The Scarcity Mindset

Photo by Samuel Regan-Asante on Unsplash

I used to worry that we were running out of music. For a time I even tracked copyright violations for music (not Vanilla Ice though — that was clearly a ripoff) because it proved my point that there were fewer unwritten songs.

As a fan of classic rock, it makes me happy when Aerosmith or Queen is on the playlist for my daughter’s middle school dance. Even better, every kid there knows the songs. I find it unlikely Dua Lipa will be on a hit list 40 years on.

But I still worried that unique strings of notes and chords were in short supply. Possibly that came from my years in business — scarce resources and all of that. But mostly it was a mindset thing. I saw the world from a scarcity perspective.

When you approach life from a scarcity vantage point, everything feels more tenuous. Everything you have–no matter how tangible or if you earned it on your own–seems fleeting and temporary.

I saw the world from a scarcity perspective.

That means that everything you have requires constant oversight, maintenance, and protection. It’s more than just a “glass half-empty” attitude. It’s “glass half-empty, cracked, and leaking profusely.” That’s the attitude that leads to really crazy behavior — like hoarding.

From a career perspective, the scarcity mindset leads people to spend more time looking over their shoulders than ahead. They are more concerned with protecting their job than stretching out to do their best. This leads to missed opportunities, and a focus on the status quo instead of driving growth.

The assumption is that “as long as I keep my head down and protect my turf I’ll be okay.” Except that’s rarely the case. Someone told me recently that she felt like her job was pretty secure — all she had to do was show up and do what she was paid for and all would be good for as long as she chose to stay. I think there are 2,800 folks formerly at Peloton who might disagree.

It took the loss of my job and a long look into the post-50s job search abyss to change my thinking. My first instinct was to rush out and find something — anything — as soon as possible. In my more than 30 years of work I’d never been let go, and it was hard to take. So I followed the advice of the experts and treated looking for a job like my job. After 14 months, 500+ resumes, and fewer than a handful of interviews, I stopped.

It took the loss of my job and a long look into the post-50s job search abyss to change my thinking.

Eventually I learned to stare back into the abyss, and along with it, appreciate the sense of groundlessness that came with it. The things I had always feared most had happened, but here I was. From there it was a matter of taking a deep breath a learning to appreciate what I did have.

To start, I had my health. They say that when you’re healthy you have a million little problems; when you’re not healthy you have one big problem. So I was grateful for that. That was the base and I began to build on it.

To start, I had my health.

Long story slightly shorter, it’s been three years. I’ve found a path (with some help) that is not only more engaging than my old job, it’s got better hours and a better boss (I’m self-employed now).

Perhaps most important, my scarcity mindset is gone, replaced by one of abundance. I see things more for what could be, and when something doesn’t go as planned I chalk it up as a learning experience and move on. Now I make a point of spending time to make sure I understand what I need to learn.

Notably, I’ve stopped worrying about running out of music; that in turn has given me a new sense of enjoyment of both old and new music. Nothing will ever replace the classic rock era, but every now and then I’ll hear something new that gets my attention.

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Career coach and retail marketing expert with massive experience and a point of view.

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Jeff Weidauer

Jeff Weidauer

Career coach and retail marketing expert with massive experience and a point of view.

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