It’s Thanksgiving day, 2006 and this is my first blog entry. It seemed appropriate to me on this day that I should talk about the concepts of scarcity and abundance. After all, most of us in the U.S. spend this day celebrating our abundance and giving thanks for it. This is as it should be.
I wonder, though, if we maintain this focus on our abundance the rest of the year. I’m not talking about the matter of being thankful for what we have. While that is also important, I’m talking more about the way we think about what we could have and what we could share with others.
There are two schools of thought about money. One is that we need to protect our money, save it for a rainy day, because there is a limited amount of it. In other words, money is scarce. Opportunities are also scarce, so we need to protect the opportunities we have, keep them to ourselves, and never share. This is the theory of scarcity. Since there is only so much to go around, we better protect what we have and keep it to ourselves.
The other school of thought is that there is a never-ending supply of money and of opportunities. Rather than save our money, we should invest it. Rather than keep opportunities to ourselves, we should share them with others. And if one opportunity passes us by, there will be another opportunity coming right after it.
There is a great parable in the Bible about these two theories. It is called the parable of the talents. A talent, of course, was a denomination of money in Biblical times. A master was going away on a trip and he needed someone to take care of his money while he was away. He decided to split it up among three money managers. To the first, he gave one talent. To the second, he gave two talents. And to the third, he gave five talents.
When he returned from his trip he asked the money managers to give an accounting of the money. The manager who had the five talents told the master that he had wisely invested the funds and there were now ten talents. The manager who had two talents had done similarly and had turned the two talents into four. But the manager who had one talent did something different. Rather than invest it, he buried it in the ground. He knew the master would be unhappy if he lost the money and so instead of investing it, he saved it.
The master was most unhappy with this manager and called him a wicked and slothful servant. He took the talent from that manager and gave it to the manager who had the ten talents. Then he said something very interesting. He said, “For unto everyone that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.”
There are many things to be learned from this parable, but the one I would focus on today is that when we think in terms of abundance, we will always have more. And when we think in terms of scarcity, whatever we have we will lose.
Some of you are saying now, “Well, I never think in terms of scarcity. I always want to invest.” But I believe that most of us, while wanting to think abundantly, frequently think in terms of scarcity. I know I have to continually remind myself to think in terms of abundance. After all, my parents grew up during the Great Depression, a time when scarcity ruled the world.
Let me give you and example of scarcity thinking that I encounter frequently, and find myself doing at times. This is example is what I call “Shopping for the Best Price.” This happens when we in a store or talking to a service provider (e.g., an attorney or accountant) and we focus on the cost of the service or the item. That is an example of a scarcity mentality. A person thinking from an abundance point of view instead would be focusing on the value of the item or the service. “How can this item or service improve my life?” Is the cost fair compared to the value? This is different than focusing solely on the cost.
Another great example is partnerships. I am a big believer in the value of a good partnership and that teams always produce better results than independent achievers. A few years ago, I was in a partnership that was breaking up. As with most breakups, it was not pleasant. It reminded those involved of a nasty divorce. Immediately after the breakup, I formed another partnership, this time with a partner whose values aligned more closely with mine. This new partner, Ann Mathis, who is still my business partner, asked my why I would want another partner after just going through a messy breakup of my previous partnership. I responded that I believe that a good partnership will always be better than being on my own and I was willing to take the risk that any partnership entails because of the potential upside of a good partnership.
Five years later, Ann and I are still partners and have done some amazing things together, most recently the creation of the ProVision brand. And, of course, we did not do it by ourselves. We had many partners involved and we also had tremendous help from our staff and professionals at ProVision.
So, I too am very thankful for the abundance I enjoy on this Thanksgiving Day. I challenge each of us to think abundantly in everything we do, from shopping to investing to interacting with our teenagers (perhaps a subject for another blog entry). I would be most happy to have your feedback about my blog and this entry. Please let me know what you think and how you think abundantly.