Clarity First Newsletter,
July 2, 2021

“Every day we should hear at least one little song, read one good poem, see one exquisite picture, and, if possible, speak a few sensible words.”

– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Clarity First

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

I like Goethe’s simple approach to daily goal setting. It reminds me of why I enjoy collating this letter every week.

Happy Friday. Happy interdependence day.


How We Live

The traditional home is under renovation. Can people find meaning in groups?

At Treehouse, residents of many ages and from many walks of life conduct their lives largely in common view. Photographs by Jeff Minton for The New Yorker

“Community living had a famous American moment in the late sixties and early seventies, but many communes of that period came to be associated with squalor, cults, dispiriting group sex, and lentils, and the fashion faded. Now it’s back.”

Article: In a Divided Country, Communal Living Redefines Togetherness


How We Work

Hunter-gatherers worked 15-hour work weeks. Why don’t we?

“James Suzman is an anthropologist who has spent the last 30 years living with and studying the Ju/’hoansi people of southern Africa, one of the world’s enduring hunter-gatherer societies. And that project has given him a unique lens on our modern obsession with work.

“As Suzman documents in his new book, “Work: A Deep History From the Stone Age to the Age of Robots,” hunter-gatherer societies like the Ju/’hoansi spent only about 15 hours a week meeting their material needs despite being deeply impoverished by modern standards. But as we’ve gotten richer and invented more technology, we’ve developed a machine for generating new needs, new desires, new forms of status competition.

“So this is a conversation about the past, present and future of humanity’s relationship to work and to want. We discuss what economists get wrong about scarcity, the lessons hunter-gatherer societies can teach us about desire, how the advent of farming radically altered people’s conceptions of work and time, whether there’s such a thing as human nature, the dangers of social and economic inequality, the role of advertising in shaping human desires, whether we should have a wealth tax and universal basic income, and much more.”

Podcast: Why Do We Work So Damn Much?


Social Interaction

A newly recognized nerve system connects us in ways we never realized.

“Hugging some Kid” by Clover_1 is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

“In a society that so often substitutes virtual communication for personal contact, (new) findings on ‘affective touch’ remind us to relish every embrace—and hold it just a few seconds longer.

“Those moments may be the bedrock of our richest relationships.”

Article: The Surprising, Undeniable Power of Touch


Personal Development, Systems Thinking

Setting better goals means falling in love with a better version of the future.

“We hear a lot about goal setting, but hardly anything about why we are so obsessed with goal setting in the first place. Many of us relentlessly pursue goals — which we take for granted as good — without pausing to ask ourselves whether we should.

“?There’s a meta dimension to goal setting. What are the circumstances and environments out of which certain kinds of goals emerge? Where, or who, do we adopt our goals from in the first place?

“It turns out that there are systems of desire behind nearly every goal — from education to investing to social media — which generate and shape the goals of the people within the systems. And the systems I’m referring to are systems of desire.

?”We should spend a lot more time thinking about these systems — even mapping them out and understanding our place within them — and less time talking about how to achieve the many socially derived goals that emerge from them.

“If we see the systems, we gain the ability to see goals that lie outside them.”

Article: Goal-Setting Doesn’t Work. Here’s What Does.



What musical mindsets can teach us about business innovation

“The skills that give musicians their creativity and dedication are the same skills that business people need to get ahead, argue Berklee College of Music VP Panos A. Panay and designer R. Michael Hendrix in their insightful debut. They survey a bevy musicians, producers, and songwriters who have succeeded both on the charts and in the business world: Björk, for example, was inspired by her practice of listening to the world around her to start a program with a venture capital fund in which they listened to their emotions as well as data to make decisions. Electropop songwriter Imogen Heap’s openness to experimentation led to her creation of the song ‘Hide and Seek’ after all her album files were deleted, as well as to design the Mi.Mu smartgloves (which come with software that links gestures to music).”

Book Summary: Two Beats Ahead: What Musical Minds Teach Us About Innovation


Visual Identity, Fun

The elements of a strong visual identity

This fanciful mash-up of two visual identity programs is possible for one simple reason: both are utterly clear and consistent.

Article: NIKEA’ Catalog Imagines the Ultimate Collaboration Between NIKE and IKEA


Futures Thinking

What the future looked like in the middle of the last century

“The period between 1958 and 1963 might be described as a Golden Age of American Futurism, if not the Golden Age of American Futurism. Bookended by the founding of NASA in 1958 and the end of The Jetsons in 1963, these few years were filled with some of the wildest techno-utopian dreams that American futurists had to offer. It also happens to be the exact timespan for the greatest futuristic comic strip to ever grace the Sunday funnies: Closer Than We Think.

“Jetpacks, meal pills, flying cars — they were all there, beautifully illustrated by Arthur Radebaugh, a commercial artist based in Detroit best known for his work in the auto industry. Radebaugh would help influence countless Baby Boomers and shape their expectations for the future. The influence of Closer Than We Think can still be felt today.”

Article: 42 Visions For Tomorrow From The Golden Age of Futurism



Article: Do Chance Meetings at the Office Boost Innovation? There’s No Evidence of It.

Article: A New Study Suggests Employee Wellness Programs Are Pretty Much Useless

Article: Why the US Navy Wants Sailors to Read ‘How To Be An Antiracist’



In 2004 a who’s who of musicians, including Lucinda Williams, Jay Farrar, Steve Earle and Dwight Yoakam, gathered to pay tribute to Gram Parsons. This week I stumbled upon Norah Jones and Keith Richards performing the song Love Hurts at that concert. While written by Boudleaux Bryant, the song was made famous by Gram’s and Emmylou Harris’ cover on his 1975 album Grievous Angel. This is another achingly gorgeous reading of this utterly beautiful song. While it is never a surprise to hear how pitch perfect Norah Jones is, I was really surprised to realize that Keith can really sing. This song takes careful phrasing, sensitive harmonies, and sure-footed rhythm, and the guy known more for electric guitar licks and bluesy vocals delivers all with obvious confidence and joy.

Video: Keith Richards and Norah Jones – Love Hurts

The concert was made into a film that is worth tracking down.
Video: Return to Sin City – A Tribute to Gram Parsons by various artists

And btw, the very first duo to cover this great song was The Everly Brothers in 1960.

Video: The Everly Brothers – Love Hurts


Image of the Week

The Image of the Week is of Adenocarpus complicatus, shot by photographer Levon Biss. “This Mediterranean legume grows characteristic pods that twist open when it is time to fling seeds. Examinations of the seeds show they are high in isoflavones, estrogenlike molecules found in soy and other beans that have been studied as an aid for osteoporosis and menopause symptoms.”

The Hidden Beauty of Seeds & Fruits: The Botanical Photography of Levon Biss,
published by Abrams. Illustrations and photographs copyright © 2021 by Levon Biss

This week Scientific American published an excerpt from an enchanting book by Biss that celebrates the hidden beauty of seeds and fruits.

Article: See Bizarre Seeds and Fruits from Around the Globe


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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