Why Most People Don’t See Opportunities

opportunities are born out of difficulties

I had a breakfast meeting with a Corporate Affairs Director this morning. And I always enjoy having a conversation with him because not only he is knowledgable about a lot of things and he has a high eagerness to learn, but also he has a lot of wisdom to share.

This morning he tells me that, “What I like to work here and why I’ve been here for a long time is because there are a lot of opportunities in the organizations. Even though, not many people can see that.”

I ask him what he means by opportunities and he tells me a story that he says “It’s probably really stupid if you ask people.”

Back in the days, he has this responsibility to get a certain document signed by Bapak Gita Wiryawan who was the Indonesian Minister at that time. His boss asked him everyday the status of that document.

He understood that Pak Gita was very busy. Even though he has his phone number, he can’t just call him up and ask him to sign it. It’s just not the right solution.

So, what did he do?

He tries to find out Pak Gita’s schedule for that week, where he is meeting or speaking. And so he bought every seminars that Pak Gita is delivering that week. “I know that I have to meet him, even though I am still not sure what I would say when I see him.”

The first one he went to, Pak Gita didn’t show up. The second one he went, he gets to meet him, but he doesn’t have time to talk more. The third time he went, he said hi to Pak Gita, took every notes that Pak Gita was sharing about his initiatives at BKPM and at the end went up to say hi to him again. He said, “Pak Gita, thank you for your presentation. I do learn a lot. Oh, by the way, this is my card just in case I didn’t give it to you last time.”

By this time, Pak Gita has recognized him, said thank you and gave him his card.

Did he then ask for his approval? No.

What did he do?

He went back to the office to write an email to Pak Gita, expressing his thanks and what he learns from his seminar. Wonderful. And at the end of the email, he mentions with a “By the way….” about his involvement in the project with him and the documents that need attention. Just that.

Two hours later, he received a news from another person that the document has been signed. His friend even asked him, “What did you do? We’ve tried everything to get that document signed and nothing worked. What did you do?”

His simple answer was, “Oh not much really, I just ran into him.”

What I learn from him is that often we think of opportunities is as our venue to move up in our career. We often think that opportunities is a the responsibility given by our employer or leaders. But here, I realize that opportunities are not something that is given by others, but something that we create ourselves. It is our ability to solve our challenges creatively — especially in ways that give value to others.

I realize that opportunities are born out of difficulties not excuses.

Now I understand when he says that “not very many people can see opportunities.” It is because most of us, when we are faced with challenges, problems and difficulties, we see it as a burden, more work, more responsibilities, a source of stress. And most of us would rather wait for opportunities to come, to be handed over — to only then complain when we are not given that opportunities. We would view opportunity as a convenience, an ideal situation. And what we don’t realize is that most opportunities come from inconvenience, out of a not ideal situation.

Leadership is about creating opportunities, but first, can you see them?

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