By: Wayne Brown
Life can be a series of missed opportunities if we allow it to happen. They say “opportunity” only knocks once. Does that mean the knock is simply a single tap on the door or does it mean that “opportunity” only shows up one time in life? I think the former is probably the right conclusion in that we have to be listening and watching for opportunity. That single tap on the door just may not be heard if we are too busy running our mouths to pay attention.
The average person likely does miss a lot of opportunities over the course of a lifetime. Most of the regret people suffer is a function of the missed opportunities which they later recognize after it is too late to capitalize on them. Some are simple like that one time when that special girl gave you that tiny silent space in time to ask her out to the dance on Saturday night and you choked on the words. She started dating the captain of the football team the next week, married him and now in lives in Chicago in a large mansion provided by the wealth of her dead grandmother. One can only think of such and realize how much regret might be associated with choking on those words in fear of rejection.
Sometimes opportunity comes in the form of something that just sounds too good to be true. Apparently there is a fine line between opportunity and the scam. For those of us who tend to be of the “Doubting Thomas” mindset, we are always on the look out for the scam thus an opportunity which may be legitimate appears to us as nothing more than an attempt to con us out of something we already have. We had rather have the regret than be fooled by the appearance of the opportunity.
More times than not, opportunity also involves risk. There’s risk in everything to some degree for there really is no such thing as a free lunch or a risk-free opportunity. If there was no risk involved, everyone would be lined up to grab their share and the situation would fall out of the category of “opportunity” as it would have no unique qualities any longer…everyone would be doing it. Scams work really well because greed allows the scammer the “opportunity” to take advantage of those willing to take risk for a gain. You might say opportunity comes in all shapes and sizes, both good and bad, depending on who is capitalizing on it.
Opportunity also takes on many perspectives. When you are flying high in a jet fighter and the engine quits, the parachute or ejection seat you are wearing affords you the “opportunity” to abandon the aircraft and avoid the trauma of the impending crash. That opportunity is simply a choice designed into the functionality of the aircraft when it was designed. While the law requires us to wear a seatbelt while riding in a motor vehicle, that seatbelt also affords us the opportunity to save our own life simply by applying its use properly.
Sometimes, opportunity is about money, pure and simple. They say money is power and one of the reasons that is true is because when we have money in hand and available, it affords us the ability to take advantage of an opportunity when it comes our way. This might come in the form of buying shares of stock at an extremely low price when the market is momentarily down only to find that a year later we can get a return of triple value simply by electing to sell our stock on the open market. That ability to capitalize on the opportunity was made possible because we made an effort to have some money set aside just for such purposes. There was nothing about it that was a function of luck or the way the cards fell. It was a function of planning and of the intent to have money in light of opportunity. This may have required a sacrifice in some other area of life but it was a conscious choice. Very few people get rich by luck or accident.
One of my favorite definitions of the word “opportunity” is found in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary and reads as follows: opportunity is “a favorable juncture of circumstances.” Could that just mean that it is luck? Luck could certainly be a factor. We have the opportunity in some states to play the lottery. We pay our money and pick our numbers either randomly or by some systematic method we have evolved. When the results come out, someone may have won. If a favorable juncture should occur in the circumstance that all your numbers were picked then certainly luck would be a factor though some would claim that it was simply the system they were using. In other scenarios, we purposely do things with the intention that the favorable juncture will more likely occur. We go to college and complete a degree with the hope that a better job opportunity will arise for our effort. This is not luck but intention and the odds are generally in one’s favor based on prior statistics.
Of course there are those opportunities which never seem to happen that we tend to think of and wonder about how things would have been had they occurred. For example, what if Porky Pig had the opportunity to be a drummer in a rock band. Would his studdering affect his ability to play the drums at a constant beat or would he be constantly studdering starting just like with his words. Bit dip, bit dip, ca, ca, couldst be! But Porky never got that opportunity so we can only imagine the outcome.
Those who serve us in elected office in our federal government are met with opportunity on a daily basis to do some good things for the American people like reducing the size of government, cutting out needless spending and waste, getting the American taxpayer more and more bang for the buck. We might describe those opportunities as “missed opportunities” for they do exist and they do surface on a regular basis. But, just because they are there does not mean anyone will act on them as they are too distracted looking at different types of opportunities like improved ways to get re-elected to office. Opportunity can certainly be self-serving and bring and the greed in a a great many people, elected officials included.
Given that premise, it would appear that opportunity is wasted more than captured and used. Why is that? I have given it much thought and I think it is best explained through the observations of others. There have been many significant quotes on the subject of opportunity. Mark Twain remarked, “I was seldom able to see an opportunity until it had ceased to be one.” Napolean Bonaparte observed, “Ability is of little account without opportunity.” Thomas Edison advised, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” Actress Mae West humorously observed, “Opportunity knocks for every man, but you have to give a woman a ring.” Obviously, there are and have been a lot of opinions and quotes over time regarding the subject of opportunity.
I think my favorite quote or observation was made by Maxwell Maltz when he stated, “What is opportunity, and when does it knock. It never knocks. You can wait a whole lifetime, listening, hoping, and you will hear no knock. None at all. You are opportunity, and you must knock on the door leading to your destiny. You prepare yourself to recognize opportunity, to pursue and seize opportunity as you develop the strength of personality, and build a self-image with which you are able to live with your self-respect and growing.” What Mr. Maltz says sums up the statement I once heard which said, “When Opportunity knocks, the best thing you can be is ready.” Most of us would do well to give that some thought if we truly are serious at taking advantage of opportunities in life. One cannot sit and hope of being discovered a guitar-playing genius if one never makes any effort to play the guitar. Life does not work that way.
We see artists, writers, actors and the like who spend a significant portion of their lives preparing for opportunity to arise…to be ready. At times we hear many of them described as “overnight success stories”, virtual nobody types until their big break came. To some extent that is true in that the rest of us had not heard of them but it does not explain how they had already dedicated ten or more years of their life to that one focus and were sitting on the ready when opportunity arrived. Still, we see others who have honed the skills and talents who turn their back on opportunity when it arrives. They were ready but in the end did not want the opportunity and the price tag that it carried. Maybe it meant giving up ownership and control of their work…the price was too high. That does not make those people a failure, they just have values in other areas that causes them to prize those things of their lives higher than the opportunity for fame, wealth, and recognition. Life is about choices and whether they are the right or the wrong choice has much to do with who we are and what we want from life. It just may be that the juncture of circumstance is not as favorable seeming to one as it is to the other. As they say, “To each his own.”
If we are to gain from opportunity, we must first have the vision to be able to see ourselves following that path to that particular destination. That means we really must know who we are and what we expect from life. If we do not then too often those opportunities which we capitalize on just turn out to be a bank of empty promises that leave us short of the mark. Every fork in the road of life looks the same to a person who does not know who they truly are and what they want from the journey. Now is the time for all of us to find those answers for ourselves.
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