Clarity First Newsletter,
June 26, 2020

“Optimism is a strategy for making a better future. Because unless you believe that the future can be better, you are unlikely to step up and take responsibility for making it so.” -Noam Chomsky

Clarity First

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

Here in Western Massachusetts summer is in full bloom. A pair of cardinals are nesting near our front porch, and the gardens are buzzing with the sound of pollinators pollinating. Life is really, really challenging, and life is really, really good. Happy Friday.

Personal Development

Why cynicism is, above all, a disservice to our own happiness.

“It’s insulting to imply that only a system of rewards and punishments can keep you a decent human being. Isn’t it conceivable a person wants to be a decent human being because that way he feels better?”

Article: Isaac Asimov on Optimism vs. Cynicism about the Human Spirit

Civics, Learning

To address the pandemic — and combat even larger issues, like climate change — Americans are going to have to figure out a way to put society’s interests above their own.

Photo by Julian Wan on Unsplash

“Over the pandemic-filled last four months, one thing’s become clear: Face masks can slow the spread of coronavirus and help to flatten the curve. The only issue? Mask-wearing is starting to look like a giant collective action problem — and many Americans are refusing to cooperate.”

“These divisions have shown up during the pandemic, sometimes in unexpected ways. According to an analysis by Peter Sharkey, professor of sociology at Princeton University, one of the strongest predictors of compliance with social distancing is belief in climate change — those who accept that climate change is happening, and is human-caused, are more likely to stay at home. Similarly, an April poll by Morning Consult found that climate skeptics are much less likely to wear masks than those “concerned” about climate change. People worried about one collective action problem (climate change) appear more likely to be worried about another (COVID-19).” History (think second-hand smoke) suggests that these challenges can be addressed.

Article: What Greater Good? COVID is Unmasking America’s Collective Action Problem.

Visual Identity

A visual identity good enough to copy

Image: Tandem Design NYC

Images: Penguin Random House, Comune di Padova

Article: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Has Become a Leader for Progressives—and They’re Taking a Page from Her Branding as Well.

Economy, Feminism

The current economy isn’t working for us.


My friend and collaborator, Liz Solomon, recently introduced me to the work of Celia V. Harquail, author of the book, Feminism, A Key Idea for Business and Society. She’s leading what she calls a Feminist Buisness Revolution.

In March of this year she gave a talk at the SheEO World Summit in Toronto. It offers a clear and succinct introduction to her refreshing perspective.

“We should be working towards an economy shaped by and supporting the values and goals of feminism. Feminism is a worldview and a political movement for all of us to end oppression and sexism, to establish equality and justice and to create a world where everyone flourishes. That’s the ultimate goal.

“So if we take feminism, the values of feminism, the goal of feminism, and we put it into the economy, here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to challenge and change systems of power that create oppression and support domination. As we dismantle this systems we’ll also be building new systems that support equality and justice, that support participation by all of us, that support care and relationships, and then ultimately provide what we all need to flourish.

“The word ‘provide’ is very important within feminist economics.

“Instead of focusing on buying and selling for profit, feminist economics examines a much larger sphere of activity. Feminist economics focuses on what we do to provide for each other what everyone and every living system needs.”

Article: Transforming to a Feminist Economy 

Design, Diversity

How unconscious bias permeates branding, user interface, and tech.

“Race, ethnicity, sexuality, and gender are complex topics. For years, the world has been trying to move past certain stereotypes and transcend prejudice. However, as technology and design advance, they uncover more deep-seated, more unconscious biases dwelling in the human mind.

“Today, we’d like to explore a less technical topic. In this article, we’ll take a look at some unfortunate design, copy, and tech decisions made by massive international brands.

“It’s safe to say that these decisions’ repercussions could have easily been mitigated if only these products were developed with diversity in mind.”

Article: On Racism and Sexism in Branding, User Interface, and Tech

Learning, Cool Tools

A resource kit for anyone who wants to apply creative collaboration to unleash potential in their team or organization. 

Hyper Island calls themselves “a creative business school which also offers consulting services”. Their approach focuses on collaboration, creativity, and learning-by-doing.

