My Story

Recognizing opportunity is the first step towards acting with accountability.

As you will soon discover, understanding your goals dramatically increases your ability to find and take advantage of opportunities which will help you achieve those goals. A perfect example of this phenomenon would be when I was fourteen, looking for my very first job.

When I saw a “Help Wanted” advertisement in our local newspaper, I immediately hitchhiked out to the restaurant which was looking for a new dishwasher. Being small for my age, the manager took one look for me and decided that I was too young for the job. I went home jobless and disappointed that day with one significant lesson learned: Opportunity is a gift which should not be wasted. I knew that if ever an opportunity like that presented itself again, I would be more aggressive in my pursuit, and be sure to accomplish my goals.

Months later, I heard some news which caught me by surprise. There had been a car accident, and as the news quickly floated around our small town, I discovered that a friend of mine had been involved in that accident. This friend also happened to have the very dishwashing job I had applied for months earlier.

Upon hearing the news, and remembering that opportunity is gift which should not be wasted, I hitchhiked out to that restaurant once again. This time, I did not approach the manager with a meek smile, hoping he would hire me. I walked right into the kitchen and I told the chef, “Your dishwasher won’t be making it in tonight, and I’d love to take his shift”.

I worked that night in the dish pit, and the next day I went to visit my friend in the hospital, and I said to him, “Guess what I did last night!?”

My friend asked me, “What?!”

“I took your job” I replied, excitedly.

Some people might think me insensitive for taking such actions in such an unfortunate situation. But I ask you to consider this: was there anything that I could do for my friend in the hospital that night? Absolutely not. And did the restaurant have to have a dishwasher that night? Absolutely!

Believe it or not, our friendship only got stronger from the day I told him I had taken his job. By the time he had made a full recovery, I was ready to move up to a bussing position, leaving the dishwashing position available for my friend to take over once again. We continued to work together for years, remained friends, and eventually we even went into business together.

So here is what I learned from this experience: Opportunity exists in every circumstance, and with a clear goal, these opportunities will become apparent. What I learned was that there are people who act and people who react. I am the one who acts, and it enables me to find everything I need in everything that I am given.

Upon reading this story, many of you will think that I am an opportunist. And the truth is, I am. I am not the villainous opportunist that many people picture when they hear such an adjective, the one who exploits other peoples misfortunes – I never benefit at the expense of others.

I am just a person who knows opportunity when he sees it. I am just a person who recognizes the advantages of any given situation, and I am just a person who acts when action is required. Being an opportunist doesn’t demand that you benefit while others suffer…it means that you can find a way to use the situation in a way that benefits everyone involved.

From this story, I hope that you can begin to see just how important it is to have specific goals: With the clarity that my goals provided me with, I was able to create a job for myself and preserve a job for my friend. At just 14 years old, I discovered the advantages of being accountable for my results and taking action to make sure I achieved the results I desired and my accountability allowed me to recognize opportunity and seize it. It is important know your goals in order to become aware of the opportunities which exist that will help you achieve these goals. This is true of EVERY situation. When I was 27, I realized that I was going bankrupt with a 1.2 million dollar debt. From the moment I realized my debt was a problem, I saw nothing but opportunities to reduce my debt. These opportunities had certainly existed before I sat down at my kitchen table that night, but I hadn’t seen them because I was not looking for them. I was unaware of my situation, and therefore unaware of the things I could do to improve it. That is why I never saw the opportunities I had until I was motivated to seize them.

With this story as an example, I insist that opportunity requires two things of us; 1. We must be aware of what we need from an opportunity in order to encounter it, and 2. We must act on the opportunity when we encounter it.

Again, we find our formula is applicable here:

Accountability: You are responsible for recognizing opportunity.
Action: You are required to act in order to take advantage of the opportunity.
Opportunity is defined as “favorable circumstance”, but I would argue that opportunity is “all circumstances”. Why? Because every circumstance can be favorable, so long as we have the mentality that allows us to recognize the advantages that the circumstance has to offer us.

So long as we can be aware of what we need from a situation, then we will find it. It is important know your goals in order to become aware of the opportunities which exist that will help you achieve these goals. For example, when I realized that I was going bankrupt with a 1.2 million dollar debt and I knew I had to turn things around quickly, my mentality changed.

From the moment I realized my debt was a problem, I saw nothing but opportunities to reduce my debt. These opportunities had certainly existed before I sat down at my kitchen table that night, but I hadn’t seen them because I was not looking for them. I was unaware of my situation, and therefore unaware of the things I could do to improve it.

If I hadn’t calculated my debt that night, when the insurance company called the restaurant to tell me it was time to resign my contract, do you think I would have done so without question. Absolutely, because I would not have seen the opportunity to renegotiate, thereby reducing my expenses. I would have simply resigned so that I could get on with the 50 other tasks I had on my list of things to do that day. But because I was aware that I needed to reduce my debt, I found the opportunity in a situation I would have otherwise thought of as just a time consuming task.

So long as we believe a circumstance can be favourable, then it is an opportunity. There are no “unlucky” individuals, only individuals who can’t see opportunity when it is sitting right in front of them. So believe that every circumstance is favourable, and you will enjoy a life which is abundant with opportunity. Every day you will feel “lucky” to be blessed with so many opportunities. But remember that you are the one who is creating those opportunities, and you are the one who is seizing them. You are not “lucky”; you are simply a person who knows opportunity when (s) he sees it. You are just a person who recognizes the advantages of any given situation, and you are a person who acts when action is required.

Acknowledge accountability (become aware of your responsibilities as an owner)
Set clear goals which you are accountable for achieving
Search out opportunities in every situation which will allow you to act in order to achieve those goals
Take Action – implement and measure your progress.
Now you can begin to see my reasoning behind the order of these steps. Opportunity does not exist before you set goals, simply because you cannot see a situation as favorable if you do not know what “favorable” means to you.

With a clear goal, you can begin to search out opportunities and act on them accordingly.

Let’s take a look at Character’s situation: Are there opportunities that he is missing out on, simply because he cannot see them?

Now that we have established the importance of goal setting and opportunity seeking, let’s get down to the fundamentals of business. Let’s take a long hard look at small business ownership, and decide which areas require your attention as an owner. Everything up to this point has contributed to the generation of a mentality, and a plan. Now let us discuss everything you can do to start taking action and start seeing the results.