Spencer Critchley's blog

Highlights From Our First Year

Cupcake with frosting, sprinkles, and one candle

We’re celebrating our first season with highlights from the past year!

It's an episode full of gifts of insight from leading social innovators, on the future of work, universal basic income, reforming the way we bank and invest, why we vote the way we do, saving the oceans, saving democracy, and much more.

Amanda Renteria: How to Create Impact in the Public & Private Sectors

Amanda Renteria

Raised in a farmworking family, Amanda Renteria has worked for Goldman Sachs, the City of San Jose, and two senators; has been a teacher and coach at her old high school; has run for Congress; held a top position in Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign; directed operations for the California Department of Justice and this year, ran for Governor of California.

She has the insights to show — many of them arising from her own life story — as you’ll hear in this interview with Dastardly Cleverness host Spencer Critchley.

Saving Democracy: Bipartisan Views from Presidential Campaigns, Congress, National Media & More

Tiny American flag being held above a crowd at a political rally

LIVE episode: "Saving Democracy," featuring former Congressman Sam Farr, former Barack Obama and Kamala Harris adviser Debbie Mesloh, USC and UC Berkeley Professor and former top Republican consultant Dan Schnur (now a No Party Preference voter), former California Assembly Republican Leader Kristin Olsen, local elected official and presidential campaign veteran Zach Friend, and host Spencer Critchley. It was an in-depth and enlightening conversation, about topics that ranged from the frightening to the inspiring.

Joe Sanberg: We Can — And Must — End Poverty in 30 Years

Joe Sanberg

Joe Sanberg co-founded Aspiration, a socially responsible, online bank and investment firm. Aspiration invites customers to pay whatever they think its services are worth — even if that’s nothing.

He's a prime mover behind the California Earned Income Tax Credit, which has helped 800,000 low-income California families in its first two years of existence.

He established the Working Hero political action committee. Working Hero supports candidates who are committed to ending poverty.

And he believes we can end poverty in 30 years, and must, if democracy is to survive.

Find a Purpose or Face the Pitchforks: This Ad Agency Bets on Doing What's Right

Drew Train of Oberland

Drew Train was a rising star on Madison Avenue, working at the legendary J Walter Thompson agency for clients like HSBC, one of the biggest banks in the world.

But at night, he was going to Occupy Wall Street rallies.

That's because he thought something had gone very wrong with business: it was extracting more from the world than it was putting back, and benefiting the rich over everyone else.

Eventually, he couldn't stand the tension between his day job and his values, and he ended up leaving JWT to co-found, with Bill Oberlander, a new agency dedicated to purpose-driven marketing: Oberland.

How to Write Fast & Well, Part 11: Find Your Voice

Singer at microphone

So far in this series, I've been offering tips that can be used right away, by just about anyone who writes. But now we come to something that can require significant time and dedication: finding your voice as a writer. The good news is you can start making progress today.

What is does it mean to have a voice? It's the way people know you're you and no one else -- as if they were speaking with you in person. It matters, because when people can't get a feel for who you are, they're likely to move on to someone more interesting.

How to Write Both Fast and Well, Part 9: Why Clichés Are Evil

Identical light bulbs arranged in a grid of 3 rows and 3 columns

(Also published at Huffington Post.) Of all the threats to good writing, the worst -- and most insidious -- is cliché: the re-use of the over-used.

Like all other sins, cliché is much easier to spot in others. We all know to roll our eyes at a schmoozer's "Hot enough for ya?" or a jock's "We gave it 110 percent!"

But the clichés lodged in our own minds disguise themselves as self-evident truths and cherished beliefs. It's the clichés you like that are the toughest to escape.

How to Write Fast and Well, Part 8: Block that Metaphor!

Photo: John Barrymore as Hamlet, 1922. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

(Also published at Huffington Post.) Used effectively, metaphors can make ideas come to life. But used ineffectively, they can make a mental mess.

Consider this: "He unleashed a torrent of invective."

At first, that might seem fine. In fact, you've probably seen versions of this sentence in many places (that's because it's also a cliché, but we'll talk about that another time).

But ask yourself a question: Since when has a torrent, which is a fast-flowing river, worn a leash?

How to Write Fast and Well, Part 7: Get Physical

(Also published at Huffington Post.) Last time, I showed you how to improve your writing simply by getting rid of adjectives and adverbs. Instead, I said, use the right nouns and verbs. This time: how to find those nouns and verbs.

The key is to remember that we invented nouns and verbs to stand for things and actions that we can see, hear, feel, smell or taste: "I bit into an apple." Later we created abstractions, like "nutrition". But what's most real to us is reality: the crunch and taste of the physical world.

Our emotions, too, are physical. Have you ever felt anger, love or fear in your brain? No, you felt them in your throat, your heart and your gut.

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