Have you ever thought about how many opportunities you’ve wasted over the years?
A friend of mine, Michael McCoy has and he’s thought long and hard about it. He writes about lost chances in one of his columns in the magazine Gardening Australia. Distracted by trivial things, he failed to appreciate the resources he was blessed with, including the wisdom of a mentor or the richness of physical resources at his disposal. He asks his reader to think about the opportunities that are currently available to them at this exact moment in time and encourages them to realise that those same opportunities won’t always be there.
This made me think and I realised that it’s still true for leaders who are actively working on the front lines today. It’s difficult to see unique opportunities when the daily chores of day-to-day life obscure our vision. Why are opportunities so often only seen in hindsight? Thomas Edison, an historical figure noted for his relentless search for opportunity, said it best:
“Opportunity is missed by most people because it’s dressed in overalls and looks like work.”
The truth is that the time for experimentation remains constant for leaders and must be present from the very beginning. In fact, it is when we are busily engaged with, and often overwhelmed by, work that opportunities commonly present themselves. It is in the early stages of an enterprise that mistakes are most commonly made and must be fearlessly met. Without the openness to mistakes, it’s hard to take advantage of benefits when they arise naturally. But, it is vital to recognise them when they occur, since it’s practically impossible to force events later on.
A lot of people wonder what opportunities look like. They appear in different forms. Consider these scenarios:
- During a free-flowing meeting, ideas bounce and grow as they are passed from member to member.
- Implementing new approaches to problem-solving yields creative ideas.
- As retirement approaches, rich-in-experience colleagues find time to share their wisdom.
- Committees drawn from a variety of backgrounds generate ideas greater than the sum of individual input.
- Casual exchanges at volunteer organizations blossom into unique opportunities.
- Mentoring a new team member leads to inspired collaborative creations and a new leader in the field.
Instead of regretting the opportunities you missed, spend the early part of your career learning how to recognise them. Even though your work load will increase, you will reap rewards from this early investment in your career for many years to come.