Clarity First Newsletter,
July 24, 2020

“When things are shaky and nothing is working, we might realize that we are on the verge of something. We might realize that this is a very vulnerable and tender place, and that tenderness can go either way. We can shut down and feel resentful or we can touch in on that throbbing quality.” – Pema Chödrön


Clarity First

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

When the going gets tough, the tough turn to Pema Chödrön. I find comfort in her assertion that when we are on the verge of transformative growth it is not unusual to feel freaked out. But rather than succumb to the fear, we can embrace the power offered by the resulting feelings of vulnerability.

I also find great comfort in noticing the myriad ways that smart, inquisitive people are learning to work, and learn, and love and live.

Here’s some of the good news and ideas that I gathered this week. Happy Friday.


“Love is wise. Hatred is foolish.”

“In this world, which is getting more and more closely interconnected, we have to learn to tolerate each other, we have to learn to put up with the fact that people say things we don’t like. We can only live together in that way. If we are to live together and not die together we must learn a kind of charity and a kind of tolerance, which is absolutely vital for the continuation of human life on this planet.” (Thanks to my friend Debby Slavitt for the reference.)”

Video: Bertrand Russell – Message to Future Generations

History, Truth and Reconciliation

“Somebody must show that the Afro-American race is more sinned against than sinning, and it seems to have fallen upon me to do so.”

“Ida B. Wells has been described in history books ‘as militant, courageous, determined and aggressive.’ She was perhaps the first person to recite the horrors of lynching in lurid detail. By the written and spoken word she laid bare the barbarism and the inhumanity of the rope.”

Enchanted Circle is a Holyoke, MA-based company that uses theater arts as a dynamic teaching tool in the classroom, on the stage, and in the community. This short film introduces the power of Ida’s work with a reenactment of her words. The film is one part of an integrated social justice digital curriculum for grades 5-10. (Thanks to reader Steve Angel for sharing this.)

Film: Ida B. Wells

How We Work, Leadership

Winning something small feels so much better than being ineffectual at something that overwhelms you.

Writing in the Harvard Buisness Review, Bill Taylor observes that “It is tempting, during a crisis as severe as the Covid-19 pandemic, for leaders to respond to big problems with bold moves — a radical strategy to reinvent a struggling business, a long-term shift to virtual teams and long-distance collaboration”.

But he suggests instead that the best way for leaders to move forward “isn’t by making sweeping changes but rather by embracing a gradual, improvisational, quietly persistent approach to change that Karl E. Weick, the organizational theorist and distinguished professor at the University of Michigan, famously called ‘small wins.’

“In a classic paper published in 1984, Weick bemoaned the failure of social scientists like himself to understand and solve social problems. ‘The massive scale on which social problems are conceived often precludes innovation action,’ he warned. ‘People often define social problems in ways that overwhelm their ability to do anything about them.’ Ironically, he concludes, ‘people can’t solve problems unless they think they aren’t problems.’

“Hence the power of small wins. Many scholars have drawn on Weick’s insights as they’ve developed their own arguments about the best ways to work, lead, and make change. Perhaps most notably, nearly a decade ago, in their influential book The Progress Principle, Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer showed how small wins could ‘ignite joy, engagement, and creativity at work.’ As they explained, ‘even events that people thought were unimportant had powerful effects on inner work life.’”

Article: To Solve Big Problems, Look for Small Wins.

How We Work

Having the best of both worlds means a lot of WFH and a little WFO.

Stowe Boyd describes his interests as “the ecology of work, and the anthropology of the future”. In a recent article in his always enlightening newsletter, Work Futures, he suggests that the thinking and terminology around both the terms ‘hybrid’ and ‘remote’ are too limiting. “Let’s call the model that leads to higher engagement and productivity ‘minimum office’, and allow each person to define what that minimum is for them and their team.

“I’m betting that minimum office will become dominant. Yes, many companies will opt for zero office with annual team meetings on a mountain top. But most companies will simply turn the dial up from the company’s pre-pandemic baseline, and allow people to avoid the office significantly more than in the past. For some, that could be nearly 100%, but for most — at least those that don’t move to a ski area, a sheep ranch in New Zealand, or a Caribbean island — I expect we’ll see people coordinating schedules to overlap with coworkers a day or so a week. So long as their companies let them.”

