Deconstructing Loyalty

For some time now, I’ve been testing hypotheses about what loyalty looks like when examined closely.

I thought, at first, that it might be a formula.









Yes and no.  There is no loyalty without these elements but these are not the defining elements.

Or maybe it’s like this.







I visualized it this way after hearing a tremendously insightful keynote address by Manley Feinberg at a conference a couple of weeks ago.  I learned a great deal about vertical mountain climbing and the reserves of courage, trust, and determination we all have to call on in ourselves to succeed in any task work accomplishing, any mission worth pledging to.  I left that meeting recharged.

After that experience I had more perspective, but before I had an answer to the question of loyalty there were more sketches, more long reflective runs, more observations of the world around me, and more trial balloons floated – and popped.

I thought of the unconditional loyalty of some dogs to their people. You’ve heard the stories.  Dogs who have saved lives.  Dogs who ran toward danger, who didn’t run away from devastation or death, who remained at the graves of their people, sometimes for years.


Admirable, remarkable, touching.  But… dogs.  We love them but we are not wired like they are.  Our motivation isn’t unconditional even if it is unwavering because a certain set of conditions had to exist to initiate and maintain the relationship.  We know we’re human.  We know we’re flawed.  Unlike our canine best friends we see our warts and we see their shortcomings.

Despite that or because of that we can be and are loyal to other flawed humans.  But it takes practice.

Loyalty: active participation in another’s successes while predicting and mitigating adverse consequences. 

Active Participation in Another’s Successes

Your commitment means you don’t quit. You don’t walk away. You don’t stop because it gets hard or because it’s not convenient.  You work at it.

Why? Because no human succeeds alone.  It is not possible.

Think about any success in life:

That track and field medal?  Coach.

That diploma?  Professors. Parents. Advisors.

That project?  Team. Sponsor. Mentor.

That victory?  At least one other but more its likely they were plural or even legion.

Victory follows battle.  Battle, by definition, is fought by men and women loyal to a country, a cause, and their corporal or their general in all their glory and imperfection.

Predicting and Mitigating Adverse Consequences

Life brings challenges.  Some days more than others, some weeks more than others; some years more than others.

Counterintuitively, if you have someone’s back, you’re the one in front who sees what’s ahead.  You’re the knight protecting the queen from check and mate. That’s what you’ve signed on for.

Because he or she would do the same for you.

Becoming extraordinary is taking one new step every day, on top of all those steps you took in the days leading up to today.  That’s how you train for a marathon.  That’s how you train for life.

So today, practice loyalty.

Actively participate in another’s successes while predicting and mitigating adverse consequences. 

And we all succeed.

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