If you’ve spent any time in personal development circles, you’ve heard about the dichotomy of “scarcity” vs. “abundance” thinking.
For the uninitiated, the definition goes like this:
In scarcity mentality, you believe is there only so much money/time/love/etc. on Earth.
So, if something good happens to someone (like a cash windfall), then something is effectively taken from everyone else. For obvious reasons, this mindset makes it hard to cheer other people on, try new things, or share the spotlight.
Abundance mentality, which means you’re secure in your worth, and know there’s plenty of money/time/love/etc. to go around.
That means it’s easier to share prestige, take risks, celebrate other’s successes, and (often) attract better opportunities into your own life.
This abundance vs. scarcity conversation has been nipping at my heels for quite a while on my road to growth.
It’s a constant angel-and-devil-on-my-shoulder tug of war between “Oh god can I really do this!?” and “This is where I belong”.
(And oooooh Dear Reader, I know you probably feel me on that one, right? #universalstruggles)
Add to that the fact I’ve always prided myself on being “practical” (which is often just scarcity mentality wearing a big fake nose, bushy eyebrows, and thick black glasses), and you’ve got a recipe for some extremely sexy internal strife.
Taking the Plunge
After years of effort, scarcity was finally becoming something I could feel, acknowledge, and move past.
It wasn’t an easy dance into “I am worthy of All The Things”, however.
It’s more like standing with shaky knees at the top of the high dive I’ve leapt off 500 times before.
I tell myself: Come on, Weiss. You’re not gonna die, and you always have fun the second your feet leave the platform. Just jump already.
And then like clockwork, I plunge into the cold, clean water with a huge smile on my face and break the surface with a gasp and a shout of laughter.
It’s a similar story in my business.
Every time I pause to recognize scarcity mentality at work, and gather the courage to move forward, the results are almost universally positive.
After that, I often find it easy to leave the reality I once clung to behind for good.
And for a while, that became my pattern.
Feel the fear. Whine about it. Move through it. Improve. Grow.
Cue the Tsunami
But then? Covid happened.
And it threw a gigantic philosophical spanner in the works.
(As well as, you know. Non-philosophical ones.)
As you may have heard, I’ve been cutting back on copywriting for some time in favor of my creative direction, messaging strategy, and coaching work. These are the pillars of the next evolution of my business.
That meant before Covid hit, my copywriting services were continually being scaled back, and reserved for specific clientele at a specific price point.
(It’s not that I don’t enjoy the work – I do! But in order to make space for what’s to come, something else has to wind down.)
However, by the time the Covid crisis hit critical mass at the end of March, I worried my alternative high-ticket, strategy-focused offers weren’t looking as viable.
I Think My Crystal Ball is Broken…
I knew logically there would be buyers (and there certainly have been since, wahoo!) but I worried there may not be enough.
What made the situation all the more difficult was the absolute bomb this situation set off in my industry.
I watched dear friends in events, speaking, restaurants, and entertainment lose everything overnight — not due to scarcity, resistance, or any personal failing… but due to impossible circumstances entirely outside of their control.
Yes, my creative direction, coaching, and consulting were still selling.
But I chewed my lip anxiously about the future.
Juicy Five-Figure Carrot or a Scarcity Stick?
Then… I was offered around 5-figures in copywriting contracts.
And I found myself faced with a difficult choice:
(Or a choice with an obvious answer, depending who you ask.)
Should I take these contracts to tide me over through the worst of the storm of impossible circumstances?
Should I stay the course, because maybe this is the resistance, excuses, playing-small, and “scarcity mentality” devil on my shoulder encouraging a backslide?
I didn’t know the answer – and honestly? I still don’t.
But I took the contracts.
The projects have genuinely been bringing me joy, and my clients are fantastic… but I have this strange, nagging guilt that I’ve done something wrong, because in any other time this would’ve been a “scarcity mentality” thing to do.
I just couldn’t reconcile it.
Time for a HAMJAM!
So I did what I always do when that happens — I picked up my phone and started monologuing at Margo.
And the more we chatted, the more we realized:
We (and genuinely everyone on the planet right now) were both between rocks and hard places.
