Abundance mentality

If we could encourage more people to have an abundance mentality (rather than a scarcity mentality - much of it coming from zero-sum thinking), I feel that much more can be done.

It would be great if there was more evidence than what can be found in uncited self-help books.

Basic questions:

  • Is getting more people to have an abundance mentality in general a good idea? If it isn’t, then is it still a good idea in specific contexts (e.g. at the workplace, in school, in dating, when dealing with friends and family)?
  • What sorts of interventions are possible, and how tractable are they? This cause fits under a general “getting society to be nicer/more moral” framework, so relevant results could be transferred here.
  • See also General questions for causes.


Various people have written about the importance of adopting an “abundance mindset” instead of a “scarcity mindset” (which encourages competition). However, it isn’t clear to what extent these claims are true or whether they apply generally or to just some specific cases. Discussion of “abundance mindset” versus “scarcity mindset” mostly takes place by presenting generalizations from anecdotes and remain unconvincing.






Some quotes from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People:

Most people are deeply scripted in what I call the Scarcity Mentality. They see life as having only so much, as though there were only one pie out there. And if someone were to get a big piece of the pie, it would mean less for everybody else. The Scarcity Mentality is the zero-sum paradigm of life.

People with a Scarcity Mentality have a very difficult time sharing recognition and credit, power or profit—even with those who help in the production. They also have a very hard time being genuinely happy for the successes of other people—even, and sometimes especially, members of their own family or close friends and associates. It’s almost as if something is being taken from them when someone else receives special recognition or windfall gain or has remarkable success or achievement.

Although they might verbally express happiness for others’ success, inwardly they are eating their hearts out. Their sense of worth comes from being compared, and someone else’s success, to some degree, means their failure. Only so many people can be “A” students; only one person can be “number one.” To “win” simply means to “beat.”


One thing I have found particularly helpful to Win/Lose people in developing a Win/Win character is to associate with some model or mentor who really thinks Win/Win. When people are deeply scripted in Win/Lose or other philosophies and regularly associate with others who are likewise scripted, they don’t have much opportunity to see and experience the Win/Win philosophy in action.

It seems to IK that most people have an artificial scarcity mindset (much of it coming from the socialization effects of K-12 education itself).

The Internet makes it easier for people with abundance mindsets to share than ever before.

This question might get good answers later: Is abundance mentality really a good mental framework?

Brian Bi’s answer to Programmers and startup tech people in Silicon Valley seem to have a generally favorable attitude toward immigration of programmers – their potential competitors. Why?:

There is a perception that the number of jobs in Silicon Valley is unlimited. You certainly can find many programmers in other parts of the U.S. who oppose skilled immigration because they think it takes jobs away from Americans, but programmers in Silicon Valley tend to have an abundance mentality.

Also it would be interesting to explore abundance mindsets in dating and relationships (e.g. compersion).

Maybe look at The Case Against Competition and No Contest (Book).

Alex K. Chen’s answer to Mindset: What are the downsides of having an “abundance” mindset?, which links to Rough Consensus and Maximal Interestingness:

Software though, is a medium that not only can, but must be approached with an abundance mindset. Without a level of extensive trial-and-error and apparent waste that would bankrupt both traditional engineering and art, good software does not take shape. From the earliest days of interactive computing, when programmers chose to build games while more “serious” problems waited for computer time, to modern complaints about “trivial” apps (which often turn out to be revolutionary), scarcity-oriented thinkers have remained unable to grasp the essential nature of software for fifty years.


Purist visions tend to arise when authoritarian architects attempt to concentrate and use scarce resources optimally, in ways they often sincerely believe is best for all. By contrast, tinkering is focused on steady progress rather than optimal end-states that realize a totalizing vision. It is usually driven by individual interests and not obsessively concerned with grand and paternalistic “best for all” objectives. The result is that purist visions seem more comforting and aesthetically appealing on the outside, while pragmatic hacking looks messy and unfocused. At the same time purist visions are much less open to new possibilities and bricolage, while pragmatic hacking is highly open to both.


[S]oftware engineers must unlearn habits born of scarcity before they can be productive in their medium.


Such principles might seem dangerously playful and short-sighted, but under conditions of increasing abundance, with falling costs of failure, they turn out to be wise. It is generally smarter to assume that problems that seem difficult and important today might become trivial or be rendered moot in the future. Behaviors that would be short-sighted in the context of scarcity become far-sighted in the context of abundance.

Michael O. Church in Technology is run by the wrong people:

Who are the right people to run technology, and why are the current people in charge wrong for the job? Answering the first question is relatively easy. What is technology? It’s the application of acquired knowledge to solve problems. What problems should we be solving? What are the really big problems? Fundamentally, I think that the greatest evil is scarcity. From the time of Gilgamesh to the mid-20th century, human life was dominated by famine, war, slavery, murder, rape and torture. Contrary to myths about “noble savages”, pre-industrial men faced about a 0.5%-per-year chance of death in violent conflict. Aberrations aside, most of horrible traits that we attribute to “human nature” are actually attributable to human nature under scarcity. What do we know about human nature without scarcity? Honestly, very little. Even the lives of the rich, in 2015, are still dominated by the existence of scarcity (and the need to protect an existence in which it is absent). We don’t have a good idea of what “human nature” is when human life is no longer dominated either by scarcity or the counter-measures (work, sociological ascent) taken to avoid it.

Possibly related: The Melancholy of Subculture Society.

See also Is Peter Thiel correct that individuals should be less concerned with competition and more focused on creating creative monopolies? and How can I discover my own creative monopoly?