The New Pioneers: Blazing a Trail to a Better Future

February 1, 2004

In this issue:

1. Newsbriefs: John Joins Faculty for Masters in Organizational Leadership Program
British Magazine Publishes Renesch Article
2. Readers Respond
3. February Editorial: The New Pioneers: Blazing a Trail to a Better Future
4. More Newsbriefs: John Raves About “The Big Kahuna”
Royal Astronomer Gives Dismal Forecast
5. Next Month: Ending Fatalism: Stop Settling for “Whatever Happens”


John Joins Faculty for Masters in Organizational Leadership Program

John will be one of the faculty for a brand new degree program – Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership (MAOL) now being offered by The Graduate Institute of Connecticut, accredited by the Connecticut Department of Higher Education.  If you wish to inquire further, contact Elisa Maselli at 908-722-5100 X204.

British Magazine Publishes Renesch Article

British magazine New Renaissance is just out with a feature on “Awakening the Soul of Business” which features an article by John as its lead piece – “Conscious Leadership: New Thinking for a Better Future” – in its Winter 2003/2004 issue; published by Renaissance Universal with offices in London and New York.


Have something to say about what John writes each month? Feel free to send him an email expressing yourself and we may post the outcome here.

More About Left Versus Right:

John had a stimulating exchange with a reader about the current left versus right fracas here in the U.S., in which he was reminded of the concern that George Washington had, as mentioned in Jacob Needleman’s book The American Soul. The intent of our founders was that there would be dialogue among the parties so that one party never considered that they had the definitively correct plan or position. The founders’ idea was that two parties in dialogue will generate an outcome that would be better than either party had on their own, that the dialogue would produce positive synergy.

Washington expressed concern that “the spirit of party” – the phrase he used to convey that one’s faction was deemed more important than the whole. Nowadays we call this partisanship. John sees that the system would work so much better if the differing perspectives would be shared in a context for improving the whole system. The outcome for everyone is improved through dialogue rather than arguing positions where the result is often less than what either one is advocating, what might be called “negative synergy.”


In 1852, my great grandfather and two friends left the East Coast with a four-wheeled covered wagon pulled by four oxen. When he finally made it to California, there were only two oxen remaining and the adventurous trio’s
wagon had been converted to a two-wheeled cart – presumably due to an innovative trailside adjustment for a broken axle. My great grandfather left Germany a year or so before, planning on heading West as soon as he landed in the United States. He was a typical pioneer in the early American tradition, making his own way cross-country.

The ruggedness and courage demonstrated by the early American pioneers are legendary in our history as a young nation. Their commitment to finding a better life filled them with resolve that overcame their fears of the unknown dangers and hardships of making this incredible journey across 3,000 miles of a largely unmapped continent.

They were so sure that a better life awaited them when they arrived in the West that they were willing to risk comfort, health and their lives to make the journey. They envisioned a better future for themselves and their families – either the families who were sturdy enough to make the trip with them or the families they would start once they became settled in the West.

The state of the world today is calling to a new breed of pioneer – people with very similar qualities and motivations as the early 19th Century men and women who risked their lives to make the arduous trek across this
continent. This new breed of pioneer also wants a better life for themselves and their children and their
grandchildren. They envision a better future if they can make the leap and embark on an adventure to uncharted territory of a different sort. But there is a primary difference between this new pioneer and those who settled the West in the 1800s.

This new uncharted territory is not geographical – covering mountain passes, deserts and plains. The new adventure is internal – to places within the minds, hearts and souls of people. Instead of a journey to external lands far away, this new adventure is to deeper levels of our humanity – to the very core of our beings. Rather than testing our mental and physical stamina like these long treks did in the covered wagon days, this new adventure tests our emotional and spiritual stamina.

The new pioneer needs lots of other people to make the journey and realize that better future. This new trek requires a deeper level of interdependence than our forefathers and foremothers needed a couple of centuries ago. The new pioneer knows that he or she cannot make the journey alone, with just a partner or two, or even with several hundred fellow pioneers. The new pioneer requires the company of the whole community if the journey is to be successful. The new pioneer recognizes that the better future depends on living in a context of the interconnectedness of all people and that this requires a massive shift – with everyone making the journey together. It is a task that cannot be achieved with cowboy zeal and fierce independence.

