Clarity First Newsletter,
February 28, 2020

“You are never stronger than when you land on the other side of despair.” -Zadie Smith

Clarity First

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

This week I am giving the opening words to Heather Cox Richardson. She calls herself a “history professor interested in the contrast between image and reality in American politics”. She says that she believes “in American democracy, despite its frequent failures”.

Every day she gathers her thoughts in Letters from an American.” She described last Tuesday as being  “weirdly unsettled as coronavirus news broke, the stock market tottered, and Trump attacked the Supreme Court and California Democrat Adam Schiff while trying to use the coronavirus crisis as an excuse to cut government further.”

Much of that letter is devoted to a by now mind-numbing summary of how the bully-in-chief has overstepped and abused his power in just the past few days. But then she shifts tone. I found her closing thoughts surprisingly reassuring.

“So all this should sound terrifying, right? But, curiously, to me the worrying patterns that have been taking shape over the past months seem newly unsettled. None of today’s news is good: a serious disease, a sliding economy, an incompetent administration, an autocratic president. But all of these elements are creating an instability that will shake forces loose (emphasis mine). It is times like these that throw all the cards up in the air. While it is scary to experience that chaos, it is also a time of great possibility. We can step back and let autocrats grab all the cards for themselves and consolidate their power. But we don’t have to. This sort of shock gives us the ability to catch the cards ourselves and reorder them on the table in entirely new patterns, ones that can build a different future.”

This is a time of great possibility. We can step back and let autocrats grab all the cards. Or we can catch the cards ourselves and reorder them in entirely new patterns. Yes, let’s do that.

Happy Friday.

Cooperating, Learning

By proving that humans can sustainably manage shared resources, this Nobel Prize–winning economist’s work shines light on a path that just might get us out of this mess.

Farmers have cooperatively managed irrigation canals like this one in Valencia for more than 1,000 years.      © Jason Reblando

“Conventional wisdom related to environmental protection holds that we are trapped in what 20th-century ecologist Garrett Hardin famously called the tragedy of the commons.’ Commons, or common-pool resources, are resources that can be used by anyone but can easily be depleted. Hardin posited that all commons are eventually destroyed. After all, if people can take as much as they want and there is a limited supply, then the resource will soon disappear. Hardin wrote that there are two, and only two, ways to prevent the “tragedy”: privatize the resource or impose government regulations. People, he thought, are just plain unable to control themselves in a commons.

“The ‘tragedy of the commons’ was not based on evidence, however, and political scientist Elinor Ostrom, who in 2009 was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, was skeptical. So she went looking for proof — and what she found shocked everyone.

“Ostrom and her colleagues carefully analyzed thousands of examples of common-pool resources from around the world. They found that, although some communities depleted their resources and destroyed the commons, others were very successful in sustaining shared resources.”

Article: In The Face of a Looming Climate Crisis, the Late Elinor Ostrom Gives Me Hope

Communication, Storytelling, Learning

The best evidence from archaeology and anthropology suggests the human mind evolved with storytelling.

“It’s no surprise that many of the best TED Talks are anchored in storytelling. But when it comes to sharing a story as part of a presentation or speech, there are four key things for you to remember.

  • Base it on a character your audience can empathize with or around a dilemma your audience can relate to.
  • Build tension whether through curiosity, intrigue or actual danger.
  • Offer the right level of detail. Too little and the story is not vivid; too much and it gets bogged down.
  • End with a satisfying resolution, whether it’s funny, moving or revealing.

“Of course, it’s all in the execution.”

Article: Storytelling is a powerful Communication Tool — Here’s How to use it, from TED

Organizational Health

Money can’t buy us love

“The best use of money as a motivator is to pay people enough to take the issue of money off the table: Pay people enough so that they’re not thinking about money and they’re thinking about the work. Once you do that, it turns out there are three factors that the science shows lead to better performance, not to mention personal satisfaction: autonomy, mastery, and purpose.” – Daniel Pink

Article: Money Alone Can’t Buy Us Motivation

Diversity, Inclusion, Organizational Health

Overwhelmingly white, middle class and male – the latest results from the 2020 Career and Salary Survey expose the stark reality of marketing’s diversity crisis.

