Are you prepared for opportunity? Is lack of preparation causing you to miss your greatest opportunities? This is how to fix it.
Being prepared for opportunity is simple.
If you want to climb Mt. Everest don’t show up in shorts and flip flops. This is what it boils down to. In case this advice is too broad I’ll tell you a story about my own lack of preparedness as a guiding post on what not to do.
Wanting Something Desperately is Not Enough
When I was much younger and thought I knew it all I wanted to work for the U.S. Government. It all started with a government budgeting class in my undergrad. This budgeting class had me sold, budgeting is a strange inspiration but it inspired me. I started applying for government jobs. I didn’t know why this inspired me, I just knew that I was inspired.
The problem here was that I wasn’t looking deep enough. Since this was a government budgeting class I thought I wanted to work for the government. This class taught me one thing that made all the difference in what I knew about myself but I took it a face value. This was a mistake. The one thing I should have taken from this is that I didn’t want to work for money, I wanted my work to make a difference.
Are there things you do without ever understanding the reason behind it? Are you inspired by something but can’t articulate why?
To be clear, this is not about knowing you love something it’s about getting to the bottom of why. The difference may seem small but it’s an important distinction. Knowing you love something makes you feel good but knowing why broadens opportunity.
Being Prepared For Opportunity Without Knowing Why
If you don’t know why you prepared for it in the first place being prepared for opportunity is meaningless. There’s always this question in the back of our heads that begs to know if we’re doing the right thing. For some of us making a decision is so finite, like winning and losing so we stop making decisions. Instead, we do what we think we’re supposed to do. Actually, we do the “right thing” then we discover that it was right for someone else but wrong for us.
I felt government work was for me but I didn’t know why. If you’ve ever tried to apply for a government job then you know it’s a huge time commitment. At least I found it to be a tremendous soul searching, frustrating time suck.
Still, I was determined. That’s what I wanted and I went through this process along with hundred’s of other people over and over again. It took me 6 to 8 hours to apply for each one of these jobs.
Preparing for Failure
All things considered, I managed to land an interview. I got a call a month before it actually happened. So when the time came the first question the interviewers asked was, “Why do you want to work here?” Of course, they asked this question first. It rolled off the interviewer’s tongue in this matter of fact way. As if he knew I was expecting it, I froze. It was the most fundamental question. Why did I go through all the trouble to fill out their 40-page application? Although I wanted this job, I wasn’t expecting the question and I didn’t know how to answer it.
They gave me a month to get my story straight and I wasted it. I didn’t research the job or the employer. Actually, I couldn’t even put why I wanted to work there into comprehensible sentences. Everything happened in slow motion and I felt like an idiot. Why did I want to work there again? It all went downhill from there. It was a complete disaster.
I sulked in the parking lot for a good fifteen minutes. Equally frustrating was the flood of information I had while sitting in the car. By some torment from above, all the answers came to me. I beat myself up about it. “Why didn’t I tell them this?” or “Why didn’t I say that?” This was all I could think about for a week after the interview. It was over, but I wasn’t over it. It was my fault.
I blew it.
I wasn’t prepared.
Consequences of Not Being Prepared for Opportunity
We all have stories like this one. Some stories are more brutal than others but we all learn from our failures. Still, we fail to find the real reason why we didn’t get what we wanted. We aren’t ready, we aren’t prepared for the opportunity so we don’t seize it.
This Is The One Thing
Being prepared for opportunity requires understanding yourself first.
Going back to this government budgeting class I told you about a while back. I was under the impression that the class exposed me to a new way of thinking. In reality, it exposed me to my own way of thinking.
The class taught me that the bottom line is not always money and in some cases it never is. For instance, in the corporate world, the bottom line is money. In government, the bottom line is what we can do for others with the least amount of resources.
The job of good government is stretching pennies into dollars to create miracles. I didn’t really want a government job, I wanted to advocate for people. I wanted to make a difference. Government work was just a means to an end. When I realized this a whole new world of opportunity opened up for me. I had closed this world off because I didn’t understand myself, my motivations and my why.
Do you understand yourself and why you’re inspired to do what you do? If you’re not sure, you may be closing your mind to new opportunities.
A Second Chance, Still Not Prepared
Many years later I interviewed with this same agency, went through the same process but this time I nailed it. This time I prepared for the opportunity. I studied by butt off and went in with a slam dunk. They offered me the job and I went as far as going in for fingerprinting because I knew I wanted this job.
Strangely enough, I realized I still wasn’t ready. This time for a different reason, my two very young daughters. The job required me to be away from home five out of seven days. I walked away from a job I wanted for a life I wanted more.
I went through this rigorous process without thinking about the consequences or how it would impact the people that I love most. In hindsight, I could have saved myself a lot of time by preparing and thinking about the impact this would have on my life. Not only for getting the job but also for what it would take to do the job.
The silver lining?
I got that job!
Being Prepared for the Right Opportunity
In order to stay prepared for opportunity, there are some things you need to think about before you go all in. If you value structure as I do you can download this worksheet to guide you through.
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However, all you need is to set some time to focus on your values and get to the core of what inspires you by answering these questions:
- What is your goal?
- How will this goal affect your life?
- Have you taken into account the impact of your goals on you and the people closest to you? What would that look like?
- If the impact is negative, how might you still get what you want and have the least negative effect on those closest to you?
- What kind of preparation do you need to take and what strategy will you use to get it done?
These questions will help you gain clarity on why you want what you’re focusing on. You will lay out what it takes to seize the moment when your big opportunity presents itself. Most importantly, it will give you insight on how it will impact you and those close to you. You might turn a corner into a new direction or discover new opportunities.
Hmm, this is exciting, I wonder where you’ll end up.
I hope you find it helpful, insightful and a valuable tool to achieve what most people don’t. A state of preparation so that you can do the things you dream of when the opportunity comes up. Whenever and whatever that happens to be.