Clarity First Newsletter,
January 7, 2022

“To seek visions, to dream dreams, is essential, and it is also essential to try new ways of living, to make room for serious experimentation, to respect the effort even where it fails.”

– Adrienne Rich

Love & Work

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

Today much of the Northeast is blanketed under snow. Many of us are snowed in and schools are closed. It’s nice to have an excuse to cocoon inside.

Happy Friday.

How We Live

192 ways the world got better in 2021.


I whine about how quickly bad news spreads and how good news moves so much more slowly. So, as we step into a new year, I’m gathering and sharing as many examples of good news as I can.

This summary is from the David Byrne-affiliated Reasons to be Cheerful blog. Here are just three I pulled at random:

“After a town in Arizona converted a juvenile detention center into a youth hangout, juvenile arrests in the county dropped by 55%.

“The U.S. is phasing out HFCs in refrigerators, which could eliminate emissions equivalent to 4.7 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide by 2050, about as much as a billion cars emit in a year.

“In the past eight years, the number of worker-owned co-ops in the U.S. has increased 36%. The business model offers employees, on average, more than $7 more per hour than standard businesses.”

There are 189 more.

Article: The Year in Cheer

Systems Thinking

“Selfishness beats altruism within groups. Altruistic groups beat selfish groups. Everything else is commentary.”

The author (left) poses for a photo with E.O. Wilson (right) and a Darwin impersonator at an academic conference in the aughts.

E.O. Wilson, widely recognized as a giant of the sciences and arts, passed away at the age of 92 on Dec. 26, 2021. Who better to summarize his significant contributions than one of his students and colleagues, David Sloan Wilson?

“Only after the publication of Sociobiology did evolutionary thinkers begin to take cultural evolution seriously. Ed was among them with books such as On Human Nature, and others. Today, Darwinian evolution is widely defined as any process that combines the three ingredients of variation, selection, and replication, no matter the mechanism. This definition is true to Darwin’s thought (since he knew nothing about genes) and can accommodate a plurality of inheritance mechanisms such as epigenetics (based on changes in gene expression rather than gene frequency), forms of social learning found in many species, and forms of symbolic thought that are distinctively human.

“While human cultural inheritance mechanisms evolved by genetic evolution, that doesn’t make them subordinate, as if genes—in one of Ed’s metaphors—hold cultures on a leash. On the contrary, as the faster evolutionary process, cultural evolution often takes the lead in adapting humans to their environments, with genetic evolution playing a following role (gene-culture co-evolution).

“Part of the maturation of human cultural evolutionary theory is the recognition of group selection as an exceptionally strong force in human evolution—something else that Ed got right. According to Harvard evolutionary anthropologist Richard Wrangham in his book, The Goodness Paradox, naked aggression is over 100 times more frequent in a chimpanzee community than small-scale human communities. This is due largely to social-control mechanisms in human communities that suppress bullying and other forms of disruptive self-serving behaviors, so that cooperation becomes the primary social strategy (this is called a major evolutionary transition).

“Nearly everything distinctive about our species is a form of cooperation, including our ability to maintain an inventory of symbols with shared meaning that is transmitted across generations. Our capacity for symbolic thought became a full-blown inheritance system that operates alongside genetic inheritance (dual inheritance theory). Cultural evolution is a multilevel process, no less than genetic evolution, and the increasing scale of cooperation over the course of human history can be seen as a process of multilevel cultural evolution.” – David Sloan Wilson

Article: E.O. Wilson Saw the World in a Wholly New Way

Learning

To get good at something, you need to be willing to be bad first.

Recently I’ve started to take guitar lessons again. I was motivated by my friend, Kiffer Sikes, who recently found a great teacher. Kiffer told me that the biggest value he was getting was the encouragement to be a beginner, even though he has played for decades.

This is a great post by Austin Kleon on the willingness to be bad. In it he cites an interview with actor Jason Segel, who says: “I’m willing to be bad for as long as it takes, until I’m good….I don’t have a sense of shame. I just don’t. If I’ve hurt someone’s feelings, if I’m mean to somebody, I’ll lament over that for days. I’m that dude. I’ll lose sleep over mundane stuff. But I don’t really have the thing of, ‘Oh, I’ve embarrassed myself.’ I just don’t understand why I would stop trying to play piano even though I’m not good at it. I want to be good at it. So why wouldn’t I keep playing?”

Blog post: A Willingness to be Bad

How We Work

“Humans may soon live to be 100, which likely means more years on the job. That could be a good thing, if we take the opportunity to redesign work.”

recent study from the Stanford Center on Longevity opened with a bit of promising news: “In the United States, demographers predict that as many as half of today’s 5-year-olds can expect to live to the age of 100.” But that was followed, several pages down, by a haunting prediction: “Over the course of 100-year lives, we can expect to work 60 years or more.”

“In the U.S., the average retirement age is 62, according to Gallup polling. For most people, 40 or so years of work is more than enough, so the idea of an additional 20 is disconcerting. But if a 60-year career sounds like a nightmare, perhaps that’s because we’re imagining 60 years of work as it is for many people today: inflexible, all-consuming, poorly matched to the rhythms of life. For the sake of the 5-year-olds and the rest of us, as humans live longer and longer, we should redesign work.” – Joe Pinsker

Article: The Future of Work Is a 60-Year Career

Land, Corporate Social Responsibility 

Food can and should be a part of the solution to the environmental crisis.

