Clarity First Newsletter, January 4, 2019


Clarity First

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

Put the politics aside, and put the guns down. The answers to our questions are found in knowing each other as people, not as others. But in a culture in which the winner takes all, this simple understanding is missed in favor of righteous self-proclamation.

So, let’s turn from that. Let’s turn instead to how freaking brilliant this confluence called humanity really is. To do so I suggest an experiment: Leave your comfort zone and go to a place where people play. Go to a bowling alley, to an ice skating rink, to a square dance, to a salsa dance. Smile to someone you don’t know. Give them the intimacy of your willingness to learn in front of them.

“As you move outside of your comfort zone, what was once the unknown and frightening becomes your new normal.” – Robin S. Sharma

Get outside. Happy Friday.


Learning, Changing Minds
Moderates are much better at figuring out when they’re likely to be mistaken.

“What makes some people radical and prone to taking extreme views on topics? Radical, violent political movements have received a lot of attention in the news cycle, while non-violent radicalism is a significant impediment to the compromises that are necessary to build a functional society. At the same time some things we now take as accepted, like women having the right to vote or same-sex couples the right to marry, were once at the radical fringes of society. Given its importance for the evolution of societies, radicalism seems worth exploring.”
Article: Political Radicals Don’t Evaluate Their Own Errors—About Anything


Creative Process, Learning
Creative thinking requires our brains to make connections between seemingly unrelated ideas. It’s a skill that can be improved.

The famous page describing Newton’s apple incident in Memoirs of Sir Isaac Newton’s Life, by William Stukeley. What most people forget is that Newton worked on his ideas about gravity for nearly twenty years.

“Claiming that ‘I’m just not the creative type’ is a pretty weak excuse for avoiding creative thinking. Certainly, some people are primed to be more creative than others. However, nearly every person is born with some level of creative skill and the majority of our creative thinking abilities are trainable.”
Article: Creativity Is a Process, Not an Event


Communications Process
“What I’m suggesting is a defined order of communications based on a modern understanding of the science behind cognition, emotion, and memory.”

“As John Steinbeck put it in East of Eden, ‘The strange and foreign is not interesting — only the deeply personal and familiar.’ You want your listener to take action because they want to — not because they’ve been told to. When you enable your listener to connect your information to what they already know, you’re facilitating their understanding and stimulating their desire to take action. If people discover things on their own, they’re more likely to not only act but to sustain that action.”
Article: Heart, Head & Hand: An Advanced Approach to Persuasive Communication


Branding, Communications Strategy
Nearly two-thirds of consumers want businesses to take a stand on cultural, environmental or political issues. And taking a stance on a social issue is risky. But comedians have been doing it forever.

Comedian Jim Jefferies talks about gun control, and the psychographic profiles of his audience, on a NETFLIX special.

“Comedians and video marketers have more in common than you might think. Both need a recognizable voice, awareness of current events and a granular understanding of their audience. This past year was a huge year for video, and we can expect the trend to continue in the future. Here are three indispensable lessons video marketers can take away from comedians.”
Article: Lessons Marketers Can Learn From Comedians About Branding


Communications Process, Changing Minds
From feelings to change

“Effective communication is not simply about getting your message out. It requires you to strategically tap into what shapes people’s feelings and values. Here we share five principles pulled from social science that will help you connect your work to what people care most about.”
Article: The Science of What Makes People Care


Organizational Health, Philanthropic Effectiveness
Foundations need to be more open to grant requests that aim to improve organizational health and capacity building at nonprofits.

I’m on the boards of two really well run, and really effective nonprofits. So, this story resonates with me. “While it is easy for a company’s board to measure how successful their investment is by looking at the bottom line, it is not as easy for funders to do that with nonprofits. As such, funders should give deference to the nonprofit leaders who often have a better understanding of their organizational needs and direction. And while some nonprofits are uncomfortable asking for what they need, and thus apply for what they think funders want to support, the proverbial ‘funder-knows-best’ style of grantmaking is not conducive to forming or sustaining relationships with a servant leadership ethos.”
Article: Foundations Should Fund What Nonprofits Really Need


Organizational Health, Learning Organization
The most successful social good organizations are always learning and iterating to stay on top of their game.

“Social good organizations often have so much pressure to deliver in the short term. Whether it’s because there’s just pressing needs in the world that really need to be addressed, or because donors or themselves are really pushing to show short term results so that they can raise the next round of money or so they can issue a strong press release. And so there’s a lot of pressure to deliver and it makes it very hard for them to step back and spend the time to really experiment and refine and improve what they’re doing and investing in, which we call research and development, or R&D.”
Article: How Lean Principles Guide Your Mission 



Last week the The New York Times Magazine published their annual The Lives They Lived 2018, a short list that remembers “some of the artists, innovators and thinkers we lost in the past year”.

While Aretha earns the cover of the print version, the editors reminded me that one of the blues songs that first caught my white-kid attention was “I Can’t Quit You Baby” by Willy Dixon. I knew it first as one of the songs on Led Zeppelin’s debut album, an album that permanently reset my expectations of what music could do for a struggling soul.

That led to uncovering Otis Rush’s version, a version that the curators at The Timesdescribe as “one of the most potent blues voices of all time, holding and bending notes with equal parts barroom ardor and churchy conviction…The singer and guitar player is Otis Rush — in 1965, at the height of his musical powers. The song, ‘I Can’t Quit You Baby,’ is part of a body of recorded work that includes a dozen or so slow-blues performances that set the standard for the form.

“Nobody climbed deeper into a slow blues, especially a brooding slow blues in a minor key, than Otis Rush at his best.”

R.I.P. Otis. Thank you for showing us what we can do. And for reminding us that a minor note is sad, and delightfully sweet, too.
Video: Otis Rush: I Can’t Quit You Baby
Article: Otis Rush. He Set the Standard for the Slow Blues — in his Minor-Key Life as well as His Music.


Image of the Week

The Image of the Week is titled “In a Glasgow Cotton Spinning Mill: Changing the Bobbin” (1907). It is by Sylvia Pankhurst. “The Tate has acquired four 1907 watercolors by the women’s rights campaigner Sylvia Pankhurst… ‘These watercolors enable Tate to represent Sylvia Pankhurst in the collection for the first time and to expand the way we represent working women as subjects in art history,’ said Ann Gallagher, Director of Collection (British Art) at the Tate. ‘At a time when gender pay gaps and women’s rights at work remain urgent topical issues, these images remind us of the role art can play in inspiring social change.’”
Article: Tate Acquires Sylvia Pankhurst’s Watercolors…


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