Clarity First Newsletter,
May 22, 2020

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change.” — Brené Brown

Clarity First

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

It turns out that there’s nothing like a plague to make you feel vulnerable. And to feel so vulnerable, without the relief that physical connection with other people provides, is a double whammy.

So, on this beautiful May day I am taking comfort in the understanding that vulnerability can lead to innovation, creativity and change. How we as global citizens respond to this microbial threat gives us an unprecedented opportunity to get civilization right.

We can do this. Happy Friday.


Designing for distance

An artist’s rendering of a site redesign by Community Design Collaborative’s Design SWAT team. (Courtesy of Community Design Collaborative)

“COVID-19 has reclassified many workers as first responders. Doctors, nurses and medical professionals, transit workers, garbage collectors, and grocery clerks all come to mind. Architects do not.

“’People don’t typically think of architects as first responders, ‘said Amal Mahrouki, director of legislative affairs with AIA Pennsylvania. ‘But they can be…if they’ve gone through the right training.’

“Slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus requires immediate adjustments to how we use and inhabit buildings and space.

“From redesigning schools and offices to allow for socially distanced use to repurposing buildings for medical use and retrofitting existing hospitals to serve the urgent demands of a pandemic, architects and designers are finding themselves facing a new kind of demand.”

Article: How Designers Are Remaking Spaces For Our New Socially Distanced Lives

Community, Planning

Mayors are coordinating efforts to support a low-carbon, sustainable path out of lockdowns.

New York’s Central Park resulted, in part, from cholera. Anthony Quintano via Global Citizen

“Cities around the world are already planning for life after COVID-19, with a series of environmental initiatives being rolled out from Bogotá to Barcelona to ensure public safety and bolster the fight against climate breakdown.

“Mayors from cities in Europe, the US and Africa held talks this week to coordinate their efforts to support a low-carbon, sustainable recovery from the crisis as national governments begin to implement huge economic stimulus packages.

“Many cities have already announced measures, from hundreds of miles of new bike lanes in Milan and Mexico City to widening pavements and pedestrianising neighborhoods in New York and Seattle.”

Article: City Leaders Aim to Shape Green Recovery from Coronavirus Crisis

Related Article: How Pandemics Have Changed American Cities – Often for the Better


Work-life balance has always been a devil’s bargain. Then along came a pandemic.

Stewart Friedman says that the reason work-life balance is so hard to achieve is that “balance is bunk

“It’s a misguided metaphor because it assumes we must always make trade-offs among the four main aspects of our lives: work or school, home or family (however you define that), community (friends, neighbors, religious or social groups), and self (mind, body, spirit).”

“A more realistic and more gratifying goal than balance, he argues, is to better integrate work and the rest of life in ways that engender ‘four-way wins’ between work, home, community and self.”

“We need to recognize that COVID-19 has dramatically changed personal and work dynamics, and we need to let go the mental model of thinking of work-time and home-time being distinct and separate blocks.”

Article: Forget Work-Life Balance – It’s All About Integration in the Age of COVID-19


Wisdom from an elder

Kevin Kelly was the founding executive editor of Wired magazine. I followed him before then, when he edited the Whole Earth Review in the early 80s. Amongst many projects and endeavors today, he publishes the always interesting weblog Cooltools. Last month he turned 68. In honor of the occasion he shared “68 pithy bits of unsolicited advice which I offer as my birthday present to all of you.” They’re really good. Here’s five:

• Being able to listen well is a superpower. While listening to someone you love keep asking them “Is there more?”, until there is no more.

• A worthy goal for a year is to learn enough about a subject so that you can’t believe how ignorant you were a year earlier.

• The purpose of a habit is to remove that action from self-negotiation. You no longer expend energy deciding whether to do it. You just do it. Good habits can range from telling the truth, to flossing.

• Promptness is a sign of respect.

• Trust me: There is no “them”.

