Clarity First Newsletter, March 30, 2018

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

This week I want to give the first words to the Reverend Victoria Safford, the minister of White Bear Unitarian Universalist Church, in Mahtomedi, Minnesota. During this frightening time of change and transition her view is comfortingly yet challengingly clear.

“Our mission is to plant ourselves at the gates of hope–not the prudent gates of Optimism, which are somewhat narrower; nor the stalwart, boring gates of Common Sense; nor the strident gates of Self-Righteousness, which creak on shrill and angry hinges (people cannot hear us there; they cannot pass through); nor the cheerful, flimsy garden gate of “Everything Is Gonna Be All Right.” But a different, sometimes lonely place, of truth-telling about your own soul first of all and its condition, the place of resistance and defiance, from which you see the world both as it is and as it could be, as it will be; the place from which you glimpse not only struggle but joy in the struggle. And we stand there, beckoning and calling, telling people what we’re seeing, asking them what they see.”
Essay: The Gates of Hope

Are you a domestic obsessive, a selfless nurturer or a fraught juggler?  Or perhaps you identify more as a sex object or unattainable goddess?

If so, according to the TV advertising of the past 50 years, you are a woman.
Article: Gender Stereotypes: Still Not Funny

A Pacific Electric red car crosses a steel bridge above Fletcher Drive in Atwater Village, Los Angeles (photo by Donald Duke, courtesy Metro Transportation Library and Archive Collection, via Flickr user Eric Beteille)

How to reframe our collective thinking about design and public space.

Next month, Christopher Hawthorne, an architecture critic, will become the city of Los Angeles’ first chief design officer. In announcing his new position he described design in the city’s public sector as difficult to address. “Los Angeles is complex and sprawling; many communities go underserved, and seemingly beneficial design projects are sometimes decoys for displacement.” He sat with Hyperallergic Newsletter to talk about how LA “doesn’t quite fit the mold of what we think a city is.”
Interview: Why the City of Los Angeles Hired a “Chief Design Officer”

“It was social media that launched #NeverAgain on day one, and social media is the key to its future.”

Survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High shooting—and a few key alumni allies—are building a social-media content studio that just might reform America’s insane gun laws. From offices in a strip mall they are pumping out intelligent, shareable content on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat, and prepping a YouTube launch. “That’s where our generation lives…”.
Article: Inside the Secret Meme Lab Designed to Propel #neveragain Beyond the March

A human-centric approach for working with humans

“The best idea, if presented terribly, becomes a terrible idea. And a great presentation isn’t just about nice visuals: it’s about communicating with your audience.”
Article: Cross-Functional Empathy for Designers

See how a little kindness makes a world of difference

Premiered at this year’s Sundance Festival, the first full-length documentary about the life and work of Fred Rogers will be released this coming June. For now the trailer is out. I defy you to watch the faces of his audience without crying your eyes out. Love is the answer, and this man lived the truth.
Official Trailer: Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Leadership takes many forms in nature, and looks quite different from our own executives and managers.

“Nature achieves adaptability with one essential ingredient, as biologists well know: diversity. Diverse individuals vary, and some variants leave more offspring than others. The population gradually shifts in that direction, and evolution occurs. That’s natural selection in a nutshell. Diversity is literally the raw feedstock of innovation and adaptation; it’s limiting factor. Without it, the population will stagnate. When conditions change — and they always do — it cannot adapt. It blinks out and disappears, joining the ranks of the fossils that came before.”
Article: How 4 Billion Years of Diversity Can Help us Surpass our ‘Clone-Drone’ Workstyles

The skills we need today

Stowe Boyd has been musing about the skills we need to thrive in the contemporary workplace. His list starts with “Boundless Curiosity,” includes “Constructive Uncertainty” and concludes with “Sensemaking”.
Article: 10 Work Skills for the Postnormal Era


I first shared my fascination with Juana Molina last year. Her style has been dubbed folktronica for its roots meets electronica stylings. I said then that “both descriptors strain under her accomplished brilliance. I prefer to think of her as a jazz musician who needs the support of looping and modulating keyboards to hold all of her very large and very groovy ideas.”

She recorded this Tiny Desk Concert three years earlier, in 2014. Her ideas, and execution, were as large and groovy then.  

Images of the week

The smaller of the two images is “Overseas Highway,” 1939, by Ralston Crawford, oil on canvas, 28 x 45 in. The larger is “Classic Landscape,” 1931, by Charles Sheeler, oil on canvas, 1931, 25 x 32 1/4 in. Both are hung now in the show Cult of the Machine: Precisionism and American Art at San Francisco’s de Young Museum, through August 12, 2018.

“The Precisionism movement was characterized by sharply defined lines and geometric forms, but the artists employing the style come from different angles, as demonstrated by painters like Georgia O’Keefe and Charles Sheeler. The 1920’s and 30’s awed with skyscrapers, automobile assembly lines and airplanes, eliciting pride, wonder, exhilaration, and suspicion. Look in the shadows of the pictures, your reflection in the chrome cocktail shaker. Look at the billboards touting iphone portraits and shudder at a too-close selfie.”
Article: Machine Made at the de Young Museum

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 transformation. Learn more.

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