Resources that are scarce.
Everyone is strapped for time. Our attention is courted and dissipated more than ever. Our energy is spread amid a vast field of concerns. Our abilities are diverted from where they would be most impactful. Our capacity to care, to give a shit, only stretches so far.
We have a paradox. An abundance of scarcity.
Considering the finite quantities we have of energy, attention and time we are left feeling quite distressed. Scarcity is a feeling that is exacerbated by seeing the world around us a zero-sum game. That there is only so much of the pie for us all to share. That if I win, it must be at the expense of you losing. Whilst it is a partially valid argument, it has damaging consequences.
Your allowance of attention, time and energy is limited. But how about the driver of human prosperity? Wealth does not operate under the same rules as the aforementioned resources. Wealth, frequently and mistakenly, is assumed to be synonymous with money.
“Real wealth, of course, consists in what is produced and consumed: the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the houses we live in. It is railways and roads and motor cars; ships and planes and factories; schools and churches and theatres; pianos, painting and books. Yet so powerful is the verbal ambiguity that confuses money with wealth, that even those who at times recognise the confusion will slide back into it in the course of their reasoning.”
And 50 years later.
“A surprising number of people retain from childhood the idea that there is a fixed amount of wealth in the world. There is, in any normal family, a fixed amount of money at any moment. But that's not the same thing.
It is important to know what resources are scarce, to understand what a zero sum game is and to realise the difference between money and wealth.
Yet, what I would argue is vastly more important, is to discover which resources are abundant and provide opportunity.
To start seeing the world around you, not as an if-I-win, you-lose environment, but as one in which we all can prosper. To see (and act on) the knowledge that wealth is within reach if you are willing to step forward and create it.
Or in the words of Paul Graham, “to make something people want.”