Tuesday, January 8, 2013
Scarcity or Abundance?
This evening, I find myself coming back to a topic I think I wrote about at some point earlier last year, and it's the notion of whether we have a scarcity mentality or an abundance mentality. Let me explain what happened today that led to those thoughts.
I was giving a talk this morning to a group of CEOs to whom I had previously spoken last summer. This was a chance to find out how much they had implemented of what I taught them, what obstacles they still faced, and what additional help they needed. After the meeting, a woman asked me if I could send her some examples of material I had written for others as it would help to give her some ideas. Another CEO asked if I could give him some feedback on some of the things he had recently written.
As I thought about their requests, I found myself caught in a tricky spot. From a professional standpoint, the nature of these talks is that I get paid (though not a ton) to provide value for the audience, but the meaningful compensation comes when they engage me separately as a consultant to work with them on implementing my ideas. To simply "give away" too much of my intellectual property without them engaging me is a bit foolhardy. And yet, a part of me intuitively feels that it's better to err on the side of giving away too much than giving away too little. And that's what had me thinking about scarcity vs. abundance.
When we think from a scarcity mentality, we have a general point of view that the good things in life, whether they be tangible resources like food or money or less tangible things like intellectual capital or even love, are limited in quantity. The natural implication of this thinking is that we should dole them our carefully, for these things exist in limited supply, and there may not be enough to go around.
The opposite approach is to have an abundance mentality. This point of view is founded on a belief that we generally have a more than ample supply of the good things in life and that whatever we give away tends to get replenished anyway. When we subscribe to this approach, it's easier to give freely to others because we're not worried about "running out" of whatever we're giving.
As it relates specifically to the example from today, I chose to think from abundance and to err on the side of giving away too much. I reminded myself that the more I give away, the more comes back to me in one form or another. I've accumulated a tremendous amount of knowledge, experience, and wisdom about certain topics over the years. That wisdom does little good when it's saved and stored away like money in a bank account. It's not like I should be saving wisdom to be used on a rainy day when I don't have enough. No, the point in accumulating wisdom is to give it back to others who can benefit from it.
I'm learning to realize that the more I share "my stuff", the more it spreads out into the world far and wide, the greater is my contribution to others. Sometimes that's done in one-on-one conversations; other times it's done in my speaking and consulting; and still other times it's done in my writing in blogs and other places, not to mention in the example I try to set. In the end, I try to trust in the world that I ultimately get what I need. Financially, I do end up getting compensated handsomely, and well beyond my needs, from a variety of sources, regardless of what I've given away. And just as importantly, my compensation takes a variety of forms. It's not just money. The satisfaction I get from seeing and knowing the impact I've been able to have for others is itself a significant form of compensation or payback for my effort. And the old adage that you reap what you sow seems clearly to be true. The size of our reward tends to be in direct proportion to the size of our contribution, in all its various forms.
I see the world as abundant, and I'll continue to remind myself to give from that perspective.