I want to tell you a short story about the difference between scarcity and abundance thinking.
A friend of mine was wondering how he could prevent pirate copies of his e-Book from getting out on the web. He researched numerous technologies to achieve this ranging from digital watermarks, password protection, DRM and more.
In frustration he became miserable, suspiciously regarding everyone as a potential thief. He made sure his book was well protected, it never became very popular, it remained forever locked away behind a firewall.
Last week my friend had a heart attack and died. Only a handful of people had read his book.
OK, so the story, in particular the bit about the heart attack is untrue. My friend is alive and well, but his book remains behind lock and password key. He has sold a few copies but barely enough to pay the monthly bills for his family.
By telling this story I wanted you to think briefly how many words of wisdom and how many great stories remain untold because of self defeating scarcity thinking.
Scarcity thinking regards knowledge as a finite resource and your works as being worthy of being locked away only for the privileged few who will pay you for your wisdom.
I recently came across someone using the expression “abundant thinking“.
The paradox of abundant thinking
Each one of us has been given many gifts that will add value to others.
Thinking abundantly is that you need to give freely of your gifts as much as humanly possible.
The paradox is that the reward for abundant thinking is that somehow, almost mysteriously your business and life thrives.
You find that you are being paid for being generous and for giving of yourself without expecting anything in return.
Abundant thinking works on the idea that you have much to offer, more than you can ever give in your lifetime and that you must give of your best without compensation, and not holding back.
Abundant thinking stems from the self confidence that you will always have plenty more to offer where that came from.
How does this relate to business in the information age? Where information is so freely available that anyone can get anything they need without paying for it. Consultants, authors, software companies worry about getting compensated for their knowledge.
I believe that there are groups of people: Scarcity and Abundance thinkers.
- The believers in scarcity hide behind a big brand and wear suits.”We know more than you ever will” is their perspective. They protect their brands with a lot of marketing. They charge top dollar for consulting time and create a mystique that I think is frankly a big farce. Agreed, templates and protocols for objectively solving business problems with an external perspective can add a great deal of value. But there is a very high percentage of fluff that goes with this too.
- The believers in abundance offer their knowledge to the whole world freely. No catch. They contribute towards forums, they are part of open source, they upload to Wikipedia and they write articles without compensation for the joy of contributing to others. They are true to themselves and therefore come across as authentic.
The scarcity group need a big marketing budget to protect their brand. Glossy publications and mystical white papers give some value; but they always hold their best back and make sure they charge a fortune for it.
The abundant group give their best upfront and free of charge. They are at an advantage because they need no marketing budget – they are not expecting anything in return for their total commitment. They end up marketing themselves very effectively through their expertise and generosity. They offer their best without direct compensation to a wide audience and encourage sharing of their ideas – no digital passwords necessary.
So which type of thinking is more relevant in business?
The reality of the information age is that both types of person will survive and make a living.
I know which philosophy I personally prefer. I have been in the information business my entire career.
In my experience proprietary has never had the same success as abundance.
- Those engineers who freely offered their advice and support went on to become coaches and great leaders of business.
- Those developers who taught others and gave away their apps were the best.
- Consultants who reserved their best templates for their “special” customers faded away.
Did I hear you say that abundance can actually work for you?
If you protect your e-Book a select few will read it and pay you for it.
If you don’t protect your e-Book a fraction of the copies out there will inevitably be pirated.
Just about all the people who hoard pirated material don’t have the commitment, need or inclination to be your customer in any case. They will never have paid you anyway.
But pirates could help you circulate your work. Several of your pirated copies will reach prospective customers and take root. The seeds are sown; some will grow and the rewards will follow. If your product is good, people will seek you out regardless.
When movie companies whine about lost revenue as a result of piracy they take the number of pirated copies and multiply by the retail price and claim this as a loss. What nonsense. What is received though theft, is not valued by the recipient. People who pirate moves won’t pay much for them because they don’t value them.
What is paid for is always valued by the honest recipient. These people become your fans and loyal customers. They will seek more from where it came. They will come looking for you in order to get more from your abundant source.
And honest customers will pay you everything they can afford just to get more of you.
In the modern information age, is it not better to have abundance thinking?
Yes! I believe so.
What can you give away today?
Think about where in your own business can you grow your impact through giving freely? Whether it is an e-book, some free consulting, presentations to conferences or contributing to professional bodies without expecting compensation.
Think about how your business really makes money. What is the customer buying: You? Or your product?
When there is an element of “you” in each customers purchase decision is it not self evident that no matter how much you give away for free – you personally can never be cloned and pirated. No need to digitally protect yourself, you are unique and will always be!
I have dozens of free public domain books by famous classic authors who’s copyright has expired. I never paid for them. But I would pay a small fortune to spend a coffee with any of them. Think about this a moment!