They say opportunity knocks. But how do we know when, or if, we should answer the door? According to the Cambridge dictionary, an opportunity is “an occasion or situation that makes it possible to do something that you want to do or have to do.” Sounds pretty straight forward. But it still begs the question, how do we know when an occasion or situation is a chance at success or a chance to fall flat on our face? I would argue that it doesn’t really matter because they are one in the same. Even the most spectacular of failures is an opportunity for growth, even if it doesn’t seem obvious at first.
We’ve all known that person who just seems to always be in the right place at the right time. Opportunity seems to literally fall into their lap. They’re living their dream life and prospering in ways that many people can only imagine. It’s easy to simply write them off as being lucky. The universe just seems to shine upon them. But the truth is probably a little more complex than that. It’s much more likely that the person who “has it all” is someone who is capable of not only recognizing opportunity, but acting on it when the opportunity is presented. It may be the case that the ability to recognize and act upon opportunity comes easier to some than others, in the same way that hitting nothing but net from the three-point line comes easier to some than others. But, like shooting a basketball, recognizing and acting on opportunity is a skill that can be developed, even if you don’t have a natural instinct for it.
Early on in my journey of growth and development, I was renting a room from a single mom who was in the middle of a nasty divorce. Healthwise, I was in pretty bad shape and barely able to work enough to scrape together the rent money. There didn’t seem to be too much opportunity anywhere. It was only when I became so miserable that I couldn’t go on any longer that I was able to see that the misery itself was my opportunity. “A situation that makes it possible to do something you want to do or have to do.” I leveraged my situation, the misery, to drive toward what I wanted to do, which was to create a life of my own design.
There are two ways to recognize opportunities. You either discover them, as I discovered my misery as an opportunity to create change, or you create them for yourself. I could have continued the way I was going, suffering, telling myself, “Well, I guess this is as good as it gets. I might as well get used to it.” In fact, for years, that was exactly where I was operating from. I had no examples in my life of financial success or loving relationships or even happiness in general. There seemed to be no opportunities presenting themselves to me, and so it would have been easy to throw up my hands and decide I had just been dealt a bad hand in life and my only option was to learn to live with it. After discovering that I could use my suffering as motivation for change, I kept my mind open to recognizing opportunity in places I might have otherwise overlooked or ignored. While training in martial arts, I often found myself on my hands and knees cleaning up the blood, sweat, and vomit of the black belts above me. I could have resented it with thoughts like, “What am I, a janitor? I thought I was here to kick some ass, not be an errand boy.” But instead, I recognized it as an opportunity to learn things like humility and service and to understand my place in the order of things. But I also set out to create my own opportunities. When I wanted to learn about spirituality, or psychology, or the world of business, I sought out people who were the best in their fields and I positioned myself to mentor under them.
When it comes to career, the best way to position yourself is to always be open to discovering existing opportunities while also looking for ways to create new ones. Take Doug, for example. Doug was a low level attorney with a big law firm. His vision was to one day become a partner at the firm but the road to partnership was proving to be long and hard, maybe even impossible. One day, while scrolling through a news site, Doug came across an article about an increasing number of pulmonary infections in a small town nearby. The doctors believed it was being caused by pollutants from a new factory that had been built on the edge of town. The corporate owners of the factory refused to comment about the situation at all. This caught Doug’s attention. He was sure he’d discovered an opportunity. Rather than take his idea to the firm’s partners, Doug set out on his own to interview potential clients and to research the medical findings. Long story short, Doug’s firm ended up filing a class action lawsuit against the factory owners and secured millions of dollars to pay medical costs as well as establishing regulations to eliminate the pollution. And Doug was made a partner. The point is, Doug both discovered and created opportunities for himself that would take him where he wanted to go rather than just sitting around waiting for something to present itself.
But opportunities may not always appear to be opportunities on the surface. Zoe had been working for a marketing firm for the last ten years. She was making good money but she wasn’t really advancing up the ranks and it didn’t look like she would be anytime soon. Her real vision was to start her own firm but there just weren’t enough hours in the day, and she was doing so well financially that it was hard to walk away from that paycheck and take a risk. Then she found out that her company was downsizing and Zoe was on the chopping block. The news came as a shock and her initial reaction was anger and resentment. After all she had brought to the business over the years, how could they possibly do her like that? The management team wrote her a glowing recommendation and offered to set her up with interviews at other firms, but Zoe heard the knocking on the door. Rather than wallow in self-pity or reluctantly start looking for a new gig, Zoe saw that this was her opportunity to venture out on her own. She found that the work she had done over the years had also fostered relationships with clients who were not only willing, but eager to throw in with her. Now the company that fired Zoe is no longer in business and her firm is going strong, picking up new clients everyday.
If you’re looking to make changes in your career, whether it’s moving up in the company you work for, or setting out on your own, it’s crucial to hone your ability to discover and create the opportunities that will get you there. Especially when those opportunities may come disguised as setbacks, unexpected outcomes, or even criticism around a mistake you may have made. It’s not easy to be told you’re doing something wrong, or that you need to improve in a particular area. Your instinct is going to be to defend yourself, or to get angry and take your toys and go home. But with the proper techniques and strategies in place, you’ll have the ability to take a pause and ask yourself questions like, “What’s the opportunity here? Do I trust this person? Do they have my best interest at heart?” If the answers are yes, yes, and yes, then you’ll find even the most scathing of criticism can be a golden opportunity to own your space and grow within yourself. As I said earlier, the ability to recognize and act upon opportunity is a skill that can be developed. It begins with learning to master your emotional state. Whatever emotional state you’re living inside of becomes a kind of lens through which you view the world in front of you. When you operate from a fear-based state such as anger, anxiety or resentment, it’s going to be difficult, if not impossible, to be able to recognize the opportunities that come knocking. And you might as well forget about creating your own opportunities because the only creation that occurs inside a state of fear, is one that you probably don’t want to answer to.
Our Power Series is designed to train you in the tools, strategies and techniques for recognizing when you are operating from a place of fear and switching over to a love-based state. We teach the science behind how the nervous system works and how you can use simple techniques for taking control of the nervous system, rather than allowing it to control you. We offer an extensive curriculum that you can engage with one of our Certified IM Trainers as well as weekend intensive programs where you can get hands-on experience with our tools, techniques and strategies with a community of like-minded folks. Click HERE to learn more about the Power Series and sign up today!