Do We Have an Inherent Problem With Sharing?

I took my kids to a water park the other day, and around certain areas, there are chairs set up for parents so they can watch their kids play in the giant toilets pools. Notice something in this picture? 2013-07-21 13.21.06

People have “staked out” their chairs, but technically don’t need them. They are somewhere else. So over 90% of the “community” chairs aren’t available for what they’re intended to do: let people sit on them. I think this bears consideration.

Do we have a problem with sharing?

There are lots of new apps and businesses built around sharing. AirBNB is about sharing your home or vacation place while you’re not there. Sidecar and other similar apps are for sharing rides. Breather is about sharing quiet space and/or office space.

But I think that while these kinds of opportunities are awesome, I’m curious how we, the people, are going to get with the picture. How will we shift from our scarcity mindset into something that lets us interact and share better?

An Owner’s Mindset on Sharing

There’s some great value in learning to share. Zack O’Malley Greenburg wrote a great article in Forbes about musician-and-entrepreneur Toby Keith, and the part that really struck me (well, the whole article was really useful to entrepreneurs) was that he made a move that turned out to be smarter than anyone typically would foresee.

Perhaps mindful of those precedents, Keith decided to share staff with another nascent label, Big Machine, run by an up-and-comer named Scott Borchetta. The singer bought a building in Nashville to house both labels. And rather than just operate like a co-op, Keith paid $400,000 for a stake in Big Machine that FORBES estimates remains around 10%.

That 10% stake ended up being a 10% stake in Taylor Swift. (Among others).

It was one of the great investments in recent music history. Borchetta went on to sign Rascal Flatts, Tim McGraw and, most notably, Taylor Swift. Now Keith gets paid whenever Swift does. “Toby’s a really smart businessman,” says Borchetta, who knows because “I send him checks.” How big are the checks that Swift generates for him? “I know there’s an extra comma,” smiles Keith, “if you added up all the money I’ve ever made.”

Consider that for a moment. Think about you as an owner, and as someone putting together a business. What do you own right now that you don’t need to own? What parts of the process, the system, the real estate, etc, are not as essential as you think? What could you share?

Take your towels off some of those chairs and you might find yourself in a much better position. runs on the Genesis Framework

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  • Eric T. Tung

    Maybe it’s a balance. The more some people participate in AirBNB, the more others need to stake their claim in the public space.

    • Chris Brogan

      Strange, eh? The world is twitching.

      • Eric T. Tung

        ::looks around for a wormhole::

  • Raul Colon

    For the past year I have been working on letting go of material things I did not need. I have done a pretty remarkable job eventhough this is an on-going process.

    One of the hardest things to give away where my books although I don’t read them again they just sit there and I think I might someday get back to them. Since I got back from Fargo, ND where someone mentioned in a conference the only reason they kept books around was because it made them feel smart that helped me with giving away books I could not let go of.

    I think we need to seek the root cause of why people get into the scarcity mindset. The biggest hurdle is finding someone that thinks like you and really wants to share. That balance of having everyone on the same page to take advantage.

    Made me think Chris … Loving the fact that you are sharing your thoughts again on your blog more often. It really helps me.

    • Chris Brogan

      Giving away things is a wonderful experience. I have few books (except those that people mail me). It’s been very rewarding. : )

  • Paula Marie Young

    J. Kim Wright and others are talking about the increasing experience of a “sharing economy” and the niche it creates for lawyers. We include that type of law practice in a concept called Integrative Law.

    • Chris Brogan

      Oh that’s interesting. What arises from that?

  • Robin Reid

    The sharing economy is happening, and we as humans are a little slow catching up. Our thoughts are sometimes bigger than our stomachs! Thanks for the insightful post.

    • Chris Brogan

      Agreed for sure, Robin.

  • David

    No those people who left their towels on chairs were just plain jerks, but what would happen if there were 10,000 chairs? Then their selfish actions would not have any real impact. Now crowd sourcing…that is another story, then people CAN make an impact because by sharing they are not giving up their “prime seat by the pool.”

    • Chris Brogan

      There’s that, as well.

  • Greg Barker

    Love your subtle reference to the Toilet. My mind runs
    towards the same thought when I see the colorful top band of the disposable diaper or Pull-ups peeking out from the swimming suit!

    I think we as a society have become hoarders, territorial
    and worst of all aggressive in defense of our turf in situations like these.

    • Chris Brogan

      True, Greg. I feel the same way. That’s what I think we might have to shake loose in ourselves.

  • Lewis LaLanne – NoteTakingNerd

    Jay Abraham is a genius at sniffing out underutilized opportunities/assets.

    One example of what Jay looks for when he walks into a business is best expressed with one of my favorite examples he talks about doing this with is what I call…

    The Story of The $50 Million Dollar Balm

    So back in the day, there was a company that sold this balm called Icy Hot by mail order only, that you’d rub and sore parts of your body and it would help ease minor aches and arthritis pains that called Jay in to help keep them from going out of business.

