You’ve probably heard this classic story already. Two shoe salesmen were sent to Africa to see if there was a market for their product. The first salesman reported back, “This is a terrible business opportunity, no-one wears shoes.” The second salesman reported back, “This is a fantastic business opportunity, no-one wears shoes.”
The story which has been used to contrast optimism vs. pessimism, and can also be used to contrast scarcity vs. abundance — the perspective adopted by Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler in Abundance: The Future is Better than You Think. As the news reports on so many new threats to people – Ebola in Africa, ISIS in the Middle East and Russian aggression in Ukraine – it’s refreshing to remember that there are potential solutions to many of our ongoing problems, such as hunger, illnesses, environmental degradation.
Malthus, using a scarcity perspective, predicted a limit to growth: with population growing exponentially while food supply only grows linearly, mankind will reach a point where we exceed our capacity to feed ourselves. As he said, “The power of population is indefinitely greater than the power of the earth to produce subsistence for men.”
Abundance, the authors tell us, “is about creating a world of possibilities; a world where everyone’s days are spent dreaming and doing, not scrapping and scraping.” By focusing on the possibilities of scientific farming techniques, enriching produce yields, hydroponics, and using cell-generation to create food products, we will be able to feed the planet for years to come.
Abraham Maslow developed a pyramid with a hierarchy of human needs – with physical needs (air, water, food) at the bottom, followed by safety and security’ then love and belongingness; then self-esteem; and finally self-actualization. Diamandis developed a parallel Abundance Pyramid; the base is providing sufficient water, food and shelter; it’s followed by energy, education and information/communication – three advantages which raise people’s standard of living and mutually reinforce each other; finally, at the top is health and freedom.
Diamandis, who created the X-prize to spur technology development to get us back in space, and encouraged other similar incentive systems (such ash the Netflix prize), focuses on four emerging forces which can produce the abundance: exponential technologies, DIY innovators, Technophilanthropists, and the unleashing of the creative powers of the “rising billion” people at the bottom of the world’s economic system.
Do you want to make a difference? Step one is to adopt the perspective of abundance; read the book for inspiration and education. Step two, as noted in prior blogs, is to have the will to do what it takes to reduce and eliminate problems and to advance the systems and technologies needed to improve life for people. Commit yourself, mobilize your network (including your Vistage group) to get involved and increase everyone’s effort to increase abundance for everyone.
So, what’s your perspective?