Clarity First Newsletter,
October 2, 2020

“Possibility is not a luxury; it is as crucial as bread.” – Judith Butler

Clarity First

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

The week’s news was so frightening and so destabilizing that it was hard to watch. Increasingly I find myself limiting my news intake to the daily Letters from an American, written by Heather Cox Richardson, a Boston College history professor. Last night she wrote this:

“The extraordinary chaos feeds the needs of this president to destabilize the country and emerge as a savior. The current chaos is designed to make you hopeless about creating change so that you give up. To combat that, look away and recharge your batteries. Focus on the things that ground you: family, friends, pets, gardening, movies, books, biking, church… whatever works. Just come back when you can… and remember to vote.”

I would add to her list things of that ground me is looking away from the dumpster fire that this administration represents toward the potential we all share.

Possibility really isn’t a luxury at all. At a time like this it is existential.

Sustainable Development, Systems Thinking, Social Innovation

Being alone means succumbing to despair or faint hope. Interacting is the solution.

The local festival “Palio del Grano” (wheat tourney). Credit: #CampDIGrano Media Team

“The hypothesis we are experimenting with and analyzing is a Mediterranean way of development, which considers coupling technological and social innovation as part of one process. In our Mediterranean model concept, technology is not necessarily the cause of alienation and distancing from tradition, rurality, or craftsmanship. We see it as central in bringing together young people, craftsmen, small businesses, social entrepreneurs, start-ups, research 4.0, and institutions, united around a different sense of production, work, the environment and society — thus, becoming the key to sustainable development, and to protecting biodiversity, the environment and people.”

Article: Synergy, Not Disruption: Industry 4.0 Meets Traditional Wisdom in Rural Italy

Community, Learning

In an era of ideological rancor, a few brave souls are going out of their way to befriend their political opposites.

“When Glenn Stanton and Sheila Kloefkorn first ended up in the same room together, they knew they were not going to see eye to eye.

“Stanton, the director of Global Family Formation Studies at the evangelical Christian values organization Focus on the Family, had spent years vociferously fighting gay marriage.

“Kloefkorn, on the other hand, had married her wife in 2014, on the day gay marriage became legal in Arizona. Having fought for equal marriage for decades, finally being able to wed meant letting go of feeling like a second-class citizen.

“But today, Stanton and Kloefkorn are friends. They met through Braver Angels, an organization that encourages people to befriend and understand people who have differing political opinions. Today, they laugh when people are surprised at their friendship.”

“…The work can sometimes be tough, revealing, anxiety-inducing. It requires workshops, disabling one’s own ego, and sometimes even being subjected to offensive ideas.

“And yet thousands of people across the U.S. are returning every week to do the work and broaden their friendship circles and their minds, in hopes that the country will be healed by learning to get along.

Article: I Loathe Your Politics – So Let’s Be Friends


“I bow to the divine light within you.”

Prince Charles, accompanied by Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, and French president Emmanuel Macron greet one another with a ‘namaste’ in London on June 18. Photo by Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

“Hands over the heart in prayer pose. A little bow of the head. A gesture of respect. An acknowledgment of our shared humanity. And no touching.

“As people the world over are choosing to ditch the handshakes and hugs for fear of contracting the coronavirus, namaste is becoming the perfect pandemic greeting.”

“…For many American yoga teachers, beginning most likely with Ram Dass in the 1960s and 1970s, namaste means something like ‘the divine light in me bows to the divine light within you.’”

“…However, there are critics who say that global yogis have taken namaste out of its context. Some claim that the greeting has been infused with a religious meaning that doesn’t exist in Indian culture.”

(Yet) “Many common salutations have religious roots, including adios, or ‘a Dios, to God, and goodbye – a contraction of ‘God be with you.’”

Article: Why ‘Namaste’ Has Become the Perfect Pandemic Greeting


Welcome to the world of the virtual offsite

I miss meeting in cafes, and co-working spaces, and in each other’s homes and conference rooms. But I especially miss offsite retreats and workshops. Here’s a box of tools to help you recreate some of the offsite experience online.

Article: The Unexpected Magic of Virtual Offsites


Window displays that demonstrate the value of local reporting

“One day last June, New Yorkers woke up to find that vacant storefronts in each borough had been revived overnight. This time, the new tenant wasn’t a bodega or a clothing boutique: It was the New York Times. The newspaper had transformed five shuttered retail spaces into six-week-long art installations that were free and open to the public. Each brought to life a recent investigative report in New York City, ranging from taxi drivers’ struggles to obtain licenses to the tragic death of a sex worker in Queens.

“The Times partnered with design studio Local Projects to bring these installations to life; “The Truth is Local” is the winner of our 2020 Innovation by Design Award in the category of Retail Environments. Local Projects was given an open-ended brief to find a creative use of vacant stores, according to creative director Christopher Fung. The goal was to demonstrate the Times‘ commitment to reporting about its hometown, while spurring a new generation of New Yorkers to subscribe. Fung’s team decided to create window displays that would stop pedestrians in their tracks. While passersby couldn’t enter the store, the idea was to use imagery and sound to immerse people in the Times‘ storytelling.”

Article: How the New York Times Transformed Vacant Storefronts Into Powerful Works of Art

Research, UX

Approaching research with an open source mindset

“Red Hat’s UXD team creates in the open, and this ideology applies to their research, too. Thinking the open source way involves adopting a community-first and community-driven frame of mind. New ideas can come from anywhere, and an open source mindset embraces these varied voices and perspectives.

“Structuring research with an open source mindset means each research technique should be driven by two angles—we don’t just want to learn about our users; we want to learn from them, too.

“To satisfy both of these user-focused objectives, we make research decisions backed by other voices, not just our own. By sourcing input from beyond our team, we design research experiences that are truly tailored to the communities we serve.”

Article: 5 Ways to Conduct User Research With an Open Source Mindset

Visual Identity, Graphic Design

Eight new visual identity systems

Oh gee, here we go again. A brand is not a logo, nor a tag line, nor a signature product or service. A brand is the promise a company or organization makes to those it serves of how it helps them. So, this article about eight new logo and visual identity systems is misnamed. These are not rebranding programs, they are visual identity programs. But be that as it may, this article is still a good survey of what visual ID systems are, how they evolve, and why they should.

Article: 8 Best Company Rebranding Designs & Examples


It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.

“The 2020 presidential debate presented many lessons in both successful and unsuccessful methods of communication. Let’s take a look at some of the key communication takeaways from the debate.”

Article: Communication Lessons From The Presidential Debate

Personal Development

“Sleeping on a problem works for two curious reasons.”

“First, it works because of a psychological phenomenon named the Zeigarnik effect. Named after psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik, this effect suggests that we store unresolved problems at the front of our minds. Our brains are wired to continue connecting new experiences and thoughts to that problem until the loop is closed. That includes the new ideas that come up when our minds wander. By capturing a problem before bed, you’re more likely to store it front-of-mind for the night—when your mind will turn over the problem, in search of a solution to it.

“This is where the power of dreaming comes in—the second reason sleeping on a problem works so well. Interestingly, the brain networks we use to dream as we sleep and daydream are eerily similar—on a neurological level, dreaming is basically daydreaming on steroids.

“Like daydreaming, dreaming creates the space for us to process problems and unearth new insights. When we wake up we find we’re not only more refreshed and able to focus, but that our subconscious may have pieced together the puzzle from the day before. Everyone from Thomas Edison to Salvador Dali have used sleep as a tool to come up with new insight solutions.”

Article: Tonight, Pick One Problem to Sleep On

Oneliners Economic Downturn? These Sectors are Innovating Climate Solutions. And They’re Thriving.

How Fairtrade Protects Company Supply Chains — and Brand Reputations

Inside A Tiny-Home Village of Abandoned Streetcars That Once Existed in San Francisco in 1900 Where the City’s Bohemians and Artists Lived



Without a whole lot of fanfare, Sonic Youth’s Washing Machine turned 25 last Saturday. They streamed an April 7, 1996 appearance on German music series Rockpalast, Thurston Moore used the occasion to release a new solo album,  By the Fire, and  Brooklyn Vegan published a comprehensive Sonic Youth Album Guide.

Sonic Youth, Becuz, live in Germany, 1996

It’s one of my favorite records by the band. So, I’m recycling a review of the album that Diffuser posted on the occasion of the 20th anniversary:
Article: Sonic Youth Return to Their Experimental Roots with ‘Washing Machine’
Video: Sonic Youth – Becuz (Live 1996)
Album: Sonic Youth – Washing Machine


Image of the Week

The Image of the Week is by Susan Curry. It was assembled and built in her yard in the village of Cortez, FL, on the Gulf Coast just north of Sarasota. Our friend, Paul Dryfoos, snapped this photo while out for his daily walk.


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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