The Disturbing Reality of a Scarcity Mindset
Publication: RidiculouslyExtraordinary.
Posted by Ryan Neal
The Disturbing Reality of a Scarcity Mindset
Publication: RidiculouslyExtraordinary. Posted by Ryan Neal

"Setbacks are discouraging, but you should always try to channel that feeling into positive action." - Richard Branson
I don't know where or why it came upon me so suddenly, but for the past couple of weeks I've been hit hard with a scarcity mindset. Scarcity is an incredibly toxic mindset to have. In my particular case, it's the feeling that bad things happen to good people. Kind of a "nice guys finish last" approach to everything.

I usually focus on abundance. Whatever you or I want, we can have. I believe it and I live it.

And yet ...

Scarcity is running rampant in my mind lately.

I feel like this blog isn't growing as quickly as it should. (Even thought it's growing phenomenally well.) I feel like HTLA isn't selling enough. (Even though it's selling quite well.) I feel like my Polish language is getting worse. (Maybe it is?) I feel like my guitar playing is weak and uninspired. And so on ... I won't continue with the depressing details!

Sometimes I feel like I can blame it on the weather. Shitty weather (i.e. the weather here for 90% of the past 2 weeks) utterly ruins me. It's one of the only elements of life I have not been able to defeat with a mind-over-matter attitude.

Not Alone

I know I'm not the only person to have feelings of scarcity at some point or another.

Chris Guillebeau has written about it in Expanding The Pie. That was written in February of 2009 and I remember reading it back then and thinking "man, it must be normal for successful people to feel this way sometimes."

I identify with so much of what Chris writes in that article.

And yet ...

That doesn't help break through the feelings of scarcity.

In most ways, life is better than it has ever been.


This scarcity really has no basis.

a) There's nothing I want to buy. And if there was, and it fit with my goals, I'd buy it.

b) Everything I want to do, I do. (OK, I can't afford a trip to space right now, but I'll make that happen somehow. ;) )


Maybe it's the fact that I somehow caught a cold for the first time in forever recently and that has me questioning my diet. Truthfully, I know I'm just supporting the local veg restaurants a little too much as opposed to eating my regular awesome diet. I also know that there is no such thing as a perfect immune system and the fact that I haven't been ill in such a long time should be a consolation.

And yet ...

It's still hanging over me. (And I just realized the statement about making the trip to space happen somehow is a straight up abundance mindset. Hmmm ...)


"I don't want to be lonely, I just want to be alone." - Daniel Johns
Maybe it has something to do with the fact that relationships like the ones you make when you only stay in a place for a few months (give or take) are fleeting. What's the point of investing a lot of time in a relationship (platonic or romantic) if there's an almost certain end point?

If you know me you know I love spending time alone, so sometimes I'll cut myself off from people for no real reason. I actually need to spend a lot of time alone. (I even own the domain!) Being social is fun, but it's incredibly exhausting for me. I haven't found a balance. It's usually all or nothing, which I know is no good.


Things have been annoying me more lately. Maybe that's related to the scarcity mindset? Stupid petty things like people walking in the middle of the sidewalk (instead of off to one side) and not allowing any room to pass on my bike. Or seeing an overweight person devouring a burger while walking down the street. (A regular occurrence now that Poland is getting more Westernized and waistlines are exxxxxxxpppaaaannndddiiiinnngggggg.) People are free to walk on a walkway and eat unhealthy fatty foods however and wherever they want. Why should I care? I usually don't. What's different lately?

An Abundance of Ideas and Scarcity of Action

Sometimes it might seem like I'm some kind of superhuman. And part of that might be on purpose. :) But I'm no different than you. I struggle with things. Maybe not the same things, but I have problems just like anybody else.

Lately I've been having more ideas than ever, both business and "other" (as in, awesome stuff I want to do), but I don't take action on them. The reason is simple. Focus. There are very few people (looking at you Pat Flynn, you bad ass; Pat's blog: Smart Passive Income) who can successfully devote time to multiple projects concurrently.

The fact that I have all of these ideas and no outlet for them might be breeding this scarcity mindset. I'm devoting all my focus to writing lately and I love it. So no complaints about that. But what happens to everything else? It sits in a Google Document called Awesome Ideas and nothing ever comes of them. Maybe purging all of those ideas is the answer?

As we all know, ideas don't mean a damn thing. Action is almost everything. So what would it matter if I deleted all those "great" ideas? I don't know what would happen, but I can't bring myself to do it.

Get Pissed

I recently did an interview with Henri Juntilla for his self improvement blog (you have to subscribe to his e-mail list to get it ... although not sure when he's releasing it) and he asked me about getting things done and making shit happen. Actually, I don't remember the exact question. The answer was (paraphrased): "When something doesn't work out I get pissed at myself and work at it until I figure it out." Henri and I both agreed on that "getting pissed at ourselves" point and I wonder how many other people use that same strategy.

Maybe the problem is I haven't gotten pissed about this yet.

How To Deal With Scarcity?

Most people will probably say focus on others. And I agree. I think a lot of it does boil down to focusing more on others instead of myself. Exactly how, I'm not entirely sure. I give a lot to entrepreneur's through Kiva. I help people like crazy via e-mail and I love doing that, especially when the Five Sentences E-mail Rule is followed. ;) I even help people on Skype when I'm on and somebody contacts me.

Does that help? Lately, it only helps temporarily.

And since this is no different than what I usually do, I don't think it's supposed to help.

Maybe I have to go above and beyond? Maybe, but I'm not sure what that even means.

Awesome E-mails

As you may know, I have a Gmail Label called "Awesome E-mails." If you've sent me an e-mail praising me or this site your e-mail gets tagged as awesome. I posted on Twitter last week that I've been getting a lot more of these e-mails than usual.

To me, this proves that what I'm doing here is working out exactly how I originally planned.

Why hasn't this erased the scarcity mindset?

Why Post This?

I had no plans of posting anything about this. This article doesn't have any apparent lessons, does it? Or does it? I'm posting it because I do my best to be open here and this is what's happening right now. I know it won't last, but I'm in the thick of it. I didn't expect it to last as long as it has and I'm not sure if I should just let it pass or somehow actively destroy it.

I don't have all the answers and I don't currently have a good answer for this.

Comments Turned Off

I've shut off comments on this post. I definitely appreciate all the help, but lots of comments were mistaking depression for a scarcity mindset. While they can be related, they are two separate beasts here. I also appreciate all the kind words, but I wasn't fishing for compliments. ;)

Reading this over now I see how this mistake could easily be made and it's my fault for not being clear in my writing here.

Thank you so much for your support! You rock!