The Fallacy of Limited Wealth

cartoon-aug29-2012 I recently read a story about a chicken farmer. This farmer explained how she would go into the huge pen that was outside her chicken coop carrying a large tray overflowing with food for the hens and put it down in the middle of the area. It was a pretty big area – say 12 by 20 feet – and all of the chickens would run into the farthest corner when she walked into the pen. She would put down the tray and only the bravest of the chickens would venture forward to this platter overflowing with food. They would steal some scraps, load as much into their mouth as possible and then they would run back into the farthest corners of the pen. Now the other chickens, the less brave, less wise chickens, rather than approaching this overflowing platter in the middle of the pen, would chase down the ones who had the food clawing savagely at the scraps hanging from their mouths. All the while they didn’t even realize that right behind them there was an overflowing platter that would feed them all to their hearts content. This epitomizes the fallacy of limited wealth.

Limited wealth implies that there is only so much to go around – that there is only so much prosperity, there is only so much success, and there is only so much money to go around. I’m not talking about the kind of money that is finite like money that is in your wallet or the kind the government can print more of if we find ourselves in debt. I’m talking about the wealth that you can create from an idea or opportunity in your business or personal life.

There is a common belief that the world has a balance sheet. That if wealth exists in the world that there are assets, there are liabilities, and there is a limited amount of wealth to go around. Under this premise, if you were to take the people in the world and divide that wealth, there is a set amount and it will all add up to the same even if it moves from one hand to another.

In reality, life has no balance sheet. What about the wealth that is created from thin air? What about the wealth that disappears into thin air? In the recent recession, wealth vanished. Stocks went down. Real estate values went down. Wealth vanished into thin air. But at the same time, there were companies that were created. Business owners that were passionate about the growth of their ideas that pursued their dreams even though there was a recession going on. Many of these entrepreneurs have been more successful than they even imagined they could be. Their sales grew, their stock price grew, and wealth was created from thin air. This demonstrates that ultimate global wealth can shrink and or grow as things are either created or devalued.

There’s a skit that David Letterman does on his late show that talks about where the money has gone. He said that all of these values dropped and he wants to know where it went. “Where is that money? Who’s got that money?” In most cases, it’s not that someone has it. It’s that it was either created or it no longer exists. If you have a share in a company that’s worth ten dollars a share and that company’s value went up to twenty dollars a share and you have ten shares- you now have two hundred dollars as opposed to one hundred dollars in your possession. With regard to that one hundred dollars in additional value, no one cut you a check for that. No one gave you clam shells or diamonds or corn or any other medium of exchange for that. You now have one hundred dollars more wealth than you did before. This is evidence that wealth can expand or contract based on what we can produce. And, there’s really no upward limit to what you can produce. Look at Facebook. Look at the billions of dollars in wealth that, well, let’s just say was created and then quickly retracted; but the amount of wealth that can be created in a limited amount of time by the generation of an idea or a product or something you’re passionate about or a company you create is infinite. It is absolutely infinite.

Remember those chickens, now it may feel like you need to go and take market share, and all of the statistics say that you need to fight for market share. That’s what those chickens are doing when they’re fighting for scraps hanging from their peers’ mouths. They’re fighting for market share, because they believe that market share is finite. What if we look back at that platter that’s overflowing in the middle of the bin, and we realize that wealth is not finite?

I don’t want to spend my life fighting over the scraps hanging from some other chicken’s mouth and I know you don’t either. Go back to that platter. Rather than the scraps that you can steal from someone else’s mouth, find the infinite bounty, the infinite prosperity, and the infinite abundance that you can create if you focus on your own growth and your own ideas, your own passion, inspiration and innovation.

To your own success!