Scarcity: The Game of Winners and Losers

Scarcity: The Game of Winners and Losers

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Scarcity, The Game of Winners and Losers

“Grab a seat, Suzie.  Quick, grab any seat!” shouted little Suzie’s mother.

And soon would come Suzie’s first lesson in scarcity.

How did it start?

Suzie was all excited about going to her very first birthday party.  She had on her new blue dress, along with her black Mary Janes.  She was going to be with all her friends from pre-school, at a party with clowns and games.  There might even be some new kids to play with, her mother said.

At the party, she asked if her mother was staying with her.  “Of course, honey.  I’ll be here.  So just go and play with your friends.”

Off Suzie went to run around, chasing her friends in a game of tag.  Suzie knew her mother was somewhere in the distance, keeping an eye on her.  She was careful not to scuff her shoes too badly, but, oh, this was so much fun.

Suddenly Mrs. Turner announced that it was time to play some games.  They all gathered  under the covered area closer to the house where a string of chairs were all lined up, some facing one way, some facing the other.  “Skip around the chairs, children, all in one direction, until the music stops, and then sit in the closest chair.”

So off they went, skipping happily to the music.  And when it stopped, Susie saw a chair and sat down.  Others scampered around, looking for a chair to sit in.  And when the commotion was over, Andy was still standing.  Mrs. Turner said, “Okay, Andy, you’re out of the game.”

Out of the game?

And the music started again.

This time Suzie didn’t want to get too far from a chair facing her way, skipping along but searching for the next available chair.  Again the music stopped and she was safe; she had a chair.  But Jessica didn’t, so she was “out of the game” too.

This went on for awhile, with the pressure mounting as there were fewer and fewer children, and even fewer chairs.

And suddenly there were just two other children … and two chairs.

The music started and Suzie could hear her mother chanting, “Grab a seat, Suzie.  Quick, grab a seat!”

The music stopped and Suzie was left standing.  She had tried to get into a chair, but Petey had pushed her aside.  She looked over to her mother for a clue of what to do or how to react.  All she could see was either disappointment or disinterest.  She didn’t know which, but it didn’t feel like good news.  She hadn’t been fast enough.

Moments later, Petey would almost knock Missy to the ground as he twisted his body onto the last chair … and claim the prize.  Petey was the winner.  Suzie and all the others were the losers.


Whenever I ask women where they got their notions and negative emotions about money, I always hear things like “Oh, I don’t remember.  But I know I had a really normal, happy childhood.  I didn’t get any negative messages from my parents.  So I don’t know where I might have picked up this habit of buying things on impulse…”

Yet from the day we start interacting with another human being, usually starting with our mothers, we are gathering messages in our still-forming brains.  Up to age six or so, we are functioning in our subconscious brains, until our conscious brains kick in with a growing ability to judge right from wrong, true from false.

Yet in this undiscerning phase, each of those messages registers in our brains as “truth” unless and until something comes along to disprove it later.  And the majority of the messages were not meant as they seemed; most came from adults unaware of the impact they were having, with just a gesture or a comment … or a tone of voice.

If you’re wondering why you have certain money behaviors that don’t seem to have any rational source, you might want to spend a little time thinking back to beliefs that are sitting quietly in your brain, just waiting to be disproved or dismissed.

The first one is the belief that everything in life is based in scarcity.  And now you know where it may have come from.

Can you think of any others?  Let me know in the comment section below.


Bio: Sharon O’Day lost everything at age 53: her home, her business, everything. But how could that be? She’s an expert in global finance and marketing with an MBA from the Wharton School. She has worked with governments, corporations, and individuals … yes, she was the secret “weapon,” if you will, behind many individuals in high places. Yet she did! Since then, with her finances completely turned around, Sharon has gone on to interview countless women. She’s done extensive research to understand how that could have happened, especially with her strong knowledge of numbers and finance.

