Three Questions to Help Us Discern and Decide Our Trajectory of Transformation

Earlier this month, I was out of town for my Aunt Virginia’s memorial service. Auntie V once was asked to sum up her life. She was a natural/intuitive futurist, and said it was “the ability to understand things to come.” She exercised *The Art of the Long View* in politics & community service decades before Peter Schwartz wrote his book by that title.

At her memorial, I shared how visionaries inspire individuals & communities to look beyond apparent limitations to see new POSSIBILITIES. Futurists don’t give THE answers to problems, but use research and questions to facilitate processes where you choose PREFERRED path forward.

Figuring out our personal or social pathways forward is not a passive process. So, I also shared how I see hope, imagination, and prayer intertwined. Together, they activate our vision & motivate our work toward a future that is different from what otherwise seems inevitable.

If there is one “human universal” that drives a desire for transformation, it’s to make a better world for next generations. We could use more “futuring” to discover & pursue our personal passions, plus develop common ground for the common good in bettering our communities.

Doesn’t every era need this kind of input, to draw out & amplify our trajectory of transformation? I find it fascinating: 3,000+ years ago, the tribe of Issachar had members whose life & legacy was to understand the times & discern what Israel should do. (1 Chronicles 12:32)

If you’re interested in some of the specific tools and techniques involved in strategic foresight (studies of the future), here’s a tutorial, “So What’s a Futurist?” In it, I overview the kind of futuring skills I learned in a one-to-one intensive training over 20 years ago.

When I shared a tribute to Auntie V, I boiled futuring down to three key questions.

1. Helping people see our connections with one another, our interdependence–and welcoming all people of good will to consider how to seek common ground for the common good. The question is, WHO NOW?

2. Using either/or analysis plus both/and synthesis skills to find relevant cultural trends that no one can control–but that will deeply affect or direct our pathway forward as communities–and challenging us to imagine together the constructive (and potential destructive) possibilities. The question here is, WHAT IF?

3. Equipping people to see their way to a paradigm/culture shift by identifying trends that will have significant effects on them, finding patterns of plausible changes, and presenting that in story form to confront them with emotional impact of choices. The question: WHERE NEXT?

I had some fascinating conversations about geeky futurist stuff with my Aunt Virginia — social change, next generations, the pursuit of hope. I’m grateful to have had her as a role model in my own work in social change and advocacy … and to have shared that tribute in her honor.

Here are some quotes I particularly like related to the drive we have to pursue the common good, make things better for next generations, and be activated by hope and pray as we engage our imagination about a more preferable pathway forward.

Helen Haste Quote, *The Sexual Metaphor*, 1994

Angela Merkel Quote, July 2018


Impeachment — A Key Resource I Recommend for Keeping Up With the News

A friend asked me about journal articles on historical and legal issues about impeachment that I could recommend. I haven’t kept up with those, but here is the best basic resource book I can recommend, to help you keep up with the news about potential impeachment proceedings.

My top recommendation is Impeachment: A Handbook, by Charles Black and Philip Bobbitt (2018, new edition; Yale University Press; ISBN 978-0300238266). Various editions going back to the 1970s are available — but make sure to get the newest edition (2018), as it adds essential new material. [Image of newest version to be added. The edition shown is the 1998 reissue.]

This book is relatively brief, considering the historical, legal, political, and media dimensions involved. It covers the key issues to be able to understand the questions being asked and technical issues being raised.

The original portion of the book by Charles Black was written in 1974, coming out of the Watergate/Nixon impeachment situation. It covers the essentials of the constitutional procedures for the House to accuse and the Senate to convict or acquit, what “impeachable” offenses are, and issues regarding the US court system. (A lot of those came up with Richard Nixon, as he sought multiple ways to impede the investigations.)

New material added in 2018 by Phillip Bobbitt covers the history of presidential impeachment since Nixon, legal/criminal issues, and responses to common misbeliefs about impeachment. (These misbeliefs are ones I’ve heard expressed as far back as the Watergate era, so that is an important section to have available.)

