Opportunity missed – a revisit

Happy New Year. This is a repeat of an old post from five years ago. Its message is still apt.

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.

14 thoughts on “Opportunity missed – a revisit

  1. Note to Readers: I was watching the documentary about John Madden’s life called “All Madden” the other night. He noted an example that he preached. He was going to pass on an opportunity to try out football broadcasting after he retired, as he was not ready. His advisor said the opportunity is now, it may not be there in two years. He recalled that was the same message he gave players trying to make the team – the opportunity to show me what you are made of is now. So, he took the job and forever changed the role of the football commentator.

  2. Reminds me of a woman I know who worked at a career she loved up till two weeks prior to her death at 95. When asked what her secret to success was, she said when opportunity knocked, she said “yes”.

  3. I don’t understand why hard work gets such bad press. It’s a healthy activity that provides positive results. Rarely is the job itself, that miserable. Except, well, I guess Mike Rowe did find some jobs I don’t think I could do. But he certainly took the opportunity to make something from them.😊

    • Rose, she or he’s a hardworker is quite the compliment. I know one’s colleagues and team members expect that from you. Mike Rowe did engage in a few very “dirty jobs.” We loved watching that show. Keith

  4. Fantastic post and those 4 points are a guide to success. If we are not afraid of hard work and investing our free time (whenever necessary) opportunities are created and they will come. And once they are there they will be seen. If you invest so much you won’t miss them. There is still a little trap for some to take the opportunity when they are in kind of a shock when it suddenly arrives. However, following the points you mentioned from the book may be the recipe to success, Keith.

    • Thanks Erika. I think you are right about sudden opportunity being shocking and making one slow to react. And, some folks may want to take advantage of a newcomer, so some caution is wise when offered something too soon. So, charging in without some contemplation may be rash. Yet, if you do the other things, taken on something might get you noticed for a better opportunity. Someone who doesn’t flinch at tough jobs, is someone worth having on your team. Keith

      • PS – Erika, I was also thinking about General George Patton’s famous line about waiting for the perfect plan, “A good plan today will beat a perfect plan tomorrow.” So, seize the day, so to speak,

      • Indeed, it depends. Thinking twice ican be more reasonable than heading blindly into the abyss. True, someone who is used to taking the rocky road is never afraid of facing difficulties. They know that there are only few who take them which gives them an advantage plus makes them much more experienced.

  5. Note to Readers II: The first chapter of “Outliers” is devoted to The Beatles. Why? They were not good enough musicians to be recorded yet, so a record producer sent them to Hamburg to play more. They played seven shows a day for six days a week. They had to play new material or would drive themselves crazy. So, they got better. In this case, the opportunity was forced upon them if they wanted a record contract. But, they did take it and indeed made it.

  6. Very wise words Keith, which in turn gave rise to very worthy comments from contributors, which itself is encouraging.
    Folk should not be afraid of their first plan not working either, or their second, third and so forth.
    One of my favourite quotes is from Edison:
    ‘I have not failed, I have merely found 10,000 ways which did not work’

    • Roger, thanks. Great example with Edison. In the book “Built to Last” of excellent performing companies that dwarfed their best competitors, many of them failed with initial products. But, they built a company that valued and measured the efforts and eventually succeeded. Keith

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