Clarity First Newsletter, March 23, 2018


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

One afternoon this week, just before the sun set so deliciously late, I climbed a very steep cross-country ski trail, with a botanist. My mind was on the climb. Hers was on the surface of the snow. As I strained, she asked, with the excited smile of a child, “Have you noticed the birch seeds?”.  I looked down and saw what she saw. The snow was littered with tiny brown tri-pronged pitch forks. They weren’t there the day before. But in one apparent orgiastic release the Yellow Birch had scattered their seeds as far as my eyes could see.

Life occurs. What else am I missing?

Everybody is wrong except you, right?

Being right is overrated, especially when the price you pay for it – being unkind, impatient and insensitive – causes you to forget to be human. Gustavo Razzetti has some observations about the trouble with right and wrong. As we learn to transition from ‘us vs. them’ to ‘we, with one-world problems’, they’re especially useful observations.
Article: Why It’s Better to be Human Than to Be Right

Photo: Getty

“The emotional and political landscape of American gun violence and school shootings specifically reads like an atlas of neoliberalism.”

“Simply put, neoliberalism is about the withdrawal of government responsibility for political problems in favor of market-based “solutions” and individual “choices.”…Not coincidentally, neoliberalism has become our dominant system against the backdrop of decades of corporate deregulation, privatization, and the dismantling of social services, developments that it celebrates and champions.”

This is an important article. Neoliberalism, like one of its outcomes, income disparity, should be on the tips of our tongues. Read this. Ask your friends and neighbors to read this. Then discuss with them how you, personally, can work to protect democracy from those who would steal it.
Article: The Market Can’t Solve a Massacre

Adepts showed remarkable mental dexterity, entering and leaving difficult-to-achieve levels of awareness within split seconds, accompanied by equally pronounced shifts in measurable brain activity. Such feats of collective mental gymnastics had never been seen by science before. Photo by Jeff Miller, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

How meditation changes your brain — and your life

Increasingly organizations are training their executives in mindfulness, a practice rooted in Buddhist meditation. Neuroscientists are proving that this trend might not be just the next new thing. It might be the real thing. The effect of Buddhist meditation isn’t just momentary; it can alter deep-seated traits in our brain patterns and character. Daniel Goleman, the man who introduced emotional intelligence to the workplace, and Richard Davidson have written a new book on the science behind meditation.
Book Exceprt: Altered Traits: What Science Reveals About How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body 

A very simple model for how brands will succeed in the very near future.

“Find your commitment and bake it in. Make it part of every employee’s behavior, and create a consistent experience for your buyer. Then start talking about it in a heartfelt way and pull your buyer into the story. Not only will your company do better because of it, but we’ll all do better because of it.”
Article: Why Purpose is the Best Brand Currency

Good practices for asking users the right questions

Interviewing users is an art — whether you are running usability testing, focus groups or ethnographic research. Here are some good practices for asking users the right questions, and asking the questions the right way.
Article: Asking the Right Questions During User Research, Interviews and Testing

“Use this checklist to help build accessibility into your process no matter your role or stage in a project.”

If you haven’t noticed, Vox Media has become an innovative force in new media. They are working at the junction where quality storytelling and appropriate advertising work as partners in co-creating content that serves a common audience with true value, instead of as co-conspirators in selling the unneeded to the unsuspecting.
In 2016 six Vox members gathered in D.C. to figure out just how to approach accessibility on a company-wide scale. They’ve been documenting and sharing what they’re learning ever since. On this web page they share a really handy check list.
Checklist: Accessibility Guidelines

Learning from nature to design better businesses

Justine Pattantyus calls herself a “systems navigator for visionaries and change makers”. She publishes a great blog where she “nerds out on all things systems – ecosystems, human design systems, and most importantly, business systems.” She’s just finished a series of articles in which she looks at business and business design through the lens of permaculture.
Article Series: Business Through the Lens of Permaculture.


Van Morrison performing at Spring Sing on Boston Common in 1968 via WBUR via

“Ryan H. Walsh’s new book, ‘Astral Weeks: A Secret History of 1968,’ takes up Van Morrison’s sui-generis masterpiece and unearths the largely forgotten context from which it emerged. Though the songs on ‘Astral Weeks’ were recorded in New York and are full of references to Morrison’s childhood in Northern Ireland, they were, in Walsh’s words, ‘planned, shaped and rehearsed in Boston and Cambridge,’ where Morrison lived and performed for much of 1968. In documenting the milieu out of which the album came, Walsh also argues for Boston as an under appreciated hub of late-sixties radicalism, artistic invention, and social experimentation. The result is a complex, inquisitive, and satisfying book that illuminates and explicates the origins of ‘Astral Weeks’ without diminishing the album’s otherworldly aura.”
Book review: The Miracle of Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks

Images of the week

The International Women Photographers Association has announced the IWPA 2018 Award. The award honors 11 photographers who were selected from a total number of 600 submissions received from 82 countries. The smaller of the images of the week is by Alice Mann, a
South African who lives in London, UK. The larger of the two is by Manyatsa Monyamane of Johannesburg, South Africa.

What’s Clarity First?

If you’re new to Clarity First, it’s the weekly newsletter by Mitch Anthony, and Clarity, the consultancy that helps mission-driven companies use their brand – their purpose, values, and stories – as powerful tools for growth and transformation. Learn more.

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