Author Archives: John Renesch

The FutureShapers Covenant: A Sacred Commitment, Part B

[Last week I posted Part A of this two-part article and failed to mention that FutureShapers, LLC is a new company I am starting. We will be forming executive peer groups that we are calling Roundtables and members will be asked to make major commitments to living and working more consciously – what we are calling “The FutureShapers Covenant.” This article has been adapted from FutureShapers online material. Now I will continue where I left off last week.]

“Commitment is what transforms a promise into reality. It is the words that speak boldly of your intentions. And the actions which speak louder than the words. It is making the time when there is none. Coming through time after time after time, year after year after year. Commitment is the stuff character is made of; the power to change the face of things. It is the daily triumph of integrity over skepticism.” – Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln’s idea is that one’s character is made up by how one lives up to one’s commitments. As an antidote to this withering of our social fabric, FutureShapers offers this model for encouraging true commitment from its members.

FutureShapers has set a standard for commitment that instills character, consciousness and meaning into one’s life and one’s work. Members in FutureShapers Roundtables are encouraged to aspire to unconventional levels of awareness in what they say, how they say it and what they mean by what they say. They become aware of distinctions such as the difference between an opinion and knowing, a belief and a fact, a promise and an indication of interest, a desire and a preference, to name  a few. Here are aspirations to which FutureShapers Roundtable Members are asked to commit: 


•    Seek self transcendence, deepening self-examination/exploration, increasing my experience of equanimity and serenity;

•    Be authentic; integrate my mind, body, heart and soul; be consistent with my walk and my talk;

•    Continuously examine myself – personality traits I can improve upon, my stories and my beliefs that limit me, and my attitudes and actions that negatively impact others;

•    Do no harm; whenever I am wrong, promptly admit it and make amends for any harm I’ve done to anyone; 

•    Treat others as I would like to be treated (“The Golden Rule”);

•    Seek out ways to be in relationship with a power greater than my own egoic mind;

•    Spend at least 20 minutes each day in meditation/quiet time;

•    Do the right thing always; whenever there is a question, follow my heart and my conscience, not my head; 

•    Be more compassionate about others and reverent about life, honoring my interconnectedness with all living things;

•    Accept my leadership responsibilities as an honor and a gift, not an obligation or cause for self-importance;

•    Consciously be a role model for others; and

•    Create workplace cultures where these aspirations are honored and respected.

Until one can truly commit oneself to something larger than oneself, one is destined to a life of mediocrity. Explorer William H. Murray said it most succinctly in his 1951 book, The Scottish Himalaya Expedition. He writes, “Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness.”

This post first appeared on the Global Dialogue Center‘s blog, Exploring the Better Future with Futurist John Renesch on January 7, 2013, and is reposted with permission.

The FutureShapers Covenant: A Sacred Commitment, Part A

Individual and collective commitment to a cause has been at the backbone of all major social transformation – from the founding of the U.S.A. to getting a man on the moon, from changing the public attitude about drinking and driving to the ending of apartheid in South Africa.

 

Much of our history as human beings was the result of true commitment. However, true commitment is one of the scarcest human qualities today. People say “yes” or make agreements every day that they hold as tentative in their minds, subject to whim and convenience. As a result, we live in a world of empty promises which leads to social cynicism which, in turn, leads to lowered expectations. What people say is often quite different from what people do. As an old saying goes, “We judge ourselves by our intentions while judging others by their actions.” If we judge ourselves with the same criteria – our actions not our words – then we may start to see how culpable we may be in this weakening of our social fabric.

It is so easy to give lip service to doing the right thing, stating the moral high ground, saying what people want to hear, but an entirely different moral toughness is required to keep our word – to do what we say we are going to do. After years of these tentative “commitments” the rest of us have gotten used to people reneging on their promises and not keeping their word. The worst if it? It has become “socially acceptable.”

The dictionary calls a commitment “an agreement or pledge” to do something in the future. A pledge is defined as “a binding promise” or “guaranty.” These hardly sound like casual, half-hearted promises. When one guarantees something they stand to lose something of value. When they make a promise they have given their word. Implied in giving one’s word is a certain sacredness, similar to a sacred oath. This is what FutureShapers asks of Roundtable members: to hold their Roundtable commitment and aspirations as a covenant, a sacred pledge to oneself and the other members.

Abraham Lincoln is reported to have said, “Commitment is what transforms a promise into reality. It is the words that speak boldly of your intentions. And the actions which speak louder than the words. It is making the time when there is none. Coming through time after time after time, year after year after year. Commitment is the stuff character is made of; the power to change the face of things. It is the daily triumph of integrity over skepticism.”

Olympic legend Bruce Jenner states, “Abolish your fears and raise your commitment level to the point of no return, and I guarantee you that the Champion Within will burst forth to propel you toward victory.”

