Clarity First Newsletter,
January 8, 2021

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.”

– Alvin Toffler

Clarity First

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

On Thursday of this week, a very dark week for all Americans, Yves Salomon-Fernández, the president of the very proud and incredibly nimble and responsive Greenfield Community College, wrote this to our college community:

“Yesterday’s events reminded me so much of growing up in Haiti where coup d’états and political violence were commonplace. I never imagined that, one day, the U.S. would experience that kind of storming and takeover of our own Capitol. It was surreal! Perhaps what was most striking is that people were allowed to do it. Further, the selfies glorified the breaching.

“While some have perished for less, others are allowed to mount domestic terrorist acts with impunity. Part of yesterday may have been a sad day, but there was also much to celebrate. The restoration of democracy resumed into the night. With change comes resistance, especially from those that have benefited from the status quo. But, let us not be deterred. Just as freedom is not free, democracy takes work. It is not a given. With time, we will earn back our place and standing in the eyes of the global community and in service of our own people.

“Let us be steadfast in our resolve to achieve equity for our college, our region, and our country. All progress starts at the local level. We are one nation and we are a nation that needs healing right now. We need to come together, to acknowledge and celebrate our differences.

“Reach out to someone who may not look like you, whose journey may not have been similar to yours and offer them comfort and a listening ear. Ask yourself what you can do to uphold and preserve our democracy. We must bridge our differences as a people and as Americans. It starts with each of us doing our part. I trust that you will have the courage to venture into that vulnerable place to not only self-reflect but to support another who needs to be uplifted right now.”

Yves, you frame our challenges and opportunities so well. Thank you.

Happy Friday.


A large majority of U.S. adults (86%) say there is some kind of lesson or set of lessons for mankind to learn from the coronavirus outbreak, about a third (35%) say these lessons were sent by God, and 19 other things that the Pew Research Center learned about us last year.

Article: 20 Striking Findings from 2020


Imagine a world where collective care was a daily practice—rather than a reaction to cancer, global pandemics and structural oppression.

“When I found out my 7-year-old daughter had cancer, in the middle of a pandemic, I did not cry. I sat in shock in the surgical waiting room for five long hours. The crying didn’t come when she had her first dose of radiation or her first infusion of chemo.

“The crying came, instead, at the most unexpected of moments: moments of care. Meals started arriving on our doorstep—handmade tikka masala, warm sourdough, fresh flowers. A care pack with personalized capes instantly turning us into a team of superheroes on our journey into treatment.

“They all brought me tears. Something about people reaching out, during their busy lives, to care for us, the intimacy of it all, turned me into an emotional puddle.

“As our neighbors pushed a 500-pound free piano the three blocks to our house so that we could keep ourselves entertained through a winter of social distancing, I started to wonder why we’d waited so long to be in community like this. Why did it take cancer to create this sort of intimate collective care?”

Article: “The Myth of Self-Sufficiency”: Why Does It Take a Crisis To Create Systems of Collective Care?

Graphic Design, Social Messaging, Media

This baby looks as tired and as stun drunk as we do.

“There are traditions that seem as though they’ve always been in place. Some of them have origins that are obscured by time, but others can be assigned to a particular time and person. The tradition of representing the new year with the image of a baby is one of the latter.

“In addition to helping codify the modern image of Santa Claus, the great Golden Age illustrator J.C. Leyendecker originated the idea of using a baby to symbolize the birth of the new year.

“Starting with a Saturday Evening Post cover in 1906 for which he painted a winged cherub that was close to the idea, he began using an actual baby in the December, 1907 issue to welcome in 1908; and continued to represent the coming year that way on New Year’s covers of the Post into the 1940’s.

“Leyendecker was the Post’s major artist in the first half of the 20th Century, and was routinely given the assignments for the important major holiday issues. It was only years later that Norman Rockwell, who considered Leyendecker his artistic ideal, began to take on those duties.”

Article: Happy Leyendecker Baby New Year!

Family, Learning

The role of grandmothers in our evolutionary success

“Kristen Hawkes, a professor of anthropology at the University of Utah, has extensively studied the Hadza, a group of hunter-gatherers in Tanzania…

(She) “found a correlation between how well children grew and their mother’s foraging work, until the mother had another kid. Then, their growth correlated with ‘grandmother’s work,’ she says. ‘There were the data right in front of us.’