Becoming a stay-at-home mom overnight, with no childcare support that would give her the time and space to work normal hours. That meant her business, which she loves so much, is essentially on pause — and despite the million things required to take care of a tiny human and still be showing up in the awesome way she does, she worries she’s still not doing “enough”.
Also, bonus: mom guilt!
Trying to parse out whether accepting these large contracts for work I was supposed to be phasing out was “backsliding” and “scarcity mentality” that would be ultimately damaging, or if I was just… accepting a practical solutions to the problem in front of me.
Oh, and did I mention we both accidentally burned out a little doing All the Things at the start of all this?
So we did what we always do in these situations: we decided to film a #HAMYAW about it.
Initially the discussion was supposed to be about flipping the bird to “the entrepreneurial dream” — you know the one where you go into business to be your own boss and stay in your zone of genius and before you know it you’ll have a 4-hour work week from a luxury villa in Bali with other people doing the hard stuff you don’t wanna do and and and…
But in reality, the episode became about… reality.
And how we sometimes have to make hard, uncertain choices when the odds are stacked against us.
Cheers to You My Friends!
The result was a genuinely hilarious, genuinely hopeful take on doing what you need to do in times like these.
Because even if you’re not “killing it” right now.
Even if it does turn out you were briefly a little more scarcity-minded than you’d like to be.
You’re making it happen, day by day, in any big or small way you can.
And you know what that means?
It means you’re gonna be OK.
And you’ve already won.
So click here to catch the episode – and we hope it feels like a big, goofy, genuine, hug between friends.
Hope you’re hangin’ in there.
We’re hangin’ in there too.
You’re already drinking?
No, Jesus! This is… (laughs) Yes, yes I am.
Welcome back, marketing nerds of the world. It’s time for another episode of HAMYAW and today, Margo and I wanted to yell at the dream. Basically, what matters more when the world has turned upside down? Is it the world that you want or is it the way the world actually is? What needs to be driving your decisions and your business right now? Because I think there’s a lot of concern around business owners, especially in the midst of the COVID crisis, which hopefully by the time we launch this, we’ll be a little further out of.
But I think a lot of businesses right now are worried about regressing on their roads to survival. They took 10 steps forwards in Q1 of 2020, and they feel like they’re taking 20 steps back because they’re doing what they need to do to keep the lights on, keep the family fed, whatever it may be.
And I think there’s a lot of stress and self-judgment in this space because we’re all being told, “You should be living your dream life. “You should be staying in your zone of genius.” And I mean, frankly, my zone of genius doesn’t always pay for groceries, so I have a few thoughts on this. But before I continue, Margo, how you feeling over there?
I’m exhausted. We were having this conversation on Voxer earlier about, when we talk about the dream, there is so much out there about resistance and fighting your fears and showing up no matter what and not relying on inspiration. And then the pandemic happened and that line between what is resistance and what is a legitimately fucking impossible situation.
Oh my God, yes.
Where you have to be like, “Right now, I’m not afraid. All I wanna do is HAMYAW and work, but in 30 minutes, a tiny human’s gonna walk out of that room and she’s gonna scream right at that camera.”
Which technically is on brand. But, “How are you doing?” We’re all doing bad?
You just have to, you’re kinda doing the best you can. I love what you just said though about open eyes. I’m gonna sit here, I’m not gonna lie to y’all, which is what I actually think is a little bit the silver lining here, is you can’t lie anymore, guys.
Challenge accepted to some people in this space. But what’s interesting too is that I think the guilt is compiling, ’cause some people are like, “Well, I just had my best launch ever. We had our most amazing numbers.” And everyone’s like, “Oh shit, what am I not doing that they are?”
Basically, the secure businesses right now are if you’re in the business of making people more money, you’re gonna be fine. If you’re in the business of teaching people how to sell things, you’re gonna be fine. But if you’re one of those smaller niche businesses, the creative businesses have taken a big hit because even though they are wildly necessary for a huge number of reasons that we know, marketing and advertising is the first thing to get the ax. It’s just the way life is.
Well, it depends! It depends. I don’t even think marketing and advertising are what’s suffering. I think it’s physically, I know photographers where they’re happy to spend on marketing, but they can’t take photos.
Exactly, that’s the point. You can’t spend on marketing and advertising if there’s no money in these businesses. There’s a lot of self-judgment now too because I know for me, I’ve been moving out of the copywriting space for the last year now, and I’ve shared some of the journey with you guys.
