äpərˈt(y)o͞onədē/ - noun
1.) a set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something
2.) a chance for employment or promotion
Circumstances, as stated above, are what make up opportunity. But everyone knows that.
What most people don't know is how to identify that perfect storm of circumstances. Knowing when those circumstances are just right is much easier to say than to do. Spotting opportunities is one of those skills that has to be honed. Similar to sales, some people have a gift for it, and others have to work hard just to become adequate.
We don't really foster this type of environment in our school systems, so most people don't figure out how to do this until after school.
I grew up with a few entrepreneurs in my family, so I saw it in motion growing up. I unlearned most of that as I went through school and got a job. I never really had a mentor that explained how to see these circumstances as opportunities. Although I worked for someone that was very opportunistic, I never really learned how to see them. I just thought it was something, "he did."
Over the past year+ of my life I've been jobless, but not income-less. I've been on a path of transformation in which I'm hammering myself into the entrepreneur I've always pictured myself. It hasn't always been pretty, but it's been worth it. It's this path that's helped me open my eyes. This is how I've learned how to spot an opportunity.
A Brief Hiatus
The past few weeks I've taken a break from writing. Not because it drains me or because I don't love it anymore. But because I saw an opportunity.
I only have so much time in my day to work on personal works like the blog, ebooks, or The EG21 project. I had to put them on the backburner to capture this opportunity. When opportunities come along, you have to be able to entertain them to see if they're good for you.
Step 1: Be on the lookout and be ready to mobilize when the time is right.
If you have a closed mind, you'll be the kind of person who can't see the forest through the trees. You will miss many opportunities because you're too busy or you think something is not worth pursuing.
Think about how many people "thought of Google years ago" but never did anything to make it happen. Don't be one of them, do something about your idea.
The Perfect Storm
Without knowing which "set of circumstances" is better than others, we're not any closer to spotting opportunities. Here's where to find that magical set of circumstances that make for an opportunity.
Opportunity is at the intersection of our past experiences and what we are willing to learn.
Our experiences shape us. They give us our world view and the filter with which we dump everything. They can define us (if we let them). And they can give us an advantages, if we choose to learn from them.
Not everything we go through is positive. But everything we go through can be a teacher. There is always something to learn from our experiences.
In Giving to Gain, I explain what the experiences at my first job taught me. We've all got experiences like this and we have to be open to learning from them.
Step 2: Accumulate experiences and know your strengths.
The other cross-street is what we are willing to learn.
What we are willing to admit we DO NOT know. Subjects on which we are willing to be humble enough to educate ourselves. Unknown ideas in which we are willing to invest our time.
If I grew up knitting and one day I saw my friend's ferret was cold, I could have an opportunity. My past experiences in knitting would come in handy. But I'd have to be willing to learn how to make a website, setup ecommerce, and begin to ship my products if I wanted to capitlize. Then I'd have to learn to deal with crazy ferret people on the phone as customer service became more of a need. Then.... You get the idea.
Step 3: Be willing to learn something you've never tried before.
My past experiences would allow me to see that potential opportunity. But it is my willingness to learn what I don't know that creates an opportunity.
Irony & The Road Ahead
It's a bit ironic this definition says "employment or promotion" while all I've discussed pertains to entrepreneurship. Learning in an entrepreneurial setting is much harder than at an employment setting.
When you land a job, you (usually) have some sort of guidelines for what to do. When you get a promotion, you (usually) know what the new position entails. When you make a mistake, (typically) someone is there to tell you it's a mistake AND show you the proper way to do it.
Real education comes when you have to figure things out for yourself.
If you're going into the unknown for an opportunity like ferret sweaters, you don't know what you don't know. Which means you don't know what you need to be willing to learn. Which means you don't know when you're right or wrong, you have to keep trying till you get it right!
But that's OK. If you're willing to learn something to capitalize on an opportunity, you're already miles in front of the other guys.
Step 4: Repeat Steps 1 through 4 and watch the opportunities continue to grow larger as you become more adept at spotting them.
Chat with me on Twitter, I'd love to hear from you. Have a great week!