“These observations, which Hawkes and collaborators began in the 1980s, have helped fuel the Grandmother Hypothesis, the idea that grandmothers step in to feed young children and perform other motherly duties so that mothers can focus their own energy and resources on having more children at shorter intervals. The result is that a grandmother enables the birth of more descendants, leaving more copies of her genes in subsequent generations. In prehistoric times, the theory goes, grandmothering led to the spread of genes corresponding to slower aging in women relative to their predecessors, which increased expected lifespans in general.”

Article: How Much Did Grandmothers Influence Human Evolution?

Personal Development

Time is too often treated as a luxury, yet most can afford it.

“In her book Time Smart, behavioral scientist and Harvard Business School professor Ashley Whillans digs into the fascinating relationship between time, money, and happiness. While making more money is an easier goal to chase, Ashley’s research shows that making time-first choices ultimately leads to greater happiness. Time Smart outlines strategies to do just that, including tactics to save us time and ones we can use to buy time back. ”

Book Review: What Makes Us Happier, Time or Money?


Marketers from a host of brands highlight the trends that will impact marketing and their role next year.

“I do think brands are going to continue to lean into purpose. The brands that have, that really did show up for people, will be rewarded for the long term. That hasn’t been lost on me and the entire industry is talking about it.” – Thomas Ranese, vice-president of global marketing, Uber

Article: Marketers from Uber, TSB, Direct Line and More Share Key Trends for 2021

Visual Identity, Color

Necessity as the mother of invention: “The color that nobody wanted”.

“In 1942, the city of Paris was rife with shortages. While World War II would be over for the French within a couple of years, the wartime shortages were not winding down. In fact, for several years, the French government, faced with mounting deficiencies  and the inability to seamlessly transport goods among various cities across the country, had been observing a legally-established system of rationing, which saw the aggressive control of everything from bread and raw materials to gasoline and paper products.”

“For one company, a then-105-year-old, family-owned leather goods and apparel manufacturer named Hermès, one immediate impact of the enduring scarcity was its inability to acquire its usual product packaging. Neither the creamy beige and gold cardboard boxes nor the rich marigold-hued ones with a shade of bronze running along the corners that it had traditionally used to package its high-end offerings were accessible. The boxes that had “defined Hermès’ elegance” for decades were no longer within its reach.”

“As the brand’s story goes, the only packaging that was available – and offered up to Hermès by its supplier – came in a vibrant orange, ‘the color nobody wanted.’ Given the option of adopting a bright new hue for its boxes or being left without packaging for its equestrian-centric leather goods and growing businesses of handbags and ready-to-wear, which were first incorporated into the house’s offerings in the 1920s, Hermès chose the former, and ‘the orange Hermès box was born.'”

Article: A Shortage of Product Packaging During WWII Led to the Birth of Hermès’ Famous Orange Color Mark


UK Cassette Sales Have More Than Doubled in 2020

‘Don’t Care About Those Perks’: Employees Are No Longer Staying at Companies for a Cool Culture

Pfizer Unveils its First Major Logo Redesign in 70 Years



Last year Bill Callahan released a new album, Gold Record, his 18th, not including EPs and live performances. Not only is the album as warm and satisfying as one would expect from this exemplary poet, storyteller and musician, but he also promoted it with live performances on both Tiny Desk Concerts and Live on KEXP.

Bill Callahan: Tiny Desk (Home) Concert

The first is a backyard concert with guitar and Mexican style trumpet accompaniment.

Bill Callahan: Live on KEXP at Home

The second is an interview with KEXP host, Cheryl Waters, who shares her more than 30-year relationship with Bill to unpack his beautiful ability to tell complex stories so elegantly. He also performs some of the same songs he played on Tiny Desk solo, with just his deep baritone voice and his quiet but expressive gut-string guitar.


Image of the Week


“A British artist has created a series of breathtaking snow ‘drawings’ by walking in circles for more than 50 miles.”

Article: Artist Creates Breathtaking ‘Drawings’ in Snow By Walking for Hours at a Time

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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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