They have a habit of turning up when you least expect them. Opportunities can change your life forever, but you have to be ready for them. Some say there are more opportunities than ever before, but I think that depends. For some people, the opportunities come at a fairly infrequent rate.
The opportunity won’t plan to arrive or arrive to plan. It just will. When it does, you need to have your stuff together to take advantage of it. You have to have amassed the skills, training, experience and wisdom. You have to have a story to tell and be able to articulate your position. You need to be ready to engage, collaborate, trade, negotiate and sell yourself. That moment could be when you have a terrible migraine or a streaming head cold, but you have to do your best to shine, regardless. Some of the best opportunities present themselves when you are jetlagged, dispirited, demoralised, defeated, dejected, exhausted and at a low ebb. Don’t let that chase the opportunity away.
Bitterness and resentment are to an opportunity what garlic is to a vampire. You can turn an opportunity to dust by dwelling on past injustices, assuming the worst, being mistrustful of the opportunity and those presenting it to you and letting your accumulated baggage get in the way. It may be that previous similar opportunities left you burned and demolished. That doesn’t mean the next one will. In some senses, the law of averages might be telling you that you are due a break.
Of course, some people just leap into any opportunity and hope for the best, but I think having a solid foundation of capability makes the ride less random and hence not as stressful. Don’t forget that an opportunity mishandled also has the potential to inflict some damage. You don’t want that. On the other hand, if you have a foundation and you feel confident about that, then it’s like you know how to navigate the rocks and rapids. You might not be right all of the time, obviously, but at least you will be able to improvise course corrections, as required. You’ll feel more agile in the face of this new challenge. Agility can be decisive.
Let’s say, for instance, that an opportunity to display all your recent paintings comes to you out of the blue. Do you have all your paintings catalogued? Can you get them framed in time? Can you make the time to make the exhibition successful? It pays to have your act together on all of that before the opportunity arises. That takes work and time, but would you prefer to miss an opportunity simply because you had decided that taking care of your body of work was not a priority?
Some opportunities come too early in life, when you are ill-prepared and some too late, when your skills are past their peak, perhaps. In all cases, you can compensate for the timing. As a younger person, the antidote to inexperience is often self-confidence and a willingness to work damned hard, make mistakes and recover from them. As an older person, you can always brush up your skills, do a little training, practice or rehearsal, pace yourself and turn in a solid performance that belies your years. Enzo Ferrari didn’t even start his famous racing team until he was fifty!
Opportunity loves an optimist. Too many opportunities are needlessly turned away because the person receiving them thinks that they’re not good enough, they’re not the right person, they don’t deserve this break, the opportunity cannot possibly succeed and a thousand other reasons to remain fearful and inert. Those that approach an opportunity with an open heart, courage, good faith and the conviction that this could turn out spectacularly well usually get better mileage from the opportunity. Your mileage may vary.
We have to be alert to opportunities. They often come and go without us even noticing them. Sometimes, it’s only after the opportunity passes that we become painfully aware of what we have missed, leading to a lifetime of regret. I prefer to make myself look forward to the next opportunity, or to see what can be salvaged from the lost opportunity. Dwelling on what could have been can lead to madness. It’s very soul destroying. I don’t know many people that have not fallen into this trap, at one time or another. You cannot remake the past, but you can invent the future. Put your energies into that. Draw upon every piece of learning, every lesson learned from every terrible mistake, toward making the future better. You’ll make many new mistakes, of course, but that’s the nature of opportunity. It is seldom a straight forward proposition. There is often a price to pay or something to be sacrificed. Rare indeed is the opportunity that lets you move forward, while everything else in your life stays the same.
It probably makes rational sense to meet every day with your opportunity radar on maximum sensitivity. You just never know what today will bring. Even the most awful of days can, perversely, yield good things. I’m not saying that we should expect an opportunity of life changing proportions to arise each and every day, but it could one day. You don’t want that to be the day when you have convinced yourself that you are one of the bystanders and that nothing good ever comes to you.
May magnificent opportunities come to you and may you have what it takes to seize them and make them your own.