Patagonia Provisions is the packaged foods division of the famous company founded by Yvon Chouinard. The sub-brand maintains a brilliant YouTube channel that features well-done videos about how it sources products, as well as the larger themes of regenerative agriculture and environmental activism. This is a beautiful and inspiring short film about four different ways to produce food while protecting and rebuilding soil.

“Unbroken Ground explains the critical role food will play in the next frontier of our efforts to solve the environmental crisis. It explores four areas of agriculture that aim to change our relationship to the land and oceans. Most of our food is produced using methods that reduce biodiversity, decimate soil and contribute to climate change. We believe our food can and should be a part of the solution to the environmental crisis – grown, harvested and produced in ways that restore our land, water and wildlife. The film tells the story of four groups that are pioneers in the fields of regenerative agriculture, regenerative grazing, diversified crop development and restorative fishing.”

Film: Unbroken Ground | A New Old Way to Grow Food

Advertising

Winnie-the-Pooh is shocked by his cell phone bill.

On the first of the year Winnie-the-Pooh entered the public domain. Mint Wireless wasted no time using the bear to tell the story of saving money on your cell phone bill. This 90-second spot was posted on the 2nd. As of last night, the 6th, it had more than 3 million views.

Online ad: Winnie-the-Screwed

Identity Design

File under: “what were they thinking?”

“Bad logo designs crop up all the time. MetaVolvo and Calendly were the protagonists of some of the biggest controversies of 2021. Many bad logos are simply forgotten about and consigned to history, but some real clangers retain their place in the design hall of shame forever. It’s these that designer Emanuele Abrate sought to fix in his ‘Worst Logos Ever Redesigned’ project, which is still gaining praise today.” – Joseph Foley

Article: Your Annual Reminder That These Terrible Logo Designs Actually Existed

One-liners

Article: French Car Ads Will Soon Be Required by Law to Tell You Not to Drive a Car

Article: Sweden Launches Psychological Defense Agency To Fight Disinformation

Playlist

You’ve heard me proclaim the brilliance of Anderson .Paak before, so you’ll understand why I love this post from The New Yorker.

“In March, Bruno Mars and the rapper Anderson .Paak released ‘Leave the Door Open,’ a shimmering retro serenade that is as goofy as it is sincere. ‘My house clean (House clean), my pool warm (Pool warm) / Just shaved, smooth like a newborn,’ they sing, with Mars suggestively accenting .Paak’s entreaties. The single was the first song the duo released under the name Silk Sonic, and it became clear that the two musicians—both devotees of classic soul who first distinguished themselves in other genres—were well-matched, with .Paak’s tender vocals pleasantly accentuated by Mars’s fuller tone. The pair had met on tour, in 2017, and found a knack for making music out of their in-jokes. Pandemic lockdowns allowed them to go all in on their extracurricular collaboration. As the lead single, ‘Leave the Door Open’ already feels like a relic of two different epochs: seventies soul, with its fidelity and showmanship, and the winter months of the pandemic, with its emphasis on domestic comforts and its palpable longing for connection in close quarters.”

Video: Bruno Mars, Anderson .Paak, Silk Sonic – Leave the Door Open [Official Video]

“After a lengthy, ten-month promotional cycle—the incessant tinkering that Mars is known for seems to have delayed the record’s release—their collaborative album, ‘An Evening with Silk Sonic,’ has arrived, no worse for wear. Brandishing the earnestness and style of seventies rhythm and blues, the album summons the flash and presentation of Earth, Wind & Fire’s ‘September‘ music video, and the songs take an analog instrumental approach, layering in bass, strings, horns, and keys. (Mars, for his part, plays electric guitar, conga drums, and even the sitar.) This is a dutiful homage, down to the last detail: Silk Sonic equipped its instrumentalists with the specific drum skins, guitar pics, and gauged strings that would recreate the seventies sound, duplicated ‘old-school’ playing styles, and even tried to re-stage their forebears’ recording conditions, using only a few mics on musicians playing together in the same room. Projects this reliant on nostalgia rarely stand up on their own, but that doesn’t mean the record’s feel-good charms and technical flourishes can’t be appreciated for what they are: well-intentioned restorations of a form that doesn’t need much updating.” – Sheldon Pearce

Article: Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak’s Soul Simulacrum

Image of the Week

I have featured the collage and mixed-media work of Martha Haversham before. She posts on Instagram under the name @smallditch. She refers to her work as “Found fashion atelier of haute couture #trashion & natural objects©?????collage & still life ? valuing life’s detritus ?”. She calls this work #januarywalk, the “first leaf couture of ‘22”.

Website: marthahaversham.com

 

What’s Love & Work?

Love & Work is 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. For five years, 360 issues, I called this letter Clarity First. But as of this anniversary – August 20, 20121 –  I renamed this labor of love as Love & Work. It will still be a “notebook about how we work, learn, love and live”, but the new name, inspired by a statement by Freud, reflects this mission more accurately. Learn more.

If you get value from Love & Work, please pass it on.

Not a subscriber? Sign up here.You can also read Love & Work on the web.

Leave a Comment

*