Blessed, me too.
Yeah, exactly. I’m moving into more coaching and creative direction, which has been awesome and those things are still selling, but I think a big ugh moment for me was when I got offered copywriting contracts, and they came up to about a really solid lump sum of cash, and I was like, “Do I do this?” And in the back of my head, life coach Hilary was like, “Stay in the zone of genius, don’t do this!” And my other, the logical brain, was like, “Yeah, let’s be secure for now.” I chose to prioritize that security.
I had a lot of shame around doing that because I think we have misbranded sometimes making the right move for an untenable situation as resistance and as coming up with excuses. When in reality, nobody’s been through this. Nobody’s who’s alive, except I guess some people who were alive in the pandemic of 1918.
Nobody alive has been through this, so we’re trying to sort of find our way, and I think especially for business owners, there’s that guilt around regressing. There’s that guilt around, “Okay, I wanna be doing this high-level work but execution and deliverables are more valued right now.” That’s part of listening to the market as well.
But also, there’s another huge sort of, God I don’t wanna call offspring a fly in the ointment, but the other huge issue is that you have, sorry I was like ugh. Can you tell I’m childless? But I know there’s also been a huge challenge for entrepreneurs who have kids at home, and that’s even more of an untenable situation than not as many clients as there used to be or these high-level offers. You physically cannot keep up with your working style when you still have daycare and nurses.
But there’s something actually that you just said that I feel like we need to call out here, is that I don’t want us rank ordering who has it worse. And I don’t mean just you and me. I mean, I hear so many people qualify what they say to me sometimes, where they’re like, “Oh, I know”. ‘Cause I can tell they think that I’m in a really bad situation, I am.
But it doesn’t discount their situation. All of us are in hard stuff.
I don’t care if you have no kids. I don’t care if you have 14 kids. I don’t care if you have a sick parent or back pain. It is a really stressful time, so there’s that mental load that’s impacting all of us right now. And then, on top of that, there’s this question of “What the frick is the market doing?” ‘Cause part of what we pride ourselves on is that ability to sort of spot the trends in the market, and then fill those needs and find those opportunities.
We talked about adaptation. It’s a really hard thing to suddenly think about how to adapt when you don’t know what the changes are gonna be. Or if you’re like me, you suddenly go down those existential crises of, “What was I building?”
“Who am I?”
“Should I still be building it?” “Who am I?” “What even is true?” There are some companies that sincerely are drowning in business and can’t actually fulfill it. There are some people where demand is simply dried up and there’s nothing you can do. And then there’s people in my situation where all I wanna do is freaking work, but I have become a 24/7 daycare, 13 hours a day with a toddler in a tiny apartment.
Otherwise known as a mom. (laughs)
That too. That is one thing I will caveat here, because I’ve heard a lot of people say, “This is setting the women’s movement back because all of this is falling on women and this is so terrible”, and I’m like, “Hold the phone”. I actually think it’s setting us forward because all of a sudden, everyone is valuing the domestic sphere where they’re like, “Aw shit, I have to clean my own house now? Aw shit, I have to raise my children? Aw shit!”
All of these things that it was like, “We’ll pay for them, they will get done because someone else does my groceries.” Not anymore because you can’t do that. No one can get into your house now ’cause we gotta distance.
It’s kind of like everyone who says now that teachers should be paid so much more, like yes! You suddenly figured this out? This has been a thing for a very, I would be so offended if I was a teacher right now. I’d be like, “Oh my God, screw all of you. We have been telling you this is important.”
Anyway, but yeah, so I think I am in a different category, I feel like, in terms of what’s happening with business because I can’t actually focus on business at all. I think we’re all having these conversations though about, what are the essential things? What actually needs to get done?
So I have had to shut down a few things because I couldn’t implement them, and had to be really honest with myself about what my bandwidth was and what I could take on. So the first few weeks, I was like, “Hustle, I will not sleep!” And then all of a sudden, my husband was like, “You’re crashing.” I was like, “I do not crash.” And then I crashed.
Same! My husband was also like, “You’re gonna be a sad pancake, careful.” And I was like, “No, I have so much energy with all the panic going through my system”. I hear you, you hit a wall.
It’s totally true.
