There’s this weird mental condition that all of us slide into from time to time, and then there are some folks who wallow in it regularly. It’s called a “scarcity mindset” and it comes from focusing on what you don’t have. You slowly get consumed by this notion, and then you see everything through that lens. It slowly chokes the humanity out of you and eventually you aren’t going to get invited to any parties anymore. Instead, they’ll just talk about your sad existence at those parties and wonder what happened to you.
What It Sounds Like
I hear it in phone calls with prospects and clients, where they’ll eagerly blurt out the issue and describe the dilemma almost as if it’s totally unsolvable, and they are instead a victim of circumstances:
- “I can’t find anyone to do that job for $70k and I have no choice but to pay $95k for that role.”
- “I’m so tired of my entitled team. Nothing I do is enough, they don’t go the extra mile, and I feel trapped.”
- “Every time we pitch our services these days, we keep hearing that we’re too expensive, so I don’t know what you mean when you say that we’re already undercharging.”
This cycle—where you are focusing on what’s not good—keeps building on itself, too. And it’s also consuming, creating a bit of mental chaos on its own. You’re like the guy playing several instruments in a painful cacophony instead of weaving beautiful instruments together to create a symphonic performance (you have money, you have agency, you have experience, you have connections, you have momentum, you have intelligence….)
A scarcity mentally also comes with a zero-sum world view, in which someone else needs to lose in order for me to win. “You cut the cake in half and I’ll pick my piece.” In this zero-sum world that you occupy:
- You don’t share your insights freely with prospects (“we need to charge for that”) or the public at large (“our competitors will just copy it”).
- You don’t even take the time to articulate those things because you have to always be making money or the music will stop and you’ll be the only one left standing without a chair.
- You force-fit a prospect into your system, even though it’s not an ideal fit, because you’re afraid when the next prospect will knock on the door.
- And you definitely don’t send that referral to a respected competitor who you’d rather not see thrive.
- You panic at slower times and start looking inward, protectively, to not waste resources.
It shows up as a combination of “overstatement” and “I’m being victimized.” You become obsessed with the lack of something: good clients, good team members, enough time, enough money, or even people who are sufficiently loyal.
The opposite of this mentality is one of abundance. Not the bullsh1t that TV evangelists preach, but the self-confident belief in yourself...and in your past. Why wouldn't things get better? What real evidence is that there you can't identify and then bridge your own deficiencies? Or at least acknowledge and then work around them?
I talk a lot about being deliberate and making smart business decisions about positioning, staffing, succession, and your firm's performance. But there are times—against that background—when you must be a little reckless:
I don't care what happens to this proposal: whether they accept it or not. I'm tired of being stuck in this box. It's not fair to me, to my team, and to my clients, ultimately.
An abundance mentality is rooted in the notion that there are many avenues to success. If you fail at this firm, you'll still be fine. Start a new one or do something else. It helps you step out of your comfort zone and try things—especially the things that would lead to more success than you have experienced.
I see so many of you who seemed trapped. You keep telling me that I don't understand your marketplace ("I can't recruit great people here"), your industry ("they think we are expensive"), your people ("they don't have the same work ethic"), and your comp ("I don't want to put too much pressure on the business"). That’s all nonsense and you know it, and you need to stop, right now. There might be circumstances that have indelibly shaped your mentally, but acknowledge those and quit lying to yourself.
I stood in a few food lines when we couldn’t make things work and our two little boys were young, but I didn’t think anything of it. The cheese, powdered milk, and honey were there for the taking and I was grateful. That was a long time ago and things have changed, but they might get back to that same situation some day and that’s fine. I’ll be fine. You’ll be fine. Focus on what you’ve got and see the possibilities. “I’ve got cheese, baby. Let’s make something with this.”
Let's All Try It
I'd love to see some of you try to think differently. From abundance, and not scarcity.
I'd like to see you believe in the possibilities...or just close the darn firm and move to a role where you see things differently.
It's not a zero-sum world. And your limitations are just that: yours.
If we were all more afraid of the same lame results as we were of failure, we might step out of our comfort zones some more.