Never Enough – As You Were

As You Were – looking for connections between the work of Brené Brown and Daniel Quinn as I revisit them in book clubs. See the introductory post for what this is all about. In this post, I look at:

  • Daniel Quinn Book Club — My Ishmael, session 1 reading: Hello There through The People of the Curse
  • Brené Brown Book Club — Daring Greatly, starting session 1 reading: Beginning through Chapter 2: Debunking the Vulnerability Myths

(Commissions earned on Amazon links.)

My Ishmael

Hello There


Room 105

“It was a poster on the wall behind the gorilla. It said:
“… The ad in the newspaper said Must have an earnest desire to save the world. That made sense sense. Saving the world would certainly mean saving gorillas.
But not saving people?” Compare Brené’s focus on both/and thinking over either/or thinking.

I Take on the Ape


We Lurch to the Starting Line

“‘I don’t get it,’ I told him. ‘The teachers I’m used to don’t ask what you’re looking for. They just teach what they teach.'” Compare Brené’s focus on power with vs. power over.

The Daydream

(‘Now you notice,’ I said to Ishmael, ‘that neither of them said I was too young or it’d be better if I was a boy or I should really stay home and take care of my mother or finish school or anything like that.’ He nodded to show he hadn’t missed that important point.)” Again, compare power with vs. power over.

Meet Mother Culture

“Mother Culture speaks to you through the voice of your parents — who likewise have been listening to her voice from the day of their own birth. She speaks to you through cartoon characters and storybook characters and comic-book characters. She speaks to you through newscasters and schoolteachers and presidential candidates. You’ve listened to her on talk shows. You’ve heard her in popular songs, advertising jingles, lectures, political speeches, sermons, and jokes. You’ve read her thoughts in newspaper articles, textbooks, and comic strips.” Brené regularly points out many sources from which we receive messages from the broader culture, especially shaming messages.

The People of the Curse

“In still other words, it seems to you that there’s something abnormal about dysfunctionality. What’s normal is for things to work. What’s not normal is for things to fail.” Compare Brené saying we’re worthy now and warning about pathologizing.

“There’s nothing wrong with turtles and clouds and worms and suns. That’s why they work. But there is something wrong with us. And that’s why we don’t work.” Compare Brené defining shame as “being bad.”

“We’re not civilized enough.” Compare Brené on worthiness, countering the idea of worthlessness/unworthiness with declaration that we are enough.

“Here’s what I hear: We’ve got to evolve to a higher form in order to survive… This form we’re in right now is just too primitive. We’re just too primitive. We have to evolve into some higher, more angelic form… We don’t work as well as mushrooms and turtles and worms because we’re too intelligent, and we don’t work as well as angels and gods because we’re not intelligent enough. We’re in an awkward stage. We were all right when we were less than human and we’ll be all right when we’re more than human, but we’re washouts as we are right now. Humans are just no good. I think that’s what Mother Culture has to say.” Compare shame always pressing for more as opposed to worthiness declaring enoughness.

Daring Greatly

What It Means to Dare Greatly


Introduction: My Adventures in the Arena

“The surest thing I took away from my BSW, MSW, and Ph.D. in social work is this: Connection is why we’re here. We are hardwired to connect with others, it’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives, and without it there is suffering.” Compare Quinn on Taker culture as being about power and things vs. Leaver culture being about community and support.

“Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough. It’s going to bed at night thinking, Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging.” Compare Quinn on Taker culture as being full of shame and the desire for ever more vs. Leaver culture being satisfied with community and support.

“Vulnerability is the core, the heart, the center, of meaningful human experiences.” Compare Taker culture always needing to cultivate power to conquer and control.

“The first step of the journey is understanding where we are, what we’re up against, and where we need to go. I think we can best do that by examining our pervasive ‘Never Enough’ culture.” Quinn’s work explores Taker culture as being “Never Enough” culture.

Chapter 1: Scarcity: Looking Inside Our Culture of “Never Enough”

“The topic of narcissism has penetrated the social consciousness enough that most people correctly associate it with a pattern of behaviors that include grandiosity, a pervasive need for admiration, and a lack of empathy. What almost no one understands is how every level of severity in this diagnosis is underpinned by shame.” Compare Quinn showing Taker culture to be deeply inclined toward grandiosity, lacking empathy in its willingness to commit genocide and ecocide — and at the same at its root believing that there is something fundamentally flawed about humans.

“I’m talking about understanding the root cause so we can address the problems.” Quinn is explicitly a systems thinker interested in addressing root causes as opposed to symptoms.

“For example, when I look at narcissism through the vulnerability lens, I see the shame-based fear of being ordinary.” Compare Taker culture’s human exceptionalism, believing its economies to be immune to physical laws that everything else in the universe is subject to, and believing its people to be immune to biological and ecological laws that all other living things are subject to.

“I see the cultural messaging everywhere that says that an ordinary life is a meaningless life.” Compare Taker culture’s attitude toward Leaver cultures.

“Scarcity: The Never-Enough Problem” Compare Quinn critiquing Taker culture’s need for more as driving it toward growth without end, which is unsustainable, which makes mistaken notions about scarcity lead to profound problems.

“Never good enough / Never perfect enough / Never thin enough / Never powerful enough / Never successful enough / Never smart enough / Never certain enough / Never safe enough / Never extraordinary enough” With the exception of “thin,” every one of these describes Taker culture’s view of itself.

“Scarcity doesn’t take hold in a culture overnight. But the feeling of scarcity does thrive in shame-prone cultures that are deeply steeped in comparison and fractured by disengagement. (By a shame-prone culture, I don’t mean that we’re ashamed of our collective identity, but that there are enough of us struggling with the issue of worthiness that it’s shaping our culture.)” Compare Taker culture, thinking highly of itself while the majority of its members struggle with unworthiness, comparison and disengagement.

“It’s not just the larger culture that’s suffering: I found the same dynamics playing out in family culture, work culture, school culture, and community culture.” Compare Quinn saying everything is of a piece.

“Scarcity bubbles up from these conditions and perpetuates them until a critical mass of people start making different choices and reshaping the smaller cultures they belong to… The larger culture is always applying pressure, and unless we’re willing to push back and fight for what we believe in, the default becomes a state of scarcity.” Compare Quinn advising that people do what they can where they are and that they “go tribal.” Compare Quinn describing Leaver cultures as having been willing to fight and die for their way of life because it was meaningful to them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *