Taking stock of where I am right now is important, because it sets a good baseline to see if I’ve made progress when I look back. So one of the topics I’d like to cover early on in this blog is the mindsets and beliefs that are buried underneath much of my behavior. It is these hidden parts of my psychology that lead me to take actions that are actually at odds with my stated goals.
One mindset which is particularly corrosive is a scarcity mindset. A scarcity mindset is, fundamentally, a fear of not having enough. I imagine that it was pretty common among my grandparents’ generation, who lived through the Great Depression. Mindsets are most often acquired as children from our parents, and I’m pretty sure I developed this one through my mother who acquired it from her mother.
Common “symptoms” of a scarcity mindset include hoarding, being overly price-sensitive, and working all the time even though you dislike your job.
So how is my scarcity mindset sabotaging my goals to start a business? I didn’t actually realize this until I was having a conversation with a good friend the other day, and in the middle of explaining my inability to make progress, he just blurted out “Scarcity mindset!” Here is the discussion led to that outburst:
Right now I have a job that pays quite well: consulting. However, there are more than a few aspects of the job that I strongly dislike, and it certainly isn’t flexible enough to ever allow me the kind of lifestyle that I seek.
Looking back through my life, I’ve actually never had a job that I truly enjoyed. Jobs have always been a distraction that I just had to put up with so I could make enough money to pay for the costs of life. With this attitude, then money becomes freedom. Having more money means I can stop working earlier.
However, this leads to a more dangerous conclusion, which is that spending money delays my freedom. So, I get uptight when I think about the cost of a vacation because in the back of my mind, there is a voice chiding me, “Oh, you wanna drop four grand to take your family to Europe? Have fun being a slave for another six months to earn that.”
In the context of building a business, this means I hesitate to spend money on things like courses and coaching that can actually help me make my dream a reality.
Why? Well, let’s be honest, there are a lot of people who buy these courses but never actually start a business. What if I’m one of those people? Then I just blew all that money and now I have to work more to make up lost ground.
Once you factor time into the equation then the opportunity cost really becomes apparent. Say I’ve spent 200 hours on my business and it goes nowhere and I give up. How much does an Uber driver make? $20 per hour? I could have simply started driving my car around in that same time and made enough to buy a couple months of my freedom.
I know these are bullshit arguments. I know they are based upon assumptions that I have never bothered to test, and that are rooted in a scarcity mindset that I unknowingly acquired through my upbringing.
The problem is deep in my gut, I still believe them. I still have a creeping fear that I will try to start a business and it will be a total waste of time and money no matter what I do. That fear doesn’t go away simply by reading some articles by Ramit Sethi and telling all my friends that “I’m really going to do it this time!”
How do I move beyond that fear? How do I break the grip of this corrosive mindset on my behavior? That… is a topic for another day.