    The bottles sold for $3 bucks each and these guys were completely focused on getting more customers and were completely ignoring the potential lifetime value of the people who bought it.

    It costs Icy Hot 45 cents to bottle it and ship it and sold for $3 bucks. When Jay looked at the buying history, he found that around 80% of the people who bought, bought a bottle every month forever because no one had yet relieved the world of arthritis.

    So the business owner is broke and has no money to advertise with so Jay comes up with the idea to go to all the radio stations, magazines, television stations and he gets 1,000 of them to run his ads, in remnant space THESE MEDIA OUTLETS HADN’T SOLD AT THE END OF THE CYCLE, purely on a performance basis.

    They let the media company keep 100% of the $3.00 dollar sale in exchange for them giving Icy Hot the contact information to them so they could continue to sell it to them directly.

    Before the first month was over, 80% of them re-ordered and around 30% of people bought other products from them.

    So every time the media company sold a jar and Icy hot was losing 45 cents, they found they were making $28 dollars a year from each customer for life.

    They were trading 45 cents in order to get $28 dollars a year.

    They built the list to 500,000 people with this strategy with their $30 million dollars worth of free advertising and this led to Icy Hot eventually being sold in retail stores and the business being sold to GD Searle and the business owner walked away with $50 million dollars all within 19 months of bringing Jay in and him spotting a golden opportunity to share in the wealth with other businesses in order to further his client’s cause.

    I love it!

    The next brilliant example of sharing I positively cherish is something I learned from Third Tribe – The interview Darren did with Leo Babauta.

    And here’s the lesson . . .

    Free Your Mind By Having No Copyrights

    Leo doesn’t copyright his material.

    Anyone can use it however they wish. This has been one of his favorite experiments of all time – un-copywriting his blog and all of his books.

    He’s a big fan of open source software when you can use it, change it, and do whatever you want to it as long as you give them credit or keep the license.

    Before this, he had a problem with people coming and scraping the content off of his site and putting it on their site where they had adwords or other ads on it without asking.

    It was a huge headache for him to get in touch with these guys and tell
    them they were violating the Digital Copywriting Act.

    This led to a counter intuitive brilliant thought – Instead of fighting these guys, why not embrace them?

    Next thing he did was say to everyone was, “You can take my content and do whatever you want with it. Put in on a blog and make money with it. Put it in an ebook and make money with it. Sell it as a print book and make money with it. Put it in a magazine. I don’t care.”

    All of that has happened with his content. And guess how he feels about it? GREAT!!!

    Even though people are making money on his effort, his brand is getting spread further than it ever would’ve with just his own efforts. And his blog has consistently grown since he did this.


    He’s also gained a ton of goodwill by doing it, people appreciative of him doing so and thanking him, thanking him for being an inspiration. Even though people can copy the hell out of his ebooks, he also has noticed no drop in sales of them.

    Darren asked the question, “Doesn’t it feel awkward or
    weird doing this?”

    Leo said, “It was scary. It was definitely a scary thing to do. I was a full-time blogger. I was making a living off of my blog and my ebooks. And I no longer owned the copyright to what was keeping my family fed and a roof over their heads.”

    Leo sees blogging as being scary as hell – placing your opinion in front of the world to judge and let the material either be criticized or praised.

    And as time goes on, if you’re wise and mentally balanced, you build up thicker skin to not let either the praise nor the criticism go to your head.

    Being affected too much by either will throw you off the path to success.

    Leo noticed a wave relief come over him when his mind didn’t have to hold space for protecting his toys and hitting other boys who wanted to play with his toys.

    It was a huge release of responsibility that burdened his shoulders and psyche before.

    And seeing that taking this action only helped him, let him know he made a wise decision.


    That’s enough. I’ve overstayed my welcome but I want to thank you so much Chris for reminding me of such an important business opportunity that is so easy to neglect and forget about – sharing of resources!!!

  • bbradyinthenews

    genius – same thing happened to me at Disney Water Park last month with my kids

  • Kyle Williams


    It’s actually hard for me to think about what parts of the process I don’t need to own as far as my own web show goes, but this article has me thinking hard.

    Would sharing part ownership for the complete outsourcing of certain aspects count in the way you are talking about?

    Let’s say for instance that I begin to outsource all video, editing, or SEO work in exchange for ownership. That’s essential though so what would be considered non-essential?

    I guess it’s hard for me to visualize because I still feel very early on in the process, but I would love to share the workload with someone competent in exchange for ownership.


  • Patrick Coombe

    such a LOL at the parents who put their towels on their chairs.

    That is actually a really interesting sociology experiment that I would love to see some survey results of.

    FYI – I’ve seen the same thing at high end country clubs and middle class water parks.

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  • Arun Singh

    This is quite ironic to see that people are ready to share anything on Facebook, Google+, Twitter but as long as things are outside the virtual world, they do like boundaries!!!

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  • Automated Marketing

    Sad but true and this is reality, they only think of them self , afraid that others may take advantage, nice article. What did the owner of the water park do??

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