The opportunity cost of not taking opportunities


Excuses and Self doubt

Someone was talking to me recently about the ambitions and their goals in life. I asked them if they had started working on it and they told me; “Not yet, right now I’m just a student”. I realised this person was caught in a preparation mindset. But it is not uncommon. When setting out to do a task it’s easy to come up with excuses of why you can’t start now or doubt that you can achieve it. It’s something that happens to everyone at some point in time.

The trap of the preparation mindset

But opportunities truly are a scarce commodity. In a book called Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, she writes, “Opportunities are rarely offered, they’re seized.” Too many times people are just waiting to get their chance and be seen and it’s usually because they:

  • Feel that they are too busy
  • Feel that it would put them too far out of their comfort zone
  • Feel that they are not ready yet and need more time

But in life, there are no perfect opportunities and oftentimes the best opportunities will come when you are least suited to take it. Still in those moments always take the opportunity. If you wait for the right time when you’re ready and the conditions are optimal for you, you may find out you waited too long and missed your chance altogether.

The myth of being unqualified

Last summer after applying for 40+ jobs and not getting a single callback or interview because I had practically no experience, I had all but given up on finding a summer internship. But one day in may after winter semester was over and summer fast approaching, I was ordering food online on a site called Skip the dishes and by pure curiosity and boredom I happened to check their careers page. Turns out they were hiring sales associates.

I had no prior experience in sales and was in no way qualified for the job, not to mention I knew with how long interview processes usually take; even if I got the job, by the time I started the summer would almost be over. But most of all I had no interest in doing sales. Marketing was my thing.

Basically, I had a lot of reasons not to apply. But still, I gave it a go anyway. I spent the next one ordering more takeout of course, but also doing a brief online course in sales and upon completion put the certification badge on my resume and sent it in with zero expectations and patiently waited.

I was shocked when I got the call for an interview. But now I have a new problem, I was going for an interview for a sales position, I was clueless about.

So on the day of the interview, I swiftly side-swiped the conversation to the thing I was most comfortable with; Marketing. As it turns out even though I didn’t have a clue about sales they were so impressed by my knowledge of marketing that they offered me the job anyway.

I went on to work there for 4 months where I would not only gain valuable experience in sales but in marketing too.

You’ve got to do the best with what you’ve got even if what you’ve got ain’t a lot.

It was from this experience that I realised that to be successful, not only do you have to take opportunities whenever they present themselves. You also have to go against the odds and create opportunities from thin air with hard work and determination. You’ve got to do the best with what you’ve got even if what you’ve got ain’t a lot.

Don’t be afraid to fail

That being said if you do happen to take an opportunity and fall flat on your face. Well, at least you know now what not to do. No really, everything in life is a learning experience. Thomas Edison, renowned inventor of the electric light bulb once said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”. You see Thomas Edison didn’t see failure as a sign to stop, but rather a sign to keep going.

In conclusion

So next time you see an opportunity or want one. Take it. Don’t wait for the perfect time or till when you’re ready And whether it’s getting a job your unqualified for or you fail miserably. You’ll have learned something new in the process and be better for it. So take that first step and make a leap of faith. You may not believe what happens next.

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