When you have a scarcity mindset, you’re in a state of mind where all you can focus on is getting something which you don’t have (or desperately feel like you need). In fact, you feel the absence of that thing so much that attaining it consumes your every thought.
It could be money, sex, a new car, a girlfriend, the latest iPhone…
When you are in a state of scarcity mindset, you block out other needs and desires, and your ability to think clearly and make decisions is impaired. Scarcity mindset blocks happiness and enjoyment because you’re unable to focus on positive emotions until the missing part of your life is filled.
If a Norse Jarl was worried about being extremely poor, and perhaps worried that his poverty put his position at risk, he might be consumed by the single desire to raid Christian monasteries. He’ll panic and fluster and scream at his men and act irrational, working on nothing other than putting together a band of warriors to go Viking.
However, by losing his full vision and not thinking strategically, he will probably miss the rival Jarl in a neighbouring territory creating alliances through marriage, slowly building in strength until he can usurp the Jarl stuck in scarcity mindset.
Scarcity mindset makes you dumb. It makes you ineffective, and it can seriously ruin your chances of becoming King.
I want to explore how scarcity of resources (money, cars, possessions) can seriously affect your happiness and ability to think clearly and more importantly, how to make changes in your mindset to avoid scarcity mindset and gain an abundance mindset.
Scarcity Of Security
The worst type of scarcity mindset is caused by a scarcity of a basic security resource. This could be money, shelter, food or water. When we’re in a state of scarcity mindset for one of these baser instinctual desires, the stress, anxiety and unhappiness can become overwhelming.
If you don’t have enough food in the grain store to last the winter, it’s going to be difficult to focus on shield wall drills. If you’re still reliant on your lords hall for shelter, it’s going to be difficult to think about finding a wife.
One would hope that as a Modern Viking, you aren’t struggling for food or water. However, while worrying about a roof over our heads is uncommon (but does happen), nearly all Modern Vikings will at some point in their lives face a scarcity mindset over lack of financial security.
One of the worst effects of scarcity mindset is that you become very shortsighted. You tend to only think about ways that can quickly fulfil your needs, even if other activities with a slower payoff will be more permanent. When your family are starving, you’re more likely to buy fish from the trader than you are to buy fishing nets.
In a similar vein, when you’re in a state of worrying over financial security, you’re exactly in the wrong mindset to effectively do something about it. Financial worry is the perfect game hunters trap – once caught, it poisons your ability to find any way out!
As a Modern Viking, you should be investing into the stable security that prevents this type of scarcity mindset form ever taking hold. Vikings wouldn’t go on raids after bad harvests or particularly harsh winters. While plunder and gold can solve a lot of problems, Vikings were extremely cautious raiders – campaigns were expensive in both resources and opportunity cost (while a man is campaigning, he’s not farming or fishing!).
Before you can think about campaigning to upgrade your position, you need to make sure you have your security in place. This sounds like it should be common sense, but failing to plan for basic security can seriously fuck up an otherwise awesome adventure.
Trust me – I have made this mistake before!
When I first made the move to San Francisco, we dove in head first full of excitement and adventure. We were ready to go raiding!
But almost immediately, we were hit with the reality that we’d forgot to plan our finances or accommodation properly. We needed a huge deposit on an apartment lease and we were completely shocked by the volatility of the San Francisco rental market. I hadn’t planned out a US bank account for the company, I hadn’t secured fixed dates for each new investor’s cash to land in our account, and I’d only booked a motel for a few days.
While in theory I should have spent my first 2 weeks in Silicon Valley getting straight into work and enjoying 12hour days of excitement and buzz, instead I spent it stressed, worrying and working and maybe 50% productivity while I fixed our basic requirements.
It wasn’t a simple case that I’d failed to plan – by living in the shit, I was then in a state of scarcity mindset where my ability to otherwise solve a fairly simple situation was impeded. I was racked with worry and panic each day (I had also assumed responsibility for my business partner’s accommodation)
I managed to sort out accommodation and finances with only a few days to spare, but when I look back on those 2 weeks I’m appalled at how ineffective I was.
Always put the security in place, particular before undertaking any new campaigns.
Scarcity Of Stuff You Don’t Actually Need
Unlike a scarcity mindset for basic security resources, one of the most poisonous ways that scarcity mindset infects our happiness is from a desire for shit we really don’t need.
We replace the word ‘want’ with ‘need’ and when we don’t get the thing that we need, our mindset becomes one of scarcity. We fuck with our ability to think clearly, simply because we don’t have the latest iPhone or as expensive a car as our neighbour.
Vikings knew how to love life and live for the moment – but they also loved treasure and plunder! Often battles would prematurely end because Viking warriors had started to plunder enemy houses and churches before the battle had fully been won!
