Allegiance versus Commitment: A Small Distinction that Makes a Big Difference

November 1, 2004
In this issue:
1. Newsbriefs: Hey, America! Before You Vote Tomorrow…
Michael Ray Book is Fast Company’s Book of the Month
2. Feedback from Readers About Last Month’s Editorial
3. November Editorial: Allegiance versus Commitment: A Small Distinction that Makes a Big Difference
4. More Newsbriefs: Notes from Brazil Travels
…and Wyoming
5. Quote of the Month: filmmaker and writer Neal Rogin
6. Next Month’s Editorial: Habits That Kill

Hey, America! Before You Vote Tomorrow…
Regardless of your political party affiliation, everyone seems to agree that the U.S. has taken a new direction in its relationship with the rest of the world. No matter which party you identify with, I ask my fellow Americans to review the plan our nation is following, “A Report for the New American Century” which was drafted in September 2000. You can read in its entirety. Once you’ve read this Report, you’ll be making a more informed decision at the polls tomorrow on the direction our nation is heading rather than deciding purely on religious or political ideologies.

Michael Ray Book is Fast Company’s Book of the Month
Stanford Business School’s Professor Emeritus Michel Ray’s latest book, The Highest Goal: The Secret That Sustains You in Every Moment, has been voted Book of the Month by Fast Company readers for November; Michael, one of the pioneers in launching paradigm-popping ideas in a mainstream U.S. business school, was also featured in the popular business magazine last year as “the most creative man in Silicon Valley.”

(The following are emails from subscribers prompted by last month’s editorial “Shallow Thinking”)
Gidday John! You may remember me – we talked together at the Spirituality Leadership and Management Conference in Couran Cove in Queensland Australia. In your newsletter you decry the fact that Americans often lack depth in their understanding of issues. Don’t despair – this is merely a reflection of the fact that as a culture Americans are more extraverted than most. Extraverts typically skim across the surface, gleaning what they can before getting bored and moving on to the next topic. But the compensating features are that they have breadth (if not depth) and their extraversion causes them to be optimistic. They are also gregarious and outgoing. It is not better to be more introverted and therefore have more depth because concomitant with this you would then be more pessimistic and more introspective. As a culture therefore you have strengths that come from your extraversion and you also have weaknesses. It seems to be an unfortunate fact of life that we only correct our weaknesses at the risk of compromising our strengths. Knowing and understanding your weaknesses is commendable; but don’t let this distract you from enjoying and leveraging off your strengths.
Best wishes,
Ted Scott
Human Factor Australia
“Promoting Humanity at Work”

Dear John: Just read your “Licking the Frosting…” article. I am jumping around the room! Hooray for you for addressing this most critical issue concerning deep wisdom, learning and profound knowledge that is necessary to support positive growth and transformation in the postmodern business world. I have found that throughout this entire presidential campaign, education should be (and at times is) the key debate issue, no matter which political side a person affiliates. Education is the key to whether the “promised new jobs” have employees who can meet the demands of their job!
Thank you!
Dr. Paula Artac


We hear lots of talk these days about commitment in all sorts of circles. We hear it in politics to justify foolhardy policies and in romance to manipulate people we profess to love. We hear it in churches and temples to reinforce beliefs in dogma and in business to create markets that aren’t accepting what we’re trying to sell as readily as we would like.

Much of what we talk about is extrinsic commitment or what they used to call “keeping your agreements” in the hey day of the Human Potential Movement. Extrinsic commitment could be described as having something to claim as your mission or what you want to be known for. You see these extrinsic commitments in consultants’ websites, corporate mission statements, codes of ethics and other explicit publications of public commitments.

Once people are identified with these extrinsic commitments they often become bound by them, held prisoner if you will; these commitments are now part of their persona. Not following through with one’s commitment becomes a black eye of sorts, a blemish on one’s track record. This is when commitments get sticky. Times change and situations change. A commitment may no longer be appropriate for a person who made it some time ago. Then the commitment becomes an obligation or, worse yet, something one feels allegiance to. This is when choice and natural knowing get distorted into a fundamentalism; a firm conviction to the original cause takes the place of appropriate action or proper stand for the times.

