When Opportunity Knocks

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This month’s tip takes its title from the UK TV programme “Opportunity Knocks” hosted by Hughie Green in the 1960’s and 1970’s (and there have been many similar shows since, including Britain’s Got Talent) where budding entertainers audition themselves in front of a live audience with the promise of fame and fortune. They’ve practised and rehearsed (well, some of them) and they’re all ready for their big moment and their acceleration into stardom. Or are they?

This month I’ve been considering some business opportunities and they got me thinking about how we think about what we want and how it’s all too easy for us to ignore the right opportunities and pursue the wrong ones.

Opportunities could relate to love, life, career, business and generally come in two guises:

  1.  They look great and turn out not to be what I really want, or
  2. They don’t look so great and turn out to be exactly what I really want.

Think about some of the other popular reality TV programmes that are competition based. I wonder how many contestants are truly ready for the big time? Take Masterchef as example: how ready are the amateur cooks (and really excellent ones at that) ready for life in a professional kitchen? My wife used to work in one and I can’t imagine that if you knew all the ins and outs, the long hours in the heat and having to work multiple shifts in the same day that you would find it quite so attractive. Or how about finalists of X Factor? Do they know how unglamorous it might  be on the X Factor Tour moving constantly from place to place, sleeping on the bus and playing at one Butlins holiday camp after another? I don’t suppose that they’re earning the fortune that they dreamt of either.

Without our feet on the ground it’s all too easy for any of us to get swept up into a dream of glitz or glamour: it’s the perfect job, the perfect home, the perfect partner, the perfect business opportunity.

Then there are those opportunities that look like duds when you first view them. The salary doesn’t look great, it’s at the other end of the country, I don’t like the shoes he or she is wearing, it’s only for a one day workshop. I know from experience that some of those less glamorous looking opportunities often turn out to be the best. A company that says they only have budget for a one day programme turns out to be your biggest client after the first 18 months, the girl who didn’t like your shoes ends up as the love of your life, the friends whose party you didn’t feel like going to turned out to be the best night of the year, the salary of that job rose exponentially after the first 6 months!

We live our lives constantly (and mostly unconsciously) filtering the world around us, filtering in (paying attention to) the things that we think we want and filtering out (ignoring or disregarding) the things that we think we don’t want; and most of the time that filtering process will prove beneficial to us.

But what about when it’s not useful? And who knows exactly when that might be? Do you question yourself in case you are excluding (like in the examples above) something that may just turn out to be the best thing to have come your way even if at first it appeared like the opposite? Do you have somebody else (a friend, partner, colleague) who just sees things in different ways to you that it might be worth talking to? Should you delay making a decision for a day so that you can “sleep on it” and allow your mind to process it in other ways?

Here’s a joke that I once heard that illustrates the point so well:

There was a storm at sea and the lone sailor’s boat became victim to the ravages of the storm and sinks. Thankfully the sailor was wearing his life jacket but after some time in the rough and chilly water he is becoming distressed and is in need of help. Being a man of faith he prays “Lord, save me”.

Not 5 minutes later a similar sized yacht passes by and seeing the sailor in distress the crew of the yacht offer to pull him out of the sea. Through chattering teeth “No thanks” says he in reply. “The Lord will save me” and the yacht sails away.

Another 5 minutes pass and a lifeboat arrives, primed and ready to pluck the man from certain death but he once again refuses. Mustering his diminishing strength and breath he shouts “Go away. The Lord will save me!”

5 minutes more and a helicopter hovers above him. Looking cold, pale and at risk of imminent demise they lower the diver alongside him to hoist him out of the cold sea and into the safety of the helicopter and the chance of life. Once again the man refuses because “The Lord will save me”.

Just minutes after the helicopter turns back towards base a massive wave engulfs the man and his life on this earth ends.

As the man arrives in heaven, he angrily marches up to God and says, “Lord, as your humble and faithful servant, why did you not rescue me?”

To which God replies, “What do you mean I didn’t rescue you, I sent two boats and a helicopter!”

So when your opportunity knocks how will you be ready for it?