Scarcity as a Blessing
Scarcity has a bad reputation. When I think of scarcity, I think of fear, starvation, depletion of resources, loneliness, isolation, and generally not having enough. When I do get caught up in the negative effects of scarcity-thinking (or scarcity-experiencing), it’s easy to feel flooded by stress hormones, to feel stuck in that fear-based place of “I don’t have enough!!!” or “I myself am not enough, I can’t do this!!!!”
But if we can step back and separate scarcity itself from the underlying fears we have, then we can make truly powerful decisions.
When I quit my full-time job (my first real salaried position!) to go to acupuncture school in 2011, I already knew that (statiscally-speaking) 60-80% of acupuncturists are no longer practicing in 5 years. I’m in my fifth year now and I’m experiencing thriving AND I know that there’s likely never a point where you can just coast along, having “made it.” I keep this statistic in mind in order to remain cautiously aware of the risks of being in business for myself.
As I was leaving my full-time employment to scale back and go to school, my current boss sat down with me and said, “I assume you’ve done the math and this is a good decision?” I still remember the conversation vividly because it was so powerful for me to say both yes and no to him, AND to somehow still feel completely safe in my decision.
I told him that actually I HAD done the math and, statistically-speaking, this was a terrible choice (and that monetarily-speaking I should just stay put and make “enough” money), but I had purposefully saved up some money to reduce my future student loan debt, and I felt compelled to serve others through acupuncture, so acupuncture school was the affirmative decision for me!
That first year of school, this statistic came up again and resulted in a terrified and angry email exchange from other first year acupuncture students who were now on the hook for $17,500 and were now terrified and shocked about the return on their investment. People were outraged. Why had no one told them this? And many people said that this fact, provided by ACCAOM, the accrediting body for acupuncture schools, could not be true!
And yet, this statistic is consistent with the general rule of thumb for small businesses, which I just googled to re-check and discovered a general 50-50 chance of failing in the first five years (And, news to me, and slightly sobering even today, a 66% chance of failing in the first ten.)
Being aware of the scarcity of the chance for me to “make it” as an acupuncturist actually prepared for me this journey. Because I was able to see the potential limitations and difficulties in my field, I was able to save up money and pay for half my first year out of pocket. This reduced the amount of stress I was under when I saw my first student loan bill, which is often $1,000/month or more for the average recent acupuncture graduate.
I also had enough time to process this information and to stay focused on my goal and take calculated risks in setting up my business and deciding what would work for me (in terms of my values, money, and time).
Denying the obstacles ahead of you in autumn (that season when everything is stripped bare and revealed in its essence) means that you might run out of food in wintertime. Autumn is the perfect time of year to lay all of your cards on the table and take a real look at your limits. We all have limitations (scarcity) in terms of TIME, energy, money, and motivation.
So, given that scarcity is built into all natural systems and can actually keep us in check (it’s prudent for a squirrel to bury her nuts), what is it that you want to DO with your time, money, energy, and attention? What will you turn towards cultivating now to ensure that in wintertime you can rest?
Pretending that we can do it all leaves us scattered and depleted and confused. Pretending that the earth is incessantly abundant has gotten us into this state of environmental apocalypse. With global warming becoming ever more real, it feels impossible to pretend that this planet has no limits and will keep providing for us whatever we take (often without awareness of the cost and without giving anything back).
Autumn requires us to be real because autumn is the time where we stockpile our harvests to prepare for the true scarcity of winter. This autumn, what would you like to conserve (your time, your money, better food or more sleep) to bolster yourself for winter (the season of deep rest)?
Be brave and take stock. If there isn’t enough, it’s better to know now so that you can make an informed decision and adapt. If you think you might fail, find the power in really deciding to move forward anyways (or not).