“Are you a good witch… or a bad witch?” Glenda, The Good Witch of North Oz
I’m hot on a deadline here, writing a new pitch (I’ll let you know when you’re allowed to hear it)…
… and, as always with selling crap…
… there comes a moment when the concept of “opportunity” must be broached.
Now, never mind the pitch. That’s something for another post.
However… it occurs to me that, as human beings, one of our primary relationships…
… is with opportunity.
How’s your relationship going?
There are good opportunities, and bad ones. They almost never reveal their true nature until long after they’ve passed, though, so you never quite know what you’re dealing with when you need to deal with it.
Thus, you are left with relying on your instincts.
And your instincts about opportunity will absolutely suck, unless you’ve been busy exercising them.
You do this by recognizing opportunity when it knocks… and reacting to the choices in front of you. As you gain experience, you will note (and you really should be taking lots of notes along the way, so you can study your results) that you’ve jumped on a few bad opportunities, which either didn’t pan out as expected, or led you someplace you didn’t want to be.
And there will be good opportunities you passed up for excellent (excellent!) reasons… which later turn out to exactly what you really did want after all.
And vice versa. And versa vice.
The first rule, of course, is to learn to recognize opportunity. It will almost never announce itself, while arriving with shocking irregularity and without any warning whatsoever.
The only way to prepare for it… is to engage it, in as many forms as possible, and hone your chops in dealing with it.
Everyone has an uncountable number of opportunities that present themselves each and every day. You know you’re dealing with a zombie when they tell you their lives are opportunity-starved. It simply isn’t true. (More painfully, if you sit back at this point and have to mentally squint to remember the last opportunity that tapped you on the shoulder… well, you done been zombified. Time to sit back more often, and reflect on what’s going on around you.)
Consider: Tomorrow morning, you have an opportunity to wake up an hour earlier, and start writing that novel that’s been burning up inside you for years. Or start excercising before you get to work, slough off some of that unwanted beef. Or spend the hour googling job offerings in Paris, while getting your resume in order.
Nothing’s stopping you. Those opportunities, and a bazillion more, hover just outside your grasp… available, ready to cooperate, plump with promise.
If you were but to grasp for them.
Or, you could wake up early — say, just before dawn — dress in black, drive downtown with a bunch of tools, and break into the bank. Or murder your business rival. Or set a building on fire.
Here in Reno, just in the past year or so, all of those opportunties occured to certain people, who gleefully jumped on them. (Among them were a multi-millionaire, a lady with multiple suitors, and a college student.) (Sounds like a Gilligan’s Island reunion, doesn’t it?)
There are good opportunities… and bad opportunities.
Now, most folks have a weak (at best) relationship with opportunity. They quickly lose sight of the role of “choice” in every action they take. Caught up in the panic, or the enthusiasm, or their own sense of inevitability (“I didn’t have a choice” is a common refrain), they abandon critical thought… and do some truly stupid shit.
Again — how’s your relationship with opportunity?
Copywriters know they’re supposed to mention opportunity in every sales pitch they create. But most of the time, it’s a desultory wave as they roar by the subject on the way to the close.
Yet, if you study salesmanship… you’ll see that even if the word itself is never mentioned… the concept of opportunity plays a huge role in the best and most effective pitches.
But hey — let’s forget about potential opportunities for right now. Never mind thinking about what might or could happen tomorrow.
Think, instead, about what has already happened in your life.
How has opportunity shaped who you are… and you aren’t today?
Pick any period of your life. There aren’t really any hard categories here. I often look back on my own life as being cataloged depending on which city I was living in at the time. But then, I’ve moved around a lot.
For you, a period may be nothing more than the standard “ages” — childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, etc. All the way to geezerhood.
What matters is that you remember, and consider, how your relationship with opportunity sent you off in one or another direction. You jumped on some, avoided others. Mangled many, smoothly surfed a precious few.
Like Sinatra, we all have regrets. Some more than others.
It’s relative, of course. I have vast numbers of regrets… but as a percentage of regret-versus-“glad I did it”, I’m way ahead.
And that’s because I had an opportunity, late in my teens, to sort of wake up and “see” how my choices were affecting my life’s direction.
The details of this are rather grisly: I was a passenger in an off-road jeep that rolled near the top of a very steep mountainside. Because I wasn’t strapped in, I was thrown clear — sort of, anyway. The jeep actually rolled over me, and the roll bar hit my head with enough force to shatter my glasses… but not crush my head. The driver was buckled in, and after rolling the length of three football fields down into a gulley, was minutes from dying when we finally reached him.
It was my first brush with death — both my own, and the passing of a friend.
The shock wore off right about when school started, a few weeks later. It was my senior year of high school, and I was slated to be a student body officer, and a low-ranking member of the football team. These “jobs” had seemed inevitable, because I had never considered the idea that I had chosen a path that included them.
I was a zombie. I felt like life was something that happened TO you. I honestly felt I had been assigned a role to play. Nothing had ever been stated outright — there was no overt pressure from anyone.
But simply considering — for the first time as a teenager — what I wanted to do, rather than what I believed was “expected” of me, changed my life forever.
I mean… I had been inches away from death just weeks before. Life suddenly took on new angles, as if the lights had been turned on suddenly.
I didn’t feel good drifting anymore. I wanted a say in how it played out.
I quit the team. Like a good wannabe athlete, I hadn’t allowed “quit” into my vocabulary before. I thought the stress of struggling to attain status among jocks was something I was supposed to want to do.
