“Opportunity is often difficult to recognize; we usually expect it to beckon us with beepers and billboards.”
-William Arthur Ward
Late one evening I came home and saw an instant message notification – “Hey Sid! It’s great to see you blogging again – I really like your articles, and the way you research them.” It was Luciano from Litemind – one of my favorite writers, and a guy whose work and opinion I respect immensely. I was excited – until I realized the message was hours old, since I hadn’t seen it while I was at work.
From that brief instant message though, some amazing things have happened…
From Mutual Readers to Friends
“Movement creates inspiration, not the other way around.”
– Luciano Passuello, Imperfect Start
I had long been a fan of Litemind, and had no idea that Luciano read my site. I was flattered and sent him a message thanking him for the comment and mentioning that I wasn’t often around on Facebook. From that we started talking about different ideas we were kicking around and brainstorming for new articles, and, along with Alec Satin, started a mastermind group.
That mastermind group has been phenomenal for my personal productivity – not just in terms of ideas for articles, but in achieving goals in other aspects of my life as well. It is no exaggeration to say that in the hundreds of conversations and emails back and forth we’ve had, I’ve probably received thousands of dollars of help and mentoring from these two.
And it all started with a casual conversation between a couple of people – but we kept the communication open, and good things started happening.
A key point to note though, is the situation I was presented with didn’t at all look like the opportunity it would turn into.
I’d like to give you a few more examples of how simple things can balloon into huge opportunities – you just have to look for them.
Hanging out With Leo From Zen Habits
Most readers know I’m a huge fan of Leo Babauta. I often mention his books and how they’ve shaped my thinking, the most recent being The Simple Guide to a Minimalist Life. What many readers may not know is I was lucky enough to meet Leo once when he was visiting Hawaii.
I noticed he mentioned that he was coming out here for the Honolulu Marathon, so I reached out to him to see what his plans were. One thing led to another, and I organized a casual meetup with a few fellow Zen Habits fans.
In a small restaurant down the street from the University of Hawaii, Leo talked with us about everything from blogging to nutrition to marathon training to politics as we munched on gyros and greek salads. He was incredibly gracious, knowledgeable, and a fun guy to talk to.
It was an opportunity few bloggers have had, and I think it was very kind of him to spend as much time with us as he did. We initially planned on getting together for just an hour or two, depending on how his schedule worked out, but he ended up staying and speaking with us for something like four hours.
He even wrote about it on Zen Habits.
Some people have asked me what I got out of it, and why I organized it – what was my motive? There was no ulterior motive. Meeting up and hanging out was the motive.
I never thought of organizing a meet up with Leo as work.
Organizing the meetup and getting to chat with Leo was an opportunity.
168 Hours by Laura Vanderkam
One of the most exciting things that’s happened in the past couple weeks is the book 168 Hours came out. The book itself is amazing – it was an instant hit on Amazon, Laura has been all over the media and the reviews have been very positive.
What makes it even more exciting for me is I’m in it! There’s a chapter about how individuals are outsourcing parts of their lives, and it opens with my story. I mentioned the book previously in my article You Have More Time Than You Think.
I loved the book the first time I read it, even before I got to the section I was in. However, I would probably have never heard about the book, spoken to Laura or been a part of the project if it wasn’t for being open to the opportunity.
How did I get interviewed and included in the book? I keep an eye out for authors who are looking for sources for magazine articles, books, etc – and when I noticed somebody had put out a call for people who manage to squeeze productivity into their day, I shot her an email. She didn’t find the angle I gave her interesting – but she went a step further, read my blog, and found a topic that she wanted to expand on in the book. In this case, linking up with her was my chance to open the door to the opportunity – but again, the actual opportunity that presented itself (to talk about outsourcing) was completely different.
Opportunities for Partnerships
One point that jumped out at me as I was writing this is that many opportunities aren’t just about being in the right place at the right time – it’s about reaching out to the right people.
It’s always the right time – but do you have the right people? Very often, even if there’s a chance for us to take on a new goal or project, we may find it difficult if we go it alone – and yet effortless and even enjoyable with the right partner or team.
Let me give you a few quick examples of opportunities that came about (and exploded) from partnerships.
- Constructively Productive. This is a new productivity blog put together by two of my favorite writers, Ali Hale and Thursday Bram. They met up in Austin at SXSW, clicked (and had been familiar with each other before meeting up no doubt), and soon after launched this new blog. The resulting website isn’t just Ali or just Thursday – it’s a blend of the two, and their partnership isn’t just successful as a separate site: it’s also making both of them better writers.
- Unmistakable Creative, a much bigger project that got it’s start as BlogcastFM. I’ve previously talked about the story behind BlogcastFM: Srinivas Rao contacted me for an interview, and I was blown away at the resource he was building interviewing bloggers and collecting their stories. I mentioned we should start a separate website just for that purpose, and it has absolutely exploded. I think it is amazing to think we (and by we, I mean mostly Srinivas) have published over 60 interviews. He brings his personality and interviewing skills to the table, while I handle a lot of behind the scenes stuff. It’s a great partnership – and again, an opportunity that would not have come about if either of us had tried to undertake such a project individually
Creating Value = Creating Opportunity
“Opportunity is missed by most people because it comes dressed in overalls and looks like work.”
– Thomas Edison
In all the cases I discussed above, the opportunities didn’t look like opportunities. Sometimes they looked like a chance to network and get to know someone better, or just a chance to reach out and see what was out there.
Ultimately though, what created the opportunities was someone putting themselves out there and creating value. I think that’s a key principle for creating opportunities in life. If we wait for opportunities, we’re passively waiting for something to come around. On the other hand, when we just get out there and create value, we’re actively planting the seeds for the opportunities that will flourish in the future.
In a previous article, I talked about how we don’t have to have every single thing planned out and approach everything as a big “project” – you only have to take one step. Similarly, with opportunities, we don’t always have visibility into the whole opportunity that may present itself when we take action: but we can still take small steps to reach out and create value, and see where it takes us.
I believe, and have seen in my own life, if you just take one step, and create a little bit of value, you might be surprised at the doors that open.
So the question no longer is – what are you waiting for? Instead, I’d like to challenge you: what value can you create today?
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