Why Abundance Appeals to So Many

February 6, 2013
General Foundation

The concept of abundance takes many forms. 

At the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the focus is naturally on the American business community. Abundance is an important topic to business leaders who relentlessly search for ways to achieve more results, increase growth and markets, and deliver broader impact. 

In the Chamber’s Fall 2012 issue of Business Horizon Quarterly, I discussed the future of American abundance and laid out three levers that will drive our nation’s economic growth over the next 30 years. These levers are talent, capital, and markets. I then elaborate on the levers and show how they are transforming several different industries in a forthcoming report from the Forum for Innovation

During my research for the report, I discovered other wellsprings of abundance that complement, contrast, and challenge a business view of what abundance means. 

  • Spirituality: Abundance is a rich metaphor in the spiritual domain. A simple search on Amazon or other bookseller website uncovers hundreds of books dedicated to the concept. Aspects include living life to the fullest, removing excessive emotional constraints, and creating greater emotional fulfillment. Book titles like The Abundance Book and Simple Abundance
  • Investment: Abundance is also a popular theme in financial self-help material. An array of authors, websites, and financial experts offer advice on increasing personal prosperity and financial wealth. Book titles like The Courage to Be Rich and Think and Grow Rich
  • STEM: Abundance shows up in science and engineering circles, often in terms of natural distribution, resource scarcity, and sustainability. Book titles like Depletion and Abundance and A Fuller View

  

Beyond business, it is fitting that the concept of abundance touches numerous communities. Across these groups, abundance is discussed both as a quantity (a surplus amount) and a quality (a state of fullness or overflowing). Abundance exists as an ideal, as a practice, and as an outcome. 

As environmentalist John Muir reflected on the natural world around him in 1911, he wrote a moving statement about abundance that ties multiple threads of the concept together: 

“One is constantly reminded of the infinite lavishness and fertility of Nature—inexhaustible abundance amid what seems enormous waste. And yet when we look into any of her operations that lie within reach of our minds, we learn that no particle of her material is wasted or worn out. It is eternally flowing from use to use, beauty to yet higher beauty; and we soon cease to lament waste and death, and rather rejoice and exult in the imperishable, unspendable wealth of the universe, and faithfully watch and wait the reappearance of everything that melts and fades and dies about us, feeling sure that its next appearance will be better and more beautiful than the last.” 

It is a fitting outlook on abundance for today’s business leaders, too.