In the end of April a good friend of mine asked me whether I wanted a bicycle, which had been brought by his cousin, who had then left to Netherlands. Since I live in a very rainy region, I had never considered having one; on the other hand, as not only this was an offer but also the city I am is totally plain – you have bicycle riders everywhere – I then decided to keep it. Everything went fine for a couple of months, especially in the month of May where it did not rain a lot. But then I got injured and all my pedaling on the two wheels needed suddenly to be put on hold, so my bicycle was locked outside for about three months, without any noteworthy incidents.
Until a construction site was set on the building next to mine. Three weeks after my surgery, when I was finally able to move relatively well (still with crutches), I realized that my bike not only was missing but also the fence it had been locked to! I both inquired the workers and called the construction company and no one seemed to care a dime about my missing item. So I knocked at one of the neighbors’ doors and fortunately he had kept my bicycle in his basement. Afterwards, I decided to lock it again right next to the construction site, after confirming with one worker that there would be any problem to put it there. Last week – roughly two weeks after I had put the bike on that “safe location” – when coming back from work, I had this déjà vu seeing that my bicycle was not there! On the day after I asked the workers and some neighbors whether they had seen anything, but the answer was always negative. Basically, my bike had been stolen.
What this has to do with missing opportunities?
First of all, before I went through my surgery, I could have been cautious and have stored my bicycle in my basement. After all, not only I would be away for a long period of time but also I knew that people usually steal a lot of bikes in my city so it would be just a clever move. But no, I was mentally lazy and I just decided to do nothing.
Then, after I recovered my bicycle for the first time, I should have been grateful for the fact that it had returned to my hands and therefore should have stored it in a safe location. In addition, I even got this strange feeling that indeed I should do something but my reaction was again to do nothing. What is even more blameworthy was that my girl recommended me to take the bike out of there, since it would be too risky to leave it next to a construction site, whose constructors already knew that I was incapacitated (by the first incident I was still on my crutches) and that I would not ride it for a while. But again, I was clumsy and irresponsible as hell and in the end I deservedly paid for it.
Basically, I missed two opportunities of keeping my bike safe and therefore I ended up losing some money – since the bicycle was good and I had already invested some new accessories on it – and gaining a lot of mental frustration which I could have very easily avoided.
How missing opportunities can jeopardize your life in every sense?
First of all, it is important to clarify what an opportunity is. People usually picture it as something which will turn your life better but the reality is that it will mainly cause a change into your life. It might be good, it might be harmless or it can even be bad, but truth assured that it will somehow cause an impact, even if very small, on you. On the other hand, if you do not grab any given opportunity, then I can guarantee you that your life will stay exactly as it is, with no relevant change whatsoever.
Opportunities are everywhere and pass by you usually with little frequency between one another. Below follow a handful of examples in how you might come across any in your daily life:
- You spot a cute girl walking by or crossing paths with you: you have here two options, either you approach or not. If you choose the latter, no worries, your life will stay exactly where it was before; if you choose the former, well, many things can happen: she can simply blow you off and tell you to fuck off and destroy your weak ego (hopefully not). But she can also be a nice person whom you can have a perfect chemistry with, being your next friend with benefits or eventually the woman of your life;
- You watch a YouTube video which tells and explains you how to start an online store: Option number 1, you find it amazing and cool, imagine yourself living without having to listen to your snotty boss everyday but then you think about the hassle and complication that would be to create something like this, so you just rationalize and go back to your normal life (so, nothing changes). Option number 2, you really internalize and start taking steps to find a profitable niche, to set up a website, to look for reliable vendors and suppliers and finally, to market your product. It might be a failure and suck up all your money, but it can also give you the financial freedom you have always dreamt about.
- You receive an email informing about a new dancing school in your town, offering many courses for affordable prices: First, you think, “hey, I have always wanted to dance, so this seems like the perfect opportunity to start”. Then, you even go to try a lesson and like it, but for a bunch of no reasons (e.g.: you tell yourself how busy you are) you end up not signing up for any course – again, your life does not move an inch; instead of just thinking and trying it, you actually sign up immediately for the Tango and Salsa classes and pay in advance, just in case you would change your mind in a few days. Three years after, dancing is a part of your life, allowing you to be more confident and to have a social circle of more women than men;
- You attend a nutrition seminar, in which you not only learn how to eat properly but also see a lot of people in shape: You have been totally clumsy and careless about your body and in the last years the only thing you have done has been to jeopardize your health. But now you see all these people, fit and talking about the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and you immediately think that you can insert it in your daily life. But then, your problems and routine return and you return as well to your old, bad habits; On the other hand, you are strong and disciplined enough to stick to a plan and this time you will neglect neither your mind nor your body: combined to a healthy daily diet, in which you are rigorous about what you put inside your mouth, you make sure that you hit the gym at least three times per week and that you go jogging for another two days.