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Secondarily, if you’re interested in tracking the history of how the broader uses of impeachment (not just for a president) have been politicized and culturized the last 50+ years, see The Age of Impeachment: American Constitutional Culture Since 1960, by David E. Kyvig (University of Kansas Press; 2008; ISBN 978-0700615810). It gives a chronological survey of impeachment situations in recent history, and the essential issues/lessons we can distill from each.

If you’re interested in the origins of impeachment in the American Constitution, and various applications check out The Genius of Impeachment: The Founders’ Cure for Royalism, by John Nichols (The New Press; 2006; ISBN 978-1595581402). Be aware of the author’s bias, based on the time in which this was written and the controversies surrounding then-recent presidents and administrations. Given that, I suggest this book as the one I’ve seen with the most historical background on the genesis of impeachment in our constitution.

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Since impeachment inquiries are rare, questions about Watergate and comparisons to the Nixon impeachment will likely arise in days to come. I was majoring in political science during the era of the Watergate and the House impeachment proceedings — and even took a course they had to keep up with the constitutional, public administration, and media issues that were coming up.

I’ve collected Watergate-related resource materials over the years, as it is one of the case studies I use to demonstrate various dimensions of toxic organizational systems, how they become corroded, and the consequences thereof. I’ve organized the sources here: Watergate and Corruption.

This visual bibliography gives DVD and book titles dealing with a wide range of topics and perspectives, along with links to the original publisher’s pages wherever possible. I am adding a section with books/links just on legal and historical issues regarding impeachment.

Hope you’ll find this of help in researching related topics of interest.

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Bilbo’s Acorn, and Finding Hope in Battle

~ With Birthday Greetings on September 22nd

to Bilbo and Frodo Baggins!

I find the scene about Bilbo Baggins and his acorn one of the most poignant in the third movie of The Hobbit series: The Battle of the Five Armies. It takes place in the ruins of Erebor, the dwarf palace in the Lonely Mountain. King Thorin Oakenshield – whose heart and mind have been overtaken by Gold Fever – sees that Bilbo has something in his hand. Is it the Arkenstone – the heirloom of his house?

Thorin: What is that – in your hand? Show me!

Bilbo: I picked it up in Beorn’s garden.

Thorin: You carried it all this way?

Bilbo: I’m going to plant it in my garden, in Bag End.

[Thorin smiles and chuckles, seeming as if the Dragon Sickness from gold has gone.]

Bilbo: One day, it’ll grow. [He huffs a smile.] And every time I look at it, I’ll remember … Remember everything that happened. The good, the bad … and how lucky I am that I made it home.

I’m a very visual and concrete thinker, so I often use physical objects as reminders of memorable moments and milestones, and the people who were part of them. They become a sort of liturgy of hope. Sometimes – not every time – I hold and look at them, I call to mind the events of the past, recount their impact for good and/or ill, and express gratitude to God for sustaining me through it all.

It’s a way to practice the sentiments of seeking God that we find in Lamentations 3, especially verses 19-25 (NIV, via Biblegateway), especially in the midst of the troubles and battles of life.

I remember my affliction and my wandering,
    the bitterness and the gall.
20 I well remember them,
    and my soul is downcast within me.
21 Yet this I call to mind
    and therefore I have hope:

22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
    therefore I will wait for him.”

25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;

Back to Bilbo and his hopeful little acorn, there is an even more poignant follow-up scene that was shot, but not included in the theatrical cut of the film, or even in the Extended Edition. Thankfully, we do find it in the Appendices Part 11, Section 7 on “The Cloud Bursts.” This is a segment about battles in the city of Dale, and the acorn scenes and commentary from Peter Jackson and key actors in those scenes start at about 23:20 minutes in.

To set the stage, the fight in Dale against the forces of evil is not going well. A moment arrives when there is a lull in the battle, and Bard the Bowman, Gandalf the Grey, and Bilbo Baggins have a crucial conversation, capped with a surprising twist.

Bard: The causeway has fallen! The elves still hold an open gate!

Gandalf: Not for much longer.

Gandalf: Get some bowmen up into those towers!

Bard: There are no bowmen left …

[Gandalf looks anguished. The scene shifts to snippets of fighting where orcs are prevailing.]

