My dear friend and colleague Kalem Fergusson wrote a wonderful article on "Opportunity". And through his article I got fresh insights on My relationship with opportunity. I saw how much habitual thinking I had on opportunity - mainly that it was a "scarce" resource and it should be guarded and horded. What I saw fresh was, when I put down my habitual thinking - I am more present. When I'm present I notice A LOT more opportunities all around me.
I felt you that you might see something fresh from this article as well.
Opportunities… They’re something that we all love to run into, create and make the most of. But what’s really behind making the most of opportunities, most of the time?
I was having a conversation with a client last week, we’ll call him George, that I think really captured the essence of everything when it comes to opportunities. From how we see them, how we show up and what we do with them, to what almost all of us do unknowingly that gets in the way of making the most of opportunities more of the time.
George is an incredibly creative, committed and extraordinary opera singer. He had recently traveled to New York for an audition and we were talking about how it went. We’d naturally come to a space where we were exploring opportunities, and it was cool because I was just as surprised as he was when it came to what had come out of me in response to what he brought to the conversation. It was equally as insightful for the both of us.
I had seen that most of the time when great opportunities come along, we approach it one of two ways:
1) We don’t see the magnificence in what’s occurring for us because it does on such a regular basis and becomes so habitual in our thinking that it doesn’t look as if it’s an opportunity, so naturally we just go about life. And there’s nothing wrong with going about life, we just seem to miss the point of both seeing and/or creating something new when opportunities and insights seem so ordinary that we don’t notice them as much.
2) The second is what came up during the conversation with George. We had seen that humans often get into the habit of seeing seemingly miraculous opportunities come along and put so much significance on them working out that we squeeze the life out of them. We see something miraculous occur and we try to box it up for later to make the most out of it. We think, “Well, doesn’t happen often so I better make the most of it!”. This often results in showing up heavy, attached and needy, shrinking our bandwidth and capacity to really make the most out of an opportunity because we’re stuck working with our limited thinking. We bog ourselves down with everything that needs to be done in order to make the most of it, taking away from our natural creative state when we’re present. And because we’re not as present, we miss out on those other opportunities from point number one.
Throughout the conversation with George, we explored and referenced in both of our lives the times where we had tried to “make the most” of an opportunity that we thought was golden and that we “had” to make work. And then we explored the true nature of opportunity, and beyond our personal thinking about it, where it really comes from and how it really works.
We had both seen that almost 100% of the time, every time we had one of those “golden-ticket” opportunities and it hadn’t worked out when we thought it had to, once we had gotten over ourselves another opportunity would come along. And so on, and so on, and so on…
Like clockwork, opportunities are always showing up when we’re not trying to control when or where they come from, what happens, and the outcomes. And most often when there’s not as much stress and pressure on it, it works out a lot better, a lot more of the time. Then I’d had another insight in the conversation that pointed me towards how it all really works…
"Opportunity is like the ocean, and it’s not our job to worry about how the ocean works, because we just know, especially if we’re surfing… If you miss a wave, no big deal! Because you know that the nature of the ocean is that there is ALWAYS another wave coming, and there will always be until the end of time. It’s all impersonal, it’s just how it works, independent of belief, thought, cast, creed, gender, social status, etc… The ocean works the same way for all of us. It has no preference, it just is."
While some of us are more practiced in noticing, catching and riding waves, it’s all just a consequence of getting into and staying in the game, focused on a direction. Opportunities in life work the same way for us. So the next time you get taken out by, miss or fall on a wave… Who cares? You’re in the f***ing ocean, and you always will be, and it’s the same for all of us.
The great thing about that?…
Independent of our thinking/beliefs, actions, and consciousness… The ocean never changes. It just fluctuates, and waves are always present.
No. Matter. What.
So how might we best approach opportunities beyond loosening the grip and being present to them?
What occurs to me is that there’s what is our business, and what isn’t our business. Opportunities, how they come and when they come, isn’t our business, because we don’t control the ocean. Showing up, noticing the waves and responding to them, whether we catch them or not, is our business. To the best of my knowledge and experience, our business put simply is showing up, and as best as we can, responding to the opportunities when they show up.
It reminds me of a story that I first heard years ago through my coach/mentor, with reference to a man by the name of Anthony de Mello who had said something to the effect of,
“I don’t seek to help people anymore… I just seek to show up and rain, like water from the sky. Some are rocks, where the water may hit them and slightly break the rock down over time. Some are dry soil, where the water moisturizes and soaks the soil so it may be fertile later. And some are already fertile soil, where once making contact with the rain, will have growth occur”.
The rain doesn’t have any preference, nor reflection on where it lands, yet it always makes a difference. Even if it may not look as though it does to us immediately.
Now while that story as a reference point looks towards helping people, I thought that it was a great reference for how opportunity works as well, and in the same way.
So if making the most out of opportunities most of the time just meant to “Show Up and Rain”, whatever that looks like for you, what would be different?