The surprising answers will be shared in her upcoming book “Money After Menopause.” Today her mission is to show as many women as possible how to become financially free for the long term, through her Over Fifty and Financially Free coaching programs. She has developed a step-by-step plan to get past all the obstacles that keep women broke and scared … and from reaching the financial peace of mind they so deserve … if they’re willing to do what it takes!

  • What a clear picture you painted with this story, Sharon.  Scarcity + a competitive game… that’s enough to make a shy girl stay that way.  Thanks for giving us, as always, something to consider.

    • SharonODay

       What’s worse, Amity, is that there was no original malice.  After all, it’s just a game.  Yet we’re becoming more and more aware how the brain works and how we store these messages … and how PROACTIVE parents have to be, while still preparing their children for the real world.

    • SharonODay

       What’s worse, Amity, is that there was no original malice.  After all, it’s just a game.  Yet we’re becoming more and more aware how the brain works and how we store these messages … and how PROACTIVE parents have to be, while still preparing their children for the real world.

  • Brilliant as always Sharon! As you know I could write a book on these types of messages and their impact on children’s lives (oh wait, I DID!HA!) But the good news is that we have the power to uncover these beliefs and as you say dismiss them! Great article!

    • SharonODay

      The key really IS awareness, isn’t it, Denny?  No matter what age, we carry vestiges of these things.  I’m still amazed to discover things that are affecting me that seem so silly … as an adult.

    • SharonODay

      The key really IS awareness, isn’t it, Denny?  No matter what age, we carry vestiges of these things.  I’m still amazed to discover things that are affecting me that seem so silly … as an adult.

  • Thank you for another great post Sharon. I love reading your articles. I agree with Amity ~ What a clear picture you painted with this story! 

    • SharonODay

       Thanks for being such a loyal reader, Anastasiya!

  • Very interesting post Sharon!  This is something that has come up from time to time in my thoughts and in coaching sessions too.  it makes you think you need to do everything NOW because it might not be there later.  That causes one to try to do too much and then nothing gets done well.  Thank you for another great post.  You are doing a wonderful job of bringing this kind of thing to light for so many people.  

    • SharonODay

       Robert, I think we DO need to live in the NOW, as you say.  Learning what we can from the past and leaning into our futures, but relishing what’s in front of our noses today …

  • chris

    great analogy

  • Me oh my, Sharon did I get that lesson! Seems this is the week of learning how something seemingly so innocent as children’s games or nursery rhymes can teach us habits…be they good or bad. Looked up Mary, Mary quite contrary how does your garden grow…don’t ask…it’s a nightmare of an answer. So, for the fiery grandma – out go the fairy tale books and age appropriate stories will be passed along to my babies from now on. You are so wise my friend thank you for sharing.

    • SharonODay

      You’ve got grandkids, Carla, so you have an opportunity to make a big difference!

  • I have often observed the behaviors of my own mom, and thought they came from a time when she was raised in adversity, namely, the Great Depression. But I didn’t think to look at my own stuff quite in the same way, till you advised it. Thank you for the story with a moral, Sharon.

    • SharonODay

       Happy to be your “personal tweaker,” Diane!  😉  And love that you’re willing to look at things …

  • Sharon, as I was reading this article, a book came to mind, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum. Thanks for sharing your wisdom here.

    • SharonODay

       I’ll definitely look at Fulghum’s book, Claudia.  Thanks for the recommendation!

  • andreabeadle

    Thank you for this Sharon. I’ve done a lot on looking at my childhood and the beliefs I subconsciously got from it. Children’s games really do upset children don’t they! I can remember my son being distraught following one such game… Oh dear! I hope I dealt with it ok 🙂

    • SharonODay

       Oh, the things we do out of love … right, Andrea?  😉  Women who are trying to get at why they do certain things are always amazed at the fact that their parents rarely had intentions of hurting them in any way.