Article: 68 Bits of Unsolicited Advice

Advertising, Social Messaging

“When we show up in a mask, we show up for each other.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo had a communications problem, so said his daughters. “Nobody’s listening to you when you tell them to put on a face mask. It’s your communication style that’s getting in the way.” He asked what they would do. They suggested that he sponsor an advertising contest that invited more New Yorkers to wear masks. “Great, do it,” he said. (And btw, in doing so publicly, he modeled what vulnerability looks like and how it works to build trust.)

They got more than 600 submissions.  Now they are asking New Yorkers to choose their favorite from five finalists. Voting closes May 25th. Winners will be announced May 26th.

They are all really good, but my favorite is the one titled “We ? NY”, by Bunny Lake Films. Not only does it repurpose Milton Glaser’s iconic slogan, but it does it with a hip-hop beat and true New York spirit. But each one is worth watching. And if you are a New Yorker, you can still vote.

Web Page: Wear a Mask New York Ad Contest

Direct Marketing

Guess what? Direct mail still works. In fact, it works really well.

“You’ve got mail.” by katerha is licensed under CC BY 2.0
There’s a really good reason that I recommend intelligent, well-designed direct mail programs to my clients. Because they work really well, especially when integrated with intelligent, well-designed digital programs.

“With digital media consumption on the rise, use of many traditional media channels is falling drastically. This is reflected in marketing budget statistics which illustrate that overall, marketer budgets for traditional advertising are falling while digital marketing continues to grow.

“Our research with PebblePost, a digital-to-direct-mail marketing platform, found that one traditional informational source that defies this trend categorically is direct mail, which maintains significant advantages over other traditional sources of information. It also generates more response than digital efforts like email, social, and paid search (nearly 10 times).

“Because it is delivered directly to the home, and high consideration purchase research is done at home (and everyone is AT home right now), it dovetails well with other source consumption habits for higher value purchases. In fact, our research found that direct mail is influencing 31% of purchases, is a top-three source on 10% of purchases, and is driving high value decisions, including influencing a whopping $14 trillion in discretionary purchases.”

Article: As Purchase Habits Change, Impact Of Direct Mail Remains

Content Marketing

Design thinking ensures we create content that best serves and represents the end user’s needs.

You likely know about design thinking. About the practice Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO, says: “Instead of seeing its primary objective as consumption, design thinking is beginning to explore the potential of participation. The shift from a passive relationship between consumer and producer, to the active engagement of everyone in experiences that are meaningful, productive, and profitable.”

But if you’re like most of my colleagues, you know less about content marketing, especially in a world at risk of being drowned in way too much content. Anna Lillian Murphy has a good idea: use design thinking to create your content strategy. She’s written a sharp and concise primer.

Article: How to Optimize Your Content Strategy With Design Thinking


Last week 60 musicians from our precious Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts came together virtually to perform Stevie Wonder’s, Love Is In Need of a Love Today. Video editor, Luke Jaeger, said of the project: “(We) came together to record a Stevie Wonder song of hope in an effort to bring attention to the plight of their fellow artists and a fund started by the Northampton Arts Council, where you can donate and help. We worked on our phones, home studio equipment and even voicemail. This is what we made.”

Thanks to my dear friend, Julia Mines, for sharing this awe inspiring piece of work with me. It is so beautiful that I broke down in tears the first time I heard it. Love is in need of a love today. I am so lucky to be able to call these amazing people my neighbors.

Video: Love’s In Need Of Love Today | a multitrack extravaganza

Image of the week

“These lovely, nature-embracing, embroidery on paper pieces are the latest work by California based artist Natalie Ciccoricco. In fact, they are a result of the worldwide lockdown we’re all experiencing at the moment. Well, Natalie found the silver lining… and some sticks… and voila, a new body of work! Here are her words about this ongoing series, titled ‘Nesting’”:

About the work she says: “While being under quarantine at home, I started creating embroidery artworks using materials found in our yard, on our deck or nature walks. Exploring the juxtaposition between geometric shapes and organic elements, this series is an ongoing exercise to find beauty and hope in challenging times.”

Article: Natalie Ciccoricco

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.

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