Earlier this year I received a call from my friend Helen who had been frantically job-hunting for some time. She told me that as soon as she had booked and paid for her holiday the ideal job opportunity came up. She was absolutely distraught, having to choose between losing hundreds of pounds and making herself available for an interview which had no guarantee of success. Eventually she chose to take her holiday as the fare was already paid and was non-refundable. Three days after her return she received correspondence from a large corporation about a job. In fact she was being head-hunted based on work she had done and reference from a former colleague.
Life is full of uncertainties and often things do not go the way we choose. We cannot package our wishes into a little box and pick them out when convenient; indeed we are faced with many unknowns and we have to make decisions the best way we can. Helen was disappointed because she thought she had missed the opportunity of a lifetime. Now she is pleased she did not get that job for the latter opportunity is a new role which carries a more attractive remuneration package and allows her to be creative. The first opportunity doesn't have to be the right opportunity! Consider the Swahili proverb: “To run is not necessarily to arrive”.
Don’t worry about missed opportunities for there will be others; what is important is that we recognise and take them where possible. Lily Tomlin has an interesting take on this: “Don't be afraid of missing opportunities. Behind every failure is an opportunity somebody wishes they had missed”. Sometimes we have to create our own opportunities – step out in faith, self belief and determination; that is what many successful entrepreneurs do. They do not always make the right decisions, in fact they sometimes make very poor, ill-informed decisions but they do not wallow in self pity or regret. Successful people understand failure for they all experienced it at some time during their journey. There is no point beating yourself up about decisions you have made; we win some and we lose some.
Too often we are derailed in our aspirations by detractors who focus on our failures and encourage us to stifle our dreams and lead mediocre lives. They attempt to extinguish the fire that burn within us, for deep down we always know that we can do better. We have to take chances and understand that not every decision will be the right one. Don’t believe the voices that highlight your mistakes for there is no perfection in life. Having self belief, passion and the will to succeed will carry you through. Don’t sit on the sidelines and allow yourself to be washed up because you are focusing on your mistakes or are too scared to take risks. Your past prepares you for your future; it is not there to deter you from progressing. Maybe you didn't finish college, or you messed up your relationships, had addictions, squandered your money or got caught up in crime. Quit focusing on the past for while there is life, there’s hope. The Spanish puts it like this: nunca es tarde si la dicha es buena (it’s never too late to do well). You still have an opportunity to make a difference!
Yesterday I was driving to an event and was relying on the satellite navigation system to guide me. I missed the exit and couldn't turn around instantly. The GPS system simply recalibrated and allowed me to capitalise on the next opportunity. I realised that not only did I have another chance to get to my destination in good time but I had also learnt an alternative route. Missed opportunities can be a source of knowledge; learn the lessons and use them to enrich your repertoire and add value to your life experience. We all get off the right track at some point, whether literally or figuratively but what is important is that we recalibrate and get back on track. Wallowing in regret results in wasted, uneventful, unfulfilled lives which, although exist, never truly live. Don’t worry about where you've been; think more about where you are going.
In business too we are faced with missed opportunities. In our decision making processes we grapple with choices which may come back to haunt us if they turn out to be wrong. To err is human (Alexander Pope). Business people must take remedial actions - not dwell on their mistakes but take steps to reduce or eliminate any adverse effect. Not every opportunity that presents itself will be a great opportunity; for example - business owners have to make decisions on who to partner with, which company to outsource to, which deals to pursue or accept. We cannot assume that everything that comes our way is for the taking for not everything that glitters is gold. We have to ensure that our business activities do not clash with our values and that any relationship developed does not bring our organisations into disrepute.
We are here to live our lives abundantly. Don’t live your life feeling unworthy despite what you did or what has been done to you. Forgive yourself and forgive others, for nothing that may have happened in the past is so bad that it must deny you your bright future. Look up and get up! Forget about addictions, vices, embarrassments, trouble with the law - bury them and take the new opportunities that life brings. Create your own opportunities too.
In Helen’s case the missed opportunity was just that – a missed opportunity. Chances are your earlier opportunities would have enabled you to compete with chickens; in fact you may even have become Mother Hen. How does that compare with the opportunity to soar with eagles?
If you are feeling broken because of bad decisions, past failures or missed opportunities, turn that mess into a message and remember: Opportunity knocks and not just once!