So I think we have to take realistic assessments, exactly what you said. There’s what we want, and then there’s reality and then there’s also what we fear on the other end of that spectrum. So I think finding a way to live in the reality, so for me, that’s going, “Okay, so reasonably, you spend 13 hours a day with a toddler. You can use three hours of television before she starts screaming.” And that’s throughout the day. Then you have naptime and even then, basically, I spend all day cooking meals and cleaning them up, and I’m not even kidding.
But the reason I share that level of detail is these are things that I would have normally dismissed as admin, not important. And when you’re doing, if this is gonna be months and months and months, there’s limited brain bandwidth.
So I have to look at my business and go, “Okay, so I have been building a platform that’s really important to me, my writing is the most important piece to me, I’ve been piloting a new course.” There’s certain things where I’ve had to just hit pause and trust that we’ve built enough equity that when we turn the lights back on, it’ll be fine ’cause mine’s not really a question of demand, it’s a question of fulfillment. But there’s also a question of how do you judge yourself? Because I really feel like shit.
There are moments where you’re just like, “Oh, what does this mean for who I am now?”
And that’s the thing too, and I think this is, if Hillary and Margo want to yell at the dream, I also want to define what dream we’re talking about.
And I think in the online business space particularly, there’s this idea that in order to be truly successful, you should be doing only the things that are in your zone of genius, letting your team handle the rest, charging your clients absolute top dollar so that you can work less and make more money, and that you should not regress, and if you ever have an opportunity to make money that’s in line with something you’re letting go of, that you need to say no.
And I think that makes sense in every other circumstance except the one we’re in, and I don’t know, war time I guess.
But I think why so many people are experiencing that guilt is that that is what so many of us have our eyes locked on. Imagine a business where I only did what I wanted, when I wanted and made a bunch of money doing it. And in reality, there are very few of those businesses that are actually doing it.
That’s not a thing! That’s what I mean.
There are some people who get close, but they also have hugely sprawling teams, enormous overhead, so they’re not having the easiest time right now either.
There’s a lot of guilt because we feel like, if we regress, if we sort of bow to our circumstances, that something is wrong and that we are backsliding. And even the guilt, I can’t believe you have guilt around this as well, ’cause of course, you need to pause things for a second. You have a family to take care of.
For me, I had to make sure the rent was paid, and we have to make sure that things are gonna keep moving forward and I have a team to take care of as well. And I think it’s really really difficult when we are holding ourselves to this impossible standard and I’ve been seeing a lot of people preaching that you need to stay in that space regardless.
And I’m not saying panic and throw a bunch of random $47 offers at the wall and pray, I just think that doing what you need to do to make sure you can make it through this crisis, whatever you need to do is fine.
Give yourself that permission. You are figuring this out. It’s not always gonna be that way, you can continue on your journey when this shifts and when you see the opportunity. And the third piece of this as well, I don’t know if I’ve even been counting, but the other piece too is that it creates this feeling like this crisis has taken something from you.
And that makes it even worse like it has stolen something from you.
And I know I had that feeling when everything started hitting because I was like, “I’m reaching this revenue goal, it’s consistent, it’s fucking awesome, I’m really proud of me and my team, we’re doing this, I’m getting where I wanna be.”
And then all of a sudden, the entire global economy grinds to a halt.
And it’s just really a question of what do I owe? I don’t know, this virus doesn’t owe us anything, right? But in terms of pursuing our dream, what if that goes from being a straight as you can line and being replaced with detours, is that a bad thing? Is that something you should be ashamed about?
That is such a good question.
No but we all feel it, yeah.
Yeah, I think it’s a good question even pre-pandemic, which is, if it’s a pivot in your business or if it is a direction that’s suddenly working or a new product or service or something you’re rolling out. In the example that Hilary and I use, it’s like letting go of copywriting and then having to quote go back to it.
I actually think that that’s a sign something’s right. What I heard when you described the dream, ’cause no, you said it accurately, but it was like, the thing that I hear when so many people describe this passive income, sitting on the beach, only do work that lights you up and makes you better, and indulge in lots of self care.
First of all, I hear a fuck ton of privilege. But I also hear this feeling that you’re better than something. That’s the stuff that was bullshit before and it’s especially bullshit now, because this is what’s going to make or break you.
