Clarity First Newsletter,
March 13, 2020

“None of us know what will happen. Don’t spend time worrying about it. Make the most beautiful thing you can. Try to do that every day. That’s it.” —Laurie Anderson

Clarity First

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

The new coronavirus presents us with a true Black Swan situation. It is a circumstance that was impossible to predict that changes everything. There was a before, and suddenly there is now, and it is very different than it was before.

We are living in a new day, which raises a new question: who do you want to be now that the sun rises over a new reality?

I for one, want to be an agent of calm, of acceptance of things as they truly are, not of projections of how bad things might be. As Seth Godin said in a blog post this week, “Panic is never a useful plan…People rarely say, ‘I wish I’d panicked more.'”

We are not in Kansas anymore. So, what if you looked at this time of enormous change as a new beginning as well as an end? What is your contribution to this brave new world?

Leadership, Emotional Intelligence

An emotionally intelligent leader will handle any crisis better.

“Crises can emerge in many different forms, and they often strike without warning. Many large organizations have formulated contingency plans for emergencies. But what most of these plans omit is a crucial factor in effective crisis management: emotional intelligence (EI). Intelligent handling of the emotions that come with crisis is crucial. An emotionally intelligent leader will handle any crisis, big or small, better than someone without EI competencies.”

Article: 4 Emotional Intelligence Skills for Handling Crises


Be careful where you get your news about coronavirus.

The president is politicizing a natural health disaster, so we can’t trust our own government. But I think we can trust Harvard Medical School. They update this site every day. When in doubt turn to the best science available first.

From a podcast that they posted on Wednesday: “You’ll be happy to know the stress you’re experiencing is hard-wired into your mammalian brain as a well-known flight-or-fight mechanism. Digging a little deeper, we can come to understand that countering stress with a healthy dose of resilience can help us deal with these anxieties.”

Website: Harvard Medical School Coronavirus Resource Center


The differences between the global response to the Great Flu Pandemic and today’s COVID-19 outbreak could not be more striking.

Edward A. “Doc” Rogers / Library Of Congress / AP Images

“We have just commemorated the centenary of the Great Flu Pandemic of 1918, which lasted only a few months but claimed 50 million to 100 million lives worldwide, including 675,000 in the United States. That pandemic remains a benchmark, and many commentators have rushed to compare it to the current coronavirus outbreak. What’s most striking about these comparisons, though, is not the similarities between the two episodes, but the distance that medicine has traveled in the intervening century. Whatever happens next, it won’t be a second 1918.”

Article: The Coronavirus Is No 1918 Pandemic

Personal Productivity

10 tips for overcoming some of the obstacles of working from home

This week it occurred to Austin Kleon that because it is partly about overcoming the endlessness and occasional monotony of creative work, his new book, Keep Going, (which I highly recommend) doubles as a manual for overcoming some of the obstacles of working from home.

In a blog post he pulled out 10 tips from the book on the art and craft of homebound productivity.

Blog Post: A Working From Home Manual in Disguise


Better access to nature, even just your local park, helps people and the planet.

Kids explore the banks of the Delaware River as part of The Sierra Club’s Outdoors for All campaign. Courtesy Sierra Club

“Study after study finds that spending time in nature can improve physical and psychological well-being. Now, new research from the European Centre for Environmental and Human Health at the University of Exeter shows that people who spend time in nature — urbanites and outdoorsy types alike — are more likely to engage in environmentally friendly behaviors, which is good for the well-being of the planet. “Article: The Incredibly Simple Way To Get People To Care About The Environment

Social Messaging

One way to start a conversation about tolerance

Salt Lake City, Utah, USA”Four years ago Mirko Ilic, a Serbo-Croatian-born, New York-based designer and illustrator, made graphic design for the film festival at the House of Tolerance in Ljubljana, Slovenia, including an identity, logo, and posters as part of a fundraising effort. To show appreciation for his work, after a year and half, the organizers offered Ilic a small square next to the festival with thirty poster spaces to show his work.
Venice, Italy

“’I didn’t think that it was appropriate to abuse my position and use this occasion to promote myself,’ he told Steven Heller. So, in thinking about how to fill that space, he invited twenty-one internationally prominent artists, illustrators and designers to create posters on the theme of tolerance. The only instructions were the size of the poster, they had to write the word ‘tolerance’ in their language, and to sign with their country of origin. ‘Less than four weeks later, I received all twenty-one posters’ plus two for a title and introduction. Two and half years later the exhibit comprises 133 posters with more on the way.'” But the journey hasn’t always been easy. Some people, it seems, have a real problem with tolerance.