In the spirit of true generosity, they publish and maintain the HI Toolbox. “This is a Toolbox for the Hyper Island approach. It’s a collection of methods and ideas for anyone who wants to apply it in their own work.”

“This is a toolbox for anyone who wants to do things more creatively and collaboratively in their team or organization. It’s a collection of methods and activities, based on Hyper Island’s methodology, that you can start using today.” I’ve already put this fantastic resource into my menu bar.

Website: The Hyper Island Toolbox

Film, Television

Netflix’s lockdown film series to debut next week.

“The world is still in various stages of lockdown due to coronavirus, leaving many people with a lot of spare time to work on that project they’ve been meaning to get around to… or just watch Netflix. If you’ve been spending your time doing the latter then you’re in luck: the streaming giant has announced a new collection of short films, filmed entirely during the pandemic and appropriately titled Homemade.

“The project, brought together by Pablo Larraín – director of Ema and Spencer, the upcoming film based on the breakdown of Princess Diana’s marriage – brings together a host of impressive names, too.

“The collection will debut on Netflix June 30, with each film available separately or as a continuous piece. A donation in honor of the filmmakers will also be made via Netflix’s Hardship Fund, to benefit non-profits aiding cast and crew out of work during the crisis.”

Movie Trailer: Homemade
Article: Netflix’s lockdown film series features Maggie Gyllenhaal, Kristen Stewart, Paolo Sorrentino, Gurinder Chadha, and more will also direct short films for the collection envisioned by Pablo Larraín


Last week Bob Dylan released “Rough and Rowdy Ways”, his first album of new original material in eight years, his 39th studio album. If you have recently been cringing as he croaked his way through a seemingly endless cycle of Sinatra covers, if you’ve been longing for the days when he – apparently effortlessly – stitched snippets of American story, trials, tribulations, hopes and dreams into patchworks that sounded both familiar and brand new at once, I’ve got good news. Dylan is still contributing to the American songbook. His message is consistent: we are not down, only still learning.

The New Musical Express says that “with ‘Rough And Rowdy Ways’, he’s produced arguably his grandest poetic statement yet, a sweeping panorama of culture, history and philosophy peering back through assassinations, world wars, the births of nations, crusades and Biblical myths in order to plot his place in the great eternal scheme.”

Pitchfork says “six decades into his career, Bob Dylan delivers a gorgeous and meticulous record. It is the rare Dylan album that asks to be understood and comes down to meet its audience.'”

So far Dylan has given only one interview about the record, with Douglas Brinkley in the New York Times: Bob Dylan Has a Lot on His Mind. It’s a great read. He talks about some of his influences (Little Richard, Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Peterson, early Miles…), his favorite Eagles songs, and the Stones songs he wished he had written. In the preface to the interview Brinkley describes the album this way: “Like most conversations with Dylan, ‘Rough and Rowdy Ways’ covers complex territory: trances and hymns, defiant blues, love longings, comic juxtapositions, prankster wordplay, patriotic ardor, maverick steadfastness, lyrical Cubism, twilight-age reflections and spiritual contentment.”

Welcome back, Bob. We’ve missed you.

Album: Rough and Rowdy Ways

Image of the Week

The image of the week is titled Stronger Everyday, Unstoppable by Chelsea Wong. The painting “is populated with three dozen or so smiling human beings of various cultural backgrounds, each complementing the other through gesture, attire, and outlook. The words of empowered acceptance that run along the top of the painting are echoed on the chests of various members of the group. ‘Songs for Energy’ harmonizes with ‘Energizing Self’ as ‘Clear the Mind’ melds into ‘Meditation Realization,’ and even a mantra for the more introverted among us, ‘Friendship cures loneliness but a pet rock will do.'”

Dance at the Senior Center

“Wong’s art is timeless, but as with everything in these days of Covid-19 quarantine and wide-spread protests of racial injustice, the impact of the world that Wong creates is even more striking. Hands touch, arms link, hugs happen, and people simply link together without the weight of the world throwing roadblocks. Scenes capture easy physical proximity in ways that now seem anachronistic.”

Review: Chelsea Wong “The Pleasure of Joy” @ Legion SF

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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