Lynne Twist and her husband had made plenty of money. They owned nice cars and a holiday house and lived a life of excess. But one day Lynne realised that over the early years of their children’s lives, her and her husband had been more focused on attainment, than potty training and first steps.
I saw Lynne’s book titled: The Soul of Money mentioned in the Huffington Post article, How to think with abundance in the workplace. I was interested in how employees can be encouraged to collaborate and share information, rather than keep secrets.
I was apprehensive about downloading the book. The title sounded a little mystical. And although I do believe in that which we can’t see and touch, I wanted science. Cold hard facts about money. What it is, how it began, its involvement in keeping the world turning, supposedly. Why money has become something that we now must attain just to meet our base needs for safety and security. How did we get to a point where we must get into a debt seven times the size of our annual wage to buy a house (in Auckland anyway). I had a million whys about a million dollars.
I was pleased to read that Lynne’s book was not about imagining myself to a place of wealth, it was about the fundamental flaws in the thinking of humanity and how this keeps us poor. She devoted nearly half the book to discussing the scarcity mindset and the lies we tell ourselves about money.
“For me, and for many of us, our first waking thought of the day is “I didn’t get enough sleep.” The next one is “I don’t have enough time.” Whether true or not, that thought of not enough occurs to us automatically before we even think to question or examine it. We spend most of the hours and the days of our lives hearing, explaining, complaining, or worrying about what we don’t have enough of… Before we even sit up in bed, before our feet touch the floor, we’re already inadequate, already behind, already losing, already lacking something. And by the time we go to bed at night, our minds are racing with a litany of what we didn’t get, or didn’t get done, that day. We go to sleep burdened by those thoughts and wake up to that reverie of lack… This internal condition of scarcity, this mind-set of scarcity, lives at the very heart of our jealousies, our greed, our prejudice, and our arguments with life” – The Soul of Money
This is an interesting idea to me as a neuroscientist. As mentioned in previous posts, I came across neuroplasticity whilst studying brain development in toddlers. The idea that our brain is constantly creating new networks and pruning back old unused networks. The idea that we can create new default thought pathways and prune back those that no longer serve us. I now strongly believe that a change of mindset can completely change the filter over our eyes which dictates how we see the world. If you would like to know more about how this works, watch this short, very simplified video below.
With the filter of scarcity over our eyes, it changes how we think, how we perceive the world, the decisions we make and the resulting actions we take. It is this filter that leads people to see Trump as a worthy US presidential candidate…need I say more.
As Lynne mentions in her book, with a mindset of ‘there is not enough for everyone’ and ‘someone has to miss out so it sure as hell isn’t going to be me or my loved-ones’ or ‘I’m fine with that person, or country falling as long as I am safe’ we head out into the world and do some terrible things. We bomb innocent people and we contemplate building walls.
On a large scale, companies who produce a big carbon footprint, are too worried about their competition surpassing them to adjust the bottomline and create more environmentally friendly processes. They continue to create a mess for younger generations to clean up, to ensure they stay ahead of the pack. Governments resist putting large-scale interventions in place for vulnerable children that will change the trajectory of their lives, because the benefits will not be seen in a four year parliamentary term.
On an everyday scale, the scarcity mindset leads us to hold onto information at work and perform in silos, concerned that by sharing, we might lose our competitive advantage against our colleagues. We fail to see that by working collaboratively with our colleagues, the outcome will be far more exceptional than the sum of its parts.
We get jealous because we think there is not enough love. We feel stressed because there is not enough time in the day. On social media, we are cruel to those who are reaching for the stars and try to rip them down because we don’t want them to get a bigger slice of the pie than us. We destroy rainforests, fight for oil and disfigure children in war-torn countries, all the while believing that it is for honour, or even god. But in reality, it is all in the name of getting what is ours, protecting our patch and being top-dog. It is the other side of humanity that we, myself included, like to turn a blind eye to.
One of the biggest lies that I have been guilty of telling myself and one of the scarcity myths that Lynne mentions in her book, is that’s just the way it is.
