Apotheosis podcast episode 31: Vision based on values, not fear. Fear-based visions are the nutritional equivalent of a candy bar: satisfying in the moment, but ultimately won't sustain you for long.

Episode 31: Vision based on values, not fear

Ryan D Thompson Leadership, Perspectives, Skills, Values, Vision

Key ideas

A societal or organizational vision based on harnessing fear and anger will typically fail over the long term. Basing a vision on shared values stands a much greater chance of solving real problems and creating something people want.

  • The recent failures of the MAGA movement in the U.S. elections offer a case study of uninspiring visions. Turns out that blind obedience to one man and baseless accusations don’t attract a critical mass of voters.
  • Fear-based visions are the nutritional equivalent of a candy bar: satisfying in the moment, but ultimately won’t sustain you for long. When the rush wears off, it leaves you exhausted and frustrated for being unable to tackle what’s in front of you.
  • Instead, basing a vision on shared values is more like brown rice and broccoli. Might be less satisfying to the senses, but offers much greater long-term energy and potential to do hard work.
  • Striving to realize shared American values like equality, justice for all, and innovation can help this country to live up to its full potential. Other values like continuous improvement, compassion, and contribution can help anyone or organization to succeed.


The red wave is coming, the red wave is coming! …until it didn’t. Most of the election forecasts and no doubt many individual people across the United States expected a Republican sweep of the Senate, House, and many of the state and local races. Clearly, this prediction ran into a blue wall. 

Predicting the future is a notoriously difficult task, especially for something as volatile as politics. We can have a vision for what we hope the future will hold; but if that vision doesn’t connect with a critical mass of supporters, the vision will be just a fantasy.

For many in MAGA-land, the rise and dominance of Donald J. Trump is second only to the second coming of Jesus. Which points to a central reason the red wave became a mere puddle: the MAGA vision seems based primarily in loyalty to one man – and a very flawed man at that. Hardly the basis for an inspiring vision – especially in a country that was founded as a rejection of placing too much power in the hands of one man.

The plurality of Americans who have now voted against Trump and his acolytes in three straight elections clearly didn’t buy into the MAGA vision. His supporters maintain an intense and unshakeable faith in him. But the desire for something better, for a return to stability, outshone that intensity.

Supporters of Trump might be faced with some introspection on why this Trump-centered vision was so repugnant to so many. 

From the perspective of this anti-MAGA commentator, the primary positions of the ultra-MAGA supporters – beyond unquestioning obedience to Trump – were based on unfounded accusations of supposed crimes and evils of the left. Accusations of election fraud without any evidence. Accusations of radical leftist agendas without any clarity or evidence on what those radical agendas actually were. And accusations of grooming children by the LGBT+ community and a secret Satanic underworld, again without any evidence that any of these things are happening, beyond the vague Q conspiracy rants.

Again, hardly a compelling vision for a country that is clearly exhausted by six years of Trumpian drama. 

Now I really don’t like going into politics. Especially with a narrow geographic focus on my own country. I prefer to focus on practical skills and insights that can serve us as leaders, wherever we live and whatever kind of work we do, rather than raise our collective blood pressure through often fruitless political arguments.

However, this floundering and uninspiring MAGA vision can be instructive. It serves as a useful example of a poor vision. It offers us an opportunity to reflect on what a better collective vision might be for American society – as well as other democratic societies that might learn from some of our fiascos and painful lessons of late.

A vision based on obedience to one man or one party has proven undesirable throughout history. A vision based on shared values has much greater potential to guide us towards a sustainable and flourishing world.

Leaders at all levels now have an opportunity to reflect on values that can unite our communities and organizations to tackle the wicked problems we face. 

Instead of chasing after ghosts and bogeymen like the GOP has done for the past several years at Trump’s behest, one reason the MAGA vision fails is that it ignores a slate of real problems and complex threats facing humanity. Obviously there are major pressing concerns like inflation and economic challenges of the average person. Women are rightfully worried about their reproductive rights and autonomy over their own bodies. Black Americans are rightfully worried about their safety and opportunities to thrive in the face of racism that still exists across America’s institutions. Jews and other religious minorities are rightfully worried about an increase in hate crimes over the past several years. The LGBTQ community are rightfully worried about harassment and unfounded accusations.

And then there are broader issues that contribute to making some of these other problems worse: Climate change and worldwide environmental devastation. Erosion of democracy through relentless misinformation. Hatred and oppression under the guise of free speech.

Clever campaign slogans and fear-mongering won’t address these problems. To solve problems we need a clear vision of what we hope to achieve. A set of well-defined values can then serve as a compass to help realize that vision.

Here in the United States, we would do well to focus on the values that have served this country well – but, if we’re honest with ourselves, haven’t yet been realized to their fullest extent. 

First, the concept of equality is enshrined in our founding documents. And yet, when someone raises the pervasive inequalities and inequities that Black Americans, women, or other groups face, many people scoff at the “wokeness.” If we can’t even have a conversation about inequality, we can’t expect to realize equality – and we have failed as a nation. Closely related is the idea of justice for all. Many Black Americans have described in great detail the injustices they experience, whether directly at the hands of police or in the court system or in other institutions. And yet despite claims that “all lives matter,” their experiences are frequently ignored or rejected. Then there is the ideal of innovation, which has driven much of America’s success over the past two centuries. Innovation thrives where there is diversity, both demographic as well as ideological. Immigration from other countries has always been a source of new perspectives and experiences, so limiting its flow reduces the potential for innovation. Likewise, a healthy balance between liberal and conservative ideas can support the generation of practical ideas to tackle big problems. The increase of division and toxicity between right and left will hinder innovation.

These are only a handful of the collective values that have made America a great country, one that has been a beacon of freedom and opportunity for the global human community. If we can return to these and other shared values, we can continue to be so.

What are some values you hold dear? What values do you believe can make a difference in creating the kind of society you would want to live in? Reach out to me on projectindra.org or LinkedIn to share some ideas for values you believe can help us to flourish. In the coming episodes, I’ll share some of the values that inspired this podcast and that have served me well in my personal and professional life. I’ll talk about continuous improvement. I’ll share some thoughts on compassion and kindness. On the merits of integration and synchrony. And on the importance of contribution. I’ll look out for your ideas on values that serve you well, and will feature some in future episodes.

Well, that’s all for now. I hope you found value in this discussion of values and can use these ideas to work towards a better world. In the meantime, I have a favor to ask. If you can leave a review or a rating for this podcast on Apple Podcasts or Spotify, that would really help me reach more people with these ideas. Connect with me on LinkedIn or check the Project Indra website for more info. Until the next time, be well!

Podcast soundtrack credit:

Our Story Begins Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License