In my own opinion very few people can spot opportunities as they arise. And out of that group only so many have the capacity to create a vision to go from A to Z. And then out of that group only a few will take action. How many times have you heard of, or even spotted, opportunity and then immediately followed that up with “yeah, but…?” I bet too many. That “but” is always followed with a time constraint, a financial constraint, or a mental constraint.
This alone uncovers several points. How do you spot opportunity and are you born with it or can you learn? What causes us to immediately jump to excuses? Is it possible seize the opportunity in hyper mode?
How to get better at spotting opportunities
When it comes to spotting opportunity you either have it or you don’t from the start, but you can in fact learn. I believe that improvement comes from experience and desire. You also need prevention focus, and as research shows by Andranik Tumasjan and Reiner Braun from Germany’s TUM School of Management, it’s a complete mix to spot opportunity. This starts to tie back in to goal setting. Some people love it and some people hate it. To some extent, for everyone, it does work. Whether you’re writing it down or making a strong mental note, you are goal setting. You are then promotion focused.
What is promotion focus?
People who focus on growth of any kind are promotion focused. As stated in Psychology Today, when people “are focused on all the great things that will happen for them when they succeed — the benefits and rewards. They “play to win.” When people pursue this kind of “good,” we call it having a promotion focus.”
On the flip side to this, you can be prevention focused. Which as you could guess, is the opposite of promotion focus. It’s when you find reasons to not do something for the sake of safety or comfort. And that is what causes us to immediately think of reasons to not do something as much as why we would. And so you see, you can get into this vicious cycle of positive “ah-ha!” moments followed by moments of negative “yeah, but” moments.
So, how do we overcome this?
Get some experience
I have had the privilege of being both an entrepreneur and an employee. In my case, I was the former before the latter which is both a curse and a blessing. It was a curse because I had to struggle more than others at a younger age, but it was a blessing because I learned how to persevere and lead even though times of ambiguity. Either way an ample amount of experience was gained. By being an entrepreneur first, I believe that finding opportunity is a natural knack for me. When I joined the magnificent team at Uber this paid off because I could spot problems and solutions before others on my team which allowed us all to get to solutions much faster. With a company like Uber, you have got to be on your toes to think quick and deploy even quicker.
But with this experience comes a very valuable point — influence. As you gain experience you move up in the world, whether it is through promotions or even new stages of your business. With this comes growth for many others and that then comes back to influence. You will become a leader and you will have direct influence with those that you work with. And because of this you have a fire under your ass at all times which in return causes you to think so much faster, and therefore spot opportunities and solutions much easier.
You look to promotion focus for growth and leverage prevention focus as leverage rather than a reason to not take a stab at something. Which leads me to my next point, stay uncomfortable.
Many times we think that we must become successful so that we can be comfortable in life, and while that is true, it’s also false. When you become successful you actual live a life of being uncomfortable, it gets lost with the glam sometimes. You become engaged with finding “the next big thing” or even making sure you don’t let off of the gas and lose it all. And more so, it means doing things that you don’t care to do.
A great example is being collaborative as mentioned by Timothy Sykes for Entrepreneur magazine. Some of my very first businesses I was closed minded, I had this lone wolf approach that I could do it all on my own. And while I could to an extent it either meant I hit a ceiling on income or the business failed altogether. But once I started to network with like minded people I formed a collaborative network that I could lean in to as I needed to get through hurdles, or better, seize opportunities with clients or even new businesses as they appeared.
When I first started working for Uber in 2016, I still a lingering habit of doing it on my own because frankly some operations were a mess and like they say “if you want it done right, do it yourself.” And sure, that works to an extent but unless you plan on doing one thing for the rest of your life, you have to hand it off. And again, I leaned in to my team’s talent base to develop playbooks and standard operating procedures to help the org and business scale.
Again, this does not happen without experience and in time you have something unique which can allow you to consistently grow in work and in life.
Endless opportunities at hyper growth
Once you have some experience and a solid network, you can really take advantage of opportunities as they arise. What you have now is valuable experience blended with grit, commitment, trust, and ambition. Which is another recipe for success.
But keep in mind that opportunities are constantly coming and going. As Richard Branson once said “Opportunities are like sunrises. If you wait too long, you miss them, they do not always come at the perfect time, either, so you must be ready to seize them when the chance presents itself.”
Opportunities are like sunrises. If you wait too long, you miss them…
Which to that point, you have to be okay with missing a few opportunities, as you are with missing few sunrises. You can’t drive through life while zoned in on the rearview mirror, you’ll crash.
When you see that perfect opportunity come up, get to it. As a photographer would start snapping pictures at the perfect moment with the perfect sunrise. Have your network ready, have your plans ready, maybe even play games in your head with relaxing moments of how you could make something better. Or what would you do if you were given a promotion to VP at your company.
Thinking about these types of things is equivalent to thinking of your goals, which circles all the way back to the top with being focused. If it is your mission for this year or the next to act more on opportunity, then commit to gaining experience and above all — focus.