Clarity First Newsletter,
November 8, 2019

“The most powerful person in the world is the storyteller. The storyteller sets the vision, values and agenda of an entire generation that is to come.” — Steve Jobs

Clarity First

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

This week I had the privilege of convening and holding a space for co-learning and discovery for members and guests of the Timber Framer’s Guild. We gathered at Hallelujah Farm, a beautiful and thoughtfully designed retreat center just over the border in New Hampshire.

I shared a brand new 2-day workshop, Telling Your Story. This was the workshops’s maiden flight. The stories shared in the closing circle suggest we did learn a lot from each other.

I love the power of the circle to invite and encourage the sharing of stories. We need to get out of cubes and into circles more often. Just sayin’.

Happy Friday.

Community, Culture, Learning

A monument to the Nordic model of civic engagement.

Tuomas Uusheimo,

Last month Tommi Laitio, Helsinki’s executive director for culture and leisure, yes they have one, presented at the CityLab DC annual conference. He was there to showcase Oodi (“ode” in Finnish), the city’s new library. It is an ode to the roles of education, the commons and inspiring architecture in shaping happy and healthy societies. As Americans watch a nationalist and a separatist faction of our own country attack the foundations of our democracy, there are many sources of hope and encouragement in this amazing new space.

“Laitio opened his talk not with shots of the beautifully sleek interiors, but with a sobering image from Finland’s brutal civil war of 1918, which killed 36,000 people, many of whom perished in prison camps.”

In the 100 years since Finland has progressed from one of the poorest countries of Europe to one of the most prosperous. According to Latio this has not been an accident. “‘It’s based on this idea that when there are so few of us—only 5.5 million people—everyone has to live up to their full potential. Our society is fundamentally dependent on people being able to trust the kindness of strangers.’”

“Nordic-style social services have not shielded the residents of Finland’s largest city from 21st-century anxieties about climate change, migrants, disruptive technology, and the other forces fueling right-leaning populist movements across Europe. Oodi, which was the product of a 10-year-long public consultation and design process, was conceived in part to resist these fears. ‘When people are afraid, they focus on short-term selfish solutions,’ Laitio said. ‘They also start looking for scapegoats.'”

ArchDaily has more than 50 images of this inspiring monument to community and learning.Article: How Helsinki Built ‘Book Heaven’

Personal Development, Working Together

Take a walk on the cooperative side.

Jason Zhang via Wikimedia Commons

“Might walking with someone – including someone we are currently in a dispute with or otherwise at odds with – help us get past stubborn roadblocks in our thinking or obdurate obstacles to our onward dialogue? Could we call on the simple activity of ‘taking a walk together’ to assist us in our struggling efforts to negotiate toward the goals that we, and our walking partner, may have? Can walking together help us resolve conflicts with another person?

Three researchers at Columbia University recently teamed up to spell out some of the reasons we might expect walking together to have just such a welcome and positive spill-over effect…”

Article: Can Walking Together Help Creatively Synchronize Our Goals?

Learning, Persuasion

To be more persuasive, say less.

Psychology researcher Niro Sivanathan says that when making a persuasive argument we should resist the temptation to bury people under a blizzard of evidence. There’s strong science behind this advice, science that is really easy to understand.

Article: How To Make Your Arguments Stronger (Hint: longer is not the answer)

Organizational Alignment

Story-driven companies prioritize the things that will help them achieve their goals while staying true to their values.

In developing the new Telling Your Story workshop I was inspired by this book. In it Bernadette Jiwa makes a simple case: a company is either competitor-driven or story driven.

The former seeks to dominate the market and maximize value. Their goal is to win by boosting the single bottom line and raising their status as ‘the leader’ in their category.

The story-driven company is “responsive to customers and priorities having a clear sense of purpose and identity. …The people who work there derive a deep sense of meaning from their work because they know their company exists to do more than simply make a profit. …Story-driven companies have a positive impact on their customers and society. They thrive by making the connection between their purpose and prosperity. Their goal is to make a difference.”