You guys are gonna watch everyone drop out who wasn’t legit. Now there’s gonna be some very legit people who drop out too because there’s gonna be circumstances out of our control. I think we have to stop thinking about optics for five seconds.
Yeah, how dare you.
I know, sorry.
Truthfully, there are some businesses that fail and it has nothing to do with you. And then there are some businesses that fail and it’s totally your fault. Both of those things are true, but either way, if you want staying power here, do not ever believe that you’re better than anything, than anything.
I’ve been making a list of things that I could do if we really had to make money all of a sudden on a dime. I can waitress. I can VA, I’d be a damn good VA. I know what I like to pay for, for my VAs, you know what I mean?
But I think if you ever think that you’re above certain types of work, or beyond it, that to me is the dangerous part of the narrative of the dream, because there is an empowering place where you’re like, you shouldn’t be doing that kind of work anymore. And that’s especially true with women.
There is a point where it’s like, no you shouldn’t be doing that kind of work anymore!
But finding that line where right now, maybe you need to. Maybe you do need to, and it’s confusing. I don’t think I cleaned this up with a nice bow for y’all, but simply to say, I think if you are gonna have any staying power, you cannot believe you’re better than anything.
Yeah, and I think it’s also, let’s put optics on the shelf for the duration.
Let’s put shame on the shelf for the duration.
You’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do right now and that’s the difficult thing. And also, I think, when we’re talking about the dream and this business, kinda like the undercurrent to it is these people are like, “I don’t really wanna work anymore.”
Right, right. There it is.
That’s kinda, like, “I don’t wanna do the hard stuff anymore.” Which is fine.
I would love to not do the hard stuff and I am shameless in my pursuit of doing less hard stuff and letting other people do it for me.
But I think it’s the shame and self-judgment that we are regressing when adapting doesn’t always look like a new offer.
Adapting doesn’t always look like optics. Adapting means having the internal conversation with yourself that you’re not regressing, this is temporary, you’re doing what you need to do to survive but also have stability.
That opportunity feels like it’s shrinking away from us and I think whatever you need to do to pursue that and feel secure and take care of yourself and your family, do it. If someone judges you for it, set their house on fire.
That’s right, burn it down. Retrospect. There’s certain things I feel shame about now, but in a year or two when I tell the story, I’m gonna sound awesome.
Exactly! Fodder for the memoirs, baby.
Or your commencement speech.
Yup, you’re gonna hear COVID stories at the top of every TED Talk for the next decade. I hope you’re ready. It’s like the stories everyone had where it’s like, “I did this and this, and then I lost everything in the 2008 recession.” It’s gonna be like that. “And then I lost everything in the COVID crisis. Now I make 10 million, billion dollars. I live the dream baby!”
“A month.” (laughs)
“And I never do work.”
I’m reminded, I have a friend. This is years ago, but he had a startup that was struggling.
It was getting its legs, but it takes a while because they had a lot of software to build.
And they were testing different markets and they were finally figuring things out, and he didn’t want to take on more investors. And his big thing was, “I need to pay my people. I need to pay my people, I don’t care about anything else.”
He took a wait staff job in Manhattan. Granted, he didn’t have children, but still. He would work nights, so six to midnight, and with tips, managed to cover his staff’s salary. Well, it’s a nice swanky place in Manhattan.
I was like, “Where was he working, and can I get a job?”
Where every meal is about $300-$700.
But that’s my point, is this is the time for creativity. This is the time to humble yourself. Can you imagine if he cared about optics? If you wanted to win the bro table, and he had to sit there, the cool thing to say is, “Oh, we’re going after Series B and we talked to Andrisen and we did this and we were just covered in whatever, Wired Magazine.”
I don’t know, whatever the bros say. And instead, he humbled himself, he’s like, “Nah, I got a wait staff job and I got covered.” That’s 60 grand that he managed to cover without having to take on more investors. It’s a great story now, but you imagine the shame he must have felt? He definitely had people come in that he knew. That happened, I’m certain that happened.
I think there’s a lot of humble pie that we’re going to have to eat right now. Who knows? Hillary and I might be coming at you from jobs next month.
Can’t wait to tell you my COVID story on the TED stage.
