Most of these “Leadership Proverbs” I’ve just picked up, absorbed and imbibed by some process of osmosis along the way and don’t know exactly whom they originated from. But when I know I’ll make reference, and when I don’t it’s not that I’m ungrateful or that I want to appear like a genius. It’s genuinely that I can’t remember.
Opportunity Does Not Equal Obligation
Opportunities are deceptive. They often feel so urgent. They feel so important. And because they are often unique, and they come and then go, they exert a high pressure on us to say yes to them. We don’t want to waste them, or squander them. We want to capitalise on opportunities. When we say “a wasted opportunity” the phrase means an opportunity that we didn’t take. But that’s not exactly true.
A wasted opportunity may be an opportunity that we DIDN’T take that would have helped us move forward with what we’re trying to achieve. But equally a wasted opportunity may be one that we DID take but that took us away from, or distracted us from, what we’re really trying to achieve. It could be an opportunity that we agreed to that took resources away from an initiative that would have been a better use for them.
Opportunity does not equal obligation. Just because an opportunity comes up doesn’t mean we have to take it.
It’s all about achieving what you’re trying to achieve. Will this opportunity help us go where we want to go? If yes then we should think about taking it. If no then we should ignore it and get on with what we’re trying to do.
The problem with opportunities is that they’re often only available for a limited time. And this countdown often produces the extra pressure that we’re going to miss out if we don’t take this. But the fact that it’s a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity is totally irrelevant. It may be a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity to squander a whole bunch of time and money on something that will take you sideways away from your goal. Or it may be a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity to jump forward towards your goal in a big way. But being “once-in-a-lifetime” is neutral. It feels like you need to take it and psychologically it plays in your head like that. But “once-in-a-lifetime” is irrelevant.
The question is: will the opportunity take us where we need to go, or will it be a fun and interesting waste of time that takes us away from where we’re heading?
Opportunities require discipline. It takes discipline to stay on task and let opportunities that look fun and exciting and interesting pass you by because they don’t help you achieve your purposes. That kind of focus takes discipline and is difficult to maintain but is absolutely essential. There are a myriad of opportunities that come along, and the vast majority need to be ignored. The key is to be crystal-clear on what it is you’re trying to achieve and to pursue it with rigorous focus.
Opportunity does not equal obligation.