And I had no idea what the consequences of just quitting would be. I’d never known anyone who’d quit a team before. (Cut, sure… but never quit of their own free will.)
Yet, instead of lightning bolts from the sky, I felt this enormous relief wash over me.
I felt… there’s no other way to describe it… free. Free to make a choice, and live with the consequences.
Giddy with newfound power, I then blew off my “duties” as a student body officer. Hey — it was 1969, and there were more… pleasant… opportunities presenting themselves, if you know what I mean.
I had ended my junior year, just months prior, as one of the “nice” kids in school. Full of respect for authority, good grades, a solid citizen.
And then, three months into my senior year, I was publishing an underground newspaper that ridiculed and challenged school rules… got expelled for refusing to cut my hair… got jettisoned from the short list for homecoming king (and earned the wrath of the socially-blessed set) by not playing by the “rules” when I hooked up with one of the cheerleader-types… and (best of all) nearly got into a fist fight with one of the athletic department mucky-mucks.
The coach had hate in his eyes. He saw my rebellion as a personal affront. It got ugly, too. I was that-close to getting permanently expelled. (Which would have meant instantly being gobbled up by the draft board, and hustled over to Viet Nam.)
The disasterous date with the cheerleader should have been humiliating, under “normal” circumstances. Instead, somehow, I weathered it just fine.
There were too many other opportunities popping up, all over the place, to care about a public dissing, no matter how hot she was.
There were, in fact, hotter ones on the horizon. (Non-social types, too.)
Sorry for the lapse into personal stuff.
My point is that when you look back on your life, there will be moments that were like crossroads — you either went one way, or the other.
And the rest of your life floated on the consequences.
I regret much of the open rebellion I manifested during the two or three years it took for me to work out what was making me so pissed off at authority. (And regret can be a good thing, too — I long ago worked hard to re-earn the respect and love of the people who got caught in the whirlwind of my “Rebel Without A Cause” period. I had the opportunity to punt on the “face up to the damage” stuff, and decided instead to suck it up and make amends. That decision, too, shaped me greatly.)
But I do not regret for a second jumping on what I saw as my first opportunity to live life on my terms.
I was pathetically bad at it, at first. I broke hearts, I insulted people who were only doing their jobs, I taunted danger. I flamed out, spectacularly.
Looking back, it’s what I had to do to get on the path that eventually led me here.
And, as I said, in the final tally, I enjoyed many more “good” adventures and experiences than I did “bad” ones. I was like a bull in the china shop of life, but eventually I started to appreciate the artisty of good china.
I had many friends, however, who were appalled at my willingness to dive into every adventure that presented itself. Only much later did I realize that their relationship with opportunity was fearful and stubbornly rooted in the status quo.
And there’s nothing wrong with that. Some of those guys are still friends. They don’t have a lot of stories to share about wrestling life into submission… but they’re good people.
The road less traveled is less traveled because it’s a hard trek.
If everyone jumped on every opportunity that peeked over their shoulder, the world would be total chaos. Somebody’s gotta drive the bus.
We all have a love/hate thing going with opportunity.
But the reason it resonates so powerfully in a good sales pitch… is that most people have never come to grips with their personal relationship with it.
I get to hang out with many of the top entrepreneur marketers online. And if you listen to their stories carefully, you’ll notice that their success started with a single, simple opportunity taken.
It might have been a book. Or a decision to attend a seminar. Or — no kidding — it might have been a simple decision to get up an hour earlier, and create their own opportunity by devoting some time to learning the ropes of self-employment.
Of course, the reason I know so many of these guys… is that I started teaching writing skills, and wrote “Kick Ass Copywriting Secrets of a Marketing Rebel”, which fell into their hands at some point.
And I wrote that damn book by relying on my very polished relationship with opportunity to help me out. I was at a period in my career where I craved new challenges.
However, I also had an opportunity to go hang out in Holland for a long stretch at the same time.
Back when I had a haphazard acquaintance with opportunity, I would have been torn over those options — slave over writing a book on copywriting and marketing… or go soak up another culture, deeply? How the hell do you decide?
But I felt comfy with opportunity, after a lifetime of looking for it, entangling with it, and studying it.
And it was easy to choose between those options.
Holland is still there, as is the rest of the world and all its wonders. And writing that book has allowed me to see much more of the world, than I would have without it.
Look back on your own life.
Spend a little time cataloging the moments that changed things forever for you. Not just the biggies, like divorce and getting drafted and earning your first bundle.
Much more critical are the opportunities that almost slipped by, and maybe went unnoticed even when you took advantage of them.
The little decisions. To do this, and not that anymore. To say yes, or no, with wildly diverging paths leading from each utterance.
Sometimes opportunity knocks.
And sometimes you roust it from the ether yourself, and create opportunity where none existed before.
We all have a relationship with opportunity. Good, bad or indifferent.
Love to hear about one of the defining moments in your life.
Hearing how other people embrace, shun or just deal with opportunity is always a learning experience. The horror stories are often just as instructive as the happy endings.
The comment section is waiting for y’all…
P.S. Don’t forget that the notorious “Bag of Tricks” offering at www.marketingrebel.com is going away soon. (We had it slated for demolition around now, but it’s gotten a slight reprieve because the replacement package is still being edited.)
No penalty for jumping on that sweet offer now. You can always upgrade, for cheap.
The “Bag of Tricks” was just too generous.
But it IS an opportunity…