This can happen when people have a profound religious experience. After some time passes, their experience gets blurred with the dogma of the religion and it becomes more and more difficult to distinguish the experience from the dogma. Soon, the person who had the experience relies upon the belief instilled by the dogma and they become loyal to that belief. They lose their natural knowing that came with the peak experience and are now relying on their convictions, often rigidly, and they become fundamentalists. Now their commitment to God that was inspired by their original experience has morphed into allegiance to their beliefs in the dogma to which they now must cling.

Where extrinsic commitments are commitments to those outside oneself, intrinsic commitment comes from within and is commitment to oneself. People like Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela and Billy Graham clearly committed themselves to lives of service and they didn’t go around proclaiming it. They simply lived the life of commitment to service and love of humanity, in spite of their differing religions or dogmas. Ronald Reagan, Quincy Jones and Jesse Owens are other examples of intrinsically committed people that come to mind.

This is the kind of commitment we need in the world right now. Intrinsic commitment comes from within, from people’s unadulterated humanity; not from some ideological concept or interpreted translations of ancient text to which one becomes attached. Fundamentalism is running amuck in the world as we frantically seek answers to questions we never thought we’d be asking about human relationships. It is time to call on our intrinsic strengths as spiritual beings having a human experience, not to lean on extrinsic doctrines and translations from the past.

As I have written in previous editorials, fundamentalism is poisoning us (see Better Future News #61, for example). The antidote to this poison is getting back in touch with what we know deep down to be true, to meet our humanity head-on and act from our hearts, that intrinsic commitment to the whole, not our allegiances to dead men who wrote about heaven and virgins and raptures and other lofty ideologies that are at the basis of so much human suffering today. We are all people, Muslim and Christian, Arab and Jew, protestant and catholic, conservative and liberal, and we know how to get along even if we act like we don’t. As the motto of the 18th Century’s Age of Enlightenment went: dare to know. Let’s stop relying on the monarchs for the answer, whether that be the divine right of kings or the monarchy of scripture of any brand.

Let’s end the loyalty to prophets of all kinds. Let’s end our allegiances to external dogmas of all varieties and reexamine our intrinsic commitments to our humanity. Let’s be all we can and, quite possibly, come a bit closer to the true potential we humans have been blessed with.
“The way we are dealing with the environment is like looking down at your toes and wondering how much you could get for them if you sold them.” – Neal Rogin, filmmaker, writer

Notes from Brazil Travels
In early October I returned from my keynote talk in Porto Alegre, Brazil; here is the English translation of the program; I opened the conference, was followed by five other speakers, including businessman Jorge Gerdau Johannpeter, CEO of Gerdau Steel, and four academics who addressed “social capital;” 800 people attended the event; I also met with the staff and executives of the host, Parceiros Voluntarios, the next day, accompanied by my delightful U.S. Consulate escort Cezar Borza; in Sao Paulo, I met with about 18 company Presidents with the World Business Academy Brazil, then a public meeting at the Willis Harman House, followed by a intimate meeting with the Brazilian Futures Group that evening. Great trip; great people; great time! Thanks to the U.S. Consulate and J.P. Morgan for their sponsorship.

…and Wyoming
Perhaps a bit less exotic than Brazil, I just got back from addressing the Wyoming Small Business Development Center’s conference on sustainable business at the University of Wyoming in Laramie; what a hoot! the state director turns out to be a BFN subscriber; I enjoyed meeting the other speakers and seeing the audience respond to a “radical” perspective about owning our humanness!

About John Renesch

Better Future NEWS is prepared monthly by John Renesch, a San Francisco writer, business futurist, and mentor.
His latest book is Getting to the Better Future: A Matter of Conscious Choosing. For a list of all the SERVICES John offers, go to Services.

Posted in

John Renesch

John is a seasoned businessman-turned-futurist who has published 14 books and hundreds of articles on social and organizational transformation.

Mini Keynote Archives