Clarity First Newsletter,
May 29, 2020

“Imagine that each of us felt suddenly called to wonder in this moment, what does the world need from me? What are my gifts?” — Lynn Ungar

Clarity First

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

Imagine with me for a moment—
don’t worry, I’m not saying it’s real.
Imagine, if you can, that there has been
not a calamity, but a great awakening.

Pretend, just for moment,
that we all so love our threatened earth
that we stopped going on cruises,
limited international flights,
worked on cherishing the places
where we already are.

In this pretty fantasy, everyone who possibly can
stops commuting. Spends the extra time
with their kids or pets or garden.

We have the revelation that everyone
needs health care, sick leave, steady work.

It occurs to us that health care workers
are heroes. Also teachers.
Not to mention artists of all kinds
who teach us resilience and joy.

Imagine, if you will,
that we turned to our neighbors
in mutual aid, trading eggs for milk.
Checking in on those who are elderly
or alone. Imagine that each of us
felt suddenly called to wonder
in this moment, what does the world
need from me? What are my gifts?

Yes, I know it’s just a fantasy.
The world could never change
so radically, overnight.

But imagine.  —  Lynn Ungar, 3.20.20

Happy Friday, dear reader. We can do this because humanity’s potential is way too big to waste.


“As always, we have a world to build.”

Ben Ehrenreich writes from Barcelona that “Seen from across the Atlantic, the United States has seemed to be slipping into collapse for some time.”

He cites the anthropologist Joseph Tainter to observe that as civilizations trend toward complexity they become prone to collapse. “Social complexity itself, Tainter argues, is subject to the law of diminishing returns: the solutions to yesterday’s crises quickly become hazards themselves.”

“When a deadly pandemic saves more lives than it steals by forcing a pause in a still-more deadly system, what sense does it mean to talk about benefit and loss?”

Then he makes a really profound observation: “By one estimate, the reduction in air pollution that accompanied the virus-induced shutdown of industry in China may have prevented as many as 77,000 premature deaths, more than can be credited to COVID-19. When a deadly pandemic saves more lives than it steals by forcing a pause in a still-more deadly system, what sense does it mean to talk about benefit and loss?”

“Momentous change does not occur without momentous loss. We are already experiencing both. (If we can learn anything from this) it should be that some things are worth fighting for, and fighting hard, and that the things that have been killing us for years should be allowed at last to die. In our restlessness and claustrophobia, in the loneliness of our homes and the relative calmness of our cities, it might not feel like it right now, but we have hard choices to make, and not much time. Before we can even touch each other again, we will have to decide whose hands we want to hold, and how to use the strength we can only find in one another. As always, we have a world to build.”

(The underlined emphasis is mine. The same quote reflects a statement made last Saturday by a member of a book club to which I belong: “I’m recognizing the role and responsibility of providing hospice for ideas and practices whose times have come to their natural end.” )

Article: The End of Something: On Radical Change in a Time of Pandemic


Clarity, first and always

“If there was even a time when clear communication was critical, it is now. Our leaders, in government, business, health, and all our institutions need to be direct and speak simply. In an article in the Harvard Business Review, Finding the Right Words in a Crisis, Carmine Gallo wrote, ‘Like a virus, words are infectious. They can instill fear and panic or facilitate understanding and calm. Above all, they can spark action. So choose them carefully.’

“Companies have scrambled to respond to the massive disruption of the coronavirus, and we are learning — if we didn’t know already — that clarity of communication is the most important factor in crisis response.”

“Making the complex simple is a necessary skill for leaders — and for us all — and especially now.”

Article: Communications in a Time of Uncertainty


For brands interested in maintaining relevance with LGBTQ+ consumers, here are some considerations to help inspire your Pride 2020 pivot.

Credit: Jiroe for Unsplash

“As the executive director of the It Gets Better Project, I see the impact a visible and vocal support system can have on young LGBTQ+ lives. Uplifting and empowering the next generation of LGBTQ+ people to live their best lives is our business. Part of that business is Pride. With marches and festivals being canceled or postponed around the world, the LGBTQ+ community will face an unprecedented attack on the progress it has made over the last several decades.

