Why Values are no Absolutes

Vintage Gauges. This image is CC0!

Recently I stumbled upon some interesting dojo (house) rules of a karate dojo. Using value and development squares we are going to examine these rules today. You will be surprised how the opposite of the rules can also form a good set of rules.

Let’s have a look at the original rules:

  • Be polite and modest
  • Work on the perfection of your character
  • Be patient and control yourself
  • Be just and ready to help
  • Be brave

Now we create some value squares to find the positive opposite of these rules. For each value, we build a square. We start with “polite”.

Positive value


Opposite positive value




Exaggerated opposite



The next value we look at is “modest”

modest self-confident
shy arrogant


The next one is quite a challenge “work on the perfection of your character” sound like directly take from the Lean principle of continuous improvement:

work on perfection accept your limits
obsessive-compulsive behavior look for excuses why you cannot improve


What do we get for “patience”?

patient active
long-suffering impatient


What is the positive opposite of control yourself?

controlled spontaneous
restraint unpredictable


Can there be a good alternative to being “just”? A close call, I must admit.

just gracious
hard-hearted lenient


Why should one not “be ready to help”?

helpful allow others their own experiences
overprotective inattentive


Finally, we do the exercise with “brave”

brave cautious
reckless overcautious

Now we can define the house rules of our anti-dojo:

  • Be authentic and self-confident
  • Accept your limits
  • Be active and spontaneous
  • Be gracious and allow others to make their own experiences
  • Be cautious

Imagine two people meeting, one from the dojo with the first set of rules, one from the anti-dojo. That might be an interesting clash of cultures.

Let’s do a remix:

  • Be authentic and modest
  • Accept your limits
  • Be patient and spontaneous
  • Be gracious and helpful
  • Be brave

Does not sound so bad, does it?

Now have a look at the mega-dojo, throwing in all values and their positive opposites:

  • Be polite and authentic
  • Be self-confident and modest
  • Work on the perfection of your character and know your limits
  • Be active and patient
  • Be controlled and spontaneous
  • Be gracious and just
  • Be helpful and allow others their own experiences
  • Be brave and cautious

While in theory it might be possible that such a person exists, in reality no one will be all of that at the same time.

This long post shows one thing. You need to make your own decisions. Either as a person or as a family, group, team, or company, you should define your own house rules. Stick to them as far as possible, but never forget that there is a world beyond your house rules. If you do not accept the value decisions of others, you cannot expect them to accept your values.

What do you think?

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One comment on “Why Values are no Absolutes

  1. Marcel on said:

    Funny to make that opposite list of values.

    I was immediately thinking where there are other sets of values. Like how to behave in a train or bus. Or in a public sauna. Or library. Any place with a sets of values which we experience as positive is suitable…

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