In Peter Diamandis’ book, “Abundance,” he tells the story of the discovery of aluminum. According to the tale, around 2,000 years ago, a goldsmith brought an unusual dinner plate to the court of the Emperor Tiberius. It was made from a shiny, lightweight, bright new metal that was the color of silver. The goldsmith said that he had used a secret formula to extract this new metal from clay. Tiberius was very interested in it because he had a massive amount of gold and silver as a result of his many conquests across Europe. He believed that if this goldsmith helped others to extract this rare new metal from mere clay, it could substantially decrease the value of his fortune. Rather than risk that happening, he had the goldsmith beheaded.
Aluminum did not reappear until around 1825 when once again, a complex process for extracting the metal was discovered. Since then, technology has improved the process so much that the price has been drastically reduced and it is easily available. You see, aluminum itself isn’t rare; it’s the third most plentiful element on earth and represents 8.3% of the weight of the world. There’s an abundance of aluminum, but it was initially scarce due to the difficulty in accessing it.
Abundance Vs. Scarcity
The Emperor Tiberius had a scarcity mindset. He feared loss of position and power from this precious new metal that he knew little about. Individuals with a scarcity mindset focus on lack and insufficiency and therefore make decisions based on what’s best for themselves, even at the expense of others.
Had he known the abundance of aluminum as compared to gold (all the gold that has ever been mined would only fill about one-third of the Washington Monument), he might have made a different decision, and somehow harnessed the power of aluminum for his benefit. Individuals with an abundance mindset focus on having an extremely plentiful supply, more than enough to go around.
This mindset of abundance versus scarcity plays out in other ways in our lives. As we face challenges and opportunities in our work, our mindset will dictate the approach we take and impact the results we achieve. It will dictate whether we are inclusive in our approach to problems in a way that invites cross-functional perspectives, and solicits inputs from others who may not normally be involved in particular issues. Abundance thinking invites new ideas and possibilities. It provides a foundation for innovation and creativity based on a positive outlook for the future; and is the basis for solving many of the difficulties we face today. This mindset drives our behaviors.
A modern day example of behaviors that support an abundance mindset is WeWork, a four year old company that provides co-working office space, primarily targeted at startups and younger companies who want (and need) heavy interaction. They lease large blocks of office space and subdivide it into smaller parcels; then charge monthly memberships to businesses who want to work, network and share ideas in a collaborative environment. All office services are provided and planned activities enable them to pitch ideas, gain business from one another, and share advice. The founders, Adam Neumann and Miguel McKelvey, each grew up in communal living (in Israel and Eugene, OR respectively) and thus saw the value of a shared and collaborative environment.
With 31 locations, 15,000+ members and estimated gross earnings of $150 million this year, they have a current valuation of $1.5 billion, with plans to grow 3 to 4 times that size over the next year. In short, there’s a heavy demand (and a waiting list) for this type of working environment. And the companies that rent this space recognize that collaborating and sharing increases their value.
As we consider our U.S. Thanksgiving celebrations over the past week, hopefully this has been a time of reflecting on the abundance in our lives. It also provides an opportunity to enhance our perspective on where we exhibit abundance or scarcity in our mindset and behaviors. It’s not simply about accumulation of financial reserves, friends, or material goods. It’s the way we approach life and behave.
Abundance is driven by a mindset of considering future possibilities.
Scarcity is driven by mindset of complacency with the current state.
Abundance suggests sharing because there will always be enough to go around.
Scarcity suggests hoarding what you have.
Abundance mindsets look for creative opportunities to integrate with the work of others.
Scarcity mindsets believe there is little opportunity for improvement on their work.
Abundance thinkers focus on adding value to others first, and thus add value to themselves.
Scarcity thinkersfocus on promoting oneself first, and thus overlook the value of others.
So be abundant in your mindset.