  • Great article Sharon. Our subconscious mind contents so many sabotaging believes, It needs some work to be done to challenge them and gain the freedom. You are here to help so many. Thanks again for your wise words and encouragement. 🙂

    • SharonODay

      The good thing, Solvita, is that today we’re all so much more open to examining what’s IN our subconscious minds … so we can release it and get on with life!

  • Our parents and teachers mold, sculpt and armour us to go out in the world to get by, not thrive as a spiritual being we are meant to be.
    Most all of us have to over come how we were rasied. Even if our families had the best of intentions.

    • SharonODay

       MarVeena, you’re right.  More often that not, our families DID have the best of intentions.  But parts of society … and mistaken messages … created a mindset that can do anything from being a simple nuisance to being a major stumbling block in women’s lives.  That’s what needs to be reversed!

  • Sharon:

    You sure know how to engage your readers:)  I wanted to go and talk to Suzie about how failure “always” precedes success, about perseverance, about the abundance mentality, and countless other life lessons…then give her a big hug (that picture is adorable).  You are doing such a good service to women.  Often women stay in abusive relationships because of financial DEpendence.  Teaching women to become (Financially) independent gives them so much power.  Thank you for taking your adversity and turning it into a profitable and helpful venture!

    • SharonODay

      Thanks for commenting, Charlie.  (I think it might be the first time?)  Finding my own financial freedom was such a game changer, I’ll do whatever I can to share what I learned with others.  While getting there has several components, none is terribly difficult.  And so worthwhile!

  • Sharon, What an interesting way to look at childhood games!( And that was one game I never liked.) One of the things I really remember disliking at birthday parties when I was little is that, not only did you lose, but the winner also got a prize. I hated going home without a prize 😉 
    Thank you for your insight. I always learn something when I read your posts.

    • SharonODay

       Interesting, Michele, that you still remember those dislikes today.  You might want to go back in your mind and figure out if any of those dislikes are reflected in your mindset today … in any way at all!

  • Joseann Freyer-Lindner

    Eye-opening post, thank you very much. Just to present an alternative: I used to play that game on my kid’s birthday the other way around. They all had to fit themselves together on less and less chairs, which was an art when only one chair was left. Now, at least there was no looser or nobody left out and they really had to be creative with fitting everybody in, but it’s still about scarcity, is it? 🙂

  • Alexandra McAllister

    I never thought of childhood games like that…certainly an eye opener. I must admit, I never liked that game either. Thanks for sharing.

    • Just one of the ways “messaging” slips into our psyches without us being aware of it! 😉

  • Robert Manea

    Interesting way to look at it.. i have never one musical chairs..

  • Great information! I love how you related this to a child growing up.

    • It really helps to have examples of the way things work their way into our minds — too early for us to have protective logic and judgment. That way we know where to look at what could be holding us back!

  • Meire Weishaupt

    Interesting the way you describe the stories and make us think about everything with more details when we were growing up. It is good that you call our attention to that, because as you said sometimes we can not remember from where it came some behaviors!

    • These stories do give us hints of where to look, Meire, for any messaging that snuck in early. Most of us never think to look that far back … or at things that seemed so benign at the time … 😉

  • Pat Moon

    Not sure if this fits what you are looking for but I have a difficult time throwing anything away because I might need it some day. A good example is plastic containers like yogurt containers. They could work good for this or that so I want to make sure I have plenty on hand. We eat yogurt just about every day so I have finally learned to let go and throw them away although I limit my stash to about 6 containers just in case. I can name many other things I keep until it become ridiculous.. just in case I might need it.

    • Whatever little stashes we’re building probably are a result of us hearing the “saving for a rainy day” phrase and applying it not just to money, but also to goods. Or maybe we did go without enough things at some time that we became “just-in-case-ers.” None of this is bad unless to becomes hoarding. But it’s useful to look at “why” as it might lead us to hints of other, more detrimental behaviors! (BTW, after my maternal grandmother died, we found tons of pieces of string in her closet … along with clean empty glass jars and plastic bags. Go figure!)