, China’s rising power, cryptocurrencies, Zoom, remote work and people agitating for their rights.

“Here is a sampling of the big and compelling trends that forecasters seem convinced will come to pass, if not in 2021 then over the next five to 10 years.”

Article: What Will the Next Decade Bring? Here are 20 Predictions from Trend Forecasters


The sound of murmuration

Twitter Post: Murmurations Tonight. Breathtaking.



Why France’s New ‘Repairability Index’ is a Big Deal

Inside the L.A.P.D.’s Experiment in Trust-Based Policing

Using 500 Mousetraps to Visualize What Herd Immunity is and How it Works

Gorilla Glue Sales Soar from Entirely Unsolicited Social Media Windfall



The Clash in White Riot (2019) | Trailer | The Clash | Steel Pulse | Tom Robinson | Poly Styrene | Sham 69

Writing in Hyperallergic, Hrag Vartanian recalls an era in England when punk music stood up to while supremacy with a movement, Rock Against Racism. He points to a new documentary about that time as a clarion call that sounds a warning for our own times.

“I can’t think of a better documentary to watch right now than White Riot. In the 1970s, the UK was rocked by a rise in xenophobic and racist violence. Some punk bands of the era noticed that those espousing racist beliefs were showing up at their concerts, and to their credit, the musicians took action. Thus Rock Against Racism was born. Their story is important during our own tumultuous era, when hate is being used by political leaders for nefarious purposes. While the documentary is drier than it should be, as it gets caught up in endless interviews with individuals who aren’t household names, overall it inspires with the way it weaves together archival footage and visual materials.

“The title comes from a song by The Clash. As band member Topper Headon puts it, that song was ‘co-opted by Nazis, but they didn’t listen to the lyrics, which talk about the wish that white people should riot like black people because we’re not happy either.’ But it’s graphic designer Ruth ‘Pink Heart’ Gregory who explains what the stakes were: ‘It was a scary moment because punk could’ve gone either way. Some of the bands did have [far right] … followings.’ Sound familiar?”

Article: When UK Punk Rock Fought White Supremacy

White Riot is now available to stream via various platforms.


Image of the Week

The Image of the Week is by Erinn Springer. She was born in Wisconsin, studied in New York, and today lives between the two places. She’s shot for Adidas, Le Monde, New York Magazine, VOGUE, The New Yorker and The New York Times, and has won a slew of prestigious awards. I find her her work so inviting and warm. It allows all of us to feel the simple, plain joy of being alive together on this planet.

She’s just finished a new series called “Dormant Seasons”.

“Initially started as a way to interact with her family and greater Wisconsin community, the series has blossomed into a reflective exploration of self, home, and the cyclical rhythms of the land we inhabit.

“’Like the earth, human behavior revolves around the sun,’ she explains. ‘We operate on cycles of warm and cold, awake and asleep, light and shadow. Winter, a time of rest before the verdant bloom of summer, is dormant on the surface, but when experienced and examined closely, it is alive with a warmth that deepens our sense of place and defines our sense of home. This essay – in all its peculiar character – is a microcosm of the larger story of America’s soil and streams, a personal narrative of the cycles and traditions that inextricably, exquisitely, tie us to the land.’”

Article: “Dormant Seasons” by Photographer Erinn Springer

Website: Errin Springer

Instagram Page: springerrin

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.

If you get value from Clarity First, please pass it on.

Not a subscriber? Sign up here.You can also read Clarity-First on the web.

Leave a Comment