The first startup I founded, my mindset was all wrong. I had a scarcity mindset especially when talking about ideas. Like many first time Founders i wouldn’t tell people enough details on the idea or the approach. So I was so limiting progress by not allowing feedback, possibility of connection etc.
Now it’s all about the abundance mindset. I feel open and relaxed about pretty much any thought I have. I’m even happy to talk to potential competitors. It helps that the problems I am working on are really hard and so I can’t really afford to be private.
Abundance mindset as game theory
But I also don’t think an abundance mindset should be uncapped. It works best when deployed with basic tit for tat game theory. This goes something like, your first move with someone should be open and positive and then when the other person makes their move, from there respond in kind. For example, you intro a founder to a great potential early employee. The employee works for the founder and it’s going great, a year later you are making a hire and you ask that founder for recommendations and they give you a blank stare or actively block your recruiting (scarcity mindset!). This is not a founder you should give a lot of help too ever again as life is too short. But if you give and they give back, keep giving forever.
I speak to a lot of people in and around the market from customers to other founders. But no matter who I talk to, my last question before I lave the call is understanding their ask. EVERYONE at ALL times has an ask. Though they might not know it explicitly offhand! Because of that, never be vague and say ‘how can I help?’ (I still forget and make that mistake at times though). Rather it’s best to ask them ‘whats the biggest problem you are trying to solve?’ That way you find out are they looking for an idea, a cofounder, deal flow, feedback, reputation enhancement etc? Then, give as great an offer as you can make (most of what I can offer right now is introductions).
Privilege vs Imposters
An Abundance mindset is privileged by definition. You are literally climbing maslow's hierarchy of needs with a smile on your face when interacting with people. You are give, give, giving! But what if you do not have connections or time or even mental energy to give? If you are struggling it is really really hard to have that abundance mindset. I didn’t always have it myself, looked over my shoulder too much because I felt both emotional and financial insecurity. And it was all wrapped up into an imposter syndrome. But weirdly, abundance mindset helped me a lot with my imposter syndrome. By aiding others and being as open as possible i started to see how much everyone needs help. Helping other is a great leveler and you have immediate positive feedback which reduces imposter syndrome.
The more people I talk to in a day with abundance mindset the better the day. You are actually helping others and they are doing the same for you! Great GIVING days! But it can be a bit of a trick. Founders in particular we need to always be working on our hardest problem. If you are surrounded by abundance mindset customers you are likely not working on your product enough. If you are loving your chats with investors, are you making enough calls with harsh customers? You need to deal with a lot of people who will be negative and zero sum as that’s part of making a startup successful. So wean yourself off too many fun calls, force yourself to engage with the hardest parts of the business as much as you can, and use those great calls with abundance mindset people to fuel you for the difficult calls, rather than distract you.