“This looks like something that is going to blow up, and might even give me a competitive edge. I need to get on this!
I mean, what do I have to lose?”
At the time, I was an independent design and marketing consultant already running a business from home. The reality of living and working on my own terms was incredibly liberating, from day one.. I could wake up and work when I wanted to- coffee shops and libraries a few days a week and other days from the comfort of my couch in my sweatpants. It was a joy to watch projects come and close, collect invoices, and solve client problems. I even felt grateful for the occasional needy client. I felt empowered; I was the guy my clients came to and trusted with their businesses.
I’m building a business, I thought, I’m doing it! For the first three years, I felt a sense of pride, both in my work and in my identity. I’d made it- I was a real a entrepreneur.
As time went on, however, I started working longer hours for less pay. Clients began to take advantage of my skills and would ask for free stuff. I began to think that I was under appreciated and undervalued for my work, and woke up everyday dreading what was to come.
I became at odds with my identity. Despite the projects I worked on and the opportunities that my work brought me, I still couldn’t understand why I could never get ahead and always felt broke. Who I thought I was and who I wanted to be were out of sync with my day-to-day reality.
Don’t misunderstand, I had the opportunity to work on some truly incredible projects, and am grateful for the lessons learned and the people I worked with. The issue was that I had become dependent on new work coming in to live and survive, or in other words, I became dependent on building other people’s dreams instead of my own. I reached a point where I was placing my financial success in the hands of others which led to situations where I had to take a poorly paying job, or a gig where no one appreciated my work. It was either that or starve.
Of course it’s easy to see my mistakes looking back on it, but I ended up falling into the rat race I wanted to avoid when I first became an entrepreneur. Ultimately, I was living a life of scarcity.
I realize now that I didn’t fully understand what scarcity was or how it was running my life. It was only when one of my mentors dropped the following piece of wisdom on me that everything began to click:
Your problem isn’t that you’re broke, your problem is that you’re afraid to take chances. You’re more afraid to fail than you are confident that you will succeed. Because you think this way, It becomes easy to blame the world and forces outside of your control for what’s wrong in your life.
You’ve somehow equated taking a chance on your own success as being more painful than living a slow, safe, and comfortable life through independent work which has yet to actually build wealth for you.
The truth is, you’re living a life of scarcity, not opportunity.”
Hearing that said aloud by someone I trusted just rocked me to my core.
I began to reflect on my life, and thought about all of the people I grew up with and realized how most of them lived lives of scarcity too. As a kid, I remember adults (including my family) who barely survived paycheck to paycheck. They lived by following the same credo that most middle class families did: get a good job, live off of your wages and if you got anything extra you can use that to pay off things you want. Spend 20–30 years at your job climbing up the corporate ladder and try to get ahead where you could. Towards the end of your professional life , try to retire early with a good pension. Save your money, and don’t take on too much debt.
That might have been good advice in 1965, but have you looked at the news lately? It’s one financial disaster after the next for everyday working people. My grandfather lost almost his entire 401k after the economic collapse on Wall Street in 2007- nearly one million dollars collected over 40 years, gone.
What we all suspect, but won’t see in the headlines, is that having a safe 9 to 5 wage-driven career is not actually a safe bet anymore. It might’ve worked for our parents, or our parents’ parents, but in 2017, this is no longer a sustainable model to build and maintain personal wealth. The game has changed, and those who don’t adapt will be become forced to live lives of scarcity.
Living a life of scarcity means you make your life decisions based on resources you don’t have. What we should be focusing on instead, is what we already have and what we can access in order to pursue opportunities to get ahead. Believing that somehow the resources you need to be successful are limited or out of reach is literal self-sabotage for your goals. It’s saying “no” before you really give yourself the chance to try and win. Instead of coming from a place of “no”, we need to come from a place of “yes.”
Want to know a secret? Scarcity is just a psychological tactic to drive people to do something. Really- it’s one of the biggest secrets in business; advertisers, politicians, CEO’s, and hustlers of all kinds use scarcity when they want to scare you into thinking or behaving a certain way.
If you believe in scarcity, then it becomes easy to think you aren’t capable of building the next big brand like Amazon, Apple, or Snapchat. That making about $4 million in profits per day is not only unreal, it’s just not possible. More to the point, that it’s not possible for you.
Once you understand that scarcity does not exist, that everything you need is right there in front of you and that there is room for everyone to be successful, then you will be one step closer to thinking like an entrepreneur. You have to see opportunity, not limitations- everyone has a means to be happy if the vision is clear and true, and if you put in the work.
I got to experience this lesson first hand when I started learning Facebook Ads in Fall of 2016. I had $200 left in my bank account in Fall 2016 because my design and marketing business was in a slump. I was terrified about trying something new when I couldn’t afford to make rent, but I finally said to myself:
“My will to succeed is going to be stronger than my fear of losing. I’d rather go broke trying than wishing I had done something later on.”
For the next two months, our team of six in San Francisco pulled in over a quarter million dollars in gross sales using nothing but Facebook and Shopify. To put it simply, we crushed it.
Once I got passed the fear of being broke, I realized that I actually had options. I watched as my associates were making sales and knew that I could do that too, and I made the jump. I chose to take a chance based on opportunities instead of restraining myself based on perceived limitations and “safe” decision making that led to my poor financial situation in the first place.
Anybody who knows me knows that I don’t impress easily. I’m skeptical, analytical, and don’t move unless I have to. You might be like that too, in which case, please hear what I am saying- don’t let the philosophy of scarcity run your life! It is an inaccurate, limiting, and dangerous way to think and will only lead you down of further financial despair.