Clarity First Newsletter,
September 27, 2019

“If you really want to get along with somebody, let them be themselves.” – Willie Nelson

Clarity First

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

Greetings from Rochester, NY where Debbie and I are visiting our daughter and her partner. After a week when our eyes and ears were glued to the horror show that is Washington it feels really good to just connect.

Happy Friday.


A sweet serenade to our shared belonging.

Pascal Lemaître

“’To see takes time, like to have a friend takes time, Georgia O’Keeffe wrote as she contemplated the art of seeing. To listen takes time, too — to learn to hear and befriend the world within and the world without, to attend to the quiet voice of life and heart alike. ‘If we were not so single-minded about keeping our lives moving, and for once could do nothing,” Pablo Neruda wrote in his gorgeous ode to quietude, ‘perhaps a huge silence might interrupt this sadness of never understanding ourselves.’

“This inspiriting, sanctifying power of listening is what writer Holly M. McGhee and illustrator Pascal Lemaître explore in the simply titled, sweetly unfolding Listen(public library) — a serenade to the heart-expanding, life-enriching, world-ennobling art of attentiveness as a wellspring of self-understanding, of empathy for others, of reverence for the loveliness of life, evocative of philosopher Simone Weil’s memorable assertion that attention, taken to its highest degree, is the same thing as prayer.’”

ArticleAn Illustrated Ode to Attentiveness and the Art of Listening as a Wellspring of Self-Understanding, Empathy for Others, and Reverence for the Loveliness of Life


Using AI to dispel stereotypes about food insecurity

This face is a composite based on photos of 1,000 Americans who can’t afford to stay fed.

“A new PSA is using artificial intelligence to challenge people’s perceptions of hunger as a problem faced only by those living on the streets or in distant, underdeveloped countries. Instead, advocates say, hunger afflicts 37 million Americans, in the kinds of families you see around you each day.

“Relief group Feeding America teamed up with agency Leo Burnett and the Ad Council to create a virtual visage based on the faces of 1,000 hunger-afflicted Americans. These photos reflected the actual demographics seen in USDA food security data. The creative team then used visual effects tools to overlay that composite face onto a real person, engineering a passably realistic-looking spokeswoman for the issue.”

Article: An AI Created This Portrait of Hunger in America by Analyzing 1,000 People in Need

Regenerative Economy

Reducing carbon emissions is a standalone business case. It contributes to GDP growth.

Image via wbcsd, which runs a low carbon transport initiative.

Speaking of listening, last week millions of people representing an estimated 185 countries took to the streets to demand that government and business leaders step up to the climate crisis we are all co-creating.

This week the Boston Consulting Group made the business case for protecting our miracle orb, and for helping it heal.

“The economic debate around climate action continues to be dominated by skepticism. Regulators and corporations remain reluctant to promote ambitious abatement for fear it might hurt economic competitiveness and growth. This reluctance is increasingly at odds with economic reality. While the projected negative impact and economic risks of unchecked climate change continue to escalate, the costs of taking action are declining. For many countries, reducing emissions is even a standalone business case, as it contributes to GDP growth.”

Article: Flipping the Script on Climate Action

Community, Culture

Art is good for you, yours and your neighbors.

“A new study in the UK has quantified just how much arts offerings influence people’s choice to relocate or stay in a particular city. And as it turns out, the presence of arts and culture overwhelmingly affected respondents’ sense of well-being and satisfaction, their attachment to a place, and their sense of community. In fact, citizens gave as much weight to the presence of culture as the presence of good schools when making a decision about where to settle.”

Article: A New Study Finds That People Who Attend Cultural Events Are Happier With Their Lives Than People Who Don’t

Sabbath, Personal Development

“Beautiful things are built within boundaries.”

“Freshly Made Banana Bread” by cogdogblog is licensed under CC0 1.0

“The day of rest is not merely an end in itself, but also a means to the much larger goal of a better world. The sabbath is a system of laws and regulations that a person, or a community, takes upon themselves in order to improve their lives and strive towards a better future. When observers of a sabbath set limits and boundaries on what work is or is not permitted, what tools one might or might not use, they do so from a deep conviction that beautiful things are built within boundaries. The sabbath is, in the words of the philosopher Abraham Joshua Heschel, a palace in time.”

Article: Move Slow and Fix Things


“If there is one thing on which virtually everyone is agreed, it is that the news and information we receive is biased.”

“It’s not about foreign trolls, filter bubbles or fake news. Technology encourages us to believe we can all have first-hand access to the ‘real’ facts – and now we can’t stop fighting about it.”

Article: Why Can’t We Agree On What’s True Any More? 

Change and Transition

A skyline full of construction equipment has become synonymous with change and displacement.

I’ve been driving in and out of Boston since the 70s. For my whole adult life, Boston’s economy is one of the lifelines that has helped me to live in a rural town that values connection, education and community. In recent years I’ve been noticing the increasing ubiquity of cranes in the sky above our fair city.

“… In high-cost cities like Seattle and San Francisco, which have seen income inequality rise along with new development, residents study the cranes like tea leaves.

“You know your neighborhood is being gentrified when … the only thing that outnumbers the construction cranes dotting the skyline are think pieces on where the old San Francisco went,” reads a 2014 SFGate post. San Francisco’s Anti-Eviction Mapping Project’s oral history of Bay Area change, “Narratives of Displacement,” opens with an image of a city besieged by construction equipment: “Today … cranes litter the horizon as the city gains international attention for skyrocketing rents and exponentially growing income inequality.”

Article: What the ‘Crane Index’ Says About Your Changing City


Here I go again. For weeks I’ve been holding up the various musicians who perform, together and apart, under the names Reina del CidThe Other Favorites and Joshua Lee Turner.

I still can’t pull my gaze from them. I just love how these twenty-somethings are recreating the American songbook. And I love how they support each other by sharing each other’s brands, and social media presences. They hold up the category – great music – first. Then they show how they fit in the category.

This week I want to bring your attention to Allison Young. I first heard her when Joshua Lee Turner posted a video of the two of them covering Patsy Cline’s Crazy. Wow. (Andrew Bird, take note. These two can whistle.)

Then this week she posted this killer rendering of Autumn in New York on her YouTube channel. I love this song. Indeed, as the lyric says the idea of autumn in New York is so inviting. To hear it made new just feels so good. And friends, can Joshua Lee Turner play guitar, or what?

To understand the bones of a song it helps to have a great musician sing it, accompanying herself on guitar. You Really Got a Hold on Me by Smoky Robinson is such a great song.

Also check out
Black Coffee (cover)
Creep (Radio Head cover)

Image of the week

The image of the week is Sahar Khan’s blackboard at Columbia University. “Jessica Wynne, a photographer and professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, has been photographing mathematicians’ blackboards, finding art in the swirling gangs of symbols sketched in the heat of imagination, argument and speculation. ‘Do Not Erase,’ a collection of these images, will be published by Princeton University Press in the fall of 2020.”
“This is what thought looks like.

“Ideas, and ideas about ideas. Suppositions and suspicions about relationships among abstract notions — shape, number, geometry, space — emerging through a fog of chalk dust, preferably of the silky Hagoromo chalk, originally from Japan, now made in South Korea.”

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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