Bard [on the verge of tears]: I let myself imagine this city restored. We would take what had been destroyed and rebuild it. We would wash away this sadness – and the streets would once again be filled with life … full of hope.

Bilbo [winded]: No, no – no, no, no, no! Come now, don’t despair!

Bard: What would you have us do?

Bilbo [sighing]: Huh. Do? Do …? Here. [He nods his head for them to follow as he walks, just staggering a bit, to a nearby patch of ground.] Here, I’ll show you. [He puts down his sword, Sting, and begins digging into the earth with his hands.]

Bard: Bilbo!

Bilbo: [He reaches into his jacket, pulls out the acorn, and holds it up to show them.] Yeah?

[Gandalf and Bard look something between confused and bewildered. Bilbo gently places the acorn into the hole in the ground. In the background the Shire theme by Howard Shore plays as he fixes the acorn there and then covers it over with dirt.]

Bard: What is that?

Bilbo: [Huffing, he picks up his sword, stands, and faces Bard. He whispers.] That’s a promise.

[Now speaking in full voice, but still winded from fighting.] Underneath all that blood and dirt, there is a chance of new life. It may sound hopeless. It may sound foolish. But, uhh, really, what else can you do? When faced with death [he points Sting at the fighting beyond them], what can anyone do? [He points Sting at the place where he planted the acorn.] You go on living! Hmm?

Part of what makes this scene – and especially the commentary – so emotional is that it is in the context of a tribute to Andrew Lesnie, the Director of Photography on both The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies. Sadly, he died of a heart attack at age 59. They weave a clip of him into the commentary on the acorn scenes, and I find it a powerful memorial to their friend.

Why is this theme of the acorn and finding hope coming to mind for me today? Not just because September 22nd is Bilbo’s and Frodo’s birthday, but because of my many survivor/advocate friends who are battling against toxic systems with institutionalized abuse.

Perhaps today is a good day for planting acorns …

Meme from IMGFLIP.COM.

PDF Reference Guide to the “Do Good Plus Do No Harm” Training Series

Just posted: PDF Reference Guide for my training series on “Do Good Plus Do No Harm.” This was the last chunk of work I needed to complete before going into sabbatical mode until 2020.

Futuristguys Field Guides – Series Reference Guide – Version 1, Sept. 2019

This document overviews content components and curriculum outcomes for the entire training series, then details the 2 Courses in the Futuristguy’s Field Guides series.

It lists “essentials” (concept frameworks, key charts, major case studies) for each of 4 Field Guides, and all 72 chapter FAQs I address. The Reference Guide also gives one-paragraph summaries for all chapters in Course 1 (Field Guides #1 and #2) on Deconstructing Sick Systems and for all 13 “proof of concept” case studies that apply the concepts to relevant situations in history or media. I’ll update the Guide when I’m ready to finalize Course 2 on (Re)Constructing Robust Systems.

So–this is the “espresso” of what it’s taken me 13 years of developing, writing, and editing to produce! I estimate that I’ve spent 1,000 hours a year minimum on the project–20 hours a week x 50 weeks a year–and that it will total 500,000 words in the 4 book/workbook Field Guides plus the companion website and related case studies.

I already have about half the content finalized, a quarter of it at the first-draft stage, and a quarter outlined but needing to fill it in.

Which all helps explain why I’m taking two weeks a month off for the rest of the year to rest, and will be minimizing how much I’m on social media. I’m feeling totally whooped, but I’m also happily saying, “Yippity-skippity and zippity-whoopie!”

UN-accountable: Case Study in Systems Analysis and Ministerial Accountability

I am a blogging team member at Spiritual Sounding Board. We are posting there a five-part case study that I developed in late 2017. (All segments will be posted on Spiritual Sounding Board, only my introduction will be on this futuristguy blog.) The series covers concepts about systems, systemic abuse, repentance/damage repair, and accountability. I used Tullian Tchividjian’s documented situation of clergy sexual misconduct and spiritual abuses of his role as pastor and speaker to illustrate the concepts.

