Clarity First Newsletter,
October 9, 2020

“It is our stories that will recreate us, when we are torn, hurt, even destroyed. It is the storyteller, the dream-maker, the myth-maker, that is our phoenix, that represents us at our best, and at our most creative.”

– Doris Lessing

Clarity First

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

Doris Lessing is so right. We can recreate us, even when we are feeling torn and hurt. The secret is not to accept the role of victim but to instead hold up our collective stories of hope, equality, peace and justice.

This is not to say that we should not feel afraid. We have ample reason to feel doom.  It is only to say that, as Joe Brewer points out in the first story, we can also hold the story of hope at the very same time, because both are true. And it is these stories of hope that will allow us to be our best, and our most creative selves.

Happy Friday.

Futures Thinking, Paradigm Shift

The way we tell this story is by living it. 

Last week my friend Madeline Charney (we met sitting on adjacent meditation cushions) wrote me to appreciate an idea she had read about in this letter. At the bottom of her email signature she included this note: “Where my head and heart are right now. Take a 3-minute break and watch ‘Living Into Being’ by Joe Brewer.” I did, Madeleine. What a beautifully centering frame. Thank you.

“I think we’ve been given a false choice between the story of hope and the story of doom. The false choice is that they’re both true.

“I study language, and I study culture, and I try to help people create strategies around the stories that they tell. And one of the things that I learned in the early days of trying to communicate about climate change, was that reframing climate change required us to not talk about climate change, and instead we need to talk about what it means to be human, and we need to talk about how economies work.”…

Video: Living Into Being

Collaboration, Creative Process

Innovation doesn’t happen in isolation

“The human brain is incredibly complex and capable of wonderful feats. Yet, our minds have inherent processing and attentional limitations. But what our brains can’t achieve at an individual level is largely offset by what we manage to accomplish at a collective level.”

“A key difference between ourselves and less advanced species is our collective brain, a web of knowledge powered by an organic version of our modern networked thinking. Innovation does not happen in isolation. It happens within our collective brains.”

Article: The Collective Brain: Where Does Innovation Come From?

Personal Development, Social Learning, Leadership

True, lasting change for marginalized groups requires a “proximate leader,” someone who has a meaningful relationship with the group.

Vanessa Garrison and T. Morgan Dixon

“Black women in the United States face a health crisis. They are dying at higher rates than any other group from preventable diseases. About 82 percent of Black women are overweight and 137 Black women die of heart disease every day—more than from gun violence, smoking, and HIV/AIDS combined.”

“Vanessa Garrison and T. Morgan Dixon set out to change this. The two are long-time friends who supported one another in building and sustaining a healthy lifestyle. Importantly, they come from the very community they are trying to help, enabling them to recognize both the challenges and assets Black women face when striving to get and stay healthy.”

“Combining their backgrounds as educators and advocates, Dixon and Garrison created GirlTrek, an organization whose approach brings together physical activity, such as walking, with programs designed to help Black women reclaim their identities and rebuild their communities.”

“’Solutions in the mainstream might focus on weight loss or looking good in skinny jeans without acknowledging the trauma that Black women hold in our bellies and bones, that has been embedded in our very DNA,’ said Garrison in a May 19, 2017 TED Talk. ‘The best advice from hospitals and doctors, the best medications from pharmaceutical companies . . . didn’t acknowledge systemic racism.’”

“Dixon and Garrison are examples of what we call a ‘proximate leader,’ someone who has a meaningful relationship with groups whose identity, experience, or community are systemically stereotyped, feared, dismissed, or marginalized. Being a proximate leader is about much more than being exposed to or studying a group of people and its struggles to overcome adversity. It’s about actually being a part of that group or being meaningfully guided by that group’s input, ideas, agendas, and assets.”

Article: Effective Change Requires Proximate Leaders

Leadership, Holding Each Other

Grief can teach us a lot about leading during uncertain and tumultuous times.

“Here are a few takeaways that I hope will help us step up to the many fast-moving issues confronting our country and world, challenges that true leaders must address.

