Opportunity Is Always Knocking at the Door
Opportunity is defined as “a set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something.” Opportunity is not luck — rather, it is the ability to make choices and decisions when we see these circumstances unfold, and we take the leap of faith without which we would not gain the value offered. In business, we are regularly faced with opportunities. Some are so invisible that we unconsciously make choices and reap the rewards without any energy or effort. Others are challenges that cause us to become paralyzed, only to see the opportunity pass us by like a fleeting bird.
How often have you asked yourself, “why did I not capitalize on that opportunity?” Or, “how is it I did not see the value of what was right in front of me?” Or, “how is it that some people see through the minutia and I am always left behind?” Even the wisest of business leaders and executives sometimes do not see the opportunity — you are not alone.
We are all in a business world that is “unforgiving.” The next recession is just around the corner. Our choices and decisions need to be right on “now.” We cannot overlook opportunities that may be a matter of business life or death. All of the great business leaders have consistently said that the one factor that enabled them to make great decisions was the ability to have a group of advisors who challenged them, held them accountable, relentlessly supported them when times were tough.
Why is having a group of business advisors so important? The answer is simple: They provide a broad bandwidth of perspectives that can make the invisible visible. C.S. Lewis said, “Two heads are better than one, not because either is infallible, but because they are unlikely to go wrong in the same direction.”
The ability to capitalize on opportunities may be directly related to our ability to manage our fears. In their book, Play to Win, Larry and Hersch Wilson present psychologist, Maxie Maultsby’s concept of the Four Fatal Fears:
- The fear of rejection (the need to be accepted)
- The fear of failure (the need to succeed)
- The fear of emotional discomfort (the need to feel emotionally comfortable)
- The fear of being wrong (the need to be right)
These fears are fatal because they can lead to intellectual, emotional, and spiritual death if they remain unconquered. More importantly, they immobilize us and sabotage our ability to truly see opportunities from a non-biased place when we are in this fear mode.
I would suggest that opportunities come at us so fast in this technological era, that we simply do not have the time to see them coming, to see them passing by us, and to see the tail of them leaving. Add to that our fears and the norms of our lives which take precedence… the time clock is in fast motion. We simply do not see these opportunities.
What does it take to capitalize on opportunities? First and foremost, we may need to find the best ways to slow down time. Have you ever watched a movie in “fast-forward” motion? I suspect if you are like me, you miss a lot of the content of the film, because it passed so quickly before your eyes. Now put the same film clip into “ultra-slow” motion. We see things on the screen that we did not even see in normal motion of the movie. While our brains did see them in both normal and fast-forward motion, we are simply not aware of those realities until we become conscious of them in slow-motion.
Unfortunately, as human beings we cannot slow down the world around us. And we cannot slow down the pace of the opportunities showing up around us either. Unless we ourselves become artificial intelligence, the pace at which we recognize opportunities will be limited.
To be clear, artificial intelligence is an area of computer science that emphasizes the creation of intelligent machines that work and react like humans… but “faster.” Its purpose is to simulate human intelligence processes with machines. These processes include learning (the acquisition of information and rules for using the information), reasoning (using rules to reach approximate or definite conclusions), and self-correction. It is about speed and taking away the human biases that may sabotage our thinking and decision-making.
So, what do we do until it becomes the norm that machines do our thinking and decision-making for us? How do we slow the movie down so that the invisible becomes visible? My suggestion is to follow these four disciplines:
- Be open to the possibility
Being open to a possibility is simply a new “mindset.” If we are not open to new possibilities, then we will not see the invisible realities behind them. Our perceptions will take over and we will continue to live in the past — or our fears will take over and we will live in a dark future.
Remember that everything is possible! The most important question is, “are we prepared to do whatever it takes as long as it falls within acceptable norms of society?” Every time we reach a point of not being willing to take the next step, we are narrowing the bandwidth of possibility. So, recognizing opportunity must start with the foundation that “everything is possible” and that our minds are open to it.
Possibility thinking enables us to reduce the chatter. Reducing the chatter reduces the noise. Reducing the noise enables us to go into slow motion. The invisible becomes visible. The opportunity becomes obvious.
- Step through your fears
Fear is simply an attempt to protect us from the influences of the outside. It is what makes us go into fight or flight mode when our safety is threatened. We bring these fears from the past, from the experiences we have endured, or from others who have shared their fears with us. Fears are part of the noise in our heads. If we can step through our fears and recognize that they hold us back from the unknown, we can potentially turn down the dial of the noise. Eliminate the noise and the movie slows down. Slow down the movie and the invisible become visible. However, stepping through our fears requires trust in ourselves and a sense of confidence that every opportunity is more positive then negative. Every opportunity has a message — something for us to learn and be aware of. By stepping through our fears, we open the doors to gaining the insights of those lessons.
- Let go of the judgment part of your ego
Judgment is the evaluation of evidence to make a decision. Ego is that part of the brain that gives a “person” an identity. It serves a very practical purpose for the physical interaction of humans. It comes from a combination of our DNA and our past experiences — events, learnings, beliefs, etc. We then use those events as litmus tests of what is happening in the moment. So, if we are to be open to new possibilities, we may have to set aside those judgments and beliefs of the past. We have to get rid of that noise in order to slow the movie down in the present moment. Is that not what we do when we meditate or practice yoga? We are eliminating and/or slowing down the noise.
- Live in the moment
Eckhart Tolle wrote in The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment, “Realize deeply that the present moment is all you have. Make the NOW the primary focus of your life.” He also instructed not to “wait to be successful at some future point. Have a successful relationship with the present moment and be fully present in whatever you are doing. That is success.”
What Tolle is saying in relation to recognizing opportunities is that thinking or living in the past or the future is simply allowing noise to get in the way of recognizing what is happening in the present. If we can get rid of that noise and live in the moment, then maybe the efficiency of our minds will exponentially grow, and in essence, the movies in our heads will slow down to enable us to see the invisible.
In this rapidly changing world of technology, political unpredictability, cyber space, and worldwide communication in the moment, successful business executives and leaders have to be listening for any knocking at the door. We have to slow our minds down and listen carefully if we are to take advantage of the opportunities that rapidly pass us by. And when that faint knock at the door is heard, we have to eliminate the noise and recognize that it is calling for a decision. As Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.”