I was smart enough to go through any door that opened. – Joan Rivers
We all have misconceptions about what our next great opportunity might look like. We imagine that single phone call — or email — that will somehow change our lives. However, I’m not convinced that these “big breaks” are always movie worthy. I would argue, they may arrive without a validating signal announcing their significance.
Successful people are often asked how they became successful. Many talk about repeated failures and perseverance. (I think we’ve come to expect this). However, if you listen closely there was a moment — an opportunity that was presented — that was not glamour filled, yet helped lay the groundwork. Rachel Ray drove 9 hours (through a snowstorm with her Mom) to reach the Today Show set with Al Roker. However, this was long after she had developed her idea for 30 minute meals. She first taught her concept at chain of local grocery stores.
That effort comprised her “big break”.
Big breaks may not arrive perfectly packaged with accompanying bows. They are often a single step that may not stand out as “the one”. (Trust me, I have nothing against dreaming — but opportunities are often not what we imagine them to be.) In reality, they are neither clear or concrete.
Like jazz music that may not have clear “edges”. But, with further exploration they may possess “flow”. By nature — opportunities require us to explore, invest our time and take measured risks. Career-wise they often offer experiences that round out our skills. (Pursuing side paths, for example allows us to explore opportunities without entirely leaving our current lane. You might even pursue multiple paths.)
Opportunities hold potential — not promise. They lie in experiences, built connections and perfected ideas.
The problem is that we often fail to see them for what they are.
Opportunities come in many packages.
Be sure you open all of them.
Have you ever said no, only to realize it was a missed opportunity?
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Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.