zero sum

It is somewhat jarring when the core components of your worldview are exposed, challenged, and upended. Admittedly, we don’t frequently find ourselves facing this proposition and at various times the exposing, challenging, and upending may be welcomed to varying degrees. The unspoken possibility here is to welcome the jarring – maybe to pursue the challenge as an opportunity for growth, a hunger for positive change. Experience tells me that this is not the usual response either from me or from my friends. How much better, though, could our experience be if the critiques that are presented to us by the universe actually motivated us towards constructive growth than destructive self-denegration?

With such a subtle segue, it may not be obvious that I’ve recently had such an experience. I have been reintroduced to the idea of life not being a zero-sum game through an interpretation of Stephen R. Covey’s thoughts about abundance mentality. There are many intangibles in the world – things like success, talent, recognition – that are available in infinite abundance. Unlike medals at the olympics where competitors strive for the top three places, with intangibles one persons accumulation of much doesn’t limit my chances of accumulating much. If one person is an incredibly talented writer, their talent does not limit my ability to acheive high levels of talent. It isn’t in limited supply. Scarcity Mindset, in contrast, leads us to erroneously believe that such intangibles are finite and, so, compels us towards competition.

As I have been reflecting on this idea, it is evident in so many facets of my life. It seems as though it has been there this whole time – that, for as long as I can remember, I have been been operating from a stance that there is a limited supply of certain things.

And, as it turns out, I’m greedy.

For example, as a musician I sometimes think of the supply of musical talent in the world as being some finite measure – and that I should attempt to hoard as much of it as I can. Of course, musical talent isn’t limited – even if you’ve worked your entire life to build up your skills, it doesn’t limit how much I can acquire. Musical talent isn’t a zero-sum game. Still, I see people playing “my” instrument, doing things that I know how to do, and I start to feel threatened and jealous – as if in order for you to build your ability it means that you would have to pilfer it from me.

Approaching this with an abundance mindset opens the door to collaboration and sharing and community success. It isn’t like a lot of the tangibles in the world which are, in fact, in limited supply. I am beginning to internalize this idea and to relinquish the hold that the jealousy has on my heart on this front.

Lots of times I see this in my relationship with several of my friends. While I know that their time is finite, their love is not. Still, it is fairly easy for me to feel somewhat cast aside when new friends come into our circles. I know full well that friends are not exactly goverend by the rules of finders keepers. Truth be told, I should want more and more people to know my friends. I value them in part because of the richness and example they bring to my life. My scarcity mindset, though, causes me to become defensive when others are sniffing around on my turf.

Awareness is an important component of combatting this scarcity. As I am become more aware of the most evident examples of this in my life, I realize the absurdity of it and intellectually want it to change. Convincing my heart that change is possible and valuable is somewhat more difficult – though certainly not impossible. I’ve started reading more and more about the way that others conceptualize these ideas. I am also choosing to celebrate the abundance rather than stifle it.

Not everything is subject to the ideas of abundance, I understand. How much better, though, than to celebrate those things that are?