Clarity First Newsletter,
March 12, 2021

“I used to believe that gratitude for life came from being happy, but I have come to realize that the reverse is also true, perhaps even more so: being happy comes from feeling grateful for life.” – William Ury

Clarity First

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

When asked by an interviewer in the Paris Review why “there’s little bad news” in his poetry, Gary Snyder replied: “I feel that the condition of our social and ecological life is so serious that we’d better have a sense of humor. That’s it’s too serious just to be angry and despairing. Also, frankly, the environmental movement has never done well when it threw out excessive doom scenarios. Doom scenarios, even though they might be true, are not politically or psychologically effective. The first step, I think, and that’s why it’s in my poetry, is to make us love the world rather than fear the end of the world. Make us love the world, which means the nonhuman as well as the human, and then begin to take better care of it.”

Here in New England the days are noticeably longer, the sky shows are beautiful, there are new bird songs in the garden, the maple sugar houses are boiling, and at our dear Prospect Mountain,the glorious spring x-c skiing is again followed with social gathering, this year outside the lodge instead of in it.

Love the world. It is worth caring for. Happy Friday.

Futures Thinking

Post-pandemic, we can’t slip back into the assumption that our society is organized to serve the whims of a small handful of rich people while debasing and degrading the vast majority of us is seen as sensible or reasonable.

David Graeber speaks at Maagdenhuis Amsterdam in March 2015. (Guido van Nispen / Wikimedia Commons)

“Before he tragically died at the untimely age of fifty-one in September 2020, the anarchist, anthropologist, and organizer David Graeber wrote this essay on what life and politics could look like after the COVID-19 pandemic.

“At some point in the next few months, the crisis will be declared over, and we will be able to return to our ‘nonessential’ jobs. For many, this will be like waking from a dream.

“The media and political classes will definitely encourage us to think of it this way. This is what happened after the 2008 financial crash. There was a brief moment of questioning.

“What is ‘finance,’ anyway? Isn’t it just other people’s debts? What is money? Is it just debt, too? What’s debt? Isn’t it just a promise? If money and debt are just a collection of promises we make to each other, then couldn’t we just as easily make different ones?

“The window was almost instantly shut by those insisting we shut up, stop thinking, and get back to work, or at least start looking for it.

“Last time, most of us fell for it. This time, it is critical that we do not.”

Article: David Graeber: After the Pandemic, We Can’t Go Back to Sleep

Culture, Learning

Americans were good at democracy because we practiced democracy.

“To read the diary of Gustave de Beaumont, the traveling companion of Alexis de Tocqueville, is to understand just how primitive the American wilderness once seemed to visiting Frenchmen. In a single month, December 1831, Tocqueville and Beaumont were on a steamship that crashed; rode a stagecoach that broke an axle; and took shelter in a cabin—one of them bedridden from an unidentified illness—while the nearest doctor was a two-day hike away. Yet they kept meeting people whose resourcefulness they admired, and they kept collecting the observations that eventually led Tocqueville to write Democracy in America—the classic account of the ordering principles, behaviors, and institutions that made democracy function within this sprawling country.

“Tocqueville’s interest in American institutions reflected more than mere curiosity: In his native France, a revolution launched with similarly high ideals about equality and democracy had ended badly. His parents had nearly been guillotined during the wave of violence that followed the momentous events of 1789. By contrast, American democracy worked—and he wanted to understand why.

“Famously, he found many of the answers in state, local, and even neighborhood institutions. He wrote approvingly of American federalism, which “permits the Union to enjoy the power of a great republic and the security of a small one.” He liked the traditions of local democracy too, the “township institutions” that “give the people the taste for freedom and the art of being free.” Despite the vast empty spaces of their country, Americans met one another, made decisions together, carried out projects together. Americans were good at democracy because they practiced democracy. They formed what he called ‘associations,’ the myriad organizations that we now call ‘civil society,’ and they did so everywhere…”

Article: How to Put Out Democracy’s Dumpster Fire

Graphic Design

A good primer on graphic design

This article was written to show how to turn Microsoft Word up to 10. To do it, the author surveys some basic principals of graphic design, principals that should be of interest to all communicators.