As a Modern Viking, you need to rise above greed and envy to prevent it from causing you to make the same dumb mistakes – diving for the short term gains and risk a surprise defeat because you’re blindsided by the fully undefeated enemy.
A scarcity mindset can cause you to fixate so intensely on buying the latest iPhone that you save up every spare bit from your wages for 2 months straight, until you have $700 so you can rush to the Apple store.
But during your blind focus, you missed an opportunity to spend $35 on a theatre trip with your friends. You overlooked a $95 electricity utility bill. And then shortly after buying the phone, your car decided to breakdown, meaning you can’t get to work unless you pay the $500 the garage needs to fix it!
I’m not shitting on saving up – you should be putting a minimum of 15% of your monthly salary into some kind of long term investment or savings. But avoid large purchases of stuff, particularly ones you really don’t need – they often come at the expense of amazing life experiences or depleting your emergency funds.
Will your current longboat do for another raiding season? Do you really need to have those precious stones set into your sword pommel? Don’t make purchasing decisions that could top you into a scarcity mindset.
Scarcity Mindset Created By Modern Media
On a very similar vein, Nearly all of the shit we think we need, electronics, cars, houses, watches etc. is marketed to us through mainstream media. The reason you need a $20,000 watch is because you’ve been seeing images and commercials of celebrity figures wearing that watch. You look up to those men, and you think that wearing the same watch as them will give you the same status as them.
Phones, watches, clothes, perfumes… Thanks to years of fantastic marketing and constant exposure to advertisements, we feel like we need the most expensive version of this shit. And when we don’t get it (usually because it’s too expensive) then scarcity mindset can kick in. Happiness goes down, negativity creeps in. Productivity and focus is impaired.
We’ve become adept at rationalising certain brands and products to ourselves:
“iPhones really do have the better user experience though”
“BMW’s are much more comfortable to drive though”
“Virgin really do offer comfier seats though”
But these biased rationalisations to ourselves only perpetuate the scarcity mindset that we feel whenever we’re forced to purchase an inferior product. We feel shitty about having to use a $99 Android phone. We complain about the seat leather in the $18,000 Ford Fiesta. We bitch about the extortionate price of having to pay for our Gin&Tonic on the United Airways flight.
All the while, forgetting that we’re holding more technology in our hands than was used to land on the moon. That we’re travelling at speeds that would make a Viking on horseback soil his pants. That we’re flying thousands of miles in the air and travelling thousands of miles in just a few hours – a feat that was literally unimaginable just a few decades ago.
Scarcity mindset created by modern media makes us believe that if we aren’t buying the absolute best, then we should feel unhappy.
Disconnect From The Bullshit
My advice – disconnect from the bullshit. I stopped watching regular broadcast TV years ago, but it wasn’t until I realised how broken my mindset had become and I started on my journey to becoming a Modern viking that I totally disconnected myself from other media.
I stopped reading any news or lifestyle websites that I knew were full of retail ads. I made a conscious effort to be mindful of when I was being advertised to or influenced by big brands. I made a promise to analyse build quality separately to brand label so that I could be mindful of how much of the brand price tag was status and how much was product quality.
After only a short time of living with a mindful mindset of branded products and the media outlets that push those brands onto me, I’ve totally changed my emotional connection to so many brands and in turn, prevented myself from any scarcity mindset from a lack of their products in my life.
Start To Simplify Your Life
To increase your happiness and avoid spending too much time in a state of scarcity mindset, one of the best techniques is to simplify your life and in particular, your reliance on possessions.
Think about your ancient Viking brothers, what their lives looked like and what made them happy.
I’m not saying you have to become a minimalist and move to a log cabin in the woods, but one of the most powerful ways to conquer scarcity mindset is to try and become aware of how little you need to be happy.
You don’t need to start giving stuff away or selling everything you own, but once you accept that you don’t need stuff, you wont be negatively affected if you lose something or can’t get the newest model of it.
I went through a big phase when I sold my house of either selling or giving away almost everything I owned. While at the time I was partly acting because I’d gone a bit batshit crazy, once all of that stuff wasn;t in my life anymore, I could really stop and take perspective. I put my life into a suitcase and then started to slowly think about which things I really missed and really needed and wanted in my life.
(Spoiler: I discovered that I wanted people and experiences, not stuff)
Women will struggle with this much more than men I think – almost every girlfriend I’ve ever had has being unable to accept that she doesn’t need 15 purses and 15 pairs of shoes. Despite having this conversation and logically rationalising it to them, women just tend to struggle with this much more.