“Pride began as a protest—a demand for equality—and it will march on until those demands are met. It does not stop for anything, even a pandemic. Brands that look to Pride in the midst of coronavirus and think “How can we help?” versus “How can we hunker down?” will be the ones that are welcomed into our homes. LGBTQ+ nonprofits need the support of their corporate partners. This is not the time to pull or postpone support. This is the time to hone in and get creative.

“In response to global isolation protocols, the LGBTQ+ community has shifted its focus to digitizing the Pride experience. This will give rise to new content strategies, new forms of entertainment and other ways of celebrating the visibility that past and current generations have made possible.”

Article: How To Stay Relevant With The LGBTQ+ Community In Uncertain Times

Cool Tool

A better way to co-design (and now, co-facilitate) workshops

I am in the zone when I am facilitating workshops. I love to design structured experiences in which people can share and learn.

When working solo, I’ve long been a fan of using a simple word processing document to design individual workshops. But a few weeks ago I was co-designing a client workshop with my colleague Liz Solomon, on Zoom. She said, “let’s try SessionLab”. Their website describes their offer as: “The most intuitive session planning system for facilitators, consultants and trainers. Design facilitation plans collaboratively, share professional-looking agendas with your clients and have a shared knowledge base within your team.”

They, and Liz, are right. It is easy and intuitive. It gives remote partners virtual templates to share. You can work on your plans in real time or on your own time. It keeps track of how much time you have allotted to each exercise and adds up the total workshop time, and it makes it easy to designate who is leading which of those exercises.

Yesterday, Liz and I co-facilitated another session with a client group. The screen grab above is our SessionLab plan. The colored bars on the left chart the whole session. In the app when you click on any one of those you are brought to the detailed descriptions you and your partners have co-created. This is a very cool tool that I will use again and again. Thanks, Liz.

Planning/Design Tool: SessionLab
How We Work

A better way to work virtually

“Tens of millions of people are working from home. Zoom use has exploded as we’ve turned to video chats—even though they’re exhausting. And whenever we do go back to our offices, we probably won’t all go back. To enable social distancing, more people will work in shifts, and remotely.

“So, do we need to settle for the Zoom-from-the-couch home office we have today? Not necessarily! The design firm Argodesign has created a concept called the Square. It’s an artificial window, created from an LCD screen that goes on the wall next to your desk. When you raise the shade, you can see a coworker, or two, working right there next to you. You can strike up a conversation, or ignore them. You can gossip, or hold a productive meeting. Just like a real office.”

Article: Move Over, Zoom. This Magic Interface is the Future of Videoconferencing


Design the presentation for remote viewing, ask for feedback more frequently, and presume there will be technical issues.

“In lockdown, everyone’s had to change tack. Delivering an idea via video call is an entirely new set of skills that requires different preparation, technical know-how, and even a change to the usual structure. But it also provides new opportunities to explore a concept. Here, four top studios – DixonBaxi, Anyways, Engine Creative and Stink Studios – share their experiences from years of pitching remotely and offer up some top tips for navigating your next video-call presentation.”

Article: How to Pitch Remotely: Top studios Share Their Video Call Presentation Tips


Drawing: Goodnight Zoom


OK, in this time of pandemic the virtual concert has become a thing. But when the performers are all students of the Berklee College of Music, you just know it’s going to be great. “‘Everyday People’ performed for the finale of the Berklee Virtual Commencement Concert Tribute. This song was originally made famous by Sly & The Family Stone and was recorded by 2020 Berklee Honorary Doctorate Recipient Sheila E. for her album Iconic Message 4 America.” There are great dancers, too.

Thanks to my good friend Kiffer Sikes for sharing this with me.

Video: Everyday People – Berklee Virtual Commencement Concert Tribute

Image of the week

The image of the week is by Brownsville, Brooklyn photographer Laylah Amatullah Barrayn.

She posted the image on her Instagram account, with these words: “My sis @maajeida_a_salaam in front of Masjid Taqwa the other day, she always has a good word, always checking in with the Ummah and her fresh juice game is ultra tight – not to mention her technique for cooking the best roasted lamb amazing!” #Brooklyn#muslimah #strength #courage#wisdom #BrooklynUmmah #sisters

Instagram Account: laylahb

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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