Wednesday, June 15, 2016
Why supply and demand is actually supply and supply
This week something happened that made me think. I think all the time, you know, as we all should, but this time I was able to assign some vocabulary to some abstract ideas that I have had for a long time. I'll explain.
One of my most profound experiences with this concept was in early 2013. I was 20 years old and I was awaiting my LDS mission call, the letter telling me where I would be spending the next eighteen months. Of course I had my secret wish list in my head of places I thought would be great to go. One of those was Italy. While I was waiting for my call to come in the mail, my neighbor across the street got his mission call. "Rome, Italy." I was happy for him, of course, but also partly so disappointed because that was one of the top places I wanted to go. I mean, who gets called to ROME THE COOLEST CITY EVER? Well, he was going to so that definitely meant I had to scratch that option off my list.
Then two weeks later my letter came. "Rome, Italy." I couldn't believe it and I was so so so happy. I definitely felt that it was where I was supposed to go. But part of me was definitely scratching my head about it too. How was it possible that my neighbor and friend was going there, and then I was too? For some reason that didn't add up in my mind.
It really wasn't until this past month or so that I have actually reflected on that experience and seen it as a perfect illustration of one of my greatest mental struggles. I think my natural, mortal mind relies on the scarcity principle to make sense of the world rather than the abundance principle. The scarcity principle is the mentality that resources in the world are scarce or hard to come by, which makes the demand and desire for them greater. Makes sense. If there's less of something, we automatically place higher value on it and desire it more. Only 100 concert tickets available to see Coldplay? A lot of people are going to want that. Also, we hold onto things that we have (like our money and our time) for fear that someone else might take them away. I think a lot of people have this somewhere in their wiring, because it makes logical sense if you think about it in a very material sense. If someone in your village brings back a deer to feed their family, it means that your family isn't eating that deer, and that there's one less deer out there in the woods to feed your family. Okay, silly example, but you get the idea.
I think we take it a little bit too far in our minds sometimes and translate it to things less tangible. At least I do. Beyond things like food if we were nomad hunters and gatherers, we apply the scarcity principle to things like money, houses, cars, and even talents and beauty. If someone has a lot of money, that means that you will automatically have less money because they have a lot. If someone has a great talent for playing the piano, that means that I kind of suck because their talent is so great.
Here's another example. Let's say that you found out that someone in your class got 100% on their test. This was a super hard test that you studied for for weeks. You're upset that they got a perfect score because in your mind now you are less likely to get 100%. They took that resource. When I see it written out like that, I think, "Well of course that isn't true. A teacher can give out multiple perfect scores. If I studied my hardest, I can get 100% too." It seems a little silly to think about it through the scarcity lens, yet I think I still do it initially.
How about this one. I know a really beautiful girl (k, I know so many), but in this particular instance I encountered her and felt so much sadness in my heart because I knew I could never be that beautiful. I felt depressed for like a full day probably, just wishing that I could attain that level of prettiness. This happened/s in my real life and I think it was in this scenario is that I realized that the scarcity view on the world is incredibly harmful to me.
The abundance principle is the opposite. This is the belief that there is enough to go around. There's enough room and resources in the world for all of us to be benefitting equally. You don't need to hold onto things like your money or your time so tightly ... You can give things like that away and use them in order to help other people, because the belief is that you will eventually get returns. There are enough deer in the forest to feed the whole village. It's possible for multiple people in the class can get perfect scores on their test. If your neighbor buys a nice car, it's possible for you to save your money or get a loan and have a nice car too because nice cars aren't really going to "run out." If your buddy gets into your dream grad school, he isn't actually taking up a spot you could have had. Your talents and merits could just as easily get you there too.
While neither the scarcity principle nor the abundance principle is 100% true, and they're more like theories or ways to organize ideas, the abundance principle is a much happier and healthier way to think. It's definitely the optimist's way of thinking, and I'm pretty sure it's the way that God thinks too.
It reminds me of a quote from Jeffrey R. Holland. "Obviously we suffer a little when some misfortune befalls us, but envy requires us to suffer all good fortune that befalls everyone we know! What a bright prospect that is -- downing another quart of pickle juice every time anyone around you has a happy moment!" He's illustrating scarcity mentality here as well, and it really reminds us that that is such a mortal way to think. God is so full of blessings that he is openly giving out if we are willing to work and ask. Elder Holland continues to say, "To say nothing of the chagrin in the end, when we find that God really is both just and merciful, giving to all who stand with Him 'all that he hath.'" talk here.
I think the main thing I learned in reflecting on these ideas is this: Just because she's pretty doesn't mean I'm not. When I had that lightbulb moment during that depressing, selfish day, I kind of snapped out of my poisonous mentality and realized that every single person is so different. Why would I compare myself to someone else I barely know and think that they are taking away my potential to be beautiful? How silly is that? To quote something I saw on Pinterest once, "A flower doesn't think about the flower next to it. It just blooms."
Just because she's pretty doesn't mean you aren't.
If God blesses someone else, that absolutely does not mean that there isn't anything left for you. If your friend gets randomly assigned to Rome, Italy, there is no rule that says you can't go there too. If you really want it, you can have it. Sure, it might require a lot of work and and effort on your part to attain something difficult or scarce, but blessings are there waiting for you if you're willing to work for them.
We don't need to hold on so tightly to our time, money, material possessions, and talents. There are actually bigger returns when you take time to help someone else than if we try to keep everything we have to ourselves. We don't need to be competitive. If someone else is super smart, super cool, or has a really aesthetically pleasing Instagram feed, that doesn't darken the light that shines on you. I think that's one reason why we have that parable of the talents in the Bible too ... To remind us that God is really happy with those that recognize that there is enough to go around, and are willing to aid Him in spreading His blessings around to everyone else.
I didn't realize back in 2013 that God was trying to teach me something that day when He gave me a mission call, but I'm grateful that I'm finally starting to get it three and a half years later. There's enough Rome to go around, people. And I'm grateful that I am loved that much.
In writing this post I referenced this and this to make sure my thoughts about scarcity and abundance weren't completely off.