Do either of these quotes sound like idle “indications of interest” subject to the big “if” – if something better doesn’t some along; if I still feel like it when the time comes; if it feels comfortable; if events align so as to make it easy; or if it isn’t too inconvenient? These are all tentative, conditional, and provisional – nowhere near “the power to change the face of things” as Lincoln suggested.

This post first appeared on the Global Dialogue Center‘s blog, Exploring the Better Future with Futurist John Renesch on December 10, 2012.

Radical Collaboration: Essential to Transcending Our Immaturity

As many of my friends know, I am a big advocate of collaboration and believe that the only way we humans can transcend our immaturity as a species and grow up collectively is through collaboration. I do not mean by trivial cooperative acts like sharing knowledge with one another or being part of communities together but rather a more radical approach closer to true partnership.

 The term “radical collaboration” occurred to me recently and I was surprised to learn that the first two definitions of the word “radical” were not what I expected. I thought the definition would be “extreme” which turns out to be the third ranked definition according to Merriam-Webster. Preferred definitions of “radical” include “proceeding from a root” or “relating to the origin” or “fundamental.”

So “radical collaboration” would mean real collaboration, not “faux collaboration” as we see so frequently among government agencies, companies and firms who profess to be in collaborative alliances with one another.

I recently met a man who appears to be part of a true collaboration. His name is Michael Noble and he is the Executive Director of Fresh Energy, one of 150 organizations that have formed a network they have named RE-AMP. An active network of 144 nonprofits and several foundations across eight Midwestern states, the RE-AMP network is working in concert to reduce global warming and pollution in its eight-state region by 80% before 2050.

The RE-AMP motto is ”Think Systemically, Act Collaboratively”

Member organizations  of RE-AMP elect a steering committee, which guides policy formation, fundraising, and evaluation of the system as a whole. All leadership and administration for RE-AMP is provided by employees of member organizations so there is no RE-AMP staff and, hence, any bureaucracy.

Another effort to generate more spontaneous collaboration is the Global Collaborators’ Alliance (GCA), a network of over 125 people from all over the world with diverse backgrounds, professions and locations who have two things in common:

1. they think in terms of large scale transformation and

2. they are committed to and in action making the world a better place.

If you know of someone you would like to nominate to become a GCA Fellow, let me know.

Constructive comments on the topic of radical collaboration are most welcome.

This post first appeared on The Great Growing Up on October 2, 2012. It is reposted with permission.

Doing Business with Boiled Frogs

The degree to which I hear reports of growing cynicism in today’s workplace reminds me of the parable of the boiled frog. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this analogy, imagine an experiment involving a frog, a pan of water and a stove.

As the parable goes, the frog is placed in the pan which contains room temperature water. The frog is content to sit there, especially if it has been out of water for a long time. It has no compelling reason to move. When the heat under the pan of water is warmed ever so gradually, the frog slowly adjusts to the warming water and, in the absence of any sudden change in temperature, eventually doses off and is boiled to death.

On the other hand, goes the parable, if you were to heat the water in the pan before the frog is placed in it, it will immediately sense the danger and leap from the pan to a place of presumed greater safety.

The purpose of the parable is to show how unaware we can be about insidious threats to our well-being. It graphically illustrates how easily humans can adapt to incremental changes, even changes which threaten their health and spirit, if these changes are slow and gradual enough.

In this parable, the frog represents people. The water represents the system – the places where we work and live. The pan represents the container, the larger system – society – which includes our workplaces, the market, entire nations, nature and the environment. The heat under the pan represents the energy that is threatening to destroy everything in the pan, albeit very gradually. The frog – people in this parable – slowly gets drowsy to the point of asphyxiation, as can happen when one spends too much time in a sauna or hot tub where the temperature is constantly increasing. Finally, it’s too late and the frog gets boiled, just to finish things off. Mercifully, the frog is by then oblivious to its eventual fate!   

Like the frog, people don’t notice the small incremental changes in their environments, at work or in society in general. They become insensitive because they’ve adapted; they have done what their ancestors did to survive – adapt or perish. In adapting, they have learned to ignore creeping degradations in the quality of their lives and their work experiences. They have become desensitized to situations that would have caused previous generations to “leap from the pan.” 

An important distinction between people and frogs: frogs don’t think. Frogs react. Frogs don’t make choices. They respond by instinct. People think and can make choices. They can awaken from their complacency and choose different outcomes for themselves. They can respond to critical choice points when they become aware of them. 

Who would you want on your team – a group of highly-adaptive cynics who had mastered coping in a spiritually hostile environment (like the boiled frog) or a group of people who are fully awake and alive, and bring their entire beings – their whole selves – to the job? For me, there’s no way I’d want to depend upon a team of boiled frogs.

This post first appeared on the Global Dialogue Center‘s blog, Exploring the Better Future with Futurist John Renesch on September 1, 2012. It is reposted with permission.

