The Abundance versus the Scarcity Mentality in Professional Development and Growth

This is a speech by Eric Kimani that’s being doing rounds on the Internet and an extract has been published in Business Daily. The speech is “as is” and no alterations whatsover have been done to it.


N.B: Eric worked with Williamson Tea as the Financial controller before he moved to KTDA as the M.D. He is currently the CEO of Sameer Africa (formally Firestone E.A).

The Abundance versus the Scarcity Mentality in Professional Development and Growth

A speech delivered by Eric Kimani to the Kenya Institute of Bankers, Mombasa Chapter on 1st December 2006.

When the Kenya Institute of Bankers, Coast chapter invited me to come and speak to you they gave me ample notice. One would therefore imagine that it is very easy to have chosen what to speak about- It is not!, I thought for weeks what it is that I can speak to you that would add value both ways away from the usual advise you might find in the newspaper. But I continually drew a blank. Then I thought to myself why not be controversial and speak about something as basic as how our mentality affects our professional careers. I decided to talk about how our attitudes and mentality affect our career growth or stagnation- The Abundance versus Scarcity mentality.

Let us start with some long winded definitions;

What is an abundance mentality- this is a deep belief that there is enough for all- enough work, enough jobs enough resources. It is living with a favor-minded attitude. One can define it also as optimism. Seeing the glass half full rather than half empty. Thinking big and expecting big. I will draw very many examples which I seek your indulgence if they sound like self-praise- they are only meant to help clarify the message. I recently led a group of some passionate Kenyans in a charity fundraising. Some of them thought I was out of my mind to suggest that we can ask Kenyans to donate Ksh. 7m. This initiative realized close to 12m! The barriers are in our minds and we will not go beyond the barriers in our minds.

By contrast the scarcity mentality is a belief that your success will imply someone else’s failure; that there are scarce resources and if you get them you must deny someone else; that there is scarcity of jobs; that the cake is not enough and I must grab my share. The scarcity mentality is one of our biggest problems in this country today with politicians believing that they have gone to parliament to ensure they get the largest share of the national cake for “their people/electorate”. This was also epitomized lately by a senior executive friend of mine whom I approached in September to donate money to the national charity cause I referred to above that incidentally helps more people from his village than anywhere else in Kenya. He responded that he could not help because they have a similar initiative to help his village. His scarcity mentality- that there is not enough for his village and the national initiative blinded him in seeing that he could achieve what he is doing for the village in a more far-reaching manner.

So much for the definitions.

I hope to show you by the end of my talk that the difference between successful people and the less successful is largely their mentality of abundance or of scarcity.

– People with an abundance mentality have an internal security based on a principled centered living. Their value system is self-anchored. They are not too worried of saying/doing the wrong thing because they ordinarily talk from a point of truth. This frees their mind to bigger/better thoughts because they have nothing to cover. What they said yesterday is what they will repeat today without contradiction. This internal security enhances their humility. It allows them to enjoy professional freedom. They can choose what they want to do. By contrast people with a scarcity mentality seek their validation from groups. They will rarely want to take action on their own. The group must validate what they do.

To draw an example from my own career, I have left employment 3 times in the last decade and at no time have I ever felt that there would be scarcity of opportunities. I believe strongly that there is something better out there awaiting you to discover. I have always relied on my sense of internal security to anchor myself. Do not owe your employment to your boss’s favor or anyone for that matter. Believe you are the best there is and you will work towards it and become it!

People with an abundance mentality seek solitude and enjoy nature. By taking time out in solitude and nature, you allow yourself to access your deepest thoughts and hence your human spirit with which we are all equally endowed. Most successful people I know will take time out to reflect. I try to take a solitary one or two night retreat away from family and work once every year and try and access my human spirit. You have to experience it to believe it. It re-energizes you.

People with an abundance mentality keep their mind and body tuned through wide reading and exercise. It is a pity that most of us stop reading on graduating. Most successful people read voraciously- they are in sync with what is going on around them. They are current. They do not spend an hour reading newspapers or watching TV but will spend hours reading the latest management thoughts for example. I try to read as many books in a year as I can. I have tried to keep fit for over 10 years and my wife who is my jogging and walking partner can attest to that- we call exercise our lifeline! Without the mental and physical fitness we would not have survived the vagaries of disease and the challenges of everyday life!

People with an abundance mentality serve others. Like one writer put it and I quote “Service is the only rent to pay for the privilege of living in this world” Are you paying or are you robbing the landlord? Service enhances internal security and fuels the abundance mentality- at the beginning of this year I pledged to donate ksh. 2m to a cause….I chair the Disciplinary committee of the Accountants; I chair Help Age Kenya, I chair The Palmhouse Foundation among many others. Nothing gives me greater joy! People ask me where I get the time- some of my friends have asserted that I have a 25-hour day! I tell people you have time for what you value. An abundance mentality gives you time and opportunity to serve others.

