Clarity First Newsletter,
July 30, 2021

“If you are losing your leisure, look out! — It may be you are losing your soul.”
– Virginia Woolf


Clarity First

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

Debbie and I are getting really good at taking mini-vacations. This week we met old friends in Gloucester for a sunset sail on a wooden schooner. Then we all went to their house in Boston. The next day we visited the newly expanded Brookline Booksmith, a Japanese grocery and a favorite bakery. We got great Greek takeout and sat at their table and played hearts. In just 24 hours we felt fully refreshed. I hope that you are enjoying your summer, too.

Happy Friday.

Personal Development

Stop treating your time off as a productivity hack.

Speaking of the curative powers of leisure, writing in The Atlantic, Krzysztof Pelc, an associate professor in the political-science department at McGill University, makes a really good case that the primary benefit of leisure is not increased productivity at work.

“As Europe was recovering from the Second World War, the philosopher Josef Pieper was wondering about leisure. ‘A time like the present,’ he admitted, ‘seems, of all times, not to be a time to speak of leisure. We are engaged in the re-building of a house, and our hands are full.’ But such periods of recovery, Pieper argued, were also an opportunity for societies to reconsider their collective ends—the type of house they wanted to build together.

“Pieper was not the only one to stand up for leisure amid hard times. Shortly after the start of the Great Depression, the economist John Maynard Keynes, who had lost nearly everything in the 1929 crash, suggested that people ‘devote our further energies to non-economic purposes.’ He envisioned a 15-hour workweek for his grandchildren’s generation and looked ahead to a time when the population might prefer the good to the useful.’”

ArticleWhy Your Leisure Time Is in Danger

Personal Development

Emotional Futurism is a different way of shaping the future by considering about how we will feel about the past.

“Thinking about the future is something we all do. Most of the time, our prospection is emotional. We think about things we desire and imagine having them. We think about things we fear, and imagine suffering them, evading them, vanquishing them. We run scenarios in our mind so that we can process present feelings by imagining we are feeling future ones.

“Some future thinking is systematic. It is the kind of trend analysis that can be projected forward. The stuff of the futurist. A good futurist is no more psychic than Sherlock Holmes, but just as hypervigilant of patterns and deft at weaving the finest threads of cause and effect.

“What interests me is a synthesis of the two. I suppose you could call this emotional futurism. Emotional Futurism is not simply about projecting emotions forward. It is about shapingthe future by thinking about how we will feel about its past. I think of this as proretrospection. As it turns out, thinking about the future’s past has a very real effect on the future.”

Article: Think About the Future’s Past


From principle to practice, biomimicry through life’s principles

“Biomimicry recognizes the wonder and wisdom within silent symbioses and encourages us to take note. After years of study and appreciation, biomimics have started to see patterns and repetitions emerging across organisms and ecosystems; like a blueprint that can be applied to specific scales, systems and contexts. These patterns form strategies that have been tried and tested through 3.8 billion years of evolution. They now represent generic principles, borrowed from nature, that can be translated to human design.”

Article: An Introduction to Life’s Principles

Social Messaging, Sustainability

It’s time we should be able to explain sustainability to a 5-year-old — in five words or less.

“There really aren’t many simple definitions of sustainability. This matters because if we want more people to contribute to a sustainable future, they would first need to know what to do, what the goal is. As expressed by social and environmental leaders recently, people need to become their own problem solvers — and doers — in their communities. Outside-in, top-down solutions alone won’t do it.

“Therefore, wouldn’t it be more effective if people could just glance at a good definition of sustainability, easily retain it in memory and know exactly what to do from there?

“Any definition first needs to clearly explain its target word. A very short definition runs the risk of not containing enough words to meet that goal. But what if we could distill the essence of a target word so that a few keywords containing enough meaning could accomplish both goals?”

Article: It’s Time to Redefine Sustainability

Personal Productivity 

A very simple way to stay on top of what you do

I have a library of time management and personal productivity books. With the exception of David Allen’s Getting Things Done, I’ve never actually used one of them, and I only use a few of his many rules.  I have a tried and abandoned scores of goal setting and project management software programs. Over decades of managing thousands of projects my own productivity program utilizes three things: a to-do list (Apple Notes is great for this), a calendar, and email. I know it’s considered old school today, but I like email because it’s so ubiquitous and simple.

