A Third Hand to Reach With – 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 3 reading: Preparing Our Children for Extinction; Human Exceptionalism: the Deadliest Theory of Them All; Reaching for the Future with All Three Hands; Technologies for That Other War
  • Brené Brown Book Club — Rising Strong, starting session 4 reading: Eight – Easy Mark through Nine – Composting Failure

(Commissions earned on Amazon links.)

The Invisibility of Success

Preparing Our Children for Extinction

“We have been taught — and are therefore teaching our children — that, individually, we are all pretty much helpless when it comes to saving the world. That is, unless we happen to have the power of a world leader — the power of a President, let’s say. Or unless we happen to control some vast multi-national corporation like Shell Oil or DuPont. Or unless we happen to control some big organization like the Red Cross or Greenpeace or the World Wildlife Fund. We’ve been taught (and are therefore teaching our children) that, as individuals, all we can do is wait for other people — powerful people — to save the world.” Points to how deep power-over structures are inherent in our culture.

“I hope you see that I’m talking about an educational problem here. We have honest to god got to stop teaching our children that only other people count.” Pointing to our culture’s inherent tendency to shame and undermine self-worth.

Human Exceptionalism: the Deadliest Theory of Them All

“This is the theory of human exceptionalism…” Quinn points to this on a broad cultural level, parallel to Brené talking about things like how people try to “other” people and keep seeing themselves as an exception to the otherness.

Reaching for the Future with All Three Hands

“The Phrygian sage Epictetus said: ‘Everything has two handles, one by which it can be carried and a second by which it cannot.’ The sage who stands before you here today says: ‘There’s a third handle on the other side, but it can only be reached by people who realize they’ve got a third hand to reach with.’…
“Ours is an obsessively two-valued culture…
“Everyone takes it for granted that there are exactly two sides to every argument.” Quinn, like Brené, is highly aware of the culture’s broad tendency to dichotomize and the importance of looking past dichotomy.

Technologies for That Other War

“The characteristic of my work that appeals to all these different points of view is this: I follow a strange rule that can be applied usefully to any subject whatever, whether it’s social investment, health care, human resources or the technologies of peace. Here it is: If they give you lined paper, write sideways.” Also echoes the important of looking beyond the typical — and typically binary — ways of looking at things.

“‘Punishment isn’t a value for me, and deterrence can never be demonstrated in any definitive way. So where do we go from here?'” Echoes Brené saying that shame has been proved an ineffective way of changing people.

Rising Strong

Eight – Easy Mark

“‘The opposite of faith is not doubt — it’s certainty.'” Echoes Quinn describing Leavers as living in the hands of the gods, trusting in the world they live in, while Takers are on a constant quest for ever more control.

“Over-functioners tend to move quickly to advise, rescue, take over, micromanage, and basically get in other people’s business rather than looking inward. Under-functioners tend to get less competent under stress: They invite others to take over and often become the focus of worry or concern. On the outside, over-functioners appear to be tough and in control, and under-functioners can seem irresponsible or fragile.” Just one more expression of the hierarchy that Quinn shows is inherent in our culture. Taker culture itself is an over-functioner.

“We both understood exactly what Me-Ma had that we didn’t: the capacity to receive.” Echoes the importance of the give-support-get-support dynamic Quinn describes in Leaver cultures.

“She knew the truth: We don’t have to do all of it alone. We were never meant to.” Directly echoes things Quinn says in the Wealth, Leaver Style chapter of My Ishmael

“… I think about how often we all try to solve problems by doing more of what’s not working — just doing it harder, grinding it out longer.” Echoes many times Quinn criticizes Taker culture’s habitual stance that if it didn’t work before we should do more of it, including in The Human Future: A Problem in Design.

“Offering help is courageous and compassionate, but so is asking for help… Giving help can occasionally feel vulnerable; asking for help always means risking vulnerability. This is critical to understand because we can’t make it through the rising strong process without help and support.” Also echoes give-support-get-support.

“This exercise gets interesting when leaders, in turn, talk about how reluctant they are to ask for help and support. How many times do we implore the people who work for us to ask for help when they need it? But experience shows that simply asking them to do this probably won’t correlate strongly with how often they actually ask for help. We found a better correlation between the number of times we modeled what asking for help looks ike and how comfortable folks are with asking for help. Both giving and receiving help must be part of the culture, and we as leaders need to model both if we are committed to innovation and growth… Connection doesn’t exist without giving and receiving. We need to give and we need to need. This is true at work and at home… But in the middle of our lives, we mistakenly fall prey to the myth that successful people are those who help rather than need, and broken people need rather than help… For my grandmother, generosity and giving were not the opposite of receiving: They were parts of the compact between human beings.” Also echoes give-support-get-support. Further, shows the relationship between, on one hand, power-with relationships and support exchange emblematic of Leaver culture and, on the other hand, hierarchical power-over relationships and the lack of support exchange emblematic of Taker culture.

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