The current President of the United States of America has a well-publicized theory of exercise called the “battery” theory. Evan Osnos, writing in the New Yorker, wrote that Trump argues “that a person, like a battery, is born with a finite amount of energy” and therefore to exercise is a pointless waste of it. Please take a moment for a hearty laugh, and rejoin us when you’re ready.
The amazing truth about exercise, of course, is that the more of it you do, the more you're able to do. Expending energy in particular ways can actually breed more energy. Of course it doesn’t always feel this way. My dog recently tried to resuscitate me in the middle of a workout video because I appeared alarmingly devoid of energy. But still, next time you’re feeling sleepy, do some jumping jacks.
Trump’s theory of exercise is a perfect example of a scarcity mentality. He thinks that you should cling to what you have and not let it go, because there’s not enough to go around. (We could use the concept of scarcity to make sense of his views on immigration, jobs, trade, and his bizarre hairdo—but I digress.) The reality of exercise—that doing it actually increases your ability to do more of it—is an example of the concept of abundance.
I first learned about the concepts of scarcity and abundance from my yoga teacher Jennie Dickson Mills, but I’ve been thinking a lot about them in the context of building my business. As I discovered how many impressive small-batch handbag brands there were out there, I couldn’t help but feel somewhat threatened. I would lurk on their Instagram feeds but never like or comment, and worried that the few followers I had would find out about my competitors and leave me for them. My scarcity mentality put me in direct competition with other small batch handbag brands, as we vied for attention from the same limited pool of potential customers.
But things changed as I got more confident in my own work and as I learned just how big my potential customer base was. I understood that I was offering something that was unique, but could stand alongside other options on the marketplace. I realized that if I interacted with my peers and potential customers with an attitude of generosity and abundance, my work would find its special place in the market.
I recently had the pleasure of meeting in person with fellow bag maker and Raleigh-based designer Ann Howell Bullard. We had found each other on Instagram several months earlier, and learned we had some mutual friends and acquaintances. When I first discovered her work, I was intimidated. I mean, Anthropologie carries her bags! But then a few months ago I posted a picture to my stories of myself at age 12 with my brand new sewing machine. Ann responded with a picture of herself, age 9, sewing a quilt on her sewing machine. We both look completely thrilled in the pictures, and were even wearing the same glasses (glasses I’m pleased to see are back in style now after a long period of being very uncool). It became clear we had too much in common not to meet, and I’m so glad we did! She was so generous with her wisdom about trade shows, the wholesale game, and her ingenious fabrication techniques. We’ve been sharing resources ever since.
It’s not just that being collaborators instead of competitors is the nice thing to do; it’s also the smart thing to do. I find that the more I seek out community, and the more giving I am of my knowledge and resources, the more opportunities open up for me. There is always enough to go around.
Tomorrow is my first day of handbag school in Milan, where I hope to meet a whole new set of collaborators and friends. I’ve spent the weekend with my sister, getting settled in my new tiny apartment, tackling the grocery store, and of course going to the best gelato place in Milan, twice. More soon!