Of Pancakes, Competition, and Scarcity

Just a few hours ago, my family and I were sitting down for our traditional Sunday breakfast of pancakes, waffles, and smoothies. Our toddler kept running off to play with her Legos, and I kept trying to entice her back to the table, chasing her around the room with a fork full of food. 

Finally, I resorted to the tried-and-true nuclear option: I told her that if she didn’t come eat her food right now, then her father would eat it all up instead.

And as the words were coming out of my mouth I caught myself. What the hell was I teaching our daughter? That we should only want something so that someone else can’t have it? That even breakfast is a zero-sum game? That someone else’s gain will always mean her loss? That she has to compete with her father for food?


For so much of our lives we are given messages like this. Lack. Scarcity. Competition. Winner take all. Zero-sum. Only room for one. Someone else has already done it so don’t bother.

And sometimes, without realizing it or wanting to, we send the same messages back out. 

But the world isn’t like this. And we need to stop living under a scarcity mindset. 

Sure, there are some things that are genuinely scarce: the element astatine (yes, I Googled that), opportunities to walk on the moon, endangered animals like pikas (Googled that too), and women at the top of pretty much every field you can think of. 

But many, many other things are not. And it’s only once we start having a more abundant mindset that we will see that one person’s success doesn’t predetermine our stasis, that one person’s beauty doesn’t diminish our own, that one person’s financial gain doesn’t mean our poverty, and that one person’s critical acclaim doesn’t deem us unworthy. 

In pretty much every aspect of our lives we constrain ourselves with our scarcity mindset, when what we really need to do is start thinking more abundantly. To do away with “All the clients are gone” “All the good partners are already taken” “All the positions I want are filled” “All the art has already been created“, and start thinking “Where can I find the right clients for my unique offering?” “Where can I find a partner who will bring out the best in me?” “How can I expand my job search to find a perfect fit?” “How can I create art that is different or unique?” (Spoiler alert: everything you do will be unique because there is no other you out there.)

Do you see how the the first is a set of statements, declarative and fixed, that focus our minds on scarcity and lack? And do you see how the second is a set of questions, open-ended and expansive, that challenge our minds to think creatively and abundantly?

What a huge difference. 

So the next time you find yourself saying or doing something from a place of lack or limitation, and telling yourself that you can’t be/do/have something because someone else already is/does/has that thing, then please, please, please remind yourself that the world is full of pancakes, metaphoric and actual.

And if someone has already eaten the stack you thought was supposed to be yours, you can always make more and make them your own.

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About Me
Rupal Patel logo
The daughter of Indian immigrants, Rupal is a born-and-bred New Yorker now living near London. Her high-octane career as a CIA officer turned serial entrepreneur has taken her from military briefing rooms in jungles and war zones to corporate boardrooms and international stages.

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