Years ago, I was scammed for $2,000. I bought into the wild promises of an online course. I was supposed to learn entrepreneurial secrets that would make me millions. What I got was a bunch of basic advice that you can find online for free.
It’s embarrassing. I should have known better. Success takes hard work, perseverance, and a willingness to fail. Anyone who offers a path absent these traits is only offering an illusion. Life rarely comes with such convenient shortcuts.
Looking back, there were plenty of red flags. But the biggest was the inflated sense of urgency. Every communication emphasized the need to act now or miss out. Sign up this minute or risk being left behind.
And if there’s one thing we can’t stand, it’s the thought of being left behind.
These scams play on our urgency bias. When we’re under time pressure, we feel compelled to act. And that overwhelming urge to act sacrifices our ability to make good decisions.
Scarcity and Urgency Bias — Two Peas in a Pod
“The way to love anything is to realize that it might be lost.” — G.K. Chesterton
Special Offer! Today Only! Act Now! When someone tells us we need to act this minute, unless they’re trying to help you escape a burning building, they’re likely trying to activate your urgency bias through a sense of scarcity.
It works because we tend to associate exclusivity with quality. Since things that are difficult to get are typically more valuable than those that are easy, we jump to the conclusion that if it’s scarce it’s better.
Scarcity bias also preys on our natural aversion to loss. We’re much more motivated by the thought of losing something than by gaining a comparable value. When a new opportunity is disappearing in front of our eyes, it triggers a heightened sense of urgency to take action. We rarely recognize this in the moment; we just feel compelled to avoid missing out. Dr. Robert Cialdini described it well in Influence,
“When our freedom to have something is limited, the item becomes less available, and we experience an increased desire for it. However, we rarely…