Humanity’s Promise Exploring Who We Are and What We Want


In this issue:
1. Miscellaneous Newsbits
2. November Editorial: “Humanity’s Promise”
3. Preview: Next Month’s Editorial
4. Quote of the Month – David Scott
5. Hot Link of the Month

Looking Back 100 Issues

Who’da thunk? This little newsletter has had three names since Issue #1 in June 1998. It began as Aha!, then I changed it to Better Future News in 2001 (to go with my new book at the time) and, most recently, FutureShapers Monthly. A few months back, I added photos to the newsletters, to liven up things visually. When I started the newsletter, I barely knew how to operate a computer, relying on patient tech friends like Steve Soskin, Steve Girolami, Brent Hunter, Mark Pengelski and others who I’ve leaned on from time to time over the years.

And you readers! So few subscribers at the beginning and now a wonderfully international readership from Australia to South Africa, Europe to New Zealand, China to the Virgin Islands, Russia to Great Britain, Brazil to Canada. Special thanks to the volunteer preview team who looks over my editorials before they go to press, my tech support people at Topica and Mark, one of my main guardian angels, and all you subscribers.

The theme of my editorial this month is the vision/dream that inspires my writing and keynote speaking. It is about what can we become as a race, a species, as spiritual beings living in physical form here on Earth. All that said, it seems particularly fitting to feature “Humanity’s Promise” on this occasion, the 100th anniversary of this newsletter. It’s been a fun eight years standing on this “soapbox” and sounding off.

100th Anniversary Bonus

During the month of November, any existing subscriber who requests a copy by email will be sent a a complimentary seven-page article (PDF file) entitled “Conscious Leadership: Transformational Approaches to a Sustainable Future” – a call for a more enlightened form of leadership in all of our current endeavors. In this article I also point to what seems to pass for good leadership today…what I call “bogus leadership.”

Internet Dialogue on Personal Responsibility

Just posted at the Global Dialogue Center (GDC)- a virtual dialogue among nine authors of books about social and organizational transformation published by Berrett-Koehler as part of its BK Currents imprint; the theme of this online dialogue is personal responsibility; GDC founder Debbe Kennedy and I co-host this dialogue which also includes authors John Perkins, Alex Pattakos, Angeles Arrien, David Korten, Charles Derber, Lee Drutman and Stewart Levine. To access this virtual dialogue go to Audio & Video and click on the link.

(adapted from John’s forthcoming book with the working title The New Human: Beyond the Naked Ape)

Some years back, before voicemail, a friend of mine recorded a memorable message on his answering machine. As I recall, it went something like this: “Hi, this is _____. At the sound of the beep please tell me who you are and what you want. If you think those are trivial questions, be reminded most of us have been trying to figure this out all our lives.”

These kinds of questions have been the focus of philosophers, mystics, clergy and teachers of all varieties. Anyone who has embarked upon some level of self examination, personal development, vision quest or other form of inner exploration has most likely ventured into this inquiry as well. Lyrics to past popular songs such as “Is that all there is” and “What’s it all about, Alfie?” come to mind.

When I look at the headlines and see the things going on in the world these days – the violence we do to each other with weaponry or words, attitudes or gestures, policies or prejudices – I ask myself the same question millions are asking themselves every day: “Why can’t we all get along?”

If any of you are tempted to say, “Come on John, we’ve always had wars and crime and violence and we always will” I ask you to hold that thought and allow me to challenge you.


The Spirit of Exploration – NASA pics

When Apollo 15 astronaut Dave Smith stepped onto the moon in 1971 and proclaimed, “…there’s a fundamental truth to our nature; man must explore,” he was affirming a deep-seated need for human beings. Once we have satisfied our survival needs like food, sex, shelter, relationship and safety, we human beings begin to explore the unknown. We have wondered about everything, searched the Earth, are still exploring space (the macro) and the world of subatomic particles (micro). Wherever there is a frontier, a horizon beyond which we cannot see, humans need to check it out. Indeed, we must explore!

Is it the challenge? The mystery? Our nature? Or all three? Does it matter? We just do it!

We have made huge technological advances in recent years. We have gained widespread wisdom from sages through the ages. Yet some of us wonder why we haven’t achieved the peaceful and secure existence here on Earth we claim to want. Who are we and what do we really want? There’s those questions again.

In the past century we have experienced breakthroughs of all kinds that allow us to create the kind of world we want for ourselves. So it isn’t a matter of the conditions being right. We have the ability! As if that isn’t a big enough carrot, we also have a significant number of things threatening us as a species. So we have plenty of sticks as well. We have a choice! We can be attracted by a vision for a better world, a promise that beckons to us while we possess the tools to bring this about. Or we can be driven to change our ways by all the negative events happening, frantically working to reverse our patterns, limit the damage and save ourselves from extinction.

Presently, some of us have chosen the carrot approach – working toward a vision of a new paradigm. Greater numbers of us have chosen the sticks approach – feeling urgency and pushed to rectify unsustainable conditions, trying their best to reform the old paradigm so it remains pertinent. Unfortunately, most people don’t appear to be giving either approach much thought, busying themselves with personal survival or indulging in various forms of self-absorption. But we may be running out of time. Perhaps we will find a hybrid, a mixture of the two approaches, some pulling us and some pushing – carrots AND sticks!

The cynic’s cry – “it will always be the way it has been” – describes a disillusioned perspective, resigned to the present reality being as good as it gets. This is hardly the adventurous human eager to explore the unknown, setting out on the quest for what lies over the horizon. This is hardly the human which astronaut David Smith was talking about. The cynic has lost the spirit of adventure, spirit of exploration, perhaps the spirit of being human.

Let us re-engage that inner explorer in us and leave space to NASA and the other outer space experts. Let us leave the oceans to the people already engaged in those explorations and leave the study of subatomic particles to the world’s scientists. With all these people and organizations fully engaged in their adventures into these arenas of uncharted territory, there are still at least five billion of us who could start exploring who we are and what we want.

If we decide we want a secure, peaceful and sustainable world, we have the skill and wherewithal to pull it off. But the first step is to choose. We must decide the promise of humanity is important enough to stand for it. Then we need to insist upon optimizing the likelihood of that promise being realized, change our ways and begin living, talking and working in ways that support its probability. THEN, we get closer to answering the question of who we are and start acting more consistently with what we want.

3. NEXT MONTH’S EDITORIAL: “A Tale of a Paradigm Shift”


“The winds of grace are always blowing; but it is you who must raise your sails.” – Rabindranath Tagore

Systemantics, The Underground Text of Systems Lore: Four editions of this little-known book that takes a tongue-in-cheek look at complex human systems and how they behave (or misbehave); looks at how systems work and especially how they fail; John’s favorite book on systems; written by John Gall.


John delivers keynotes talks to corporations, associations and conferences. A list of his topics can be viewed at Keynotes That Make You Think! For references check: What people have said about John as a speaker.

John is a San Francisco writer and businessman-futurist. His latest book is Getting to the Better Future: A Matter of Conscious Choosing. More about John can be found at About.

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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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