“We have to be willing to let go of that’s just the way it is, even if just for a moment, to consider the possibility that there isn’t a way it is or way it isn’t. There is the way we choose to act and what we choose to make of circumstances.” – The Soul of Money
Lynne mentions in her book that the idea that there isn’t enough to go around is a lie. Forbes.com reports that the world’s ten richest billionaires have a combined wealth of $505 billion, a sum greater than the total goods and services most nations produce on an annual basis. Closer to home, a Radio New Zealand article reported that those in the top 10% of wealthiest individuals in the country own 60% of New Zealand’s wealth. This is not to shame the wealthy, but an example of how “there isn’t enough to go around” is fundamentally untrue.
I’m sure there are a few reading this and thinking “so what she is saying is that we have to tax the wealthy more and give to the poor. Damn socialist hipster – go buy a vintage dress and clean your bench with a lemon.”
Well this is probably what the old me would have said. But it is impossible to ignore that what we are doing isn’t working so well.
I’m not sure what the answer is, but I am interested in learning more about the question. I don’t know if I believe that hand-outs are the answer either. A perfect example being foreign aid. Lynne tells a story in her book about her work with The Hunger Project, a charitable organisation committed to ending world hunger. Lynne and her team decided to do work in Bangladesh.
“Bangladesh is an Asian country of more than 130 million people on a land mass the size of Iowa. It once was a land abundant with tropical rainforests, a diversity of plants and animal species and a bounty of natural resources. In the 1900s, the land was deneutered of its forests by foreign interests that came and went, and the land was ravaged by war and the results of poor land tenure policies. Absent the trees and vegetation that once had thrived, seasonal floods took an even greater toll on the land and the people. Listed by the United Nations as the second poorest country in the world in the late 1970s, Bangladesh became the recipient of another kind of flood – a flood of aid. And within a short time had become almost completely dependent on aid from outside sources. Bangladesh began to have a global reputation as needy and helpless. A giant begging bowl of a nation. And within Bangladesh itself, the people came to see themselves that way too. Bangladeshis had become convinced they were a hopeless, helpless people, dependent on others for even minimal survival.” – The Soul of Money
Lynne and her colleagues realised that they would need to try something different to help the people of Bangladesh. Instead of shipping in food, they would need to assist them to change their mindset of scarcity and victimhood. It was not handouts that each village needed, it was empowerment to solve their own problems. After all, who knew the culture and the land better than its people. I will let you read the book to understand more about the work that followed. But needless to say, it was not about ‘fixing’ Bangladesh – it was about helping Bangladeshis embrace their own self-sufficiency.
“What seemed to be making sustainable improvements, were the initiatives that came from the Bangladeshis themselves.”
“These successes and experiences in other regions had affirmed our conviction that the Bangladeshi people were the key to their own development and that outside aid was systematically and psychologically turning them into beggars, instead of the authors of their own future.” – The Soul of Money
One of the biggest take-home messages of the book for me, was that money is not bad at all. But searching to acquire money to feed the insecurity of a scarcity mindset will not lead to a life of fulfilment. It’s a never-ending wheel that we will struggle to get off. However, channelling our money towards the sorts of passions and good that fuels us and gets us out of bed in the morning, that is money well-spent.
I will use a personal example. If I really had to examine what my purpose is on this earth, it requires me to look at my values and my passions. I am the girl who would rather stay at home on a Saturday night and read the Harvard Business Review, than go out drinking. I studied for what felt like fifteen thousand years, because my love in life is the acquisition of knowledge and the sharing of relevant ideas with an interested collective. If I won lotto tomorrow, I would carry on studying forever. Not because I care about the degrees on my wall, but because when I walk into a library and smell leather-bound books I get excited (I just read this back and I realise how embarrassing it is).
It was examination of these passions that led me to plan my new website, The Curator. A space where I can bring together knowledge from amazing minds into one space for others to read /watch. Lynne’s book showed me where I should be focusing my resource. Resource being time, energy and money. Signs would point to building a really great website and hopefully at some stage dropping a day a week at work so I can spend more time writing essays for anyone who wants an interesting read over their morning coffee. In line with Lynne’s ideas, the joy I get from writing an article that adds to your life, provides more fulfilment than buying a designer dress ever did (although that is fun too!)
If you don’t have time to read the book, or download the audiobook, here is another blogger who has summarised a few different points.
What I do know, is that a scarcity mindset blocks love, connection and empathy – all of which will make us even richer than Bill and Belinda Gates. So it is definitely a mindset worth the change.
Much love xxx