Article: The Future Is Minimum Office, Not Zero Office


Not just flour anymore

In a brilliant display of appropriate and deft branding, the King Arthur Flour Company is changing their name and their visual identity.

“Bill Tine, vp of marketing at King Arthur Baking Company, told Adweek that updating the name and logo of America’s oldest flour company was all about highlighting how it’s evolved over the past century. ‘We’ve grown our offerings, our education and our resources well beyond flour. With hundreds of ingredients, baking mixes and tools, as well as a thousands-strong library of free recipes and resources, we’re truly a baking company,’ Tine noted.”

Article: King Arthur Flour’s Rebrand Aligns With a Lockdown-Inspired Trend

Packaging, Sustainability

Putting material responsibility on the menu

“In its aptly-titled ‘Zero’ concept for Wallpaper* Re-Made, London-based industrial design agency PriestmanGoode hasn’t just brought a new box to the table. In collaboration with a series of sustainable material partners, it has devised a holistic solution to re-think the entire takeaway food delivery system, aiming to change consumer behaviour through circular design, and to make packaging desirable, not disposable.”

Article: Is This the Future of Takeaway Food Packaging?


An amazing online library of art & design history and inspiration


“Imagine a time with no computers but with lots of craftsmanship and creativity. This is my library of art & design history, inspiration from the past.”

Andrea Riegel is a teacher of design history and an advertising copywriter based in Düsseldorf, Germany. This encyclopedia is an amazing labor of love. It is well organized by year, designer, style and category. Fair warning to design geeks, you’re going to lose some time here. She is proliferate on four social platforms, too.

Website: Design is Fine. History is Mine.

Study Shows Excellent Preschool Experience Can Narrow Racial Achievement Gap
How Better Reporting Can Change the Way People Think About Race, Crime, and Communities
With Downtowns Staying Abandoned, Put Tiny Businesses Back Into Residential Neighborhoods
Stumbling Blocks and Obstacles: How to Overcome Creative Ruts


Born in southern California, singer and songwriter Eric Burton learned to sing in his childhood church and performing musical theatre as a teen. He honed his chops and stage presence by busking on the Santa Monica Pier. In 2017 he moved to Austin, TX, a town recognized as one of the most music-friendly in the U.S.. To get noticed he busked on the corner of 6th Street and Congress.

It worked. A new friend felt that his silky smooth vocal style would fit with the retro-funk- and R&B-flavored tracks that local guitar player and producer, Adrian Quesada, had been laying down in his home studio, and he introduced them. He was right. In 2018 the duo joined forces as Black Pumas. To say that they are an overnight success is an understatement.

The duo released their debut album, Black Pumas, in June of last year. The same year they performed at South by Southwest for the first time, and they won a best new band trophy at the 2019 Austin Music Awards. Last fall they were nominated for a Grammy Award for Best New Artist. They have already been heralded by Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, NPR and the Guardian. They’ve appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Late Night with Seth Meyers and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

Perhaps most impressive is how they stand out in a city of 10,000 bands. The are the first band to sell out four consecutive shows at Stubbs, one of the city’s most venerated live venues, and this year the city’s mayor proclaimed May 7 as Black Pumas Day.

I’m so glad that this amazing band is so young. I want to listen to their soothing and uplifting soul sound forever.

Live Performance: Black Pumas – Full Performance (Live on KEXP)

Short Documentary: Black Pumas – Behind the Electric Deluxe Sessions (Amazon Original)

Album: Black Pumas

Image of the week

The image of the week was shot at Old Car City Museum USA, in White, Georgia.

The museum’s Director, CEO, Chief Curator, Director of Development, Conservator and owner is Walter Dean Lewis. In 1931 his parents started a general store on the spot, a store that also sold new and used auto parts. By the 70s their fields were strewn with about 40 cars, and Lewis kept growing the collection. At last count there were 4,000 old cars gracing the 32 acre estate.

When trees started to grow through the cars (often with his help) the ironic images started to attract visitors. He cut six miles of trails through the junk to make it easier for people get close to the collection.

Then about 11 years ago Lewis realized that he could make a better living running a museum than a used auto parts store.

Today he charges $15 for visitors just looking, and $25 for photographers. He estimates that 95% of his clientele are photographers.

Article: Exploring One of America’s Most Bizarre Museums, Where Trees Grow Through Car Windows and Every Piece of Junk is a Classic Auto 

More Photographs: Trees in Cars

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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