Perusing the Web the other day, I found this quote:
“…Opportunities! Every life is full of them. Every newspaper article is an opportunity. Every client is an opportunity. Every sermon is an opportunity. Every business transaction.”
Now that’s music to my ears!
The quote comes from Orison Swett Marden. Maybe you’ve heard of him. Born in New Hampshire, he lived from the mid-1800s to the 1920s and is considered by many to be the “grandfather” of inspirational, self-help literature, composing dozens of books and pamphlets in his lifetime.
How does opportunity show up in your life? Do you create opportunity, or do you wait for it to come your way? Are you able to recognize opportunity when it’s right in front of you?
When we’re young, it seems as though everything is an opportunity. Everything is new, untested, unknown, just a lot of low hanging bananas ripe for the picking. We have few personal and professional ties. With seemingly nothing to lose, and everything to gain, it’s easy for us to drop everything and pull up stakes to take advantage of whatever comes our way: going to college far from home, taking that always-talked-about cross country road trip, diving into your first real job with gusto, or just going out for drinks with friends after work (who knows who you might meet?).
As we get older, though, it’s as though we start to put blinders on, slowly blinding us to opportunities. Maybe it’s because we start being more cautious. After all, the more we have, the more there is to lose, right? Spontaneity gives way to deliberateness. The opportunities have to be more obvious than ever for us even to recognize them, and then they need to be nearly a sure bet before we even consider acting on them.
As for those opportunities that don’t seem to fit into the neat little plan each of us has for how we want our lives to unfold, we just shrug our shoulders and carry on, ignoring them. We keep our heads down and our noses to the grindstone.
I wonder how many opportunities each of us has missed along the way. I wonder how many I have missed along the way—and I like to think I keep my eyes pretty wide open all the time!
Here are some red flags that you might have opportunity blinders on:
- Do you often wonder, “Why does that guy (or gal) have all the luck? What about me?” Chances are, that other guy or gal is more open to possibility and not afraid to “go for it” on occasion. That’s how some guy in his garage comes up with a better mousetrap, or the nerdy guy you went to high school with ends up being the heartthrob on your favorite TV show. They looked for opportunity, recognized it, and went for it. They did not sit back and wait.
- Does your job feel like it’s at a dead end, as though you’ve hit the ceiling and there’s nowhere for you to go? Maybe the Universe is trying to tell you a change of scenery is in order. Maybe it’s time to take a class, learn a new skill, ask your boss about professional development opportunities, or simply find a new job.
- Does your social life feel stagnant? Friends and familiarity are nice, but do you frequent the same places all the time and do the same things? You probably even order the same 1 or 2 things off the menu, too. Spice it up. New social settings can open up a whole world of new opportunities, from making new friends to enjoying new favorite foods
- Do you often wonder, “What if?” If so, that means you’ve probably recognized plenty of opportunities over the years, but for whatever reason failed to act on them. Maybe it was fear of the unknown or fear of failure (or even success), or maybe you simply lacked the ambition or drive to try something new. Go out on a limb every now and then. I’m not suggested doing anything reckless, but the old saying “Nothing ventured, nothing gained,” still carries a lot of weight with me.
Look back over the past 5, 10, 15, or more years. Think about those obvious opportunities, such as meeting your spouse or significant other, your job, building or buying your home, having kids, etc. You get the picture. Where would you be now if you had not taken those chances when they presented themselves?
Now dig deeper.
What other opportunities aren’t quite so obvious, but there nonetheless—a colleague at work who wants to be friends, following up on a business lead, joining a networking group, attending a church social, taking that cooking class you always wanted to take, getting up the nerve to ask the girl (or guy) of your dreams out?
Don’t let life pass you by so that one day you wake up and wonder where it all went and what it all meant. It’s time to take the opportunity blinders off. The possibilities—just like the opportunities—are endless.
“At the end of the day, let there be no excuses, no explanations, no regrets.” (Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free)