Clarity First Newsletter,
May 1, 2020

“The future is not some place we are going, but one we are creating. The paths are not to be found, but made.” – John Schaar

Clarity First

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

I’m noticing that during this pandemic people are relating with each other much more authentically and vulnerably. For example, I’m involved in a start-up and it is really reassuring to see how open and empathetic this team is with each other, even though the team has been together for only a few weeks.

It’s really hard to not be able to be together physically. So, to be able to
be together emotionally is essential compensation.

Happy Friday.


This will end

This is a beautiful and heart wrenching short video that my friend Cheri Louvre sent me this week. It reminds us that this pandemic will end, and we will hold each other again.

Video: The Phoenix

Organizational Health

Why and how rituals matter, now more than ever.

Kursat Ozenc and Margaret Hagan wrote this book before we were quarantined and every organizational leader was asking ‘wtf now?!’.

But their findings are prescient. Whether we gather in a Zoom room or in a conference room, our patterned behaviors set the agenda, and the outcomes.

New circumstances require new responses.

Book: Rituals for Work: 50 Ways to Create Engagement, Shared Purpose, and a Culture That Can Adapt to Change

Nonprofit Management

How nonprofits, foundations and businesses are turning on a dime in response to the coronavirus

“Faced with unprecedented conditions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, organizations are rapidly adapting to serve the greatest number of people in need, now. The speed of change has been remarkable.”

“We are seeing three different forms of this shift. We call them ‘pop-ups,’ ‘pop-outs,’ and ‘push-throughs.’

Article: Radically Adapting to the New World


Time moves differently now, and so should your marketing.

“At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, some people worried that marketing their business was in bad taste, and at one point, that might have been true — depending on the nature of your business. However, things have changed and we don’t know how long things will go on like this. So for now, this is our new normal.”

This is a good article that considers what’s changed in online marketing, and talks about how to handle your new marketing with sensitivity and sensibility.

Article: The New Guidelines for Online Marketing During COVID-19

Brand Messaging

“Just gonna come out and say it: vulnerable people are always the most vulnerable to propaganda.”

“Another square I didn’t have on my bingo card for 2020: frozen meat product Steak-umm’s official Twitter account is offering some of the more cogent analysis of our coronavirus culture out there.

“Steak-umm has long had an interesting Twitter presence for a corporate entity theoretically purposed to raise brand awareness for “thin-sliced frozen steaks” found in the grocery store. The account is run by ‘Millenial angst personified’ social media manager Nathan Allebach, who well understands his generation. But in the time of COVID-19, Steak-umm has come into its own and gone next-level, taking on everything from conspiracy theories and propagandists to the importance of not accepting anecdotes in place of hard data.”

Article: Steak-umm’s Twitter Account Is a Brilliant, Bizarre Voice of Reason in Our Coronavirus Era

Social Messaging

NYC’s finest creatives have turned out for a mega campaign that clarifies communications around the corona crisis.

Maira Kalman

“The project was inspired by Steven Heller’s article in Print magazine about posters commissioned during the polio epidemic. ‘Posters are tools of mass public communication, so in a time like this when there is an urgent need for correct information and community messaging, posters are the perfect tool,’ says Poster House museum director Julia Knight.”

Article: Milton Glaser and Paula Scher Among The Graphic Designers Making PSA Posters For New York’s Billboards.

Just for Fun

Who has the best New York accent?

Speaking of the center of the universe, for the past five years Nicolas Heller has been running an Instagram page called New York Nico. “I would just go out everyday and find New York City talent. Talent can be a street performer, a store owner….” He got followers, and attention. Many of the people he discovered went on to be on shows like Ellen, and Wendy Williams. So it was really tough when he could no longer just walk the streets of his beloved city.

Then it hit him: one of the things that makes New York, New York is its accents. So, he launched a contest on Instagram to find “the best New York accent”. Then the New York Times curated and edited the whole effort into a really entertaining short film. It is so much fun. (Disclosure. My wife Debbie has a New York accent. I have a Boston accent. She and I still bust each other over how the other says the word ‘coffee’.)

Video: Who Won The Best New York Accent Contest?

Personal Development

A cool and easy way to jump start your thinking

I met Pat Arcady, who calls herself an organizational consultant and a personal coach, at a learning retreat for Non Violent Communication (NVC) practitioners. I was taken by her no-bullshit style, her warm heart, her deep experience, and her ability to fly like a raptor from the big picture to the small and back again, with ease. Ten years later we call each other friend. So, when I saw this offer in her own newsletter, I wanted to share it with you.

“Would you (or someone you know) enjoy having a conversation with me to jump start your thinking process?  I am opening eight, 45-minute slots a week, for the next 4 weeks.  No charge.  No sales pitch. My goal is to have great conversations with interesting people to share ideas, insights, connections and resources.

“I have a core need for contributing to others. To paraphrase Jerry McGuire ‘Help me help you’. Having meaningful conversations via Zoom or Facetime during this challenging time would do as much for my well-being as I hope it will for you.”

Free Coaching Sessions:  Schedule a Meeting with Pat Arcady



Adam Schlesinger and Chris Collingwood first met as freshmen at Williams College. They both started and played in bands. Then in the mid 90s, long after graduation, they came together to form Fountains of Wayne, a band they named after a lawn ornament store in Wayne, New Jersey.

Between 1996 and 2011 they released five full length albums, all marked by the laconic and smartly ironic attitude suggested by the the band’s name. I loved them.

On April 1st, Adam, the bass player, died of Covid 19.

On Tuesday of this week I was feeling particularly raw. As I’ve observed in this letter before, we are all experiencing grief, and this week I found myself needing to stop and just hold and honor all of the loss we are all experiencing worldwide.

That night my brother sent me this link to Fountains of Wayne’s Tiny Desk concert, recorded in 2011. His subject line was “pop folk rock perfection.”

I cried all over again. I loved this band.

Image of the week

The image of the week is by Brittainy Newman. It is one of many captured by the NY Times in a beautiful series they curated: Still Lives. In this unnatural state of isolation, photographers show us the things that bind.

About the images she shot, Brittany said:

“My mom leaves dinner outside my bedroom door on a wooden tray and knocks gently. I open and look down: It’s spaghetti with chicken. Once finished, I take the tray into the kitchen, thank her for the food, walk back into my room and close the door. My mother then wipes my bedroom doorknob vigorously with a disinfectant wipe, smokes a cigarette and turns on the TV news.

“These are our family dinners since I came down with mild symptoms of what I can only assume to be COVID-19.

“I live in New York City, and on March 21, I started to feel weak, have a severe dry cough, and sleep all the time. The following week, my symptoms got worse and I lost my sense of taste and smell.

“My mother’s instinct when I am sick is to be with me. Now she keeps her distance.

“In my telemedicine appointment, a doctor told me that because I am healthy and in my twenties, my body “would heal itself.” The most important thing I could do was self-isolate.

“I woke up one morning, and saw my mother crying. She had been trying to file for unemployment. This was heartbreaking. I grew up watching my mother work tirelessly as a professional clown to provide me with so many opportunities throughout my life. Now, her clown shoes are in the closet, collecting dust until this is over.

“Isolation is hard. We are wired for connection. We are at war with an invisible enemy, and it is easy to become restless and aggressive when we have so much empty time on our hands. But, confinement can also bring positive things. I started to embrace silence and discover myself on the other side of the camera. I started meditating, reading and listening to new genres of music. I’m using this time as creative relief.”

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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