We’re told we live in a world of opportunity, but what does that mean? Are we all supposed to be rich and powerful? Does opportunity mean freedom? Fame? Respect? Love?
There is no one-size-fits-all to a happy life. A career-altering opportunity for you might hold no interest for your neighbor. If you sat down with ten thousand fulfilled people, you’d hear ten thousand unique life stories. We each have different strengths, likes, and desires. Like the sculptor shapes clay, who we are forms our lives and contribution.
Opportunity isn’t something we can control. For one thing, it tends to come in its timing. There is no precise recipe to bake some opportunity up or a printed map to lead you. However, there are ways to improve your chances of encountering it.
Seem Too Good to be True? It Is.
A common pitfall on the road to opportunity is the get-rich-quick-scheme. These are easy to find on late-night television or as clickbait on the computer: “Make $10,000 a month in your pajamas.” We all know the low money down real estate courses claiming you can make money while you sleep, multi-level marketing companies with products that are ‘revolutionizing the world,’ and insider secrets that you should buy now. These companies do make someone rich… the person capitalizing on our desire to find the easy road. Some people do make money using these methods, but they work hard to achieve it.
Success in any endeavor comes with effort. Even a get-rich-quick-scheme requires dedication and work. There are no short paths to success. So why follow someone else’s idea just because it seems easy? When you’re on the path that excites you the journey itself is fun.
The Dreamer & The Doer
In her book The Energy of Money, Maria Nemeth describes a border between ideas and reality. Ideas move fast while the world moves much slower. For example, an architect can gaze at a flat piece of land and visualize an entire development. In their mind, it appears in an instant… but takes years to build.
Our minds move faster than the world can. Sticking with an idea long enough to make it manifest highlights the relationship between the dreamer and the doer.
The dreamer can see down the road. Possibilities unfold in their minds. They understand the potential of an idea. The dreamer can take something good and make it amazing.
The doer gets things done. The doer gets up each morning ready for action.
A successful entrepreneur, or entrepreneurial team, usually encompasses both.
Without the vision and context provided by the dreamer, the doer doesn’t stop and reflect where his or her efforts lead.
Without the rubber to the road execution of the doer, the dreamer gets lost in possibility.
Working harmoniously together, the dreamer and the doer make an unstoppable team.
Opportunity Favors Action
You may not be able to choose the timing or exact nature of every opportunity, but you can take all the actions within your power right now. Follow through on loose ends, build relationships, and get the education or training available.
During the almost two decades I sold real estate, I noticed an uncanny correlation. If I put myself out there through marketing and networking, the business would come. However, it rarely came as a direct result of my actions. Perhaps I canvassed a neighborhood, launched a marketing campaign and networked twice a week for two months. The opportunity would show up, but unexpectedly. I might be standing in the supermarket and make a connection, or receive a referral from an old client.
After the first few rounds of effort seeming to not payoff directly, I would tell myself that I couldn’t control how the leads came and should just relax and wait until they happened. Well, nothing would happen. Then, I’d get out there and do everything I could again to connect with new business, and leads would pour in from different random places.
Since that time, I’ve heard professionals from three different lead-driven industries share the exact same experience. There is a magic to taking actions.
One of the most successful networking programs in the United States, BNI, thrives on the wisdom of “giver’s gain.” When you freely contribute in your area of expertise, you create a momentum that can yield opportunities.
In 2007 I joined a local Toastmasters club. One of the new members had started a video production company and also joined BNI. To launch his business, he recorded the club speeches at one meeting a month, edited them, and posted them to YouTube and on our club website. Soon, our little Toastmasters club was showing up at the top of internet search results and there was a steady flow of new members. The club’s success became his success. Within a year of launching his business, he was highly recommended and busy. This was the first time I saw giver’s gain in action.
Giver’s gain is NOT people pleasing or being everything for everybody. It does include generously sharing your professional skills and expertise.
If opportunities didn’t require hard work and helpfulness, people wouldn’t have the strength and skills to maximize them when they arrived.
Opportunity Favors Self-Knowledge
Learning to be true to myself was a challenge that took many years. As a reforming people-pleaser, my natural impulses were jumbled with the desires of other important people in my life. My actions were water-downed, circular, and uncertain.
There are many ways to succeed, but to experience fulfillment requires we place ourselves where our heart wants to be.
When we are honest with ourselves about our values, skills, strengths, and weaknesses, we make better choices. Trying to fit our work turns into a contortion. Much better to let work fit us. That doesn’t mean we don’t change and grow… quite the opposite. However, with growth, you become even more yourself, not less.
Worrying about what other people think about us clouds our vision. To take an idea through the barrier of planning into the grinding reality of action, you have to believe in yourself and in what you offer. Self-assurance puts others at ease. They more easily accept your expertise.
“Just say yes and you’ll figure it out afterwards.”― Tina Fey
Opportunity Favors Self-Improvement
Some people say we “grow into” opportunity. A focus on self-improvement engages us in this growth. It also increases confidence, self-awareness, and self-acceptance.
Self-improvement can encompass any area of life. It can be pursuing a hobby, stretching yourself into a new experience, or earning a certification or degree. Self-improvement could be developing more discipline or more courage. It could be learning to speak up, or speaking with compassion. It’s really about the next step for you in your life.
The intent is to put yourself in the mental and emotional space to embrace opportunities as they come.
A surprising aspect of self-improvement is being willing to ask for help. It has the advantage of helping to forge new connections. As Ben Franklin pointed out, when you ask someone for a small favor, you endear them to yourself. Someone who slightly disliked you may like you more after doing you a favor. Over time and with mutual benefit, relationships with people in your field can become a powerful source of opportunity.
Live Your Unique Success Story
Success indeed requires steady effort, but grit and action on their own aren’t enough. When you pair the passion that makes life fun with consistent action towards your goal, the path can be as fulfilling as the destination.
We don’t have to bulldoze our way to the top. It doesn’t have to feel like rolling a boulder uphill. We can learn to ride the river or ski the slopes. Struggle is part of life, but drudgery is not. Sometimes we have to face our fears or expand beyond our comfort zone, but the product is more fulfillment and greater peace. Harmony with ourselves, with our surroundings, and with the people in our lives creates success now and later. All it takes is your commitment.
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too.
All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.
Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.”― William Hutchison Murray