One of the biggest challenges we have in our professional life is the fact we tend to think too much about what began as a simple problem and ends up turning into something a lot more complex. Along the way we tend to think about every reason why we shouldn’t do or something. In other words more often than not we don’t take action. Whether it be in our professional career, the day to day routine of work or debating embarking on a new career or business venture the truth is we often fail to take action. The result is you get to the end of your professional life or life in general and you begin to reflect on all of the things you could have or should have done. Reality sets in and you realise that you should have seized the day, taken the opportunity as it presented, gone out on a limb or taken a risk.
The majority of people reading this article will get what I am saying and if you were honest with yourself there are probably between five and ten opportunities you didn’t act on that you now regret. I often come across people that fit three mindsets:
The don’t care about much, happy go lucky person
The procrastinate and complain person
The risk averse, over complicate person
The happy with their lot in life person
The act now ask permission later person
The truth is that we are often a combination of all five of those stereotypes without realising it and that’s because we fail to recognise the links that bind all five together or in which order they come along the timeline of our careers. For example, the “don’t care about much, happy go lucky person” will still procrastinate on decisions and often complain and in doing so will still find ways to avoid risk and look at simple problems as complex issues while still suggesting they are happy with their lot in life – but, very rarely will they act now and ask permission later.
“If someone offers you an amazing opportunity and you’re not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later.” Richard Branson
It is that last stereotype that is the missing link in tens of thousands of people’s careers and professional development pathway. To act is to take advantage of an opportunity or situation as it presents and being aware of how to recognise it when it does. So, with that in mind here are four ways you can recognise opportunity and better understand why acting in the moment can be so important to your future:
Nothing is ever perfect
When you come across an idea or opportunity don’t assume that it will work first time because the thing about them is they are not always fully mapped out. Ideas and opportunities present in funny ways through conversation or a thought bubble when listening to someone else or in a meeting. So, the first thing is to understand that you should never be blinded by what you identify as imperfections in the idea or opportunity. In other words, it is those very imperfections that, if understood, can turn a good idea into a great one. So, the first rule of thumb is nothing is ever perfect but by understanding where the imperfections are you can then marshal your resources and those of the people around you into mitigating them.
Ideas evolve, innovation is not stationary
The best ideas and opportunities are those that have the ability to evolve and where, across the product or service continuum, there is the ability to constantly innovate. For example, the Desktop PC was an innovation on a pre-existing idea that was quickly followed by the personal computer, followed by the laptop followed by the tablet. No doubt the tablet will shortly evolve into a new product. The same is true with a career in the sense that many of today’s jobs won’t exist in the next 25 years but what will happen is job roles will evolve. What you need to recognise is that innovation is not a stationary word and when combined with evolution you fast come to realise that events unfold as the continuum of opportunity does. In other words, nothing is stationary.
Timing is everything
There really is only one question you should be asking yourself about an idea or opportunity as it presents: “Is this the right time for this idea or opportunity.” In many ways timing is like playing cards for money – if you reveal your hand too early you may in fact lose the game therefore you have to be certain that while the idea may be great the timing may not be. The challenge is many ideas are left to other people because when then just move on without recognising that while the idea may not be for today it will be for next year. Myspace is the perfect example. As the pre-cursor of Facebook, the platform was designed as a social network but the timing was off. Individual consumers hadn’t yet trended towards online social networks as we have today. The company invested tens of millions and when it wasn’t working they simply became uninterested. Then came Facebook who’s timing was perfect and when people had begun to trend towards social online forums and networks. The biggest failing of Myspace wasn’t in the product it was the inability of management to recognise they were onto a good thing and didn’t recognise that there timing was just a few years off.
In summary, taking action is not necessarily about doing something and asking permission later but it is very much about understand how to recognise opportunity and when best to act. You can still be happy go lucky, over complicate things and complain a lot because the reality is each of those elements play’s into your ability to both create and manage risk. That is the continuum of opportunity.
About the Author: Matthew Tukaki is the founder of EntreHub.org, the global news organisation for small business, entrepreneurs and start-ups. Matthew is also the former Head of one of the world's oldest and largest recruitment companies, Drake International. You can download the full eBook "Ten Things All Job Hunters Must Know" HERE and you can also follow Matthew on Twitter HERE
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