The introduction and Note from Julie Anne Smith explain some of the providential reasons for publishing this material now, when it was finished almost two full years ago. An outline of the series, plus links to its posts and other key resources, follows the introduction.
Continue reading

Case Studies on Successful Media/Transmedia Franchising: Could *Dune* be Next?

Could Dune be The Next Big Franchise?

I am a fan of Frank Herbert’s Dune saga. I came to Arrakis in mid-life, when my sci-fi aficionado friend Deb introduced me to the series 20+ years ago when I was 40-ish. Perhaps because I started into the series as an adult, halfway through a career that included too many experiences of toxic leaders, I especially appreciated Herbert’s exploration of power and its impact (“Power is a magnet that draws the corruptible.”). As an amateur organizational ecologist, I also dug into his principles for developing a sustainable environment, and, as a futurist, his explorations of human elements in possible futures.

I’ve posted about his views on power, developed my own version of a chronological “reader’s guide” to the entire series, and even set up a “visual bibliography” fansite with some of the classic products that have been licensed to tell the story of Dune in other types of media — movies, games, audiobooks, toys, music, etc. This is all a part of my fascination with transmedia and the inner workings of successful storying franchises. This is something I’ve been tracking since the days of Harry Potter books and films and Lord of the Rings movie series, and more recently with The Hunger Games.

A recent discussion on Twitter initiated by Secrets of Dune asked whether people thought that Denis Villeneuve’s forthcoming adaptations of Frank Herbert’s Dune could become the next Lord of the Rings or Star Wars franchise. I thought about this a while, and this was my response: Continue reading

Want to apply for the Futuristguy’s Field Guide #1 book Review Team? Here are the details.

Thanks for your interest in my “Do Good Plus Do No Harm” training series, and applying to be a Reviewer for Field Guide #1! I’ve been developing this curriculum since 2007, and am excited – and relieved – that it is about to launch!

This article includes the application form plus background on the project, groups I believe will benefit from it, and expectations for Review Team members. There is a lot of detail here for those who want it, and for one very important reason:

Because this Field Guide is a combination book/workbook of about 100,000 words – THAT’S OVER 50% LONGER than the usual trade paperback these days – I am providing extensive information up front so you can better consider whether this commitment is for you or not.


The following sections over the project and expectations. To apply for the Review Team, please read them and submit the required information in the Application Form. The Application Form is at the bottom of this page. Here’s the projected timeline:

** Applications are open through Thursday, August 1, 2019. EXTENDED THROUGH SUNDAY, AUGUST 4TH.

** Application review group will make final decisions and contact those selected by August 10.

** I ask that your review be submitted by October 1 – about 6 weeks – but if you need until October 15, that’s okay.

** The book will be finalized and in production as soon as possible after October 1.


I’ve worked for and volunteered with non-profits since 1972. Most of these were great experiences! But I’ve also ended up in business, non-profit, and team situations that turned out toxic. I’ve come to believe that, to accomplish the good, we must be aware of the bad. I’ve written the “Do Good Plus Do No Harm” training series to capture what I’ve learned from these experiences, both the healthy and the sickly.

The series covers essential concept frameworks, practitioner skills, practical learning exercises, and impact evaluation metrics needed for creating common ground for the common good – for promoting robust organizations and intervening in and preventing toxic ones. I designed the series to equip participants in a wide range of start-ups and organizational types. These include entities like community development projects, faith-based ministries, for-benefit businesses, and non-profit agencies.

The project currently consists of:

(1) a four-volume Field Guide training series, with

(2) a companion website with resources and visual bibliography for each chapter, and

(3) online case studies with guides to practice applying the principles.

I’ve sequenced the material to create two Courses, the first two volumes on how to identify and deal with toxic systems and malignant people in them, the second two on how to start up or transition to an organization that embodies a paradigm that is safer from abuse and therefore more sustainable as we develop teams, projects, and partnerships.


More specifically, Field Guide #1 covers what systems are made of, what systemic abuse is, how to identify malignant leaders and sick systems, and issues of responsibility and accountability. This is the first of two volumes on Deconstructing and Dealing With Toxic Systems.

