Clarity First Newsletter,
September 6, 2019

“Competing is intense among humans, and within a group, selfish individuals always win. But in contests between groups, groups of altruists always beat groups of selfish individuals.” – E. O. Wilson

Clarity First

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

Tom Waits once said that “you can never hold back spring”.  The same is true of fall. I spent this week with most of my family (we miss you, Mia and Brenden) in a big house in the woods of Wellfleet, on Cape Cod. While we did spend whole days on the beach (5 shark sitings in one day), swim and paddle board across ponds, and bike through wooded parks, we did it wearing multiple layers.

The seasons are changing again. Happy Friday.

Creativity, Learning

To encourage creativity, encourage messing around.

This week in honor of the start new school year, Michel Resnick, Professor of Learning Research at MIT Media Lab, posted an excerpt from his book Lifelong Kindergarten. He notes that what’s good for kids is good for grown-ups, too.

“I think the core issues for cultivating creativity are the same, whether you’re in the home or in the classroom. The key challenge is not how to “teach creativity” to children, but rather how to create a fertile environment in which their creativity will take root, grow, and flourish.”

“I’m organizing this section around the five components of the Creative Learning Spiral: imagine, create, play, share, and reflect. I propose strategies for helping children imagine what they want to do, create projects through playing with tools and materials, share ideas and creations with others, and reflect on their experiences.”

Article: Ten Tips for Cultivating Creativity

Corporate Responsibility

Buisness can make a difference

Recently Jenny Vaughan assumed the role of Human Rights Director at Business for Social Responsibility. As an introduction to her work she has summarized four things that a decade of experience in international humanitarian assistance and development has taught her. Lesson number one: “The challenges of the world are complex…the solutions, too, are complex: because there is no single cause of today’s global challenges, there is no silver bullet to solve them.”

Article: How Business Can Impact Human Rights: Four Lessons from Peacebuilding and Development

Social Messaging

David Byrne has launched an online magazine that is “tonic for tumultuous times”. 

“Reasons to be Cheerful was founded by artist and musician David Byrne, who believes in the power of approaching the world with curiosity—in art, in music, in collaboration and in life. Under the banner of Byrne’s Arbutus Foundation, Reasons to be Cheerful embodies this sensibility, applying it now to the future of our world. Through stories of hope, rooted in evidence, Reasons to be Cheerful aims to inspire us all to be curious about how the world can be better, and to ask ourselves how we can be part of that change.”

Online magazine: Reasons to be Cheerful

Marketing Communications

New research reveals how to get a brand message across in low attention environments.

“Marketers might spend their time seeking consumers’ undivided and concentrated attention, but new research exposes how to get a brand message across in low attention environments.”

“As humans we operate in a default state of sub-consciousness (or pre-attentiveness) where we have a broad and un-specific focus to everything around us. Our state of consciousness, and our subsequent level of attention, can then change when guidance triggers surface.”

Article: How to Capitalize on Low Attention

Advertising, Social Messaging

Message to JUUL and the entire tobacco industry: “the safety and well-being of America’s youth are not for sale.”

The Truth Initiative was created in 1999 when the attorneys general of 46 states reached a settlement with the tobacco industry that allowed for millions to be spent every year on youth smoking prevention campaigns. (Titanium, the firm that Dann Dewitt and I ran for 15 years, worked on the account in the early aughts.)

“…The nonprofit that’s been railing against cigarettes for years, is now determined to show us the evils of JUUL.

“With help from longtime agency partner 72andSunny, Truth is running a campaign that shows animals expressing their concerns around JUUL ‘testing on humans’ since the long-term effects of its nicotine devices are unknown.”

Article: Doug the Pug Doesn’t Want You To JUUL

Advertising, Social Messaging

Cities are increasingly answering the call to combat climate change.

“As global warming news continues to overwhelm the world, several cities are leading the charge towards enabling residents to be more mindful of the environment and make planet-friendly lifestyle choices.

“The Think Sustainably platform, launched in Helsinki, Finland, in June 2019, provides residents, visitors, and business owners with practical tools to rethink their daily behavior and make more sustainable lifestyle and business decisions.”

Article: Think Sustainably


Packages for plants sold online now made from easily recyclable and compostable material.

“Until recently, if you ordered from online plant store The Sill, it would arrive carefully wrapped in a huge amount of packaging inside the box: cardboard surrounding layers of bubble wrap and another layer of paper, creating an awkwardly large pile of trash. It was an attempt to help a fragile item make it through a rough journey across the country, but as boxes jolted through the shipping process, plants still sometimes didn’t make it unscathed. The company decided to design custom packaging that would work better—and in the process, eliminated bubble wrap.”

Article: This Online Store Eliminated Bubble Wrap, and It’s a Lesson for Every Company that Ships Things


Last week I celebrated the band that goes by the name Reina del Cid. Their website and Wiki page names four players, but if you search for the band on YouTube, as often as not you’ll find a duo featuring just Rachelle Cordova (whose stage name is Reina del Cid) and guitarist Toni Lindgren. But you’ll also find a lot of performances featuring the multi-instrumentalists and vocalists, Carson McKee, and Joshua Lee Turner. They’re based in Brooklyn and go by the name The Other Favorites. Last summer they did some gigs with Rachelle and Toni and found that their sounds fit together really nicely. So, this summer they co-created a “duo x duo tour”.

They recorded this delightful cover of Steelers Wheel’s Stuck in the Middle with You the afternoon of their first show together in August, ’18. Yeah, I’d say there’s chemistry here.

The two duos performing Jim Croce’s Operator on a patio in Desert Hot Springs, CA in July of this year.

They recorded this cover of The Beatles’s Rocky Raccoon from a hotel room in Austin, in May. One of the things that I love about all four of these musicians is how easily they share the limelight. They pass vocal and instrumental leads back and forth generously. They harmonize like angels, and they even share name credits. Some of their videos appear on Reina del Cid’s channel, some on The Other Favorites’ and still other’s on Josh Turner’s.

Image of the week

The image of the week is titled Cool Day, by Pat de Groot, 2006, oil on panel, 7 3/4 x 7 3/4.

This view of the Atlantic off of the tip of Cape Cod is the view that Debbie and I and our family have been gazing at all week. It captures part of the feeling we seek when come to “land’s end”. There is a retrospective of de Groot’s work hung through Sunday at the Provincetown Art Association and Museum.

“It was in Provincetown that Pat made her mark. She met the painter Nanno de Groot in the late 1950s, and it changed everything. They married in 1958, when she was 28 years old, and the couple bought land on Commercial Street. She and Nanno then designed the perfect artists’ house, which over the years, became a center of artistic activity.

“Following Nanno’s death, de Groot became a painter in her own right. She began drawing in 1974, and then made paintings that often depicted the horizon and the weather she watched from her home studio. She took a drawing pad with her out in a kayak, where a human-friendly whale once swam beside her—that was the vantage point from which she sketched her famous cormorants. She also practiced karate, was an award-winning tuna fisherman who appeared in Sports Illustrated magazine after hauling a huge tuna onto Charles Mayo’s boat, and played the conga drums with the man she called her ‘last boyfriend,’ Elvin Jones, a John Coltrane drummer.”

Website Post: Selections from the Pat and Nanno de Groot Collection


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