Marketing Week data reveals 88% of marketers are white, compared to just 2% who identify as black.
“The stark lack of diversity within marketing is a ticking timebomb with the potential to undermine the future creativity and relevance of the industry for years to come.

“The 2020 Marketing Week Career and Salary Survey reveals that a staggering 88% of the 3,883 respondents identify as white, with just 4% identifying as mixed race, 5% as Asian and 2% as black.”

Article: Revealed: Marketing’s Diversity Problem


Are there any behavioral tricks that could make the experience of email any better for all of us?

“While you don’t have much control over the messages that end up in your inbox, you do have the power to change your own email style so it’s a better experience for the receiver. Use this advice to use email communication more efficiently and respectfully — and, hopefully, set an example for the kinds of notes you’d like to get in return, too.”

Article: 4 Rules for Sending Mindful Work Emails That Don’t Stress People Out

Marketing Communications

Talk to your audience wherever you meet them.

“To play upon the debate over how to pronounce GIF—with either a hard G or soft G—peanut butter brand Jif has ‘partnered’ with the search engine GIPHY on a clever, collaborative product. Their limited-edition jar features a double-sided JIF/GIF label and holds about 34 servings of peanut butter. In a joint proclamation, they declare that ‘A GIF is a looping animation. A Jif is a jar of peanut butter. If you’ve ever called a GIF a Jif… we forgive you.'”

Article: Jif + GIPHY Creamy Peanut Butter Limited Edition Jar

Visual Identity, Logo Design

Your brand is not a logo, but a good logo can help build your brand.

In a very smart piece of content marketing, business printers UPrinting have assembled a really fun infographic that calls out the details of 50 well known logos that make them work.

Infographic: The Hidden Meaning and Symbolism of 50 Iconic Brand Logos



Lee Fields & the Expressions Live on KEXP

Lee Fields & The Expressions Live at The Dolhuis

This week I’ve had Lee Fields & the Expressions on heavy rotation. If he was younger, they’d be called a deep soul revival band. Clean guitar, funky bass, organ, rock-steady drums and horns lay a very tight groove. Fields’ voice and attitude show the spirit of the music that, in the words of Carla Thomas, “was pulled from the gospel roots and blues roots…and they tagged it ‘soul music’ because people just stood and sang from their guts, you know, whatever they felt, they just let it come out.”

But this guy was born in in 1951. He has worked with Kool and the Gang, Hip Huggers, O.V. Wright, B.B. King, Clarence Carter, Dr. John, Tyrone Davis, Johnny Taylor, Denise LaSalle, Bobby Blue Bland, Betty Wright, The Manhattans, Little Milton and Bobby Womack. He recorded his first single in 1969. So the term revival is irrelevant. This is just soul music, plain and simple. As such it is soothing and reassuring music for troubled times.


2019 Album: It Rains Love     2016 Album: Special Night   2014 Album: Emma Jean

Image of the week

The image of the week is titled Supermarket Shimo, Tokyo, 2013. It’s by Julia Fullerton-Batten, a worldwide acclaimed and exhibited fine-art photographer. She’s been shooting professionally since 2001, and according to her website “her body of work now encompasses twelve major projects.”

“The foundation of her success was ‘Teenage Stories’ (2005), an evocative narrative of the transition of a teenage girl to womanhood. This and sequel projects portray the difficult stages and life situations of an adolescent girl’s transition to womanhood as she grapples with the vulnerability of her teenage predicament – adjustments to a new body, her emotional development and changes in her social standing.”

“Her more recent projects consider social issues, frequently covering controversial subject matter. For example, in ‘Feral Children, 2015’, Julia re-enacts fifteen reported historical cases of feral children. Using child actors, her re-enactments illustrate the tragic circumstances in which children were rejected or abused by their parents, got lost or were left in the wild, and yet others were captured by wild animals.”


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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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