As a Viking, I seriously urge you to consider taking a really serious (and radical) look at all of the stuff you currently own. Imagine the unhappiness and panic you’d feel if you lost some of those things! Now imagine freeing yourself from that worry, from that fear of loss. Because you’re leaving yourself exposed to falling into scarcity mindset if you do lose those things or they are stolen. A raid from a warring tribe could be around any corner!
Status Is Earned, Not Bought
Many guys find it a simple enough process to learn the difference between need and want when it comes to their practical possessions like clothes or shoes (opposite of a women who is way more likely to see these items as a status symbol).
Where guys tend to struggle is determining the difference between need and want for items that convey status such as cars, or the table they bought in a club, or the watch on their wrist.
Too many men feel that they need to upgrade to an executive class car because they got a promotion to Senior Manager. They buy the $500 bottles in clubs because they want everyone to think they’re a baller. They wear a flashy $20,000 watch because they want everyone to be able to do the math on their most recent bonus.
Not only is buying status extremely expensive, but when you’re paying for a status above your position, you quickly overspend and run out of money.
It also makes you look like an asshole.
Genuine Modern Vikings who are buying $500 bottles can afford to do that because they take home 7 figures… And I’m not saying they need that much money to buy the bottles, it’s that the bottles genuinely have no impact on their earning. They’ve earned the position where they’re in now and they want to blow some steam and if a few flashy bottles will bring over some bar wenches who might pass a few hours, then so be it.
But when you try to replicate this on your $50,000 salary, those bar tabs will creep up on you and fuck you up. A Jarl doesn’t feast like a King and husmän doesn’t feast like a Jarl.
Direct Your Focus
So far it might seem like the only advice I’m giving is what not to do. Don’t overspend, don’t buy status, don’t engage modern media… It’s a lot easier said that done to simply “stop” doing these things.
But there is one extremely effective thing you can do that will make it much easier to forget about all of the material shit in life that puts you at risk of scarcity mindset:
You can direct your focus into a meaningful and productive project.
When you’re busy working towards achieving something meaningful and fulfilling in your life, you genuinely start to forget about the little things that you thought you wanted and desired.
When you’re in a bad job, running through the monotony of life, surrounded by mundane friends and in a repetitive relationship, anything shiny and potentially interesting starts to become appealing. Anything to rescue you!
You need new Xbox games each week. You need to go out and get drunk every weekend. You need to surround yourself with gadgets.
Boredom and unhappiness has an awful habit of causing scarcity mindset. You start to fill the gaps in your life with short-lived pleasures from material possessions. The short spike in status, the short buzz, the quick satisfaction.
When you spend your day chasing short-lived pleasure, you’re always working towards the next spike. You can’t focus on things a week or a month ahead – all you can think about is todays pleasure.
Giving yourself a focus on a grander achievement provides a source not just for your energy, but also provides a sustainable and constant positive feedback. It doesn’t need to be something amazing like conquering an entire kingdom, sailing the atlantic in a 40 man longship, or hiking to the North Pole.
It should be something that’s important to you, something fun, something that’s challenging but also achievable. Learning to swim, restoring an old motorbike, getting your 6-pack etc.
I chose writing this book as a project to direct my focus.
I’d previously being working 80+ hour weeks as the CEO of my technology company – a huge source of stress, depression and a constant cause of scarcity mindset for security. I recognised that one of the side-effects of my poor mental state was that I’d been chasing short-term spikes in pleasure – one more gadget, one more night out, one more piece of clothing. I felt like I needed these things, like I deserved them for my week of work.
I was in a severe state of scarcity mindset.
While I worked to correct my financial situation, I knew I also needed a project to focus on that was separate from work or money. Something purely for pleasure and ideally a creative project.
If you can remove the necessity that your project needs to pay the bills, or done to someone else standards, then you’re going to find more enjoyment and personal pleasure within it.
(Although hey I’m grateful if you do decide to head over and buy my book!)
Your project should be about your personal expression – a project where you decide the success criteria, you decide the milestones, and you’re the only one who needs to be impressed or happy with the final result.
Very quickly, you’ll stop caring about the material possessions you don’t have in your life. You’ll stop chasing those short term pleasures. You’ll have something meaningful providing a constant supply of fulfilment and reward.
Kill Your Scarcity Mindset In 5 Steps
- Solve your security before everything else and put safety nets in place in-case it ever fails. Never live beyond your income
- Disconnect from any media channels that are regularly feeding you with negative emotions about what you don’t have
- Release yourself from some of your possessions, especially the ones that own you.
- Stop buying status
- Choose long-term and fulfilling projects to direct your focus
Side note: Many guys also get in a huge scarcity mindset over a lack of sex/women. This post already grew huge and I decided I’d cover this type of scarcity in separate posts.
Image credit: ‘The Vale Of York Hoard’, more info here