Overcome the Illusion of Scarcity; Don’t Leave Your Partner Out in the Cold

Sunday, Sep. 19th 2010 7:58 PM

In February 2010, the Washington, DC area experienced several debilitating snow storms. The extreme weather resulted in an opportunity to observe human behavior in unusually trying circumstances. The storm wiped out the power in my neighborhood for five days, and waist-deep snow made every move an adventure or a treacherous inconvenience. The frustration levels of local citizens mounted. I heard stories of people who would fight anyone who “stole” their “reserved” parking place. We all know, that in Washington, DC, where there is a fight there may also be gunfire. Needless to say, fights over parking spaces could have become life or death situations.

One of the behaviors I observed in friends and neighbors was a tactic of protecting their parking spaces. It takes a lot to dig a car out of four feet of snow. So if you had to go somewhere, you had to invest serious time and energy in excavating your vehicle. It took me nearly three hours to dig out my parking space. I perspired like crazy, and my muscles, particularly my back, hurt the next day. This kind of investment wasn’t something people wanted to lose. In order to make sure their work wasn’t usurped by someone else, in their absence, they marked “their territory” by placing chairs in spaces that they had dug out as they went about their business.

I became intrigued at the psychology of “loss” and “scarcity” that my fellow locals assumed and acted upon. People really thought that they would need to reserve their parking space in order to park when they returned. This perception (of scarcity) was an illusion. Locals were basically operating out of the fear of loss, rather than actual loss. Fear of loss usually leads to possessiveness, ugliness and downright unreasonable expectations. Sound familiar? Whether it is snow-bound parking, or frigid relationships, the fear of loss leads to nothing good.

Washington DC has a finite number of parking spaces and a finite number of people. When we look at the parking situation as a competition for space, we miss seeing an important opportunity for partnership. Viewing the “snow crisis” as an opportunity to build partnership and community produces dramatically better (and friendlier) results than the animosity and hard feelings brought about by the chair-in-my-space approach.

For the sake of simplicity, and in order to illustrate a principle, let’s imagine two people: John and Bill. Both men have done the hard work of digging out their cars and both have business about town. For the sake of the illustration, each of them are conducting business in the other’s neighborhood (i.e. John went to Bill’s neighborhood, and Bill went to John’s). John parked in Bill’s space while Bill parked in John’s space. This issue would be a moot point if John and Bill both left their respective destinations and returned home at the same time; and if no one else parked in the spaces that each of them “reserved.” While this may be an oversimplification, the crisis is the same. Neither John nor Bill would have been bothered had their space been available when they returned home, even if someone else had occupied it while they were away. However, let’ s assume things did not go so smoothly. Bill decided to stay in John’s neighborhood longer than John stayed in Bill’s. So when John returned to his own neighborhood, his parking space was occupied by Bill’s car. John became upset, and I can end the illustration there. You can make up the rest.

The dynamic of note is that of perceived scarcity versus collaboration. Those of us that put chairs in parking spaces as a solution to potentially unavailable parking were, in fact, showing a lack of appreciation for our partner, the person who made it possible for us to park when we arrive wherever we were going. In choosing to concentrate on the possibility of not having a parking space when we return, we disregard an opportunity to partner and to participate in the act of partnership.

What does this dynamic have to do with relationships? How often do we work for our own security, and at the same time eliminate the possibility of a partnership that could double our reward in the long-run? I know of a gentleman that objected to his girlfriend having a single roommate of the opposite sex, because he felt threatened and feared for his relationship. Rather than being open to possible contacts and friendships, he limited his vision for fear of what could happen – a fear grounded more in his insecurity than reality.

How often do we only see our immediate perspective, and fail to the see the perspective of our partner even when there are personal benefits to us along the way? There are countless people who experience feelings of loss or jealousy when their partner hangs out with friends or follows a dream. Fear gets in the way of nurturing a partner as s/he explores or experiences happiness. This scarcity-based fear is not fair to anyone!

How often do we have partners and fail to realize that they are our partners? John and Bill never met each other, but they were partners. So were Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis, and so are Kobe Bryant and Lebron James. Their combined skill or circumstance provides a place for the other to exist and to excel. John and Bill were partners, that is, up until the point when they became enemies because they failed to see the blessing beneath four feet of difficult circumstances.

Take a moment to consider all of the people that you have never met that are your partners: The guy at the gym who pushes you to work harder and get stronger; the person who sits next to you on your metro commute; your partner’s best friend from high school. How do you treat these people? What are the opportunities that are created in these potential relationships? If we forget that we are all in this together and concentrate on what we may lose, we will waste useless energy on defense. Rather than focusing on the (literal and metaphorical) parking space that you may lose, consider the possibility that someone else is moving aside to make room for you, your ventures and endeavors. Any other perspective is that of fear. Enjoy what’s ahead. Let go of what’s behind. I promise, you’ll find somewhere to park when you return. You can even give your partner a wink from across the city after you do so.

Keep Rising,

Frank Love


Too many people are thinking of security instead of opportunity. They seem more afraid of life than death. – James F. Byrnes, 1879-1972

…and please do not multi-task when driving.

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How to Gracefully Exit a Relationship
Posted by FrankLove | in Blog, Faith, Parking, Relationships, Safety, Scarcity, Snow | 8 Comments »

8 Comments on “Overcome the Illusion of Scarcity; Don’t Leave Your Partner Out in the Cold”

  1. Dunni Says:

    “Rather than focusing on the (literal and metaphorical) parking space that you may lose, consider the possibility that someone else is moving aside to make room for you, your ventures and endeavors. Any other perspective is that of fear. Enjoy what’s ahead. Let go of what’s behind…”

    That’s the most amazing thing I needed to hear today. The fear of losing a relationship that meant so much when the other party breaks up because they are trying to sort themselves out, says they still love you but yet is “exploring” why they are intrigued by someone else. Being in limbo when your head wants to let go, but your heart hasn’t. When you feel someone has usurped your “parking space” but your partner watched as they did it without having your back. The fear of rejection, failure, loneliness, scarcity and starting over(or not).

    Thank you.

  2. Nandi Says:

    Very nice!!!

  3. Angela H. Says:

    Frank, great observations. You are absolutely spot on that it is usually fear, in one form or another , that stops too many people from forming collaborative relationships. I think that if one consciously tries just small collaborative steps confidence builds and who knows, we might all be able to start working together!.

  4. thatOracle Says:

    yeah,you are right!totally agree~:DDD

  5. Codruta I. Says:

    Thank you Frank, good stories to understand and integrate the scarcity vs. abundance in all relations.

  6. Martha Says:


    This was DEEP!!!…And so true. It hit home a little. ?
    I had to pass this one on. You’re good! ?

  7. Martha Says:

    I love this quote too!

  8. Gaea Says:

    Having lived in Greater Boston, I can’t buy the parking space metaphor. That’s just too much to accept. If you don’t want me to smash your car when I’ve done all that digging, don’t park in my space. Simple winter etiquette. Don’t get me started. I may find my Boston accent.

    For the rest, scarcity vs. abundance is right on point.

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