Seneca the Younger, the great Roman philosopher of the first century, once wrote that, “The best wrestler is not he who has learned thoroughly all the tricks and twists of the art, which are seldom met with in actual wrestling, but he who has well and carefully trained himself in one or two of them, and watches keenly for an opportunity of practising them.” — Seneca, On Benefits, vii. 1.
This quote is often shortened to “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” Though this latter shortened quote is clearly easier to say and remember, I prefer the former as it better describes seeking out opportunities. I would actually reword the original quote more like this:
Mastery and luck involve recognizing opportunities in the obscurities of life so that you can practice your expertise.
What I mean by this rewording is that demonstration and practice of our mastery and the rewards it garners, especially in business, often starts with discovering our talent and feeding it. Discovering your talent or niche expertise is easier said than done, and it may take many years of trial and error. It’s not just a matter of what education I’ve had, which industries I’ve worked in, or who have been my employers. It’s often the culmination of all of these activities that eventually lead to a slow crystallization of one or two things we can do very well across all lifetime activities…not just work…not just personal life, but across everything we do and how we portray ourselves, DESPITE our efforts at times to be someone else.
However, knowing your talent and practicing it is not enough to be “lucky.” Knowing how to generate business leads for a large software company, even if you know which social media platform to use, or how to get people to voluntarily give you their personal information and their business challenges is not enough. That is, not until you realize how to transform your expertise to address specific challenges that someone’s having. This is opportunity recognition.
What’s not immediately apparent in all of this is that it’s still a matter of trial and error as you aim to find how your peg can find the right hole. It’s a matter of being open to hear about every aspect of someone’s life and business challenges, and having these conversations continuously, even if they don’t immediately result in what you aim to get or find.
In today’s video, I speak about one example on how to recognize opportunities when they present themselves. Enjoy and let me know what you think!