Our Biggest Sin: Pretending We Are Separate When We Are Connected

 

New Age rhetoric or truth? Fantasy or fact?

What philosophers and mystics have been saying for years is now being confirmed by science. What indigenous people have known for millennia, modern researchers are now validating. We are all interconnected and “inner connected”. The ancient African philosophy unbuntu believes that my humanity, my beingness, is tied to yours…I hurt you, I hurt myself.

The late theoretical physicist David Bohm writes, “Yourself is actually the whole of mankind…If you reach deeply into yourself, you are reaching into the very essence of mankind.”

Last year I began a speech by reading a piece by Alan Cohen called “Sing Your Song”. Here’s a link to the story. It tells of a practice in an African village where each person was given a song unique to them. And everyone in the village knows everyone else’s song. Imagine that! In today’s modern world we’re lucky to remember the names of people we work with or friends, much less their individual songs. This practice empowers connectivity amongst a community.

Every time we complain about “them” or say “they” did this or that we are speaking about ourselves. Ultimately, there is no “they.” There is only “we.” At times, we may pretend to be separate because we can rationalize dismissiveness, dislike, hate, or even murder if we convince ourselves those people over there are separate from us.

Charles Eisenstein writes about the “Age of Separation” we have been living in for centuries coming to an end in his new book Sacred Economics. He writes about the economy of separation which artificially divides us and is unsustainable, destined to collapse of its own dysfunction. Separation is a human construct.

Lee Glickstein teaches professional speakers how to connect with their audiences and publishes Relational Presence Journal. He cites philosopher Martin Buber who wrote “that our relationship doesn’t live in me or in you, or even in the dialog between the two of us. Rather, it lives in the space between us.” Glickstein writes, “Giving scientific credence to Buber’s ideas is the new field of Relational Neurobiology that refers to the resonance between two minds as ‘the brain bridge.’ When two limbic systems resonate together, both central nervous systems calm down….The meeting of two human presences beyond personality is the quintessential human experience, and now even science knows that only in being with each other is our essence revealed.”

More from Bohm: “At present, people create barriers between each other by their fragmentary thought. Each one operates separately. When these barriers have dissolved, then there arises one mind, where they are all one unit, but each person also retains his or her own individual awareness….That one mind will still exist even when they separate, and when they come together, it will be as if they hadn’t separated.”

I’ll close with a quote by Albert Einstein on the notion of separation as delusion – one of my favorites: “A human being is part of a whole, called by us the ‘universe,’ a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separate from the rest – a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affectation for a few people near us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

This piece was originally published in November 2012 at Renesch.com and is reposted with permission.

 

Having Larger Conversations: Beyond Meaningful to Transcendent

Have you ever wondered if the debate, discussion and general conversations that occupy our collective consciousness most of the time – climate change, population growth, terrorism, sustainability, etc. – are all essentially “small talk” when it comes to what’s really important? Have you had a nagging feeling that these issues – as serious as they are – are simply symptoms of some larger crisis?

To put it into popular colloquialism, are we all passengers on the Titanic arguing over the deck chairs? 

Each one of these crises is the result of human behavior driven by an immature consciousness  – a consciousness that once was sufficient for us but we have now outgrown. The consciousness that created all these problems has been either uncaring or lacking in awareness of the long -term impact we will have on future generations. This consciousness is adolescent and, like modern day teenagers, we often pretend to be mature.

And like most unchecked adolescent behavior there are consequences, often showing up as surprises to the unaware or uncaring. The crises we face today are the consequences we didn’t think about before. It is time to grow up, clean up our messes and start having “the larger conversations” about consciously evolving to a level of collective maturity that is capable of generating a sustainable, just and fulfilling human presence on this planet.

It isn’t just about solving problems, although many problems still need to be solved. It’s about generating a future we can bring into being consciously – a future we actually want for our descendants instead of a default future that will devolve from the wreckage of our past actions and inactions.

Peter Drucker, the father of modern management theory, once said that the best way to predict the future was to create it. So let’s create it!

But how? you may ask.

That’s a fair question but does it come from a place of hopelessness, powerlessness and victimhood? Does the future occur to you as unchangeable, set on a course of degeneration? Or does it seem to you as something to be created – on a course of generation and renewal?

Larger conversations require people who see real possibility for a better future – not incrementally improved but one generated from an entirely different worldview or paradigm. They see a possibility even if they don’t see exactly how to bring it about. They have a deep intuitive knowing that the reality in which we all find ourselves is not the ultimate destiny for human beings. They know something very different is within our grasp if we can shift our consciousness from one that generates scarcity, hyper-consumption and fear to a consciousness grounded in connection, sufficiency and caring for all.

