What if… ?

Opportunity-knocks“Not knowing when the dawn will come, I open every door.”
― Emily Dickinson

Seize the day. Opportunity only knocks once. I could go on and on…

Recently I ran into a situation with a graduate student that really made me stop and think about how little decisions can have a major impact on our lives. Without recounting the entire story, the new student was about to miss an important orientation meeting with me, because he arrived late after dropping someone at the airport. He was hesitant to enter the conference room and was embarrassed to interrupt, since it would create a bad first impression. Fortunately my boss saw the student lurking the hallway and convinced him to come inside.

Now inside the orientation session and since the other students had already shared their stories, the late-arriving student shared his background and also a specific company he dreamed of eventually joining. As luck would have it, I knew that later in the week that same company would be on campus for a major event, and I was able to arrange for the student not only to receive a ticket to attend the event, but also to make some important networking contacts. So what’s the point?

What if the student remained in the hall and never came inside? What if I never learned of his interest in that specific company? What if he didn’t attend the event and meet the key players? Could he still achieve his dream? Of course. But seizing the opportunity allowed him to move ahead much more quickly. Technically, when he attended the company event, he had not even attended his first class, but he was able to jump ahead toward his ultimate goal.

“Let me tell ya. You gotta pay attention to signs. When life reaches out with a moment like this it’s a sin if you don’t reach back… I’m telling you.”
― Matthew Quick, The Silver Linings Playbook

In the case of the late arriving student, his failure to act was due at least in part to the fear of potential embarrassment that would result from entering the session so late. Fear is a powerful motivator.

“When you do what you fear most, then you can do anything.”
― Stephen Richards

Take a moment to reflect on the implications of the millions of incidents every day where opportunities are missed. A good way to think about this is to take the time to marvel at an opportunity you did not miss. You seized an opportunity, taking full advantage of it, and it worked out great. In fact, it was awesome! Did it lead to career success? Love? Further opportunities you are still exploring?

Now pause and reflect again. What if you had not acted? Would you be where you are today? What would have been the implications of failing to act? Wow! Had I not acted… I would hate to think about all I would have missed.

Of course, there is only one way you will never have to face the implications of failing to act. To quote that great philosopher, Nike: Just do it!

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