Clarity First Newsletter, January 25, 2019


Clarity First

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

As Wavy Gravy, the patron saint of Woodstock said, “we’re all Bozos on this bus”. It’s a surprising but obvious observation.  We’re figuring out this humanity thing on a day by day basis, and we’re doing it live.

Can we learn to get it right? As Margaret Wheatley suggests in this week’s lead story, maybe that’s not the most important question we need to be asking after all. Maybe instead we need to learn to understand that learning and failing, hope and fear, live together. They are both ever-present players in our lives.

Heady stuff. Heavy times. Happy Friday.


Personal Development, Leadership
“This is how I want to journey through this time of increasing uncertainty.”

Margaret Wheatley

“‘If I have no belief that my vision can become real’, asks Margaret Wheatley, ‘where will I find the strength to persevere?’

“‘Victor Havel helps me recall the Buddhist teaching that hopelessness is not the opposite of hope. Fear is. Hope and fear are inescapable partners. Anytime we hope for a certain outcome, and work hard to make it a happen, then we also introduce fear—fear of failing, fear of loss. Hopelessness is free of fear and thus can feel quite liberating. I’ve listened to others describe this state. Unburdened of strong emotions, they describe the miraculous appearance of clarity and energy.

“‘Thomas Merton, the late Catholic mystic, clarified further the journey into hopelessness. In a letter to a friend, he advised: ‘Do not depend on the hope of results. You may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results, but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself. You gradually struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people. In the end, it is the reality of personal relationship that saves everything.’”
Article: Finding Hope in Hopelessness


Personal Development, Leadership
When we approach life with a beginner’s mind, we let go of being an expert.

My friend Marc Lesser is building his platform for his new book Seven Practices of a Mindful Leader by sharing excerpts in a series of e-letters. This one, which uses simple questions to help move toward a more open, beginner’s-mind-way of improving our work, resonated with me. Thanks, Marc.

“One of my favorite exercises when coaching executives is to ask them to describe their work, or a particular project or key relationship, from 2 perspectives:

  • the perspective of failure (what’s lacking, not going well, and/or failing) and,
  • the perspective of success (what’s working well, going better than expected).

“I find value in doing this exercise myself. I can describe my work life as incredibly successful or as lacking (or even failing). On the one hand, I’ve founded and been CEO of 3 companies – that feels successful! On the other, all of the companies grew more slowly than originally projected, and one nearly went bankrupt when the 2001 dot-com bubble burst – failure! I have led mindfulness trainings worldwide, and lead an engaging weekly meditation group; I’ve helped lots of people – success! But there’s so much suffering and need in this world and I’ve barely made a dent in that – fail.”
Article: Don’t Be An Expert


Personal Development
If we want to live more fully and be our most authentic selves, we need to turn towards our pain, not try to suppress it.

“Research suggests that when we turn toward our cravings, we are less likely to engage in addictive behaviors; when we turn toward our physical pain, we are less likely to be trapped in cycles of chronic pain; when we turn toward our sadness, we are less likely to be stuck in depression; and when we turn toward our anxiety, we are less likely to be paralyzed by it and can find it easier to bear.”
Article: What Happens When You Embrace Dark Emotions


Philanthropy, Social Activism
“Trust that later on in life, there’s something bigger for you when you serve others.”

Photo by Brian McMillen via Wikimedia Commons

“As Mike Scutari reports in Inside Philanthropy, jazz legend Sonny Rollins designated a “major gift” to Oberlin College to create the Sonny Rollins Jazz Ensemble Fund. The creation of another scholarship fund is itself not newsworthy; what makes this case more unusual, however, is that Rollins is explicitly linking the fund to social commitment.”Commenting on his gift, Rollins, now 87, says, ‘The humanity element has to be a big presence in everything young players do. People are hungry for a reason to live and to be happy. We’re asking these young musicians to look at the big picture, to tap into the universal power of a higher spirit, so they can give people what they need. Giving back to others teaches inner peace and inner spirituality. Everything is going to be open for them if they devote themselves in this way.’”
Article: Sonny Rollins’ New Scholarship Fund Links Jazz to Social Activism


Design Process
The innovation spectrum

“It probably makes more sense to just look at Design Thinking, Lean, Design Sprint & Agile as a bunch of tools and techniques in one’s toolbox, rather than argue for one over the other, because they can all add value somewhere on the innovation spectrum.

“Innovation initiatives can range from exploring an abstract problem space, to experimenting with a number of solutions, before continuously improving a very concrete solution in a specific market space.”
Article: When, Which … Design Thinking, Lean, Design Sprint, Agile?


Having a consistent brand voice in the digital age is not easy. Here’s how to think about the challenges and opportunities.

“A strong brand voice is a living, breathing manifestation of your brand promise. This voice comes from a much deeper place than stringing together clever words and phrases to sell products. An authentic brand voice solves problems, delivers a great customer experience, and stands for something. That’s as true in the digital age as it was in the analog one. The problem is that it’s much harder to have a strong and consistent brand voice in the digital age. The very breadth of consumer interactions with a brand—from viewing a product online to following posts on Snapchat to calling customer service—has fragmented and complicated how brands connect with consumers…we’ve found that the following questions are the most important ones to answer.”
Article: Five Questions Brands Need to Answer to be Customer First in the Digital Age


Corporate Activism
“It’s about being a whole, collective organization; that is how we can work on real issues because we have people in the organization who believe in this stuff.”

“Ben & Jerry’s and Levi’s both believe promoting social causes is crucial to the future of their brands, but in order for it to work activity has to be closely aligned with a brand’s core values.”
Article: How Ben & Jerry’s and Levi’s Put Activism at the Heart of Their Brands



“Bonnie Guitar, who had hit records as a country singer and guitarist, but whose biggest achievement may have been her work as a businesswoman in the male-dominated music industry, died on Jan. 12 in Soap Lake, Wash. She was 95.

“Ms. Guitar was best known for her recording of “Dark Moon,” a Top 20 country single on the Dot label that crossed over to the pop Top 10 in 1957. The record, a haunting nocturne sung in a clear-toned alto, was, along with Patsy Cline’s “Walkin’ After Midnight” — which reached the pop Top 40 the same year — one of the earliest records by a female country singer to cross over to the pop chart.

“But the achievement for which Ms. Guitar never really received her due, perhaps because she decided to remain in her native Washington instead of resettling in a major recording center like Los Angeles or Nashville, was her trailblazing work as a studio maven and entrepreneur. Over seven decades she did everything from engineer recordings to scout talent and run a record label.” The record label she founded, Dolton, introduced the doo-wop group the Feetwoods, for whom she served as producer, and the surf-rock group the Ventures, whose sound she also supervised.
Video: Dark Moon
Article: Bonnie Guitar, Music Industry Trailblazer, Is Dead at 95


Image of the Week

The image of the week is a glass mosaic of musician Gil Scott-Heron, derived from a photograph by Paul Natkin. It is one of eight mosaic portraits by Rico Gatson that now grace New York’s 167th Street Station in the Bronx. The suite of murals, entitled “Beacons” (2018), honor the lives of eight figures from the burrough’s history that “reflect the spirit and energy of the community,” according to an MTA spokesperson.

Audre Lorde portrait derived from a photograph by Jack Mitchell (image courtesy MTA, © Rico Gatson)

“The four men and four women chosen for the project include Gil Scott-Heron, Tito Puente, Celia Cruz, Audre Lorde, James Baldwin, Maya Angelou, Reggie Jackson, and Justice Sonia Sotomayor.”
Article: Icons of Bronx History Are Honored in Rico Gatson’s New York Subway Murals


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 tool of transformation. Learn more.

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