The mainstream approach towards opportunity is that it’s a very rare event, and it should be prioritized when it happens, maximizing any potential outcomes. While I wholeheartedly agree with “maximizing any potential outcomes” I do think there are a few thoughts worth pondering on the first part of the definition.
What Is Opportunity?
Very briefly put, opportunity is an event which holds a lot of potential. For instance a very promising job offer. A specific tax relief for moving in a certain country. Or even the possibility to actually talk to a person you’re very interested in. All these situations, when contrasted with the regular, daily flow of events, seem to offer a bigger return of investment.
The most interesting part from the paragraph above is “regular, daily flow of events”. An opportunity is not an opportunity in and on itself, it’s an opportunity only when contrasted with the regular flow of events. It’s an opportunity only in a certain context. Should you already have a good job, then no matter how many job ads you see, no one will hold a bigger potential. Should you already live in a country in which you’re satisfied with the tax code, then it’s irrelevant what happens in other countries, from this point of view. Should you move every day in the physical proximity of the person you’re interested in, then you’re always ready to talk to her.
Opportunity can appear only in a context of scarcity. It’s only when you miss something, that more of that something will seem valuable.
There are two ways to get rich: make more money, or lower your expectations.
From this point of view, scarcity, or missing something, is not a question of actually missing something, but more of wanting something and not getting enough of it. This is a very important distinction, and it makes opportunity management a whole lot easier.
Truth to be told, we can get around with very little in this life. I’m not saying we should all live like Buddhist monks, begging for alms and wandering around, without a house. But the vast majority of what we want in life is not essential for survival. It is important from other points of view, like comfort, social status, or other goals we decided we want to pursue. At the end of the day, we can easily find a place to sleep, some food and have access to basic health care.
So, the real struggle starts when we set up goals and strive to achieve them. Nothing wrong with that. I believe we should push our limits as far as we can, and learn as much as possible in this process. But the awareness that this is not a fundamental process, that “making it” is not a question of life and death is more important than any outcome.
Goals are tries. We try and see what comes out of it. Actually making it, actually reaching that goal, has way less in common with what we think we can do than we believe it has. Although we like to believe we’re powerful, we have a very limited impact on this world. We cannot control everything, we can barely control ourselves. So, when we actually make it, we should meet that situation with humbleness and gratitude, rather than with entitlement and pride.
So, opportunity management is ultimately a question of awareness. It’s knowing that some external circumstances somehow aligned with what we want – not because we’re so freaking important, or because we did everything by the book, or because we’re smart, or shrewd – and that alignment is a serendipitous event.
The keyword above is “serendipitous”. It’s something that happens outside our control, but it is, luckily, aligned with our expectations.
So when this type of opportunity arises, there is only one thing you can do: ride it. Take advantage. Maximize its potential. Use it as a springboard and consume all the momentum you can get. Dive in.
But know that it is just a serendipitous event, and receive it with humbleness and gratitude.
There is a caveat to that: the more humbleness and gratitude you generate, the more “serendipitous” opportunities you will encounter. But that’s a topic for another article.