Field Guide #2 is due out in 2020. It is on detoxification, and covers tactics and traumas of abuse, how survivors recover from them, forms of advocacy to support survivors, forms of activism to challenge abusive systems, rehabilitation for abusive individuals who choose to change, and remediation (repair work) for organizations where abusive practices have become institutionalized.

NOTE: Those on the Review Team for Field Guide #1 will be given priority consideration if they are interested in being first readers/reviewers on Field Guide #2, which is tentatively due out in late 2020.


The volumes use a variety of presentation techniques that appeal to different ways people process information. As “field guides,” they are heavily illustrated – 200+ graphics each – to capture the essence of the concepts explored, or show the emotional impact of ideas involved. Workbook sections include personal reflection and group questions, and case studies drawn from history, movies, and other media that focus on identifying how various concepts play out in real-life situations. My theory is: If we can’t see key concepts while in the safe environment of watching a documentary or movie, what makes use think we can spot these problems when they’re right in front of us in our own organizations?

I use this format with diverse elements on purpose, despite knowing that what appeals to some people will annoy others. The reality is, if we’re working on teams, every kind of information processing preference is likely to be present. Are we going to squeeze everyone into the way(s) we most readily learn – or find better ways to collaborate where these elements would otherwise bring conflict?

You can preview the training series concepts, components, case studies, and samples of writings and workbook sections on the companion website.


This series has not turned out to be a standard sort of resource, and this won’t be a typical launch process. It’s a niche training/reference resource, to be distributed/sold by a non-profit enterprise. A few key details:

Field Guides will be self-published by print-on-demand. They will be available in printed form only, with no eBook/ePub or audiobook versions.

Sales will be managed by Creative Interfaces, a non-profit run by people I’ve known over 20 years. Field Guides will be available for purchase through its website and eBay store, with a discounted price schedule for multiple copies.

At this time, new copies will not be available through other sales outlets like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Christian Discount Booksellers, etc., because of their required return policies, discount percentages, and invoice payment practices.


While Do Good Plus Do No Harm does focus on the impact of abuse on individuals and institutions, and how to make things right, this isn’t just for abuse survivors. I had in mind three audiences who seek to make a constructive difference to counteract personal and organizational abuse and promote health:

SURVIVORS – survivors of abuse, those who support them as personal advocates, and those who take up their cause as social activists.

INVESTIGATORS – writers and resourcers on abuse, recovery, and organizational responsibility; students of history, culture, and strategic foresight (futuring).

BUILDERS – change agents who are: social entrepreneurs (issue-oriented), community or congregation developers (place-oriented), and help/health professionals (people-oriented).

One of my main goals was to create an integrated set of concepts and definitions to help these three groups find a common vocabulary for communicating and working together better. That goal shaped who I feel I need involved in my launch process, to give the broadest possible review of the material.


Space on the Review Team is limited. I anticipate a Team of 30 to 45 people from a balance of those three groups: survivors, investigators, and builders. I’m asking those selected to do the following. (Details will be included in the Review Team Pack.)

1. Respond to any questions in Review Team emails. (I don’t expect there to be many updates.)

2. Read the PDF overview document that summarizes the complete training series, plus gives some detail on the first two Field Guides on how to deconstruct toxic organizations and situations, and what to do about them.

3. I will provide either a PDF or a prototype print copy (to be determined). Read Field Guide #1, and look at the related visual bibliographies on the companion website.

4. Read the companion website introduction to the “Proof of Concept” case studies and look through case #1 (The Hunger Games), #2 (Assassin’s Creed), and #3 (Dune) to see what you think.

5. Write your review about the Field Guide, website, and case studies. Send to Creative Interfaces to post on the sales website. NOTE: Your review may appear in the book’s endorsement section, if you have given your permission for that in your application.

6. Promote the book/your review on social media. I appreciate your linking to Creative Interfaces’ sales site, as this volume will NOT be available from any other source at this time.

7. Any additional feedback is welcomed. I hope to edit the series once all the Field Guides have been released, to make it more consistent in a way that’s not possible until all volumes are done.


Application process for the Review Team is open through August 1, 2019.