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The Newsletter | Edition 063
In our Off-White Papers, we provide practical guidance on how to respond to our rapidly-changing world. This newsletter explores those topics in real-time, with information and action steps on how to make progress now.

It’s much more difficult to act in the present and plan for the future when you don’t understand the past. Yet, as individuals or organizations, we do not spend enough time reflecting on past decisions and outcomes because we live in a fast moving world that forces us to react. How do we prioritize these moments of assessment, contemplation, and honest dialogue? How do we identify the right balance between reflection and action? Because we need action.
  1. Anticipate repeat mistakes, from Chloe Sutter
  2. Embrace the tension, from Ilana Bondell
  3. Live beyond the model, from Lucas Albrecht
And this time, our illustrations from Lucas Albrecht.


From Chloe Sutter


Humanity is on a constant journey of self-optimization. But often, we take the quick-fix approach instead of putting in the hours. Adjusting the rear-view mirror is easy, but adopting a new perspective? That’s the hard part.


There are nootropics for clarity and focus and pills for memory improvement. Liquids, powders, teas, pills. You name it, it’s out there, claiming to boost brain function. But it’s all a ruse. According to Dr. Gad Marshall, Harvard-affiliated researcher, it all surrounds the idea that "it's easier to take a pill than to make lasting lifestyle changes.”

Humans want to optimize their present and uncover their truth, but it’s not without looking backwards, that we can proceed forward in action. Mistakes happen, but quick-fix brain boosts won’t prevent their recurrence. Reflection on—and purposeful interrogation of—the past will.


Assume you will make the same mistake again.
But maybe, hopefully, probably, to a lesser degree.


While it may sound counterintuitive, according to Alice Boyes Ph.D., when you assume the same mistakes are inevitable, you can shift your perspective to develop realistic strategies that promote less severe, more infrequent mistakes.
  • Prioritize insight. Dedicate time for reflection. First, individually, then in a community setting. Acknowledge mistakes, while reinforcing wins. Block time on your calendar for it. It’s a vital step that’s often overlooked in the frenzy of everyday life.
  • Mitigate risk. To minimize the recurrence, you must first recognize the root of your mistakes. Is there an underlying tension that could force it to manifest again in a new situation?
  • Strategize solutions. Only once you’ve laid a solid foundation of understanding can you uncover a new approach. Live in the discomfort of a new perspective. Only then can you uncover potential.


From Ilana Bondell


Cheer—Netflix’s zeitgeisty, smash-hit docuseries about competitive college cheer—premiered its second season last month, and the show raises interesting observations about the value of reflection.


As I devoured this season of Cheer, I was taken by the tensions implicit in how the coaches and cheer teams grapple with processing mistakes while trying to stay optimistically focused on forward momentum. On one hand, teams spend hours obsessively immersed in recordings of their practice routines, openly spotting and discussing their flaws and opportunities for improvement. Some athletes end up in tears for hours or even days over mistakes made “on mat.” On the other hand, the teams’ pump-up pep talks constantly urge the athletes to stay focused on what’s ahead, to embrace the long game, and to avoid dwelling on what can’t be changed.

The reality lies in embracing this tension. It’s worthwhile, even essential, to productively and methodically reflect on tangible mistakes that can help us grow as teams and as individuals (e.g. project retrospectives, peer reviews, start/stop/continue exercises). But when that process becomes emotionally draining rather than enlightening, it’s time to keep it moving. We can, we will, we must!


Confront your mistakes, but don’t get lost in them.


Coach Monica can teach us a few things about rear-view mirrors:
  • Get your reps in. Cheer teaches us that muscle memory is key (time for “full-outs!”), and we can’t be afraid of repeating the same exercise or challenge numerous times in order to master it. The only way we’ll get better at what daunts us is by continuing to get our reps in.
  • Watch yourself to learn. Just like the Navarro kids crowded around the TV in the gym, it can be incredibly eye-opening (if painful) to watch yourself on tape to learn how to improve. Whether it’s a team workshop, a presentation, or other meetings, recording (with consent) and watching yourself back—yes, really!—will help you become a better, sharper communicator and collaborator.
  • Don’t dwell on what you can’t change. Ultimately, though reflecting on the past is a critical part of growth, Coach Monica only focuses the athletes on mistakes they can learn from moving forward, not spilled milk that’s a lost cause (it’s okay, Gillian!).


From Lucas Albrecht


Chicago Bulls forward Jimmy Butler removed the rear-view mirror in his car as a symbol to never look back.


What happens when we try to look back and assess the work we’ve done? Do we have the tools to make looking back a rewarding experience? Is it safe to look back or should we all rip down our rear-view mirrors, as Jimmy Butler did?

In the essay “Dead Zones of the Imagination,” David Graeber quotes from “The Social Production of Indifference” as Michael Herzfeld concludes, ‘If one could not grumble about “bureaucracy,” bureaucracy itself could not easily exist; both bureaucracy and the stereotypical complaints about it are parts of a larger universe that we might call, quite simply, the ideology and practice of accountability.” Practice, we are talking about practice.

In “Exhaustion and Exuberance: Ways to Defy the Pressure to Perform,” Jan Verwoert establishes that in a post-industrial condition we ‘no longer work, we perform.’ He goes on to say ‘when we perform, we generate communication and thereby build forms of communality.’ How do we assess a contribution? Didn’t your mother tell you not to look a gift horse in the mouth?

When thinking about creativity, I like to consider Fred Moten’s definition of Blackness as something fugitive—an ongoing refusal of standards imposed from elsewhere. In “Stolen Life,” he defines, “Fugitivity, then, is a desire for and a spirit of escape and transgression of the proper and the proposed. It’s a desire for the outside, for a playing or being outside, an outlaw edge proper to the now always already improper voice or instrument.” Shouldn’t we rejoice in living beyond the model?


Check out “Impressions for Headphones” by Brian Green.


Once upon a time, sitting alone in the studio, I felt I had to decide how to tell if my work is any good. I decided that when thinking about the impact of my labor toward my work, it’s productive to remember who I work for—my work-community values and shared goals. When thinking about the implications and consequences of my work, it is productive to remember what I work for—how I contend with the tradition and discipline of design and leverage it for income.
  • There is agency in nonperformance
  • We can choose what of our own to offer
  • Work, labor, and performance are different things

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