A Bottom-Up Organization – 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 — The Invisibility of Success, session 1 reading: Introduction; The Invisibility of Success; The Persistence of Vision; Protecting the Environment? Sorry, Wrong Question
  • Brené Brown Book Club — Rising Strong, starting session 3 reading: Six – Sewer Rats and Scofflaws through Seven – The Brave and Brokenhearted

(Commissions earned on Amazon links.)

The Invisibility of Success



The Invisibility of Success

“The social organization of hunting-gathering peoples was (and is) of course the tribe — and the tribe is by its very nature a bottom-up organization. All the resources of the tribe’s environment were free for the taking — for all. You went out and got what you wanted. You needed no one’s permission. Nothing was under lock and key.” Compare Brené criticizing power-over and advocating being responsible for oneself.

“But you can’t talk people into accepting an absurd idea like this on the spur of the moment. They have to hear it from birth from trusted voices coming at them from every direction, not only parents and teachers, but preachers and journalists and novelists and philosophers and historians. It has to underlie, be taken for granted, and buried in every communication — beyond question, beyond examination.” When Brené acknowledges that shame/scarcity culture is so widespread despite people having inherent worth and being wired for connection, we have to imagine a similar dynamic is going on.

The Persistence of Vision

“The perception of human nature as essentially flawed was as much alive in the enlightened mind as it had been in the medieval or Renaissance mind.” Compare shame culture in which most people chronically hustle for their worth.

“If the world ‘belongs’ to anyone, it belongs to the general community of life and no single species can claim it for its exclusive use.” Sheds light on Brené’s value around belonging – to possess something as belonging to you subverts your own ability to feel belonging. In effect, you need to allow yourself to be possessed by something bigger than you in order to feel belonging. Taker/shame/scarcity culture does just the opposite.

Protecting the Environment? Sorry, Wrong Question

“‘Instead of spending all this time, energy, and money to prevent children from doing what they want to do,’ she said, ‘why don’t we spend some of it to find out why they want to do it in the first place? What is impelling them to self-slaughter? We need the answer to that question, and when we have it, we need to do something about it. Then we won’t have to patrol the river and guard the roofs and lock up our neckties and all the rest… In other words, why not deal with the cause of the problem instead of perpetually dealing with its effects?'” Echoes Brené’s focus on getting to root causes.

“What they’ve learned from infancy is that humans are just naturally destructive.” Echoes Brené’s critiquing the belief that we’re flawed and her discussion of the person who wanted to be “more than a batterer.”

“‘Protecting the environment’ is the business of those among us who never expect to achieve more than stalemate with the forces that are rendering our planet uninhabitable. We must have more than that. Stalemate just isn’t good enough… No, saving the world is too important to leave to them. Saving the world is for upstarts and lovers. Saving the world is for the rest of us.” Echoes Brené’s focus on root causes and her Wholeheartedness revolution.

Rising Strong

Six – Sewer Rats and Scofflaws

“Self-righteousness starts with the belief that I’m better than other people and it always ends with me being my very worst self and thinking, I’m not good enough.” Compare Taker culture simultaneously believing that people are the destined rulers of the world and yet that people are inherently flawed.

“‘Yes, I really do believe that most of us are doing the very best we can with the tools we have. I believe we can grow and get better, but I also believe that most of us are really doing our best.'” This truth, difficult for Brené to embrace, connects directly to Quinn’s focus on social structures which work well for people as they are in their imperfectness as opposed to the ones inherent to our culture which do not.

“Unlike their ‘yes’ counterparts, about 80 percent of these respondents used themselves as an example: ‘I know I’m not doing my best, so why should I assume others are?’ or ‘I slack off all of the time,’ or ‘I don’t give it 110 percent when I should.’ They judged their efforts in the same exacting manner that they judged the efforts of others. It was clearly important for the people answering ‘no’ to acknowledge this parity.
“I also began to see a pattern that worried me. The past research participants who answered ‘no’ were also people who struggled with perfectionism… Every participant who answered ‘yes’ was in the group of people who I had identified as wholehearted — people who are willing to be vulnerable and who believe in their self-worth.” Further connections to Taker culture versus Leaver cultures, no coincidence that the issue should split along group lines.

“I explained that very early on in my work I had discovered that the most compassionate people I interviewed also have the most well-defined and well-respected boundaries.” Compare individual to group level — an all-pervasive culture has members who have poor individual boundaries, while healthier Leaver cultures have strong cultural boundaries and members who are more emotionally healthy.

“… I’ve studied judgment and I know we don’t judge people when we feel good about ourselves… Most of us buy into the myth that it’s a long fall from ‘I’m better than you’ to ‘I’m not good enough’ — but the truth is that these are two sides of the same coin. Both are attacks on our worthiness. We don’t compare when we’re feeling good about ourselves; we look for what’s good in others. When we practice self-compassion, we are compassionate toward others. Self-righteousness is just the armor of self-loathing.” Directly connects to Taker culture believing it has the one right way to live while also believing that people are flawed.

“It means that we stop respecting and evaluating people based on what we think they should accomplish, and start respecting them for who they are and holding them accountable for what they’re actually doing. It means that we stop loving people for who they could be and start loving them for who they are.” Echoes Quinn’s focus on living in ways that work for people as they are in their imperfect messiness and his critique that Taker (i.e., shame/scarcity) culture is inherently utopian and always needs people to be better than they actually are.

“Do I believe serial killers and terrorists are doing the best they can? Yes. And their best is dangerous, which is why I believe we should catch them, lock them up, and assess whether they can be helped. If they can’t, they should stay locked up.” Echoed by Quinn’s story in Tales of Adam about how a tribe can handle a person who has become deeply and destructively antisocial.

“As Didion points out, I must accept responsibility for my own life and my decisions.” Echoes Quinn’s bottom-up discussion immediately above, in contrast to top-down control in which responsibility is abdicated to others we see as having power over us.

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