Opportunity missed

One of my favorite quotes about opportunity is “Opportunity is missed because it is often dressed up as hard work.” To me, this speaks volumes. Too many look for easy answers, when success comes from doing some heavy lifting.

Along these lines, in his book “Outliers,” two of Malcolm Gladwell’s four traits of successful people involve opportunity. I should mention the other two are being smart or talented enough and putting in 10,000 hours or more of practice. But, the two pertinent to this discussion are recognizing opportunity and seizing opportunity.

A quick example illustrates this point. By the time he was age 21, Bill Gates was one of the top programmers in the world. Why? He had the opportunity to work on the mainframe computer after 1 am at the University of Washington. As Gladwell points out, it was recognizing this opportunity and getting up or staying up to program while others slept or had fun. He was learning.

Gladwell points out that even the smartest of people sometimes overlook opportunity. In a genius grant project, money was given to watch these geniuses flourish, but many of them were not successful. The reason is they missed opportunity. The ones who were successful either saw opportunity or had someone who brokered opportunity for them.

Some very smart people fail to see that they are in competition for people’s time, interest and money. By waiting until something is perfected or their schedule frees, that opportunity may be gone.

So, what conclusions can be drawn from this brief discussion. First, don’t be frightened of hard work. A man will never be shot while washing the dishes.

Second, keep your head up, network, ask questions and just be involved in your surroundings. Connect dots by looking for or asking about things you see in someone’s office or something you saw online.

Third, be prepared for these moments. Do your research on companies and people that you are meeting with. This will help in making those connections.

Fourth, seize opportunities. If you are driving and see an interesting shop – stop the car and pull in. This is a metaphor for business, volunteer or investment opportunities. Since the average person has had eleven jobs by the time they’re forty, take a chance on something that interests you. But, honor that interest and invest your time in it. These life experiences will build your wisdom.

Opportunities abound. Look for them. Seize them. Work them.

20 thoughts on “Opportunity missed

  1. All excellent advice. I am below average though. I did not have 11 jobs by the time I was 40. In fact, though I entered the workforce at age 13, I don’t think I have had eleven jobs in my entire lifetime! 🙂

    • Jill, you are definitely not below average. I am not necessarily advocating that many jobs. I had three adult jobs and three teen jobs. Yet, I mention this as a metaphor to not be afraid of taking a chance on something. As I mention later, I want folks to invest time in a new job, to find out what it is truly all about. Keith

      • I agree. I had the same job from age 13 ’til 18, and then 6 jobs as an adult, not counting one attempt at starting my own business that was an epic fail! 😉 A young relative who has a wife and 2 children and is working only as a pizza delivery person was talking to me a while back about jobs. I made several recommendations to him, including a Levi-Strauss factory that I know to be hiring. He looked me dead in the eye and said, “Grannie … I’m not gonna work in a @#%& factory for peanuts. I want more out of life.” I was stunned. I gave up talking to him at that point. Why bother?

  2. That’s a fantastic post, Keith! So so true! Too often we don’t recognize opportunities because we are too focused on our schedule and what doesn’t fit in is sorted out reflexively! As long as you limit your time window or are too much in need of fun time… which is ok… you are not receptive to see opportunities!

    • Erika, your comments are value added. We often think of doing things in some preconceived order. I will find a new apartment, then find a job is fine, but what if you see a “now hiring” sign. at an interesting job while looking for an apartment?

      You also reminded of the concept a social worker told me about “being present in the conversation.” An opportunity might be missed as you were not listening. Thanks for your thoughts, Keith

      • Exactly! Opportunities don’t show up like you scheduled it in your calendar. I am a true “step-by-step example”… lol. We need to become flexible and open-minded in order to flow with life. Because life will always bring the best opportunities when they are available…. let’s make us available for them too! I love your examples here in your comment and that again fits well with my Monday post regarding seeing the signs. You know what, that was a great impulse you gave me here! Thank you for posting this today… I think it was one of the signs I needed!! Thank you so much, Keith!

  3. Dear Keith,

    Your post is right on point!

    Another suggestion is for folks to be open to feedback. I had a friend who was trying to get investors to support her business with little success. I helped her by getting her to apply for a business loan on line through Lending Tree which she got within a week. She had spent years looking for an investor while she grew her business at a snails race pace.. Now she is going strong and doing very well..

    Hugs, Gronda

    • Gronda, this is a great addition and example. The willingness to listen to criticism and change is a too rare trait. In so doing, a person has an extra advantage. Keith

  4. Note to Readers: Think back on opportunities that you let pass by. I do regret some I let pass by, but I think I regret much less those where I took action. I once took a job for less pay than I was making. It was the best business move I ever made as I learned so much and was able to leverage it later.

    On more than one occasion, I fought like hell to save people who were being displaced in our matrix managed company. On one occasion, my boss had to tell me a formal admonishment was going in my file at the behest of leadership. I did not regret this and told him I would fight like that for you. It should be noted I was almost always unsuccessful, but we did save one and got one delayed a few months, so he could tell his clients he was retiring.

    By the way, the one we saved is still there nine years later and the one who retired was referred consulting work for several months after he left, by the firm that asked him to leave. When an in-house attorney asked why did we let him go as he is doing all of this referral work – I said that is an excellent question?

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