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Scarcity Brain vs. The Comfort Crisis: Differences and Similarities

Scarcity Brain vs. The Comfort Crisis: Differences and Similarities
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How Scarcity Brain compares to The Comfort Crisis

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Last week, I ran an online workshop around my new book, Scarcity Brain. We had a killer crowd.

Many people submitted questions in the Q&A, but we didn’t get to all of them.

One person asked how Scarcity Brain compares to my last book, The Comfort Crisis. It’s a great question.

My answer is important for you, me, and everyone else living in our strange modern world, which can constrain us in ways we’re not always aware of.

Scarcity Brain taught me lessons about what we’re all capable of—and how we get to the next level (and the level beyond that, and beyond that, and beyond that, and so forth).

Let’s roll …

How does this book compare to The Comfort Crisis?

In short

The Comfort Crisis helped you expand the bounds of what you’re capable of by taking on challenges outside your ordinary life. Scarcity Brain will help you expand what you’re capable of by taking on challenges within your daily life, specifically by reframing your mindset and helping you understand the larger reasons you do the things you do.

The details

When I took on the Scarcity Brain project, I didn’t think it related much to The Comfort Crisis. I was wrong.

Our world is changing in a way that is often at odds with what has always made humans healthy, happy, and resilient.

Both books help you understand our most pressing modern challenges—what they are and why.

Both books reveal how to walk into the fire, ask big and tough questions, and take on challenges that change you and allow you to affect things.

  • The Comfort Crisis mostly focused on how our comfortable world impacts us physically and how doing hard things outside your ordinary life can lead to breakthroughs.
  • Scarcity Brain reveals how the modern world impacts our mindset and habits every moment—and how making hard changes inside your ordinary life can lead to breakthroughs. This is critical for your experience of life.

The same evolutionary mental hardware that kept our ancestors alive now often works against us.

Importantly—and this is one great revelation of Scarcity Brain—corporate and societal forces are using our mental hardware against us. This can limit us and push us into the habits that hurt us most in daily life. This has changed:

  • How we spend our most precious resources like our time, attention, and money.
  • Our day-to-day physical and mental health.
  • How we interact with the people we care about most.
  • What we believe we’re capable of.

Why we should focus on bad habits

In short

Both books admit that becoming a better human isn’t easy—nor should it be. But lasting self-improvement comes from forging your own path.

The details

Importantly, the challenges that lead to change must be the right challenges.

The modern world allows us to fall into a lot of bad habits. This could be overeating, over-drinking, overspending, wasting too much time online, or caring too damn much about what other people think of us—this list could go on for a long time.

We all have some bad habit we do too often.

But as a person who’s spent years researching and writing about physical and mental health and growth, I’ve noticed that the industry often ignores bad habits and likes to focus on building good new habits. Add in this specific food. Do this new nine-step morning routine.

But as I write in Scarcity Brain:

It doesn’t matter how much gas we give good new habits. If we don’t resolve our worst habits, we still have our foot on the brake.

That is to say, overcoming bad habits usually leads to larger improvements in our life than does adding good new ones.

To that end, the book looks at some of our most common bad habits today. The ones putting a hard brake on our physical and mental well-being and ability to affect things.

For example, the book investigates a habit loop I discovered and call The Scarcity Loop. It evolved naturally in the human brain and was revived by the casino industry in the 1980s, where it immediately increased slot machine revenues tenfold.

Then, it was co-opted by big tech firms and many other industries. It’s now being leveraged by industries involved in food, finance, work, education, sports, news, and far more.

There’s nothing better than The Scarcity Loop at pushing people into quick, repeat habits that can be an escape in the short term but harmful in the long run. We explore it and explain how to get out of it and many other damaging behaviors.

Challenge is a feature, not a bug

In short

Like The Comfort Crisis, Scarcity Brain asks you to do things that are challenging in the short term but massively beneficial for you in the long term. Like The Comfort Crisis, Scarcity Brain doesn’t offer an “easy (insert number-step) plan.” Instead, it gives you the tools to forge your own path because that leads to far greater, more rewarding, and longer-lasting improvements.

The details

All change involves some element of challenge (more challenge is actually a good thing … more on that below). In The Comfort Crisis, we learned that improving today requires embracing short-term discomfort for long-term, more fulfilling benefits.

That same story holds in Scarcity Brain, but it looks at different types of challenges and gives us the tools to find our own unique path out.

I don’t offer some hyper-specific “(insert number)-step solution” because that leaves many people out. All paths to improvement have commonalities, but they’re all uniquely our own.

I offer up the knowledge and tools I found through traveling the world, speaking to experts, and reading thousands of studies. Those tools allow you to forge your own path. It’ll be similar to others, but it will ultimately be your own.

The good news is this: By figuring out your unique path to change, you’ll get far greater and longer-lasting rewards and improvements.

In reporting Scarcity Brain, I spoke with some of the world’s best psychological researchers. They all told me the tougher the challenge we overcome, the more profoundly it impacts us.

There are good evolutionary reasons for this—it incentivizes future persistence the next time we face a big challenge.

Once you overcome one challenge well—by finding and conquering your own path—the next becomes relatively easier to overcome. It steels us as humans, changing us in a way that gives us more meaning and allows us to better affect the world around us.

All my experiences, trips into wild places, and conversations with the world’s foremost experts have shown me that change is possible. No matter how big or small. I’ve seen it everywhere

from the suburbs of Boston to the slums of Baghdad to the jungles of Bolivia.

Thanks for reading. As always, have fun, don’t die.


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