Article: 10+ Tips for Modern, Pro Page Layout Designs in Microsoft Word

Communication, Persuasion

Visual communication is now a must-have skill for all leaders, because more and more often, it’s the only way to make sense of the work we do.

“Not long ago, the ability to create smart data visualizations (or dataviz) was a nice-to-have skill for design- and data-minded managers. But now it’s a must-have skill for all managers, because it’s often the only way to make sense of the work they do. Decision making increasingly relies on data, which arrives with such overwhelming velocity, and in such volume, that some level of abstraction is crucial. Thanks to the internet and a growing number of affordable tools, visualization is accessible for everyone—but that convenience can lead to charts that are merely adequate or even ineffective.

“By answering just two questions, Scott Berinato writes, you can set yourself up to succeed: Is the information conceptual or data-driven? and Am I declaring something or exploring something? He leads readers through a simple process of identifying which of the four types of visualization they might use to achieve their goals most effectively: idea illustration, idea generation, visual discovery, or everyday dataviz.”

This article is adapted from the author’s just-published book, Good Charts: The HBR Guide to Making Smarter, More Persuasive Data Visualizations.

Book Excerpt: Visualizations That Really Work

Learning, Purpose, Organizational Culture, Branding, Marketing…

We’ve been through this before. Listen to your end users.

Amy Radin and I share a belief: if you want to weave true resiliency into your business or organization, the best thing that you can do is to get out and listen – actively listen – to your end users.

She’s plucked five simple practices you can use to improve your ability to benefit quickly from what your audience would like you to know.

Article: Listening to Customers: 5 Practices to Build a More Resilient Company

Cool Tool

Alexander Calder online

In 1975 a commission from Braniff International Airlines, the DC-8 jet Flying Colors, made this inaugural flight from Dallas with stops in Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Miami, and Latin America.

Cool News: The Calder Foundation has launched a new online research archive of his work.

“So far, the archive includes over 1,300 Calder works across different media; 1,000 photographs and archival documents; and 48 historic and recent texts by the artist, his contemporaries, and present-day scholars. The platform also features over 40 microsites exploring Calder’s exhibition history, a gold mine for academic researchers looking for hard-to-find checklists, installation images, and inventory drawings.

“Viewers can discover public installations of Calder’s works around the world using a new interactive feature on the website, including temporary and permanent outdoor displays and museum holdings.

Geek out. The guy was so open-minded and so prolific. Jewelry? Posters? Airplanes? They all deserve imagination.

Article: An Online Haven for Lovers of Alexander Calder



Women Dominated Beer Brewing Until They Were Accused of Being Witches

Why Investors Are Putting Biodiversity on the Balance Sheet

We Need to Keep Dreaming, Even when it Feels Impossible. Here’s Why



If you are lucky enough to live in the East Village (or Dubai or Negril) then you can get an order of Jamaica in a Box ready to finish at home from Miss Lily’s. The rest of us will have to settle for grooving on the playlist of reggae music that the cafe packs in the box. I love this mix. As my kids and I often say to each other: “And then, there’s reggae”.

Playlist: Miss Lily’s Vibes.

Image of the Week

The Image of the Week is a Great Horned Owl that has just jumped from its perch in the trees to begin flight. The image won photographer, Dale Paul. the Gold in the Behavior-Birds category of the the World Nature Photography Awards 2020 competition.

“She has thrust her wings forward to gain momentum. As the wings connect in front of her it appears as though she has formed a perfect flying saucer. The image was taken near High River, Canada.”

“South Eastern USA has numerous swamps, lakes and bayous where thousands of large “bald cypress” trees are growing in the water. The beautiful sights are further enhanced during the November fall foliage by amazing lights and reflections. The image was captured handheld, from a kayak at a misty dawn in a lake in East Texas.”  © Doron Talmi

Article: Our 2020 Winners

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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