I was having a conversation with a bunch of moms who felt this pressure to push through a lot of their exhaustion and pain and neglect their children and they were like, because they saw so many other parents killing it, and I was like, “What does killing it mean?”
Listen, we’re always gonna judge your business by its revenue because it’s a business. You need profit to be a business, otherwise, you’re something else. So that’s fair, that’s a fair metric. But you have to consider these things in context. These are not all equal.
And so, if right now, you’re in the middle of a crisis, you have children at home, you have a sick loved one, or you’re simply freaking stressed or depressed or all of the million other things that are true, like the fact is you can’t go outside.
Things suck right now. Let’s take a moment to redefine how you measure success for yourself.
Did you put on pants? You’re killing it.
Is your kid alive and not dead?
You can dance about it. (laughs)
No, but really, let’s take a moment.
Did you eat today something besides fast food?
Did you not eat the whole stress-baked cake, just a piece of it? Or maybe you ate the whole thing and then you feel no shame either.
Good on you. You’re killing it.
Let’s just redefine killing it for a little bit here and maybe in the longer term.
But really, I think it’s a good moment to evaluate what success looks like for us, because a lot of us, obviously the pursuit was part of the pleasure and that pursuit is now pivoted.
So I like to think about it in terms of writing. That’s always the metaphor that works for me because it is how I think about life.
I pretty much only have bad writing days, I prefer my worst writing day over my good anything else, and that’s how I know I have to stay in writing.
So as you’re thinking about business and what you’re doing here and what you’re creating, it’s not gonna be pleasant. It doesn’t have to be pleasant. The dream that they have been selling you about what this looks like, what is existing in your life is reality, right?
You’re going to get better eventually, but it’s a marathon. It’s gonna be a 20 year sprint.
Wow, words, words.
Hopefully not that long.
Twenty years, but hey.
I don’t mean for COVID, I mean for business.
Let’s get ’em both, yeah. We’re in it for the long haul, I think you’re absolutely right. Part of sustainability is knowing when to rest. Part of making it through the finish line is understanding how to pace yourself and that you don’t necessarily have to be killing it all the time.
Especially when outside circumstances are kinda rocking your face.
One thing I do wanna say, and this I think goes for a lot of entrepreneurs and I would challenge you guys to have this conversation with yourselves because I had this conversation with myself a couple of years ago when I kept burning out, is that it’s important to have places you get fulfillment in life that are not your work and financial success.
There’s so much more to life, even though this is a really fun part of it, so keep that in mind. I think if you’re judging yourself hard, if you feel like you’re a failure for these reasons, there are a million things that can bring you fulfillment.
I really love this because I think that as we think about the dream, part of a corollary to this manufactured dream is this obsession with singular focus and productivity and output, and it just doesn’t acknowledge the reality of, you are a multi-faceted person and there are parts of your life that shouldn’t actually be productive. You should have fun. Do you remember hanging out? Remember when that was a thing?
Are you sure? I think it’s a myth.
I’m not even just talking about COVID. I’m talking about pre-business, when you were like, “Hey, do you wanna come over and have some beers and watch bad television and we won’t talk about anything important?” I can’t remember the last time I did something that wasn’t productive, and I think that we need that in our lives. Here’s why. Not because it’s gonna get you ahead. Because you’re a fucking human being.
You need lots of things for no good reason, just because you’re human. And so let’s not forget our humanity, and as we encounter this marathon that’s coming up, let’s have a little more compassion for ourselves. Let’s shift the dream and I really want you to put your reality goggles on like Hillary said, and think about what is in front of you, the reality of the situation, before you judge your behavior in it and what you wanted and what could have been. You can mourn all of that, but find a way to adapt to what’s here and not judge yourself.
Keep making it work. You are not better than anything. What’s gonna be better, in the long run, is humbling yourself to what needs to get done.
And doing it.
All right, well we want to hear from you all. How are things going with the dream? What realities are you waking up to? What did you believe was true pre-COVID and are realizing was not really what you wanted, or even a reality? What are you having to let go of for this year? Tell us all the things in the comments. And if you liked this episode, please like it below. Subscribe to our channel and leave a note. I am Margo Aaron.
And I’m Hillary Weiss.
This has been HAMYAW and we will see you in two weeks.
Bye for now guys.
Photo by Juliet Clare Warren