Clarity First Newsletter,
October 11, 2019

“I want to be a force for real good. In other words,
I know that there are bad forces, forces that bring suffering to others and misery to the world, but I want to be the opposite force. I want to be the force which is truly for good.” – John Coltrane

Clarity First

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

Watching our president and his criminal cronies steal pages from Hitler’s play book is more than a little frightening. It gets harder and harder to look away from the train wreck that is his “leadership”.

But, when I do look at what we, a species with consciousness, are learning it is possible to feel hope too. Here are a few ideas I plucked from the firehose this week.

Happy Friday.

WIRED’s Editor-in-Chief Nicholas Thompson recently interviewed Bina Venkataraman about her new book, The Optimist’s TelescopeThinking Ahead in a Reckless Age.

“I think we are part of a generation of humanity who have never faced higher stakes for thinking ahead. We’re living longer than our grandparents or their grandparents, and we’re going to need to think about our own futures and how we plan for them. If you look at problems like climate change, our knowledge of how we impact the future is far greater than previous generations of humanity. But we are in a culture that’s encouraging instant gratification. And so I started to wonder: Is it actually possible to think ahead?”

Article: How to Practice Long-term Thinking in a Distracted World

Organizational Health

Business ethics is a business fundamental.

“Ethical failures often occur because what was known or should have been known was not addressed. When ethics isn’t considered a business fundamental (like finance, operations, strategy, planning, marketing), vulnerability increases.”

Article: Making Ethics Real Makes Leadership Real

Learning, Forgiveness

Arlan Hamilton’s productivity hack is forgiveness.

“Arlan Hamilton’s trick to getting stuff done isn’t jotting things down on a planner or drinking more water: it’s forgiving others.

“Hamilton, the founder of Backstage Capital and one of the few queer black women in venture capital, found that agonizing over the unfair ways she had been treated in the past kept her from doing her job….

“Hamilton made a decision to forgive the people who she felt wronged her — that way, she took control of the situation and wasn’t as impacted by other peoples’ actions.”

Article: How One of the Few Queer Black Women in Venture Capital Clears Her Mind To Overcome Bias and Get Things Done


Cormac McCarthy shares his advice for pleasing readers, editors and yourself.

“For the past two decades, Cormac McCarthy — whose ten novels include The Road, No Country for Old Men and Blood Meridian — has provided extensive editing to numerous faculty members and postdocs at the Santa Fe Institute (SFI) in New Mexico. He has helped to edit works by scientists such as Harvard University’s first tenured female theoretical physicist, Lisa Randall, and physicist Geoffrey West, who authored the popular-science book Scale.”

In 2018 Van Savage, a theoretical biologist and ecologist who received invaluable editing advice from McCarthy when he was a grad student and post doc, worked with McCarthy to condense McCarthy’s advice into bites.

Friends, we are lucky they did. These are pearls of writing wisdom. Keep them near where you write. There are 17 total. Here’s the first two:

• “Use minimalism to achieve clarity. While you are writing, ask yourself: is it possible to preserve my original message without that punctuation mark, that word, that sentence, that paragraph or that section? Remove extra words or commas whenever you can. 

• Decide on your paper’s theme and two or three points you want every reader to remember. This theme and these points form the single thread that runs through your piece. The words, sentences, paragraphs and sections are the needlework that holds it together. If something isn’t needed to help the reader to understand the main theme, omit it.”

Article. Novelist Cormac McCarthy’s Tips On How To Write A Great Science Paper

Learning, Innovation

“Some data-driven experiments claim that unless new concepts incubate outside of a traditional business unit, they will fail to launch 75-80% of the time.”

“Since Frederick Taylor first consulted the first manufacturing plants, we have geared our enterprises on reducing risks, systematizing the core into a predictable algorithm. All of our Corporate systems thinking is about reducing the margin of error: Six Sigma, TQM, etc.

“Therefore, when a Business Unit is weighing decisions about what to launch, it will make the safest bet, even if it means only slightly incremental growth. It will also judge all concepts through the lens of Legal, Brand, Finance departments and existing sales and distribution channels. This Top Down approach usually includes bloated Business Cases, fully thought-out programs that forecasts likely scenarios, and months of expensive Market Research that reinforce the argument.”

Article: The Whole System is Rigged Against Innovation

Internal Communications, Organizational Health

What’s the difference between an effective onboard and orientation?

“An onboard program begins when the job offer is tendered.  It ends when the new hire has been evaluated and deemed “fully functioning”.  In other words, onboarding is an ongoing process. It includes a series of events that include employee orientation.

“The onboard process helps new employees recognize what needs to be done to succeed in their job. It reinforces everything the new hire was told during recruitment. And it includes work culture awareness so that procedural conflict is minimized.

“It also includes encouragement and coaching, as well as confirmation that they made the right decision by joining your organization.  The process ideally breaks down expectations daily. It also makes them aware of how their job contributes to the organization as a whole.”

Article: Onboard Versus Orientation Leads To Retention

Advertising, Social Messaging

In case you missed it, watch this ad.

Last month, just in time for back to school, Sandy Hook Promise debuted an ad called “Back-to-School Essentials”. The ad, by ad agency BBDO New York, starts out as a typical upbeat and breezy spot that celebrates new school supplies for freshly scrubbed kids. But before long new sneakers are being used to run from gunfire and a new phone is being used to tap a farewell message to a parent.

By using shock, awe and tears the spot makes a clear point: if you know the warning signs, gun violence can be avoidable. The fact that we need this ad is so tragic. There will be tears, but this is a must see and share ad.

Article: The Art Of Shock: Behind Sandy Hook Promise’s ‘Back-To-School Essentials’ Ad 


Stella Donnelly is a singer songwriter who grew up in Wales and is based in Perth, Australia today. She earned her chops playing in various pick up bands, and her first EP was a solo affair. This year she released a new album with a full band, and this summer they toured the U.S. They stopped at KEXP in Seattle and recorded this delightful live set.

Her music reminds me of the swinging insouciance of Edie Brickell and early Natalie Merchant. Her lyrics are as honest and bare as her music is sparkly. Her band is gender balanced, with ladies holding down the drums and bass, and they feel great together.  I love how Stella Donnelly and her cool band’s energy counterbalance the dark mood of our world today. Stella, we need you.

Video: Stella Donnelly – Full Performance (Live on KEXP)

Image of the week

The image of the week is of a lake on the north shore of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. In 2015, American photographer Michael Zuhorski began photographing the north shore, “a quiet, forested region that borders three of America’s famed Northern Great Lakes. It was here that ‘Eyes Make The Horizon’ began, an ethereal landscape series that displays Zuhorski’s personal relationship with nature.”

Article: In Eyes Make the Horizon, Michael Zuhorski Photographs. His Spiritual Relationship With Nature

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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