Those of us who are engaging in the larger conversations – who see possibility where others may not, who feel hope rather than despair, interconnectedness instead of separation and isolation – are risking being seen as “the crazy ones.” Cynics may see us as a bunch Pollyannas, idealists just wasting everyone’s  time. They once tried idealism and really got burned. So they pulled the blanket of cynicism over their heads and swore never again to dream, to aspire for higher ideals. They are hardly going to be attracted to these larger conversations any time soon.

But those of us in the larger conversations can evoke possibility for a world we dream of, a reality based on what we want, not on the past. Future-based language will replace past-based thinking and the language which follows.

Would you like to be part of one of these larger conversations? The cost of entry is low – simply a willingness to see a world that works for everyone, a world that is environmentally sustainable, socially just and spiritually fulfilling for al human beings. Conversations of this kind are going on all over the world, maybe not in the mainstream, but they do exist. They begin whenever two or more people are willing to engage in such unfettered explorations. They are going on in small coffee houses, retreat centers, people’s homes and certainly on the Internet.

Are you engaged in one of these larger conversations? If not, locate one and introduce yourself. You may be surprised by the welcome you receive! Once you are engaged in the exploration set aside all the reasons your “rational” mind might dismiss as pure folly. Tell your mind to leave you be, with strong emphasis if necessary. Disengage the egoic rationale that tells you such a conversation is a waste of time. Instead, allow yourself to dream without restraint about what is truly possible for an awakened human society having transcended the crises and circumstances we are facing today.

What better conversation is worth having at this time?

 

To put it into popular colloquialism, are we all passengers on the Titanic arguing over the deck chairs? 

Each one of these crises is the result of human behavior driven by an immature consciousness  – a consciousness that once was sufficient for us but we have now outgrown. The consciousness that created all these problems has been either uncaring or lacking in awareness of the long -term impact we will have on future generations. This consciousness is adolescent and, like modern day teenagers, we often pretend to be mature.

And like most unchecked adolescent behavior there are consequences, often showing up as surprises to the unaware or uncaring. The crises we face today are the consequences we didn’t think about before. It is time to grow up, clean up our messes and start having “the larger conversations” about consciously evolving to a level of collective maturity that is capable of generating a sustainable, just and fulfilling human presence on this planet.

It isn’t just about solving problems, although many problems still need to be solved. It’s about generating a future we can bring into being consciously – a future we actually want for our descendants instead of a default future that will devolve from the wreckage of our past actions and inactions.

Peter Drucker, the father of modern management theory, once said that the best way to predict the future was to create it. So let’s create it!

But how? you may ask.

That’s a fair question but does it come from a place of hopelessness, powerlessness and victimhood? Does the future occur to you as unchangeable, set on a course of degeneration? Or does it seem to you as something to be created – on a course of generation and renewal?

Larger conversations require people who see real possibility for a better future – not incrementally improved but one generated from an entirely different worldview or paradigm. They see a possibility even if they don’t see exactly how to bring it about. They have a deep intuitive knowing that the reality in which we all find ourselves is not the ultimate destiny for human beings. They know something very different is within our grasp if we can shift our consciousness from one that generates scarcity, hyper-consumption and fear to a consciousness grounded in connection, sufficiency and caring for all.

Those of us who are engaging in the larger conversations – who see possibility where others may not, who feel hope rather than despair, interconnectedness instead of separation and isolation – are risking being seen as “the crazy ones.” Cynics may see us as a bunch Pollyannas, idealists just wasting everyone’s  time. They once tried idealism and really got burned. So they pulled the blanket of cynicism over their heads and swore never again to dream, to aspire for higher ideals. They are hardly going to be attracted to these larger conversations any time soon.

But those of us in the larger conversations can evoke possibility for a world we dream of, a reality based on what we want, not on the past. Future-based language will replace past-based thinking and the language which follows.

Would you like to be part of one of these larger conversations? The cost of entry is low – simply a willingness to see a world that works for everyone, a world that is environmentally sustainable, socially just and spiritually fulfilling for al human beings. Conversations of this kind are going on all over the world, maybe not in the mainstream, but they do exist. They begin whenever two or more people are willing to engage in such unfettered explorations. They are going on in small coffee houses, retreat centers, people’s homes and certainly on the Internet.

Are you engaged in one of these larger conversations? If not, locate one and introduce yourself. You may be surprised by the welcome you receive! Once you are engaged in the exploration set aside all the reasons your “rational” mind might dismiss as pure folly. Tell your mind to leave you be, with strong emphasis if necessary. Disengage the egoic rationale that tells you such a conversation is a waste of time. Instead, allow yourself to dream without restraint about what is truly possible for an awakened human society having transcended the crises and circumstances we are facing today.

What better conversation is worth having at this time?

This post first appeared on the Global Dialogue Center‘s blog, Exploring the Better Future with Futurist John Renesch on November 1, 2011.