Book: Story Driven. You don’t need to compete when you know who you are

Identity Design, Corporate Social Responsibility

Design studio Horse has created the identity and packaging for Good Things Brewing, a new company with a goal to build the world’s most sustainable brewery.

“‘The way beer is brewed is really inefficient,’ said Sam Robinson from Good Things Brewing. ‘And in the UK, we brew a lot of beer. A lot. Raw ingredients are shipped in from all over the world, the leftover grain is recycled inefficiently and huge amounts of energy and water are wasted. Our planet simply can’t sustain it.'”

“Robinson, who is also a photographer, was inspired to create the brand after learning about the environmental impact of the beer-making process and the lack of public knowledge of this outside of the brewing industry.

“Having worked together with Horse on numerous projects, Robinson says: ‘It was, therefore, important our branding break the traditional craft beer aesthetic. We crucially wanted to move away from the ‘skater’ graphics and boys’ club feeling, and create something more closely linked to the natural world, appealing importantly to both men and women.'”

Article: Horse Designs Branding and Packaging for ‘World’s Most Sustainable Brewery’

Personal Development
Gratitude can be a life raft.

Readers of this letter comment to me how much they appreciate the positivity I manage to convey, even as a US leadership team employs deception, fear and distrust as primary strategies to take our personal agency and rights away, and to separate us from each other. Dear reader, please understand that much of the time I live in a state of deep fear and dark depression. Sometimes I struggle to find the hope that I point toward.

One of the most reliable buoys I’ve found in turbulent seas is just naming relationships I feel grateful for. And here’s the thing: for gratitude to set you right you don’t need to be feeling grateful when you notice it. In fact, when gratitude serves you best you are probably feeling the worst.

Article: 5 Ways to Practice Gratitude When Life Feels Hard  

Personal Productivity

Get an emdash when you need it




Sometimes—like when you want to speak parenthetically—only an emdash will do. But for the life of me I’ve never been able to remember the keyboard command to summon it. So I was thrilled last week when Tina Roth Eisenberg referred me to a tiny little website that has just one function: click on the button and you get an emdash copied to your clipboard. Easy.




Debbie and I have a Sunday morning tradition of retrieving the Sunday New York Times (yes, we still “take the paper”) from the front porch and retreating back to bed to read select sections. (She reads the front section then the Style section first. I read the Sunday Review and then the Business section first.) Last Sunday I luxuriated in an article by Nate Sloan called The Glorious Return of Funk. (This link is an animated version with sound clips. Nice.) The promise of one nation under one groove provided such a welcome reprieve from the vitriol and division being spat out by the White House and being regurgitated on the Sunday talk shows.

Then I rolled out of bed and checked my phone. There was a text message that my son Devan had sent the night before with a link to the new single by the Free Nationals, Anderson.Paak’s, who is cited in the article, touring band. Devan said, “this song hits me just right”. I put it on repeat and kept it there for a very long time. It hits me just right too. Yes, one nation under one groove.

Single: Eternal Light

Image of the week

The image of the week is “Glass Castles” (2017) by Deborah Roberts, a part of the Tang Teaching Museum collection. The work has been currated by The Feminist Art Coalition as a part of an effort to coordinate with museums nationwide to display feminist art in anticipation of the 2020 election.

“When life gives you Trumps, it’s time to make feminade. The next United States presidential race will come crashing to a close one year from today. In anticipation of the year of politicking and public platforming, a new initiative spearheaded by a group of feminist curators announces its debut: the Feminist Art Coalition is up and running. The project, which seeks to slate a fall season of intensive cross-institutional programming centering around the theme of ‘feminism’ in its most expansive definition…”.

Article: Dozens of Museums Will Be Filled With Feminist Art Ahead of US Presidential Election.


The Timber Framers Guild is sponsoring my new workshop—Telling Your Story—again, next week in Portland, OR at the Hotel Rose. You don’t have to be a timber framer to attend. In fact, two bright lights from this week’s east coast session represented their cafe and catering company, The Porch, by serving us amazing meals and snacks in between their own journaling, dyads and learning games. There are still seats available, even if you don’t cook. You need only bring some stories of your life experience. Join us?

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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