Friday, July 10, 2015

Opportunity knocks!

Is opportunity knocking?

  • How do we make the most of the opportunities presented to us? 
  • What do we do when opportunity knocks? 
  • And can you ever have too much of a good thing? 

These are some of the questions I've been thinking over this week. 

Of course 
you only need to read the gossip magazines to see that it IS possible to have too much of see a good thing -  many music and film stars fall off the rails and fill their lives with regret once they're rich and famous. Money doesn't buy you happiness, and instant fame comes with a cost, as many a former celebrity will tell you. 
"There is meaning to be found in the journey towards success."
In Malcolm Gladwell's book David and Goliath he presents the theory of Desirable Difficulty. This theory is that we actually need a healthy dose of struggle in our lives. So often we focus on overcoming overwhelming difficulty, but self made millionaires almost inevitably raise children who are less able to understand the value of money - there actually comes a point where too much money is undesirable.

Gladwell quotes an unnamed Hollywood executive, a self made man, who says this:

"My instinct is that it's much harder than anybody believes to bring up kids in a wealthy environment. People are ruined by challenged economic lives. But they're ruined by wealth as well because they lose their ambition and they lose their pride and they lose their sense of self worth. It's difficult at both ends of the spectrum. There's some place in the middle which probably works best of all."

There is meaning to be found in the journey towards success. Life shouldn't come easy, else we're inclined to take it for granted. Part of the reward is the toil, which helps us to be thankful for opportunities when they present themselves.

"Part of the reward is the toil, which helps us to be thankful for opportunities when they present themselves."

Yes, you CAN have too much money!!
I must emphasise that being presented with overwhelming opportunity is something of a theoretical question for me.

I've not had overnight success with my writing and music. I haven't yet reached millions. My phone isn't ringing off the hook with speaking requests and no-one's trampling my door down to read my stuff! 

That's not to say that it won't happen, it just hasn't happened yet - and in many ways I think that's a good thing. I don't want to end up like so many lottery millionaires, ruined by a good thing. 

Success takes many forms, and for me the big win is about being a blessing to others whilst preserving and improving my relationships with my wife and family. 

As I identified in my recent post Nine Ways To Be More Creative, it's important to "go long" - working for the long term reward rather than instant success. Part of that is developing your craft and honing your skill, and there are few shortcuts to this - it's about putting in the hours, making mistakes and getting better. Making progress through marginal and incremental gains, with the occasional step change. 

For me this looks like writing this weekly blog, seeing what does and doesn't connect with my audience, and building that audience through various channels. It's also about improving the presentation of my content, finding different ways to use it and developing the entrepreneurial mindset to go with it. 

With social media these days, you may be only one "share" away from going viral - my question is how you prepare yourself to make the most of this! When opportunity knocks, are you ready to open the door? I often joke with my colleagues in the office about my ambition to make a viral YouTube video that will earn me millions of pounds! (A pipe dream at this stage since I've not yet made any YouTube videos!).

"When opportunity knocks, are you ready to open the door?"
Putting in those ten thousand hours to master your craft can take a while, and a picture I found helpful in this regard is a fishing net. In many ways, I feel like the regular hours that I put in are like weaving my net. Each post, each connection, each improvement is another section of the net. The more you put in, the bigger your net gets and the more you can catch when opportunity knocks!

Are your nets ready?
I take encouragement of a story about some fishermen in the Bible. They're experienced fishermen, and they've been fishing all night without catching anything. Just one of those nights, but then opportunity doesn't always come when you expect it. 

Jesus tells the fishermen to cast their nets on the other side of the boat, upon which their nets almost burst with a record haul of fish! They need all of their net and all of their skill to haul in the catch. 

It's all very well wanting opportunity, seeking success, but if you're going to make the most of it you've got to be in the boat, plying your trade through those fishless nights, with the net you've made and with the skill to be able to pull it in in the first place! And just remember the theory of desirable difficulty - maybe there's a way to re-frame what you've already achieved and be thankful for that.

So how can you enlarge your net this week? And how can you refine your craft? Maybe you feel like you're not catching anything right now... in which case it could be time to consider casting your nets in a different place. 

Be thankful for opportunity, it doesn't come easy, and listen out for those knocks!


Thanks for taking the time to read Opportunity Knocks. If you've enjoyed it please share it with your friends on social media! Why not subscribe to The Potting Shed Podcast on iTunes for the audio version and much more (direct RSS feed is here). Please nominate my podcast for an award during July 2015 - press the big red button here.

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Tubbs said...

Interesting post. Opportunity often turns up,when you're not expecting it and you have to be ready. But sometimes you have to realise that however hard you try, it's not just meant for you.

Unknown said...

Thank you for writing this. Very timely for me, and I'm sure for many others. Great insight!

Unknown said...

Really interesting. I agree that many doesn't buy happiness and you need some challenges in life. It's making sure you are ready to rock and roll when you get any fab chances!! X #bigfatlinky

Luke Strickland said...

Thanks Sarah, Catherine and Mrs Tubbs - appreciate you all dropping by!

Babyfriend said...

Hi Luke,
I really identify with this post, especially the bit about spending the hours practising and honing our craft, and that each strand in the net is a connection that will, eventually, mean we are properly prepared and able to make the most of any opportunity that may come our way.
When I was setting up my website and blog I wished heartily that I could afford to pay someone to do it and it would just instantly be done, but am no so glad that I was forced to do it myself, with blood, sweat and tears (and plenty of cursing !). I am glad, because I now properly understand how my website works, know how to solve any problems that come up without having to rely on someone else, or wait for an expert to get back to me etc.
It is not just the practical side of things though, it is the fact that I have learnt that I am capable of much more than I ever thought I could be, that I am capable of finding a way to solve problems, whatever they may be.
The sense of empowerment and self confidence this is bringing will definitely stand me in good stead if opportunity does knock, because any big opportunity will be taking me outside, maybe far outside my comfort zone, so knowing that I have coping strategies in place is worth its weight in gold.
A thought provoking post, thank you,
Sarah x
Lets hope opportunity comes our way soon :-)

Luke Strickland said...

Thanks Sarah - yes the journey is squally more important than the goal... So glad you connected with this post, and I'm always grateful for your thoughtful comments :) Luke

Tracey Abrahams said...

I agree with you. Oppotunities should be taken when they come along, but sucess and wealth mena little to people unless they feel they have earnt it. #bigfatkinky

Unknown said...

You only ever regret what you don't do so even if you aren't ready and that opportunity comes a'knockin, grab it with both hands, I say... but the question for me is how to spot real opportunities from the read herrings....? #anythinggoes

Unknown said...

Really good and thought provoking post Luke. Maybe for the lucky few, that big break happens without real effort but I think the rest of us will have to struggle and claw for our due. Really though, when it comes to my blog, it's more a labour of love.

Random Musings said...

Love this, your posts always leave me with something to think about!
Thanks for linking up to #AnythingGoes

Luke Strickland said...

Thanks Debbie :)