People with an abundance mentality let those below them grow and hence give themselves the opportunity to grow even faster and higher. I keep saying to people that if you are good at what you do, the only place those who want your job can push you is upwards. They work with the best minds. They seek out those who are better than them! A scarcity mentality tells you it is dangerous to let your junior became as good as or better than you- nothing could be further from the reality! My career success would not be what it is without those who worked under me. People with an abundance mentality know when to get out before they get stale. I have left some of my previous jobs as soon as I realized that my best was no longer good enough. Some of us stay too long on jobs we do not enjoy hoping that our boss will get out of the way sooner! My advice to professionals who do not enjoy what they do is – for heavens sake move on elsewhere! At one time I left a job that was so well paying at the time that my wife thought I was crazy- You cannot excel where you do not enjoy!

People with an abundance mentality have a long term view of life and hence are visionaries- they are able to see what many cannot discern. They create uncharted territories. This is because they already believe everything is possible- How many times have you wondered how come that many times that successful guy/lady is ultimately right? Many say he/she knew what they were doing. The truth is that such people operate from a paradigm of abundance.

People with an abundance mentality are problem solvers and are hence popular with their superiors. They provide unusual solutions to problems. They are able to separate people from the problems. They attract others into the team with their sincerity. I lead many volunteer teams in very successful initiatives. I love looking for the third alternative to problems and hence my popularity with employers. The scarcity mentality on the other hand tells us we should not stick our necks out and should remain as passive followers.

People with an abundance mentality are courageous. One must however remember that courage is not the absence of fear but more the mastery of fear. I have experienced fear in my life- I cannot for example remember anything as fearful as changing jobs. A friend of mine told me recently that a herd of sheep led by a lion will defeat a pack of lions led by a sheep! The courage to take action is one of the greatest attributes of great leaders. Courage is a consequence of the abundance mentality.

People with an abundance mentality understand and respect the law of the Farm or the law of the harvest. They know how/when to forego immediate gratification in favor of delayed and long term satisfaction. They appreciate that you will reap what you planted! They understand the need to prepare the ground, plant, weed, water and tend before you can harvest. They are not moved by peer pressure. I still marvel at some of my friends who I grew up with who tried to violate the law of the harvest – they are or have already paid dearly for this. Imagine if at the age of 18 you have your own chauffeur driven Mercedes? What would you be working for at 50? Does it surprise us that many of our kids are on drugs? We have not exposed them to the law of the farm! Those who do not know me for example may not know the painstaking effort I have put in my career, like many of you, to get where I am today- seven years ago I was still studying! I still take time today to learn new technology and read widely to keep myself relevant. An abundance mentality reinforces the law of the harvest. The scarcity mentality fools us that we can cheat the law of the harvest and short-circuit it- it never works!

People with an abundance mentality are passionate about everything they take up- They live their short lives in greater harmony than mediocre people. They are ordinarily positive about much in life and this seem to produce a self-fulfilling prophecy of success. When they see a mountain they think of how best to climb it and not about the dangers of climbing. They see opportunity where others see no hope. An instructive story is told of two shoe salesmen sent to Africa to see what opportunities there were. One came back saying he was disappointed that there was no market for shoes because the natives do not wear shoes. The other came back saying there was a huge opportunity because the natives do not have shoes!

Professionals with an abundance mentality treat whatever they take on as a project. A project to be executed so well that it guarantees extension or another project. I like reminding people that like Tom Peters, the great management guru keeps telling us – the life of indentured servitude is over! You must treat your job as a project to be executed meticulously and create a brand name for yourself in the banking industry and believe me before long people will be looking for you to do other lucrative projects. From Tom Peters masterpiece “the Circle of Innovation’’ in 1998, I discovered this ground breaking truth that convinced me to leave my job then and never to be employed again! Every work I do is a project. I endeavor to complete my projects successfully. I will endeavor to finish my Sameer/Yana project as successfully as possible. I will give it my best. Some projects will take longer than others but this does change the fact that they are projects. I appeal to all of us present to stop considering ourselves as permanent employees- the 21st century has no place for this! Only successful team players working on deliverable and measurable projects will survive the white collar revolution! If you are under 40 and hoping to retire in your current job, then something is wrong with your project! Seriously re-examine your options. If there is one industry that has been the victim of change and technology, it is banking! More retrenchment has been seen in this sector that any other I know- and in my view we have not scratched the surface!! Learn how to be a project contractor – there is no longer room for employees in the 21st century!

I would like to conclude my talk with a favorite quotation often wrongly attributed to Nelson Mandela but is actually by Marriane Williamson and I quote;

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” Marianne Williamson

I hope you have enjoyed my talk. Thank you and God bless you.


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