“What are you majoring in?” Todd asks her.
“Nursing,” she says.
He tells her that he has professional contacts who work at an area hospital system, one with a robust student loan forgiveness program. They say it’s a good place to work and that they’re treated well.
She’s young. Very young. I would be surprised if she were old enough to drink. And she doesn’t have the marks of coming from a family with money. She’s plainly dressed. Put together, sure. But carrying nothing expensive. And she strikes me as someone who is working a second side job in addition to school and part-time work study. It’s the tired way she stares into space but snaps back into focus when she catches herself drifting. And the small bags under her eyes.
I’m at a seminar for financial wellness, supervising Todd. My new hire. A trainer who specializes in saving for retirement.
And he’s staying long past his scheduled time to talk to the student worker Human Resources lent us to help with setting up and tearing down equipment.
“My email’s all over the handouts,” he says, gesturing to a pile she’s about to clean up. “When you need a job, I can connect you with my contacts on LinkedIn if you want to ask them about it yourself.”
“Thank you,” she says. “I’ll think about it.”
But I can tell from her weariness that her focus isn’t on graduation quite yet. She’s worried about next week’s final. This month’s rent payment.
But she smiles anyway. Grabs a handout.
He Coped Through Generosity
I had dozens of trainers who worked for me, but Todd definitely stuck out.
Our salary negotiation was disarmingly straightforward. He accepted my low ball opener without a qualm. I was almost disappointed that we didn’t get a chance to spar.
Todd was eager to tackle the most difficult assignments. Ones that inconvenienced him terribly. He’d whip up custom content without a single complaint. Travel great distances.
He could take a job with only half of the information, which was sometimes all that a client would give us. Where other trainers would balk at the uncertainty, Todd welcomed it. Thrived. And without exception, he did great work.
And everywhere Todd went, he was helping people, whether or not it would benefit him in the short term.
He’d grown up blue collar in a family with little to no resources. He didn’t have a college degree and had taken a sales job to support his young family.
“I hated sales,” he told me, as we had coffee after one of his trainings. “I had to find a way to survive.”
And that survival? Came from doing favors for people. Making introductions. It was little things at first, when he knew no one of consequence. He had a cousin who painted houses. Did a good and cheap job.
“I don’t care who you know. I’m not buying from you,” a customer would say.
“Okay,” he said, passing them his cousin’s name.
Sometimes he did favors off hours. Fixing a neighbor’s car, trying to use the high of a good deed to overwrite the stress from his workday. The cognitive dissonance of being a salesman.
He never did enjoy that first sales job. But one day, a favor he did to cope with it came back to him. He’d made powerful connections, and one of them owned a financial planning business. Paid for Todd’s certification. Gave him a job.
Todd was a natural. And before he knew it, he had more clients than he knew what to do with. Because he had a reputation of helping without expecting anything in return. Who better to trust with their money?
He Sold Better When He Didn’t Sell At All
There’s a reason he didn’t fight me on the salary. He didn’t need me to pay him. He taught because he enjoyed it. And yeah, it landed him the occasional client.
But in all the time he worked for me, I never saw him sell. Even when I popped in unannounced.
Abundance and Scarcity: Love Economics
The abundance and scarcity models both originate from economics, but polyamorous writers have famously applied them to love and relationships.
As Franklin Veaux writes in More than Two:
In the starvation model, opportunities for love seem scarce. Potential partners are thin on the ground, and finding them is difficult. Because most people you meet expect monogamy, finding poly partners is particularly difficult. Every additional requirement you have narrows the pool still more. Since relationship opportunities are so rare, you’d better seize whatever opportunity comes by and hang on with both hands—after all, who knows when another chance will come along?
Conversely, the abundance model embraces the premise that many, many opportunities for love exist. Veaux writes:
The abundance model says that relationship opportunities are all around us. Sure, only a small percentage of the population might meet our criteria, but in a world of more than seven billion people, opportunities abound. Even if we exclude everyone who isn’t open to polyamory, and everyone of the “wrong” sex or orientation, and everyone who doesn’t have whatever other traits we want, we’re still left with tens of thousands of potential partners, which is surely enough to keep even the most ambitious person busy.
The sneaky thing about both models is they’re both right: the model we hold tends to become self-fulfilling.
My Unlikely Abundance Hero
Whether it’s fair or not, a lot of folks think of polyamorists as unrealistic. Naive. Trippy dippy hippies. Anti-capitalism.
But Todd? He was as conservative and capitalist as they come. A pragmatist. A financial planner. But he lived as though opportunities were abundant. That things weren’t scarce or zero sum.
And the random acts of kindness he used to cope eventually became his success.