“Stay Aware
Fight The Urge To Downplay
Ask (Then Listen Closely)
Bring People Together
Allow Resilience To Emerge
Stay In It For The Long Haul”

Article: What Grief Management Can Teach us About Leadership During Hard Times


Companies are hiring executives to lead the virtual work experience

“As the pandemic has rapidly accelerated a move to remote work — and widespread work-from-home arrangements are predicted to become permanent over the long-haul  some tech companies are carving out new jobs for executives to act as advocates for virtual workers and think more broadly about a lasting remote future.”

Article: Hot New Job Title in a Pandemic: ‘Head of Remote Work’

Visual Identity

In hindsight, it’s easy to see why Tropicana’s 2009 packaging refresh failed.

“When Tropicana hired legendary ad agency Arnell in 2008, they surely didn’t expect that, after five months of design work, launch planning, and $35 million in marketing spend, they’d lose 20% of their revenue within a month — about $20 million total in missed sales. But that’s exactly what happened.

“Less than 30 days after launch, they pulled the new design off the shelves and went back to the old one. Four years later, Arnell shut down — they had been in business for three decades.

“Looking back, some of Arnell’s mistakes appear obvious.”

Article: The Worst Rebrand in the History of Orange Juice


Delightful 60-second spot reminds us that music has the power to move.

“It’s well-documented that music moves us, and an advertisement for BBC Sounds takes that research literally. A project of Rogue Films, the one-minute clip opens on a woman riding a city bus before swooping into a responsively choreographed dance enhanced by visual effects. Each subject, including an unassuming dog, sways and spins to the diverse array of sounds pumping through their headphones or the speakers in a coffee shop. Two women twist in double-helix, a figure floats calmly mid-air, and another stares at hovering objects while she listens to astronauts in space.

“Based in London, the production company says on Twitter that the socially distant advertisement was shot in one take on a cordoned-off city street.”

Article: A New One-Take BBC Ad Brilliantly Interprets the Feelings of Music Through Clever Choreography


Flowers Are Changing Color in Response to Climate Change

Disney World Mcdonald’s To Be First Net-Zero Fast Food Restaurant

The Uncertain Future of Corporate HQs

Research: Why Breathing Is So Effective at Reducing Stress



In early August I told you about Linda Diaz, the winner of this year’s Tiny Desk Contest, besting more than 6,000 other applicants for the honor. But because the NPR music crew is not gathering around their desks at NPR headquarters in DC, she and her band could not perform in that now iconic room that has provided a stage for so many amazing artists. Instead the Tiny Desk crew brought them to the top of New York City’s Jacob K. Javits Convention Center and produced a socially-distanced concert in front of the city’s skyline.

Diaz’s voice is clear and calm and so groovy. She is beautifully complimented by back-up singers Bianca and Jacks Muñiz. As I said then, this soft and soothing music is a salve for the soul, and right about now we need to be soothed.

Article: Linda Diaz, 2020 Tiny Desk Contest Winner: Tiny Desk (Home) Concert


Image of the Week

Keith Haring, “Laguardia Apartment” (credit: Nancy Elizabeth Hill)

The image of the week is titled “Forms in Space”, by Roy Lichtenstein. It is one of the over 140 objects from Keith Haring’s personal collection that was sold last week in an online auction.

“The Keith Haring Foundation is selling over 140 objects from Haring’s personal collection via Sotheby’s to benefit the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center of New York (the Center) in the West Village. Titled Dear Keith: Works from the Personal Collection of Keith Haring, the online sale will run from September 24 to October 1 and be on view at Sotheby’s New York by appointment from September 26-30. It is the first time that these works, which include paintings, photographs, prints, and hand-painted objects, have come to auction.”

The foundation hoped that the auction would “raise nearly $1 million”.

Article: Keith Haring’s Personal Collection Will Be Sold to Benefit New York’s LGBT Center

“Sotheby’s online sale of works from Keith Haring’s personal collection, including those by the artist himself, reaffirmed the late street artist’s far-reaching popularity. The week-long sale, titled ‘Dear Keith’ realized $4.6 million, three times its high estimate. It also sold 100 percent by lot, giving it the status of a ‘white glove’ sale, in auction parlance.”

Article: Sotheby’s $4.6 Million Sale of Keith Haring’s Personal Art Collection Tripled Expectations and Drew in Droves of New Buyers


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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