When I was in high school, a lot of my friends and I applied for scholarships. Most of my friends came from middle-class families; a few came from wealthier families. When the wealthier kids applied for scholarships, I remember others getting get mad at them: “Why are you applying for those? You’re taking away the chance for someone else to get that scholarship money that you don’t even need,” they said.
I found that ridiculous. First of all, you don’t know how rich someone is just from looking at the car someone’s parents drive. In fact, The Millionaire Next Door reveals, quite counterintuitively, that most millionaires drive older cars.
Second, most of those scholarships never gave away their funds, anyway (more on that in a second).
Third, stop doing someone else’s job for them! It’s not your job to decide whether you get the award or not–it’s theirs. You just apply and let them pick the best candidate.
I frame this by making the distinction between a zero-sum issue or not. And when it comes to philanthropy, I happen to know it’s not.
I know because I have my own scholarship, The Sethi Scholarships. I released it last year to my high school–a free $1,000 to anyone who wrote a few short essays. Do you know how many people applied?
This is all too common at philanthropic organizations. I’ve consulted for a large one, work closely with another, and have friends at many others. They’re dying for more people to apply to each award they offer. And in my experience, if they run out of money and find an extraordinary candidate, they’ll often find the money to make it work. I know I would have.
That’s why I find the approach of “there’s only a limited amount of money!” so foreign. Coming from the small-time businesses I started a long time ago to being in the world of entrepreneurship and venture capital with a lot bigger numbers, it’s simply not a zero-sum game.
There’s two models of getting rich that seem to prevail in blogs – the scarcity model where you live like a hermit and save your way to wealth and the prosperity model where you create new value (and wealth). I prefer the later and you seem to also.
I never quite understood the idea of a limited scarcity of money. It’s just not true. When people say, “My boss can’t afford to pay me more because the budget is limited,” do they count how much it would cost to replace you (advertising for a new person, recruiting, logistics, signing papers, legal fees, training)? Have they really researched the best way to negotiate their salary, including talking to experts and reading books?
Or are they just complaining about a world that has limited resourced that they seemingly have no access to?
I’m tired of whiners who don’t apply to stuff. In my inbox, I have a folder called Failures. If I don’t get 5 every month, I’m disappointed in myself because it means I’m not doing enough stuff. Whether it’s a lunch with someone or a new speaking gig, I’m trying.
I’m also writing this today because the deadline for the Women2.0 event is tomorrow–and all it takes is an idea on a cocktail napkin. The winner gets $1,000 and a meeting with top venture capitalists. Why wouldn’t you apply?