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Seizing Opportunities and Value of Good and Bad Breaks

February 21, 2011

Seizing Opportunities and Value of Good and Bad Breaks

We all experience good breaks and bad breaks. However, they are not evenly distributed. Some people seem to get more than their fair share of one or the other. I believe that one of the biggest contributors to overall success, regardless of one’s share of good and bad breaks, is how one rebounds from the bad ones and builds on the good ones. We may not see the opportunities embedded within them, and therefore do not seize them.

John Wicker said, “Opportunities multiply as they are seized; they die when neglected. Life is a long line of opportunities.” My own experience bears this out. There have been times I have not seen what was before my eyes and soon the opportunity was lost. Sometimes I recognized them and didn’t realize how I could take advantage of them. This nearly happened to me on an idea I was really excited about. I did not pursue it because I did not feel I had all the necessary skills to bring it to fruition, so I neglected it for three or four years. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I could to it if I found the right partner. So I searched and interviewed people and found a great collaborator. This incredible and creative project is now moving forward and energizing me in wonderful ways.

Sometimes we need to think creatively to figure out how to realize opportunities and then take action. T. Jones said, “People do with opportunities as children do at the seashore; they fill their little hands with sand, and then let the grains fall through, one by one, till all are gone.” How many times have you done this, perhaps without even knowing it?

I prefer to think of missed opportunities and bad breaks as temporary setbacks. They only become permanent if we allow them to be. Somewhere within them is a learning opportunity and a positive path forward. Most of the things we value most in life we had to work for and sometimes over an extended period of time. I also believe in serendipity, which is most likely to occur when we are actively engaged in something, putting ourselves in places where circumstances and opportunity meet. When we immobilize ourselves, we lower the probability of serendipitous events. Regardless, persistent effort is usually necessary to turn ordinary circumstances or poor luck into opportunities. Samuel Goldwyn captured it when he said, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.” He also said, “I think luck is the sense to recognize an opportunity and the ability to take advantage of it. Everyone has bad breaks, but everyone also has opportunities.”

Helen Keller said, “When one door closes, another opens. But we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.” Sometimes we don’t see opportunities because we are looking the wrong way, or peering into our past instead of the present or future. Sometimes we might notice them but resist considering them or fail to see the possibilities they present.

Another insight is offered by Thomas Edison, who experienced one setback after another until finally breaking though with the invention of the electric light bulb and much more. He said. “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls, and looks like work.”

When someone had a setback, my mother-in-law, Shirley Kabin, a former dancer and choreographer, advised, “You need to dust yourself off, pick yourself up, wipe off your hands, lift your head, and keep stepping.”

Sometimes it takes more than perceptiveness to make the most from bad circumstances. Often I hear people talk about finding the silver lining in an unfortunate situation or after a setback. We should certainly look for it. However, there may be far greater personal growth and opportunity in creating it yourself. That is one of the great benefits of self leadership. It does however require initiative, constructive action, and a positive mindset.

Ask yourself, “How can I build on each setback and challenging situation to create a greater good, both personally and for others?” You may need to delve deep inside yourself to tap sufficient positive energy for moving forward, yet it’s the best way to recover and create a new silver lining.

Make your bad breaks count. Multiply the value of your good breaks. Think creatively to identify, seize, and make the most of the opportunities before you.

Steve Weitzenkorn

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