A glimpse at scarcity

A friend of mine laughed at me in a bookstore when we were in Dallas last weekend.

“Shelby! What are you getting?”

Oh, um.. well it’s just a book. You probably wouldn’t…

She moves my hand so she can see the title. Economics 101. “oh, Shelby, eww. Business. Economics, really?” And I smile and shrug. And we exit that place, me with my next book on business.

I can’t deny it. I love Economics. (I know I’ve lost ¾ of my readers here.) but I do. I love it, applied. Not So much the theory. If you asked me whether I was a classical or Keynesian girl, the most I could tell you is that principally I think Laissez-faire always leaves more room for innovation, and that Milton Freidman knew what he was talking about when he said “there’s no such thing as a free lunch.” But past that? I snoozed in that class just like everyone else. If I could go back four or five years ago, I’d talk to my silly-in-college self. Sit up, take notes, and pay attention. One day, and sooner than you realize, you’re going to wish you had known this stuff.


So, some things I should have learned then, but am learning now:

The field of Economics arose from the principle idea of scarcity. Scarcity, simply put, is that we exist in a world of unlimited wants with limited resources. Society (at its finest) has insufficient productivity to fulfill all human wants and needs. So the study of Economics starts with that premise, and from there seeks to answer all the questions that exist because there doesn’t seem to be enough to go around despite our modest efforts. We ask big questions (on a national level, state level, individual level) regarding allocation,

What should we make?

How should we make it?

For whom should we make it?

And since I work in a business, I find myself solving the scarcity problem all the time. Since I work at a traditional distribution center, my questions are relatively straightforward. Who are the people who need my product? How can I position my company around my awesome product? How available is my material? When can I get it to my customer. I go through this process day in and day out, riding the pony around the carousel.

I feel sometimes like I’m a cog in a never-ending cycle of productivity/allocation/scarcity. And it seems that way because although scarcity presupposes a limit in resources, I’m not certain from a global perspective that we’re all that concerned about the limited, viable, and exhaustible energy and resources available to us. They do and eventually will be used up. What happens when we run out of iron and ore? What happens when we can’t grow enough food to sustain the world’s population? If you think these questions through to the extreme, scarcity is terrifying.

Since personal branding has become a major topic of conversation lately, I’d like to apply the principle of scarcity on an individual, personal level. Regarding how an individual relates with their own, limited resources in a world of seemingly endless wants-

  1. What do you have in you that the world needs to know about? Is it a gadget, a service, an incredible idea?
  2. How are you bringing your gadget to market?

3. Who needs to know about what you’re doing?

I encourage you to think through these questions. Scarcity can be terrifying, but we are individuals with an endless potential for growth. The resource of our mind goes beyond the limits of our natural world. We were created to create. We’re expected to contribute.  The odds are stacked in your favor. So what are you waiting for?

Leave a Reply