Article: Tolerance: Spreading the Word

Social Messaging

“Sometimes crying or laughing are the only options left, and laughing feels better right now.” ? Veronica Roth

Last week, in response to her neighbors making a run on essentials as an ill-conceived and irrational response to the coronavirus, Danielle Baskin @djbaskin posted this on her Twitter page: “I went to my local Costco today and replaced the signs for sold out items like toilet paper and bottled water with signs for magical items like: health potions, dowsing rods, tarot decks, summoning orbs, soul gems, healing crystals, and invisibility amulets.”

Twitter thread: “I went to my local Costco today…


Moses Sumney performing live in the KEXP studio, September 28, 2017

This week my colleague Grady McGonagill wrote me a short email: “Hi Mitch. Thanks to a profile in the current New Yorker, I’ve discovered the work of Moses Sumney. Had you heard of him? Here’s a sampling in this live performance. I think he’s worthy of spotlighting in your newsletter. ”

Wow, Grady. No, I had not known of Moses before. And yes, you are so right. This man’s music deserves to be spotlighted everywhere. The KEXP performance you linked to was in support of his 2017 début album, “Aromanticism”. The article you refer to, Moses Sumney’s World of Possibilities, by Hua Hsu, was written to celebrate his new album, “græ.”

In that article Hsu says: “What makes Sumney so enigmatic is the way his work calls to mind an observation by the psychologist Carroll Pratt: that ‘music sounds the way emotions feel.’  A song conveys the storm and the stress of how it feels to feel, the manic turns of joy and ecstasy, the sudden onset of all emotions at once. Lyrics may anchor us in a scene or a situation of being up or down. But Sumney’s music is more about what it means to feel, even if you have no idea how to name the force that is overtaking you.”

And we haven’t even begun to talk about his musicianship. He is an exceptional guitar player with the voice of an angel. The full orchestral sound that he pulls off with just two accompanists in the KEXP concert is astonishing.

NPR Tiny Desk concert, December 6, 2017

Stererogum described Moses’ Tiny Desk Concert the same year as “sort of like what might happen if Donny Hathaway was somehow influenced by Bon Iver.”

I take issue with this comparison, because I hear that this is what might happen if Anohni were produced by Björk and backed by Radiohead.

This may be why the subtitle of the print edition of the New Yorker article is “On ‘grae,’ Moses Sumney rejects classification in favor of knowing one’s self”. Regardless of who he does or does not sound like, the new album will be released on May 15. For now you can stream the first half of it on Bandcamp.

P.S. Is this guy fashion forward, or what?

Image of the week

The image of the week is one representation of the by now ubiquitous Keep Calm, Carry On campaign. There’s a story here. Apparently at launch, the client challenged the creative strategy and the whole campaign was flushed.

“The phrase originated as a slogan in the spring of 1939 before World War II. Anticipating the dark days ahead, the British government designed a poster to hang in areas being targeted by German bombers.

“Around 2.5 million copies were printed, but not one of them was posted, as officials had last-minute doubts about whether the content was too patronizing or obvious. They also couldn’t settle on an appropriate time to hang the posters. Save for a select few, the majority of the posters were destroyed.

“Fast-forward six decades and one of the remaining posters was discovered by a bookseller who bought a box of old books (where the poster was hidden) at auction. It was put up over the cash register in the seller’s bookshop, Northumberland’s Barter Books

“Pretty soon, customers were asking about where they could buy a similar poster, and the shop’s owners, Stuart and Mary Manley, decided to print copies. Little did they know how fast the ‘Keep Calm’ craze would spread.”

Article: Brits May Roll Their Eyes At ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ — But Here’s Why They Secretly Love It

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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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