The Value Gap – 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 5 reading: Less Is Not Always More through A Look into the Future
  • Brené Brown Book Club — Daring Greatly, starting session 3 reading: Chapter 5: Mind the Gap: Cultivating Change and Closing the Disengagement Divide through Chapter 6: Disruptive Engagement: Daring to Rehumanize Education and Work

(Commissions earned on Amazon links.)

My Ishmael

Less Is Not Always More

“In every culture, it’s the function of Mother Culture to preserve the status quo. I don’t mean at all to suggest that this is a wicked activity.” Points to the view Quinn and Brené share that a revolution is needed, a new status quo, as opposed to putting Band-Aids on the existing status quo.

“I’ve been surprised by how many of you actually seem to believe that what you have is perfection. It took me a while to realize that this results from the strange understanding you have of human history and evolution. A great many of you consciously or unconsciously think of evolution as a process of inexorable improvement.” Ties to Brené’s critique of perfection as a misguided goal.

“You must concentrate on getting the things you desperately need as human beings.” Resonates with Brené’s wish to embrace imperfection and worth and to pursue Wholehearted lives.’

“Demand it of yourselves, Julie.” Resonates with Brené’s focus on empowering people to pursue Wholeheartedness.

“It is my bizarre theory, Julie, that the people of your culture are destroying the world not because they’re vicious or stupid, as Mother Culture teaches, but because they’re terribly, terribly deprived — of things that humans absolutely must have, simply cannot go on living without year after year and generation after generation.” Resonates with Brené’s seeing shame culture as scarcity culture.

My God, It Isn’t Me!

“But if there isn’t anything they really want to do in the Taker world of work, why do they enter it at all? Why do they take jobs that are clearly not meaningful to them or to anyone else?”
“They take them because they have to. Their parents throw them out of the house. They either get jobs or starve.” Compare Brené’s Guidepost on the need for meaningful work — we see that our global civilized culture is literally designed to make this Guidepost impossible to meet for most people, so no wonder there is the need to identify this Guidepost.

“What I’m looking at is something the people of your culture feel sure doesn’t need to be looked at. These are drug addicts, losers, gangsters, trash. The adult attitude toward them is,’ If they want to live like animals, let them live like animals. If they want to kill themselves off, let them kill themselves off. They’re defectives, sociopaths, and misfits, and we’re well rid of them'”
“Yeah, I’d say that’s how most grown-ups feel about it.”
“They’re in a state of denial, Julie, and who is it they’re denying?”
“They’re denying that these are their children. These are somebody else’s children.” Compare Brené on how just about everyone has an “outcast” in their family and is perpetually in danger of an event that could make them an outcast themselves, believing instead of that outcasts are all “other.”

“These are exactly the kinds of thoughts that Jeffrey wrote in his journal again and again. ‘What’s wrong with me? What’s wrong with me? There must be something terribly wrong with me that I’m unable to find joy in the world of work.’… Perhaps you understand for the first time now that my role here is to bring you this tremendous news, that there’s nothing wrong here with YOU. You are not what’s wrong.” Compare Brené on unworthiness, on the Guidepost for meaningful work, and on the need for a Wholehearted revolution.


“You fell apart when you finally realized that I would actually listen to your demands, that I actually wanted to hear your demands — that you even deserved to have your demands met.” Compare Brené on the need to feel seen, heard, validated, belonging.

“I’ve opened the treasury for you, Julie. I’ve shown you the things you threw away for the sake of making yourselves rulers of the world. A system of wealth based on an exchange of energy that is inexhaustible and completely renewable. A system of laws that actually helped people live instead of just punishing them for doing things that people have always done and always will do. An educational system that cost nothing, worked perfectly, and drew people together generationally.” Compare Brené on the Wholeheartedness revolution and the inexhaustibility of empathy and love that would power it.

A Look into the Future


Daring Greatly

Chapter 5: Mind the Gap: Cultivating Change and Closing the Disengagement Divide

“We don’t have to be perfect, just engaged and committed to aligning values with action.” Compare Quinn distinguishing the stated goals of a system vs. the actual results that flow from its design and the gap between the two.

Culture, on the other hand, is less about what we want to achieve and more about who we are. Out of the many complex definitions of culture, including those that weighed down my undergrad sociology textbooks, the one that resonates the most with me is the simplest. As organizational development pioneers Terrence Deal and Allan Kennedy explained it: ‘Culture is the way we do things around here.’ I like this definition because it rings true for discussion about all culture — from the larger culture of scarcity that I write about in the first chapter, to a specific organizational culture, to the culture that defines my family.” Compare Quinn in My Ishmael‘s “‘Your Culture'” chapter: “The word culture is like a chameleon, Julie. It has no color of its own but rather takes color form its setting. It means one thing when you talk about the culture of chimpanzees, another when you talk about the culture of General Motors. It’s valid to say there are only two fundamentally different human cultures. It’s also valid to say there are thousands of human cultures.”

“One camp subscribes to the famous quote often attributed to thought leader Peter Drucker: ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast.’ Other folks believe that pitting one against the other creates a false dichotomy and that we need both. Interestingly, I’ve yet to find a strong argument that strategy is more important than culture. I think everyone agrees in theory that ‘who we are’ is at least as important as ‘what we want to achieve.'” Compare Quinn on the difference between vision — that which drives a culture in a particular direction — and programs — the things people put in place to try to get different results from what the culture’s vision is producing.

“In my experience, I can tell a lot about the culture and values of a group, family, or organization by asking these ten questions:” Quinn’s work substantially addresses these questions for global civilzed culture as a whole.

“Not only do these questions help us understand the culture, they surface the discrepancies between ‘what we say’ and ‘what we do,’ or between the values we espouse and the values we practice… If we want to isolate the problems and develop transformation strategies, we have to hold our aspirational values up against what I call our practiced values — how we actually live, feel, behave, and think. Are we walking our talk? Answering this can get very uncomfortable…
“The gap starts here: We can’t give people what we don’t have. Who we are matters immeasurably more than what we know or who we want to be.
“The space between our practiced values (what we’re actually doing, thinking, and feeling) and our aspirational values (what we want to do, think, and feel) is the value gap, or what I call ‘the disengagement divide.'” Again, parallels Quinn on systems’ design results vs. goals.

“That’s why dehumanizing cultures foster the highest levels of disengagement — they create value gaps that actual humans can’t hope to successfully navigate.” Compare Quinn on utopian systems that would work well if only people were better than they ever were.

“We don’t have to be perfect, just engaged and committed to aligning values with action.” Brené and Quinn are both out to create systems in which imperfect people can live with alignment between values and action.

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