Clarity First Newsletter, October 26, 2018

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

I’m just guessing that people who feel so disenfranchised and fearful that they find comfort in trying to blow other people up haven’t had a lot of play in their lives.

I’m also just guessing that right about now we could all use a little more play. Dancing, bowling, pool, knitting, riding (anything), climbing, playing cards, boating, chess…

I love play for three reasons: it gets me out of my head, it pushes me beyond my comfort edges, and it gives me an easy reason to meet and connect with others, with people who may be really different than me.

During this perilous and frightening time, this is my Halloween wish: that we all play more. Get outside. Talk to people you can touch. Have a happier Friday.


Community, Social Progress, Activism

For the best public decision making, harness the best in collective intelligence tools.

 Possible Mexicos is a platform that supports more than 100 leaders from all sectors of Mexican society to work together to address their country’s daunting and interwoven issues of insecurity, illegality, and inequity.

“Democracy is intended to be the power of the people, for the people, and by the people. Unfortunately, as Yale Professor Hélène Landemore reminds us in Democratic Reason – Politics, Collective Intelligence, and the Rule of the many, over time, few politicians, thinkers, and even citizens have had much faith in the electorate’s ability to be intelligent collectively. Winston Churchill once famously said, “The best argument against democracy is a 5-minute conversation with the average voter.” Doesn’t this comment resonate with most of us today?

“Yet, in the past few years, deliberate experiments in new forms of public collaboration around the world have proven that such skepticism may be overblown. National issues forums, democracy festivals, consensus conferences, participatory budgeting, and unusual approaches such as the Forum Theater are building a more fruitful relationship between citizens and public authorities.”

Let’s say that last line again. We can learn to build more fruitful relationships between citizens and public authorities.
Article: Now is the Time for Augmented Democracy

Leadership, Group Process, Organizational Culture

The best leaders know when it is time to be big and when it is time to be small, so others can be big.

“Research showed that managers (across a broad group of industries and across a range of management levels) are getting only 66% of their employees’ capability on average. There’s another 34% of intelligence waiting to be mined and put to work on our most important opportunities and on our biggest challenges.”
Article: How The Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter

Design, User Experience

Good design for the extremes means good design for the masses.

“Everyone takes in information in different ways. Make sure your product or website includes multiple options for how to engage.”
Article: Bullet Points, Visuals, and OXO Peelers: Three Experts Advocate for Inclusive Design

Creative Process, Teaching, Learning

Tell your story in bite-sized pieces.

A storyboard is a planning tool that describes a narrative visually, in blocks or cells. A graphic novel is a long storyboard. Once a tool used only by filmmakers, today business folk use them to pitch product ideas and educators use them to summarize a text.

Richard Byrne has collected resources that simplify the process. He’s got a history of storyboards, online tools that provide pre-made, drop-and-drag artwork, and videos that show how to make templates that use Google Slides or Powerpoint to break your story into easy to understand pieces.
Article: How and Why Students Should Make Storyboards

Design Process, Color

Centuries after naturalists used it to define the colors they saw in the natural world, Werner’s Nomenclature of Colours is back.

“The nomenclature of colors we use today is really a machine language–numerical hex codes crafted to communicate with software on computers and printers. Before the age of CMYK and RBG, though, artists and scientists created their own languages for talking about and categorizing color. Though many have fallen into obscurity, at least one is now accessible to anyone with access to the internet: Werner’s Nomenclature of Colours.”
Article: A 200-Year-Old Guide to Color, Redesigned for the Internet Age

Personal Productivity

Why Checklists Are So Powerful

NASA astronaut Shannon Walker, Expedition 25 flight engineer, reads a checklist while working in the Kibo laboratory of the International Space Station.

“Checklists help you avoid mistakes and simplify outsourcing specific tasks. They also free up some of your mental bandwidth from worry and help you focus on more important work. Whether you’re an executive in a large company or working in your business, two kinds of checklists will help you avoid mistakes and accomplish more faster.

“Checklist One: Read-Do
If you’ve ever cooked dinner while following a recipe, you’re familiar with a Read-Do checklist. It outlines the steps required for accomplishing a specific outcome, like cooking lasagne.

“Checklist Two: Do-Confirm
A Do-Confirm checklist covers tasks you complete from memory.
Pilots use a Do-Confirm checklist to ensure they haven’t overlooked anything such as checking the right instruments or locking the plane’s brakes. Essentially, this kind of checklist helps the pilot fly a plane safely without relying solely on his or her fallible memory.”
Article: Two Powerful Types Of Checklists You Must Use

Personal Development

Life is busy. Here’s a selection of quick meditations to work with emotional distress and foster mindfulness when time is scarce.

“Meditation is about relaxing with the truth. When we sit in that vulnerability, we can get in touch with our thoughts, emotions, and body. However, even the most experienced meditators can get uncomfortable or find themselves short on time. And that’s okay. The goal in meditation isn’t to “fix” ourselves, but rather to see ourselves as we are.”
Article: Two-Minute Meditations for Anytime, Anywhere



This small-room performance in London in July, 2016 shows off Odetta Hartman’s comfort with the folk idiom.‘s artist wiki has a one-line entry for Odetta Hartman: “an American musician whose music is a hybrid of folk, musique concrète and psychedelia”.

Performing at Sofar Washington, D.C. on May 11th, 2018

It’s a heady definition, and technically true. But such academic labeling completely misses her spontaneity, her intelligence, her willingness to try anything, her ability to use music to express existential questions, and to totally swing.

The “folk” part is easy to see. She is a master of the banjo, the fiddle, and the violin. And her voice is clear and she uses it to express lyrics that are cuttingly direct. She credits holiday visits with her grandmother in West Virginia as being formative, referring to the regular trips as her “Appalachian infusion”. On her Facbook page for her latest album Old Rockhounds Never Die,she describes her music as “Cowboy Soul”.

Odetta Hartman and Creek Time + Tap Tap: In Studio Live at Beyond Studios

She also names being raised in the East Village by open-minded parents who exposed her to hip-hop and experimental dance as a similarly deep influence. In this context “musique concrete” is easy to see, too. The term is another academic label that means using and reusing sounds to the point that you can longer recognize the source sound. We call it mixing, or trip-hop, and she loves the form. She embraces its liberating spirit whole-heartedly.

But none of these labels can come close to naming her unique brilliance, spirit and mastery. It’s not a stretch to imagine that if she had been born in the early 50s she’d have spent her twenties performing sell-out shows at CBGBs. Sometimes you just can’t name it.


Image of the Week

The images of the week is by Singaporean photographer Nguan. He first began photographing people, places and cities “as a way to grapple with the emotional aftermath of the 9/11 events in America. He intricately photographs the subtleties of human despair; contrasted against soft pastel hues.”
Article: The Darker Reason Behind Nguan’s Yearning Photographic Vision

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