Clarity First Newsletter,
January 24, 2020

“Business has always been about relationships, and to pretend that it’s only about money or those with the strongest hands is to celebrate an almost nihilistic philosophy that might do well in Ayn Rand novels, but has led us down the road to a dystopia where people are surveilled primarily to extract their maximum economic value.

“That’s not sustainable, nor should it be something we aspire to.

“It’s time we nurture an ecosystem approach to business.”
– Stacey Higginbotham

Clarity First

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

In spite of the fact that CNN doesn’t give them much coverage, there really are many reasons to feel optimistic. Here’s a few of the ideas that I stumbled upon this week.

Happy Friday. 


Can high taxes be good for business? You bet.

Two years ago, Anu Partanen and Trevor Corson, were living in a pleasant neighborhood in Brooklyn. Then Anu was offered a job back in her hometown: Helsinki, Finland. They are very pleasantly surprised at what they are learning living in the country ranked highest in the world for life satisfaction.

Trevor Corson and Anu Partanen with their daughter at their public family health clinic.

“… a recent report by the chairman of market and investment strategy for J.P. Morgan Asset Management came to a surprising conclusion: The Nordic region is not only “just as business-friendly as the U.S.” but also better on key free-market indexes, including greater protection of private property, less impact on competition from government controls and more openness to trade and capital flows. According to the World Bank, doing business in Denmark and Norway is actually easier overall than it is in the United States.

“Finland also has high levels of economic mobility across generations. A 2018 World Bank report revealed that children in Finland have a much better chance of escaping the economic class of their parents and pursuing their own success than do children in the United States.

“Finally, and perhaps most shockingly, the nonpartisan watchdog group Freedom House has determined that citizens of Finland actually enjoy higher levels of personal and political freedom, and more secure political rights, than citizens of the United States.”

Article: Finland Is a Capitalist Paradise


Before we can have a political democracy, we must have a spiritual or social democracy, where we learn how to speak to people with whom we disagree.

Lisa Miller is an academic who studies the role of spirituality in education. “Spirituality is a ‘deep way of being, through which we feel connected to all life, with awe and reverence for the mystery of being,’ Miller says.”

“And it’s not connected to religion or belief in a god and organized tenets, she says. Rather, it’s a deep human capacity….”

“…Puberty in children can lead to questions about purpose and meaning in life such as, ‘Why am I here?’ — a question that isn’t easy to answer from a ‘point of view that excludes spirituality,’ Miller says.

“So what does secular spirituality feel and look like in the classroom in this polarized time when people disagree on so much?

“While most education has been done through curriculum, Miller says this is different. That’s because implementing spirituality empowers schools to cultivate their relational culture — the way we talk to and treat each other — something she calls the ‘unspoken curriculum.'”

ArticleBringing Secular Spirituality Into Education. 

Economy for all

A just society wouldn’t reward different professions so unequally.

“In his new book A Republic of Equals, Gallup senior economist Jonathan Rothwell traces the forces driving the dramatic rise in inequality in the United States.”

“In this (second part of a two-part) interview, Rothwell addresses how unequal educational opportunities in the United States contribute to inequality, and he explains how a more just society would reward people for productive or otherwise socially valuable contributions while also taking care of the poor and those unable to work.”

Article: How Valuing Productivity, Not Profession, Could Reduce U.S. Inequality


Rule 1: You can not, not communicate. Not discussing the elephant in the room is communicating. Few things are as important to study, practice, and perfect as clear communication.

Basecamp, the project management and team coordination platform, is in the business of better team communication. So, I pay special attention when they publish their own internal  communications guidelines.

“The how, where, why, and when we communicate. Long form asynchronous? Real-time chat? In-person? Video? Verbal? Written? Via email? In Basecamp? How do we keep everyone in the loop without everyone getting tangled in everyone else’s business? It’s all in here.”

Article: The Basecamp Guide to Internal Communication


The ‘great explainer’ explains how to learn.

“The Feynman Technique is used to learn theories. Essentially, it’s used to memorize written material. This technique was developed by Richard P. Feynman, a Nobel prize winner who’s widely recognized as one of the most influential and iconic figures of his time.

“Although he was a brilliant scientist (hence the Nobel prize), he’s also known for his learning technique that makes the process extremely simple yet effective.

“Explain what you’re trying to learn in the simplest of words and notice the gaps in your explanation.

“Once those gaps are exposed, it’s easier for you to fill them up.

“The power and effectiveness of this learning method reside in the ability to simply explain things. Although Feynman studied complex processes, he had the ability to explain them simply enough that even 12-year-olds could understand him. That’s why he was known as ‘The Great Explainer’.”

Article: Learning Effectively with the Feynman Technique (The Complete Guide)

Identity Design

The power of typography in a logo

In his spare time, graphic designer Emanuele Abrate, has been building a cool project he calls Logofonts. On this Instagram page he reframes the visual identities of well known companies by simply replacing the name in their logo with the name of the typeface used to convey their name.

And he captures cool trivia like: 8 Famous Logos that Use Helvetica

Instagram page: Logofonts (@logo_fonts)

Open Access

Paris Musées is offering digital downloads of masterpieces.

“On January 8 “Paris Musées announced that it is now offering 100,000 digital reproductions of artworks in the city’s museums as Open Access — free of charge and without restrictions — via its Collections portal. Paris Musées is a public entity that oversees the 14 municipal museums of Paris, including the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Petit Palais, and the Catacombs.”

Eugène Atget, “Coin des rues de Seine et de l’Echaudé, 6ème arrondissement, Paris” (1911), albumen print, from the collection of the Musée Carnavalet (CC0 Paris Musées / Musée Carnavalet)

“Users can download a file that contains a high definition (300 DPI) image, a document with details about the selected work, and a guide of best practices for using and citing the sources of the image.”

Article: Masterpieces by Renowned Artists Such as Rembrandt, Gustave Courbet, Eugène Delacroix, And Anthony Van Dyck, Among Many Other Familiar and Lesser-Known Names, Can Now Be Accessed and Enjoyed Digitally.


This week Jimmy Heath died. He was one of the bebop pioneers who is just wired into my understanding of jazz. I found him first on an album that he cut in the 70s with his brothers Percy on bass, and Albert “Tootie” on drums with pianist Stanley Cowell, as the Heath Brothers. But way before then he had played and recorded with Dizzy, and Miles and had toured and recorded extensively with John Coltrane. And that was just the beginning. When he died he had been composing, performing and recording for 75 years.

Do yourself a favor and search for videos that feature this beautiful soul and remarkable talent. Here’s two to get you started.

Billed as a Master Class, it is. In this delightful stage performance Jimmy and brother Percy show that it takes just two to swing. They cover Miles. They play the American Songbook. They perform and interact as the masters they are. Master Class: Heath Brothers Performance.

Jimmy Heath was just 5’3″ tall. His father, a mechanic and weekend clarinetist, said to him “That means you’re just going to have to try harder.” This is an amazing recollection about how much harder John Coltrane, and according to Jimmy, Sonny Rollins, tried. John Coltrane’s Work Ethic – Jimmy Heath

Image of the week

The image of the week is by Vivian Maier, “Untitled,” 1962, gelatin silver print. It was hung until last week in the Outsider Art Fair 2020, at the Metropolitan Pavilion in Chelsea. On Vice’s Garage magazine Annie Armstrong wrote a beautiful Love Letter to the Outsider Art Fair. “I’m of the opinion that the term ‘outsider art’ has been around for long enough that it’s outgrown its literal definition. Just like how modern art isn’t really what’s actually modern, not all outsider art exists on the outside anymore.”

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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