Clarity First Newsletter, November 16, 2018


Clarity First

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

This week I went to the Metropolitan Opera in New York to see their new production of Georges Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers. The work is stunningly beautiful, with costumes, sets and special effects so majestic that they match the sounds of dozens of voices and a full orchestra. I laughed, I cried, and I was left feeling hopeful. If we humans can stage an opera so large, complex and demanding, then we can certainly figure out how to live together.

Happy Friday. Here’s some of what I scooped out of the torrent when I wasn’t shouting ‘Bravo!’.


Personal Development, Presence
We are living in an age of overwhelm. Fortunately, when we practice being present—conscious—we can quiet the overwhelm.

“When we flinch, judge, manipulate, or disconnect from that which feels intolerable, we miss the opportunity to metabolize that discomfort and transform it. We can aspire to stay engaged with our thoughts and feelings and not be thrown off by inner turbulence. Of course, part of the process is recognizing and acknowledging places and times in our lives when we are not connected…”
Book Excerpt: The Best Medicine for Confronting Trauma: Be Present


Organization Design, Collective Leadership, Group Process
Five questions to focus the nonprofit executive team

“Only 19 percent of nonprofit executive team members strongly agree that their teams focus on the right work. To improve the performance of these vital groups, leaders should ask five critical questions.”
Article: How to Create Better Nonprofit Executive Teams


Philanthropy, Religious Giving
“Now the younger generation doesn’t feel constrained by doing what their parents or grandparents did.”

Image by Monica Ramos, via the NYT

“It used to be that many people gave to their particular house of worship to get a prominent pew or extra blessings. Or because their grandparents and parents had always attended that church or synagogue or mosque.

“That is changing. Religious institutions are still the single biggest recipients of overall charity donations, according to the 2015 survey by the Giving USA Foundation…But that is down from about 50 percent since 1990.”

Yup, this reflects the overall decline in the number of people who identify with a religious group. “But it’s also true that ‘younger people give differently,’ said Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism. ‘It’s about expressing their commitment to core values and their obligation to sustain those in need. In prior generations, giving to Jewish organizations was thought of as automatic. Now the younger generation doesn’t feel constrained by doing what their parents or grandparents did.’”
Article: Donations to Religious Institutions Fall as Values Change


Place, Philanthropy
I love you California

The golden state is on fire and 3 Fish Studios is offering a way we can celebrate and help the wonderful place at once. ”100% of the purchase price will be donated to help relief efforts in California.”
Article: California Wildfire Fundraising Bundle


Branding, Marketing, ROI
Actually, “creative matters more than it ever did before.”

A funny thing happened when when we learned to use data to measure the effectiveness of our branding efforts. It turns out that when we cease to invest in the long term brand perception that is harder to measure, the short term objectives that are easier to measure fall, too.

“Brand is a ‘very key element’ in driving profitable growth. ‘You need to be very consistent in terms of what consumers think of your brand and what do you need to change about your messaging and what behavior you want to drive. You need to start with that.’”

“For marketers looking to boost effectiveness, Thomas Barta has a simple solution – plan an effectiveness day every six months where marketing and finance come together and look at all the areas of marketing to see where they could do better.

“Go through the effectiveness funnel – segmentation, messages, media mix, execution, consistency – and have a look at what you could do better. It’s simple things like this that will raise the bar of effectiveness in companies.”
Article: Why Brand Plays a Key Role in Marketing Effectiveness


Personal Development
Review, consider and analyze your beliefs, assumptions and actions.

“The most useful reflection involves the conscious consideration and analysis of beliefs and actions for the purpose of learning. Reflection gives the brain an opportunity to pause amidst the chaos, untangle and sort through observations and experiences, consider multiple possible interpretations, and create meaning. This meaning becomes learning, which can then inform future mindsets and actions. For leaders, this ‘meaning making’ is crucial to their ongoing growth and development.”
Article: Why You Should Make Time for Self-Reflection (Even If You Hate Doing It)


Personal Productivity
“If you had to focus on just one execution tactic, intentional planning for the week ahead is probably the one providing with the most significant impact.”

Step 1: Plan Your Week Ahead on Sundays. Step 2: Understand Your Tasks And Your Workflow. There are three more useful tips in this short article, and they’re all as smart.
Article: This Simple Yet Powerful Weekly Planning Routine Puts You in Control



Holy moly. Sydney Pollack made a concert film of Aretha and we’ve never seen it, and now we can.

By the time that Aretha recorded her live concert album Amazing Grace in 1972, she had released 21 Top 20 hits on Jerry Wexler’s Atlantic Records. In just 6 years. But she was fed up. David Ritz, author of Respect: The Life of Aretha Franklin, writes that “She had sung rhythm and blues. She had sung Broadway songs and folk songs. … She said that you could sing for a man for only so long. At some point, you must sing for God.”

No major star nor label had ever released one contiguous, live gospel show before. But that’s what Aretha wanted to do, and it worked. The band is funky. The choir is tight and responsive. And Aretha is at the top of her game. Atlantic sold more than 2 million albums, becoming the best selling gospel record of all time. Many consider the performance one of the biggest jewels in the crown of the Queen of Soul.

And Sydney Pollack had a film crew there. Now we can watch the whole 87 minutes of this magic and uplifting concert.
Article: Aretha Franklin Doc ‘Amazing Grace’ Amplifies the Power of a Gospel Classic
Film Trailer: Amazing Grace


Image of the Week

The image of the week is titled Kid With Hand Crafts, by David Nam Lip Lee. The image is a winner of this year’s Sienna International Photo Awards. About the work the contest website says: “In Ethiopia, the kids of the Suri tribe are being over-protected by their families. Imagine these metal handcrafts as a jail with a Suri kid locked inside. Young kids are the hope and inheritors of the Suri culture, but the overprotection will marginalize the new generation from the world.”


What’s Clarity First?

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