Is it safe to give away what you know?

A common question I get when coaching entrepreneurs is whether it’s safe to share an idea. Some clients are so wound up about this, that before we start, they already have an NDA ready for me to sign! This isn’t really a good start. 

I want to explore the concept of abundance in terms of sharing or giving away something that others may find of value in developing their business. Let’s start though, by reflecting on another concept in contrast to abundance – scarcity. 

In business and other aspects of life, you can come across people who would do anything to deprive you, defeat you or bring you down. These are the same people who put great effort into watching their back or comparing themselves with others or show jealousy of those ‘who have made it’ and then feel sorry for themselves. They embody the concept of scarcity. 

Okay, we’re all human and each of us may have experienced some of these feelings at some time, however, here’s the trap… if we don’t pay attention, it’s really easy to get caught in a downward spiral leading to self-doubt and other insecurities that can drag you further down. Your focus or drive shifts from positive growth and your development shifts to just surviving. If you catch yourself doing this, STOP! You don’t have to be one of them! 

I want to encourage you to fully embrace and practise abundance as a philosophy underlying your business development.

Let me share my experiences of abundance with you. A couple of years before I graduated from university, I was hired to teach audio production part-time. It was a great position but most of all, I discovered that as a teacher, abundance was a key element in effective learning. I pictured my students walking out of my class feeling smarter – and I felt really great about that. I wanted to share my knowledge and skills with them for their benefit. With this in mind, and like a lot of committed teachers, I spent hours carefully crafting my lectures. I made sure I gathered all the latest cutting-edge information from training courses I had taken abroad during my summer holidays. It was so exciting to share my knowledge, to perfect my training methods, and get positive reactions to my lectures from the students. It felt like a win-win for both teacher and students. 

Here’s another side to the story… A few months into the course, I bumped into one of my university lecturers who asked me how I was doing. As I was sharing how fascinating it was to pass on knowledge and see that spark of satisfaction into my students' eyes, to my surprise, he cut me off with a mixed expression of pity and disappointment and said: ‘Don’t give them everything you know! That’s a big mistake. These guys you are so excited about will turn into your next competitors. You’ve put so much effort into learning all this; don't give it away that easily.’ 

As I think about it today, it sounds absolutely ridiculous but back then, I felt like I’d done something terribly wrong, going from hero to zero in a flash. Thankfully, being young and stubborn, I trusted my gut feeling and decided to ignore his comment and kept doing what I was doing. It felt good, it felt right and to be honest, I was enjoying every bit of it just the way it was. Little did I know back then what this was all about? 

As time went by, the lectures became more challenging; my students came back with smarter questions. I was driven to learn more and more about the audio production field and kept getting better and better at it. To do this, I sought advanced training and was mentored by brilliant sound engineers from around the world. Because of this push to develop more as a teacher, and to share my knowledge, my reputation preceded me and even before I graduated, I got hired as a sound engineer and my career took off from there. 

By embracing the essence of abundance, as my instincts led me, rather than scarcity, that my former lecturer advocated, I and my students were able to benefit greatly. However, it was a few years later until I really understood the concept behind it. 

Thinking back I realise, my lecturer allowed fear to drive his decisions and by consequence got used to operating from a scarcity mentality. This means when you believe that there are limited resources available and to succeed, you need to keep what you find to yourself and withhold them from others. As a consequence, people who practise this concept have difficulty giving credit to others or sharing their wins. 

In Feel the fear and do it anyway, one of my favorite personal development books, Susan Jeffers beautifully sums up the concept: ‘So much of what we learn in life comes to us with great difficulty. And, for some reason, we have a tendency to want to see others struggle as much as we did. Turn this around and begin giving others as much help as you can possibly give them … For some reason, when you become a support to others you become bigger than you are. Moreover, when people use what they have learned from you, your effect in this world is greatly magnified.'

That’s how I see it: you gain more skills as you help people around you, in this case giving away useful information. And by consequence, the better you become, the bigger the transformation you can create in people around you and in yourself.

In terms of a metaphorical pie, the pie of scarcity has a limited number of pieces and therefore are not often shared around. However, with the pie of abundance, you can give away as much pie as you like and still have enough for yourself.  

In the 7 habits of highly effective people, Stephen Covey also talks about the scarcity or poverty mindset, which evolves around the win/loose game. So if someone is succeeding at any given time, this means that someone else is losing, which is, by the way, at the heart of bad negotiation skills. However, with an abundance mindset, the game is win-win, where you share your success with others, you believe in your self-worth and don’t feel threatened by other peoples’ success. 

Okay, so you might ask, ‘What if I fail or I’m the loser?’ My response is, that’s okay too – you won’t succeed every time. There will be times when you don’t get a piece of the pie. Use your failures as an opportunity to learn and grow. Real success doesn’t come from comfortable situations. Failures nourish success; you can’t be successful if you’ve always had great things happen to you. If you’re not failing, it means that you haven’t been trying new things enough and by consequence not growing, you are stagnating. 

If you want to succeed as an entrepreneur and in your life, you need to align your mind and behaviour with abundance and also associate with others who too have this mindset. In effect, you need to feel confident about sharing or giving away information that may help others succeed.

Getting caught up in the downward spiral of scarcity is lethal. If you decide to give in to scarcity, your learning and personal growth will be very limited, and by consequence, your success too. The minute you start doubting yourself and giving in to fear, stop and think how you can turn the situation to allow a win-win outcome. It often happens by simply shifting your thinking, by managing your thoughts through positive self-talk. Then, what you say and do will follow naturally and be aligned with your new mindset. 

Let’s be abundantly clear! At first, embracing a new mindset will be hard and won’t be perfect, that’s normal. It’s like a muscle that you need to train and will take time to master. Once you do, watch the positive effects as they happen in your business and your life.