The better future can only be achieved en masse – all of us together. “Spaceship Earth” is such a fitting metaphor!

This idea is radical, especially to the “cowboy mindset” that has spurred so much creative entrepreneurship and innovation in America. Such go-it-alone creativity is part of our culture and will always be part of what it means
to be American. But now is the time for what the Three Musketeers were fond of saying; it’s time for “all for one and one for all.”

This does not mean that individual work on one’s own consciousness is unnecessary. Each and every person still needs to resolve for himself or herself whether or not they wish to be part of the journey. Each person needs to
sign up for the adventure and be equipped to make the trip, arduous as it may be. The days of achieving a sustainable, life-affirming future for one isolated community are gone. There’s no place to start a new world within our world. Isolation is no longer a viable option. The only way to create a better future for future generations is to make sure everyone on Spaceship Earth is included.

Like in those early days of the covered wagons, there will be some people who carry more of their share of the workload and some who do less. There will be scouts out front surveying the best routes to be taken each step along the way and others who do the cooking back at camp and keep the group nourished. There may be some wrong trails taken and some temporary reversals in the group’s progress. Some may perish along the way. But a vision for the destination is clear to everyone, regardless of what they contribute to the effort.

In the mid-1800s, the goal was physical, whether it was the gold country of Northern California, the Barbary Coast or the Oregon Trail. It was a physical place where the pioneers envisioned a new life, a place where they could build
lives with a new freedom and make a future of their own choosing. The new pioneers are united in a slightly different vision – a state of being, where everyone has their basic needs met and are free of the emotional, intellectual and spiritual restraints that keep people pitted against one another in fear-filled modes of survival. The new pioneers seek freedom of the human spirit, to rediscover the human soul – not just theirs but everyone’s!

Some of the new pioneers are called to serve as advance scouts for the new territory. Others take on other tasks. The challenge is to remember that everyone needs to go together and even though a scout is off on his or her own for a time, they are still part of the main body.

This is not a new idea for most cultures in the world. The United States is somewhat unique in its cultural tradition of making sure one’s own needs are met first, then being concerned with others. It is part of our pioneering,
“lonesome cowboy” roots. But most other cultures in the world focus on the community needs first. This “community first, then individual” prioritizing is a reversal for the way many Americans go about it. In this arena, the
rest of the world is ahead of us. It is time for focusing on the community now, much like the early settlers did a couple of hundred years ago. But the community is now the entire world, which has gotten so tightly interconnected that “going it alone” – even in large groups – is no longer a valid option if we want a decent life for those who succeed us.

It is a time to revisit our adventurous spirit and “head West” even though we may not have detailed maps or experienced guides. Let us not wait for models, procedures and case histories of how to make this transition and revive that pioneer spirit of the 1880s and venture into the unknown, knowing there’s exciting possibility awaiting us all if we dare to set out on the adventure. Are you ready? If so, “wagons ho!”

Next Month’s Editorial: Ending Fatalism: Stop Settling for “Whatever Happens”


John Raves About “The Big Kahuna”

John is very excited about a movie he saw the other day on Cable TV called “The Big Kahuna” starring Kevin Spacey, Danny DeVito and Peter Facinelli – playing three marketing reps at a sales convention; John recommends that everyone see this movie who is interested in bridging authentic “being” with the “doing” of work, on DVD, tape or catch its current run on Cable…at least watch the last half hour!

Royal Astronomer Gives Dismal Forecast

Martin Rees, U.K. Astronomer Royal and Professor of Astronomy and Cosmology at Cambridge, issues a bleak warning in his new book, Our Final Hour: “I think the odds are no better than 50-50 that our present civilization on earth will survive to the end of [this] century.” He suggests choices we can make that will decrease the likelihood of such a doomsday outcome, much like John does in his book, Getting to the Better Future.


About John Renesch

Better Future NEWS is prepared monthly by John Renesch, a San Francisco writer, business futurist, and consultant/executive coach.

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.

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John Renesch

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

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