Embrace The Scarcity Mentality


We’ve heard so, so much about the abundance mentality.  So, so, much.  It almost feels like a wearisome cliché at this point.  

I agree with it, in fact.  One must aim for abundance, certainly.  But there is a flip side to this coin, that no one ever talks about.  In the ever-escalating, masturbatory fantasies about abundance, one is often left dealing in the meantime with scarcity.  At some point, we have to come down from the clouds and deal with the strife of the real world.

How do you deal with scarcity?  How do you thrive with its limitations?  

Abundance is great, once you have it.  But before one has it, one is left to deal with scarcity.  Not to acknowledge this is a form of intellectual dishonesty at best, and sleight-of-hand at worst.

We must come up with strategies, and embrace philosophies, that enable us to cope with hardship, scarcity, and adversity.  One cannot enter conflict unprepared.  And being delusional is the most dangerous sort of unpreparedness.

Most conflict–which is the very essence of life–is done without the luxury of copious abundance.  Most conflict, in fact, is done in unfavorable conditions.  I deal with conflict every day.  I deal with trials and litigated matters in state and federal courts.  It is the essence of conflict.  I’ve been doing this for over sixteen years.  So I believe I know what I’m talking about.  But you don’t have to be a trial attorney to benefit from this discussion.  The reality is that conflict is part of every single activity in life.  We deal with it with our mates and lovers, with our co-workers, our employers, our families, our friends:  almost everywhere.

When you’re fighting for things that are important–job, love, life–you’re probably not going to have enough resources.  You often won’t have a complete picture of what is going on.  You’ll have fragments of the picture, here and there.  So we must create a conflict strategy that takes account of these realities.  Not one that exists in fantasylands of unlimited resources.  We will suggest some ways to deal with this below.

Find The Critical Points, And Squeeze Hard

Every adversary has strong points, and weak points.  Strong points should, wherever possible, be bypassed in favor of soft targets.  But we don’t want to go after just any soft targets.  More important than this is the idea of critical points:  find out what is important to the adversary, and attack it.  Your adversary is going to do everything he can to interfere with your designs.  The way to keep him on the defensive is to attack his critical points at all times.

But what is a “critical point”?  It is one of the following:

  1.  Some object of strategic importance.
  2. Some object of tactical or operational importance.
  3. Some object of psychological or emotional significance.

These are critical points.

The German army in the First World War targeted the French fortress of Verdun because they knew the French would, out of national pride, be compelled to defend it.  The German General Staff thereby hoped to bleed the French white.  In the same way, Scipio knew that he could draw Hannibal out of the Italian peninsula if he undertook operations that directly threatened Carthage.  He attacked Carthage’s vital points in Spain and North Africa.  Hannibal was compelled to abandon his operations in Italy as a result.

If an adversary’s case rests entirely on the basis of one or two witnesses, those witnesses need to be attacked strenuously.  If a case relies on some piece of evidence, that evidence needs to be attacked strenuously.  Sun Tzu said it best when he said, “Seize something he loves and he will conform to your wishes.”  

This I like.

You Will Never Have Enough Of Anything

Most of the time, you are going to be operating at a disadvantage.  Anyone who says otherwise is living on a trust fund and doesn’t know what he’s bloody talking about.


The world is getting more and more competitive.  There are more and more warm bodies out there every day, all looking for one thing or another.  So you will need to become comfortable working in an environment of scarcity.

Embrace the scarcity mindset.  Love the scarcity mindset.  

We are dealing with the real world here, not the world of pipe-smoke fantasies.  You will need to become an expert manager of limited resources.  This is what “economy of management” is all about.  It’s making the most of what you have.  It’s doing the most with the tools you have.  You will need to practice how to apportion resources and deploy them while keeping the “critical points” in mind, which we noted above.  When it comes to managing limited resources, your focus should be on these factors:

  1.  Procuring resources however you can.
  2. Managing the resources you have in a way that best supports the overall objective.
  3. Delivering the resources at the right time and place to make a difference in the outcome.

Do you want to know a skill that I admire a great deal?  It’s the ability to be a scrounger.  The ability to get one’s hands on things that no one else can get.  I always liked this type of character in the movies.  Remember the old film The Great Escape?  Think of the character played by James Garner.  He was a scrounger.  He could get anything.  And believe me, there really are guys like him in the military.  I knew one guy in the Marine Corps who was just like the James Garner character in The Great Escape.  And those sort of guys are worth their weight in gold.

This is the type of guy you need to have around you.  Because there is never going to be enough of anything.  Shortages will be the rule, not the exception.  The abundance mentality is fine as an aspirational goal, but we can’t turn a blind eye to the real world.  I’ve written here before about Paul Von Lettow-Vorbeck.  He was the greatest German commander of the First World War.  He may even have been one of the best generals of the twentieth century.  He covered more ground, and achieved more results, than anyone else in the war.  And he had only the most rudimentary logistics and supply structure.  He knew how to live off the land, how to hit hard, how to keep moving, and how to use his enemies’ supplies for himself.  He was a master of economy of management.  He was a master of the scarcity mentality.  And this is the type of man we need to emulate.

Practice solving problems in adverse conditions.  Practice dealing with operations with limited resources.  And if you can do well with little, just imagine how well you’ll do with a lot.  Embrace scarcity, and learn to make it your friend.  For the road to abundance is paved with the rough stones of scarcity.


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