As defined in previous blog articles, gumptionable is being 100% personally responsible for all of your actions and interactions. It is a combination of gumption and Gumption, born of 7 essential principles.
Today let’s look at principle #5: Take Opportunities with Daring. I originally defined Principle #5 as follows:
Opportunities can be taken or not taken. To be daring means taking risks and being courageous. Taking only small or safe opportunities is the same as choosing mediocrity. Daring opportunists are people who make things happen and change the world.
Now we are not only going to examine this principle in greater detail, we are going to up the ante; we’re not only going to take opportunities, we’re going to seize them.
Here are 5 things you can do to daringly seize opportunities as they come your way:
1. Know Yourself
First you need to know yourself. What is important to you personally? What do you stand for? What are your goals in life? If you don’t clearly know the answers to these things, you won’t be able to recognize an opportunity when it comes along.
In my life, I’ve re-invented myself 4 major (or daring) times: First when I moved to CA at 22; Second when I took my first sales job at 28; Third when I started my business at 32; and Fourth when I simultaneously moved to Montana and started my speaking business at age 48. There were many more minor shifts and course direction changes but those are the 4 times I took major risks and deviated completely out of my previous comfort zone.
Preceding each life/career reinvention there was both a feeling of angst, but also that I’ve got to take this next step. I had become complacent in my life. I was playing it safe. I knew in my heart at each crossroads that I had not been living up to my potential, because I had taken the time to know myself. I knew what I was capable of. I knew what my ultimate goals were and who and what I ultimately wanted to be.
In the first case I’d been working for my father for 4 years … I was both ready and needing to prove I could be on my own. California provided that opportunity and I seized it. In the second case, I knew myself enough to recognize that I needed a job that used more interpersonal skills than trade skills … my first sales job was that opportunity. In the third case, I was well-suited for entrepreneurship … becoming an independent sales rep gave me that opportunity. Finally, I knew in my heart that my Gump likeness could be useful for much more than simply marketing and entertainment … I knew that Gumption could make a positive change in the world! When the opportunity to set out and prove this (as well as live in a beautiful mountain state) arose, I seized it!
2. Be Consistent with Yourself
Now that you know who you are, you’ll want to be consistent. It’s similar to knowing yourself but consistency requires actively following through on being who you want to be. Consistency requires action.
When I first arrived in Montana, I spent about a year congratulating myself on my decision, getting used to my new neighbors and surroundings, continuing to do things the way I had been doing them but in a new location. The problem was I was being consistent on who I had been but was failing at being consistent with who I wanted to be.
Think of this consistency as the interstate system. You are zooming down the road but every few hundred miles you need to change direction, adjust course, and take an exit, go north instead of east. However, your ultimate destination (your goal) remains the same. Consistency allows you to follow through on the opportunities you’ve previously seized.
3. Keep Your Eye on the Ball
When Forrest Gump first learned to play ping-pong, the secret revealed to him by a fellow soldier was “never, ever take your eye off the ball”. That seems perfect advice for anyone who wants to seize opportunities with daring, for keeping your eye on the ball is really all about focus.
This spring my friend David led a 10 week speaker-marketing program. While a speaker could potentially market him or herself in many different ways, David insists that you focus on only 3 approaches. Three is enough to create different types of opportunities and allow you to excel at each. To try to market in 6 or 7 different ways would dilute your efforts, result in all efforts being ineffective, and ultimately produce poor results.
Keeping your eye on the ball is critical in ping-pong, business and life. Focus is the key!
4. Pick Up the Feather When it Lands at Your Foot
Picking up the feather is all about the course direction changes and minor adjustments to the master plan. The feathers are the unforeseen opportunities that appear seemingly out of nowhere. Sales professionals have long described the unforeseen big sale as a bluebird. They just land in your lap or at your feet.
Becoming Forrest Gump for the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co back in 1996 is a great example of the unforeseen opportunity. One day it just appeared in front me and I seized it. Five years earlier I had made the decision to be self-employed. I was a commission only sales rep. Becoming Forrest Gump gave me an opportunity to sell a service instead of selling a product. Unforeseen but totally consistent with the business model I put in place 5 years earlier. All I had to do was pick it up.
5. Don’t Turn Back
Once you’ve seized an opportunity, you must stop or prevent the second-guessing that so often paralyzes people into inaction. Go forward with daring and reckless abandon. Don’t get off the interstate at the first exit and take a side route. Don’t focus on the rear-view mirror with uncertainty about the route just traveled … focus out the windshield with both hands gripped to the steering wheel with the gas pedal pushed to the floor. Success only comes to those going forward or those who are very, very lucky.
Ironically, this past year has seen several huge steps forward despite an economy that wants to make standing still the easiest and safest choice. Professionally I’ve sharpened my thought-leadership platform, reworked my marketing materials, joined several professional groups, and hired help to improve my presentation, presentations skills and marketing efforts, I’ve personally moved, sold one property and in the process of selling 2 or 3 more. I’m actively taking the steps necessary to succeed based on the economic realities of 2010 and the honest assessment of my product/service in today’s marketplace.
All the while there have been few feathers simply landing at my feet. But I refuse to turn back!
A final note about picking up those feathers when you see them: remember that opportunities are not really opportunities if they don’t fulfill a need. Specifically, they must fulfill your need. Even though a salesman tells you how wonderful a product or service is, if you don’t need it it’s simply not an opportunity.
Hence, in order to seize opportunities when they appear you really need to start with knowing yourself. Then you must be consistent with your choices, focus on your goals and keep your eye on the ball, pick up that feather when it lands at your feet and finally, don’t turn back once you do!
What opportunities are you not picking up? Where are you playing it safe instead of seizing an opportunity with daring? Have you spent enough time fully knowing yourself?
Next Blog Title: Snow in the Mountains
Next Blog Date: October 28, 2010