Dave Dobson relies on email too. And he’s made it more effective by filing his email into four folders:

“1. Inbox
Key function: processing all incoming email, along with your own sent email which is BCC’d to the inbox.

“2. Follow ups
Key function: Easily track responses you’re waiting for. Whether that’s feedback on your work or project actions they’ve committed to deliver.

“3. Actions
Key function: Your prioritized to-do list

“4. File
Key function: Your folder for all emails you’ll need to refer to later.”

This system is so easy and intuitive to use because it harnesses the energy of your daily correspondence. It’s so easy and intuitive to use, that I actually use it.

Article: The Four-Folder System You Need to be a Master of Email Productivity

Marketing, Listening

Danone uses social listening to get a deeper of understanding of what really matters to people, which has become all the more important since the onset of the pandemic.

“We observe all the conversations around food and beverage consumption and the semantics change. It’s a massive social display. It’s a pulse on society’s wishes, and for us, it’s shifting the way we’re getting our data by moving from asking people to really listening to people,” says CMO Valérie Hernando-Presse.

“The big lessons Danone has taken from the latest report are ‘food as medicine’ – the pursuit of eating more organic and fresh food to prevent ailments; ‘planetary health’ – shifting to eating habits that aid in reducing carbon emissions; and ‘social progress’ – caring for people in the supply chain and enabling access to ‘good natural food’ for all.

“Social progress is the most dominant trend, notes Hernando-Presse, as now the public mood has shifted to more pressing and ‘important’ ethical issues.”

Article: From Asking to Listening: How Danone is Using Social Insight to Stay Relevant

Graphic Design, Signage, Wayfinding, Iconography

Otl Aicher lived through and resisted the Nazi regime. He went on to pioneer democratic design.

A mural in Munich’s former Olympic Village features Otl Aicher’s pictograms. (Flickr user Brendan Rankin)

Otl Aicher was a co-founder of the the Ulm School of Design, a school that was “interested in the science of language, the science of persuasion”. He might be best known as the art director of the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich.

“Under Aicher’s leadership, the colors of the (1972) games were a palette of light, fresh shades of blue, green, silver, orange and yellow. In a playful gesture, the closing ceremonies included the display of a long, helium-filled rainbow balloon designed by German artist Otto Piene, known for his kinetic artwork.

These images representing “escalator,” “nursery” and “ground transportation”, employed by the U.S. Department of Transportation, are completely derivative of a style introduced by Aicher in his design of the 1972 Olympics games in Munich.

“’There will be no displays of nationalism and no giantism,’ Aicher wrote at the time. ‘Sport will not be seen in relation to military discipline or as preparation for it.'”

The pictograms for the Tokyo Summer Games are the first in the history of the Olympics to be kinetic.

Article: This Graphic Artist’s Olympic Pictograms Changed Urban Design Forever



Article: New Toronto Condo Building Provides Co-Working Spaces and Content Generation Studios

Article: Reset Your Thinking: How Indigenous Entrepreneurship Can Lead the Way on Social Impact

Article: 4 Ways to Make People Feel Valued at Work, Even When You’re Not All Together



This week my friend and collaborator, Jim Young, sent me this note: “In case you don’t know her already: Andra Day. I first heard her on this track, by one of my favorite guitarists.”

Yes, Jim, I’ve spoken of my awestruck respect for Andra Day more than once in this letter. But the last time was in 2018. So I think it’s time to dust off this amazing 2015 Tiny Desk concert again.

Thank you for reminding me.

Video: Tiny Desk Concert, Andra Day


Image of the Week

Titled Making Rice Noodles, the image of the week was shot by Bangladeshi photographer Abdul Momin. The work earned him first place in the Fujifilm Award for Innovation category of the Pink Lady® Food Photographer of the Year 2021 contest.

I did not know that Pink Lady was a registered trademark, not just a variety of apple. And it had never occurred to me that a brand associated with just apples would sponsor a whole annual competition of food photography. But of course, sell the category first. I can miss the obvious too easily.


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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