Clarity First Newsletter, March 22, 2019


Clarity First

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

Dear reader, this week I joined the Change Agent Development (CAD) community in Cambridge, and I spent two days on a farmstead in Illinois introducing a new creative team to the ancient art of timber framing, and the amazing people who practice it. The experiences reminded me of something that Stewart Brand wrote:

“The destiny of our species is shaped by the imperatives of survival on six distinct time scales. To survive means to compete successfully on all six time scales. But the unit of survival is different at each of the six time scales. On a time scale of years, the unit is the individual. On a time scale of decades, the unit is the family. On a time scale of centuries, the unit is the tribe or nation. On a time scale of millennia, the unit is the culture. On a time scale of tens of millennia, the unit is the species. On a time scale of eons, the unit is the whole web of life on our planet. Every human being is the product of adaptation to the demands of all six time scales.

“That is why conflicting loyalties are deep in our nature. In order to survive, we have needed to be loyal to ourselves, to our families, to our tribes, to our cultures, to our species, to our planet. If our psychological impulses are complicated, it is because they were shaped by complicated and conflicting demands.” ? Stewart Brand, The Clock of the Long Now: Time and Responsibility

We can do this. But to do so requires stepping back. Happy Friday.


While morality may not be innate, diverse cultures seem to be ruled by the same moral precepts.

“In the largest cross-cultural survey ever conducted, a team of anthropologists from the University of Oxford has determined seven moral rules they suggest are universal. Based on the examination of ethnographic accounts from 60 different societies the research concludes that while morality may not necessarily be innate, every single culture analyzed seems to be ruled by the same moral precepts.”

Article: Oxford Anthropologists Identify Seven Universal Rules of Morality


Self Development
Doing something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, is about the best we can do.

Regular readers know that I am huge fan of artist Austin Kleon. A one-sentence blog post on self-promotion he wrote is the inspiration for this letter (“Write something that you would want to read”) and his own weekly letter (“Here are 10 things I thought were worth sharing this week”) is its model.  I am especially taken by this recent blog post on the profound difficulty and huge reward of simply being kind.

Article: You’ve Got To Be Kind


Creative Process
Better brainstorming: Use the team to build, rather than create.

Most brainstorming sessions yield little more than an opportunity for one or two people to show-off. The Onion, the humor magazine that has been making America laugh since 1988, has discovered how to balance both the internal creative insight of individuals, and the synergy that a group can provide. Rule one: come to the brainstorming meeting with ideas already sketched. Do not use the session to develop new ones.

Article: No Joke! Yes, You Can Learn From The Seriously Applicable Ways That The Onion Brainstorms Its Ideas


Organizational Health
Long- and short-term performance can become interdependent and complementary.

“Simply put, healthy organizations are more likely to orient themselves toward the long term. And companies in the midst of a rapid performance transformation boost the odds of sustaining those efforts when they improve their health. The evidence for these propositions is substantial, and it underscores the fundamental link between organizational health and performance.”

Article: The Yin and Yang of Organizational Health


We’re not paying enough attention to the critical importance of aligning employees, work practices and leadership behaviors to a compelling purpose.

“It’s not enough to have an enterprise with goals for environmental and social good; nor is it enough to have high-performing employees without an inspiring purpose. Purpose in action is that secret sauce that blends these ingredients together.”

Article: Purpose in Action: The Secret to Building and Sustaining High-Performance Organizations


Social Progress
In just a few decades, GLBT+ rights moved from the margins to the mainstream. Here’s why.

Photo: World Bank/Creative Commons

Research by Harvard psychologists suggests that “even as Americans grow more aware of bias, we appear to be becoming less biased in many areas—especially when it comes to same-sex relationships and gender nonconformists.”

Article: What the Struggle for Gay Rights Teaches Us about Bridging Differences


Graphic Design, Color
A mini master class in design-meets-marketing

“James Verdesoto is a graphic designer who’s masterminded the visual marketing for countless movies, including iconic posters for “Pulp Fiction” (when he was creative director at Miramax), “Girl, Interrupted” and “Ocean’s Eleven.” Today, Vanity Fair puts him to great use with the release of “Movie Poster Expert Explains Color Schemes,” a fascinating YouTube video that actually does a lot more than decode the use of color.

“Verdesoto takes a walk through cinematic history and beyond, identifying visual elements (e.g., the “running figure with a gun” common to thrillers) that connect with everything from John Grisham paperback book covers from the ’90s to film noir to punk-rock flyer graphics. And when he does talk about the deployment of color, it’s especially eye-opening—like when he examines the black-and-white-and-orange combination (as seen in posters for “Ghost Rider,” “Tokyo Drift,” “The Transporter” and more) vs. the blue-and-orange (“The Bourne Identity,” “The Dark Knight,” “Star Wars,” “Avatar”).”

Video: Movie Poster Expert Explains Color Schemes



I love jazz guitar. Guitarist Gilad Hekselman “does a great line in teasing the listener with a familiar phrase then leading us away by the ears to somewhere unexpected before slipping us the phrase again to remind us to come home. At one point there was a short fast passage which to my ears could have been Bach.” — The Jazz Breakfast

Video: gHex Trio – “It Will Get Better” Studio Session


Image of the Week

“If you ever decide to visit Bordeaux, France make sure you visit this Instagram-famous bookstore Librairie Mollat that is well-known for its ongoing photo series called Book Face. Its employees have found an activity that brightens the day for them and their customers.

“Book Face is based on a technique called trompe l’oeil (deceive the eye) and its main goal is to use realistic images to create an optical illusion that the image you see exists in three dimensions.

“Having more than 52k followers on Instagram, you may think that this is a very new-fashioned bookstore but Librairie Mollat is actually a first independent bookstore in France and they first opened their doors 122 years ago. So, Librairie Mollat is nothing but ordinary, combining literature, photography and social media.”

Article: That’s How Bored Bookstore Employees Entertain Themselves


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 tool of transformation. Learn more.

If you get value from Clarity First, please pass it on.
Not a subscriber? Sign up here.
You can also read Clarity-First on the web.

Leave a Comment