It is also important to bear in mind that, just like my bike’s example described above, sometimes an opportunity might come either disguised or in the form of avoiding that you lose something (and consequently and logically that you “win” and that you simply do not lose). For instance, when someone asks you for help and you politely deny it because well, you are simply too busy, what you are doing it is not just refusing a solicitation but actually closing all the doors. What if that person would then feel the need to “compensate” you in the future, in case you needed help urgently and no one else was available? Or what if this person has some key and important acquaintances whom you could be presented to (but which, of course, will never happen in case you show yourself totally unavailable to help him or her in the first place)?
Regarding losing something, imagine you are booking a hotel and you spot a super promotion of a four star hotel which costs 200€ for three nights, but has the downside of being non-refundable. Nonetheless, you realize that for the option of being totally refundable you would pay just 40€ more. But you, in your old, stingy style, go for the former option, as you like to save every cent. One month later, your mother gets ill and you really need to be next to her giving support, so you need to cancel your trip to Barcelona. But guess what? What before was a bargain of 200€, is now a stupid loss in your wallet.
Last but not least, grabbing an opportunity is also to know how to do nothing, when the most natural scenario would be to react. Imagine that you are playing soccer and a guy kicks in you in the ankle. I know that your first reaction would be to kick him back but, instead, breath for three seconds, think that football is a sport of contact and just tell hum it is ok (if he apologizes, of course). Or in case you ask a girl out and she either comes with lame excuses saying she is busy or simply does not answer you back. I know your first will would be to tell her a “couple of truths” and to call her out on her behavior but, instead of taking things personally, just treat it as the bus which is cancelled and you just need to wait twenty minutes more for the next one. It can understandably make you a little upset, but it is surely no reason to lose your head.
How to spot opportunities and to actually take action on them?
First of all, you need to be awake. This might sound too obvious, but the truth is that many times we do not realize there is an opportunity smiling at us, just because we are simply too tired to notice it! And worse than not noticing it, is even to be annoyed or totally impatient when something new or “strange” comes across: for instance, I am totally aware that sometimes I am simply too tired to leave the comfort zone and give a chance to what is in front of me. A stunner sits in front of you in the bus? “Ah fuck it, I am not in the mood today and she would surely blow me off”. An entrepreneur launches a free webinar explaining how to generate traffic to your blog? “He will not tell me nothing new and aside from that I am too tired to listen to him”. So instead of coming with lame excuses and easy justifications, the first basic step you should take to spot opportunities is to rest well and not to rely on caffeine.
Then, you have to trust your gut. Many times I have had the feeling that I should do something in a certain situation. For instance, in the example of my bicycle, I remember feeling that I should indeed move my bike from the fence meaning that, had I followed my instinct, it would have never been stolen. I suppose that if you take a look at your life and daily routine, you will come up with endless moments in which your subconscious mind just gives you signals to take a certain decision. The secret here is to always follow them and never to become lazy! And this leads us to the next point.
As I had referred in my book No More Bullshit about Getting Laid, one of the key points to be a real man is to know how to use your time. And one of the easiest tricks to achieve it is to follow the “5 minutes rule”. So, whenever something will just last a maximum of 5-10 minutes, do not even think a second about it and just do it! “Should I answer a message which my aunt has sent me?” First, even she is a pain the ass, for a matter of respect you should; and then, if you don’t, this will wander around in your mind which will actually make you lose more time. “Should I run and update my anti-virus, whose pop-up has been showing in the last two weeks but I have always postpone it?” It will take just ten minutes to put your computer safe, avoiding that hackers or some geeks just send you malware or a “deadly” virus, which will basically destroy all your files. Don’t you think is it worth to lose that time to save a work of a lifetime? “Should I have insurance for all the material I have at home?” I know you live in a very safe city but bad or unlucky things happen everywhere so, instead of thinking once per week on this topic, why don’t you pay 10€/month to secure your digital camera, laptop, guitar and watches? In the end, this amount is worth both the money itself and the preoccupation which will suddenly go away. The list of examples could go on endlessly, but the bottom line is that you shall never postpone or procrastinate on things which will only take you a fraction of your precious time.
And above all, you have to be open and willing to change/improve yourself. You may have the best opportunities of your life offered to you on a silver plate that they will mean nothing, in case you just look at them with the same indifference a hot girl looks at her Facebook friend requests. Like everything in life, you have to be attentive and be willing to take action, otherwise the train will never stop in the station you are waiting at. I spent all my twenties thinking that everything good would happen automatically and that it would somehow fall into my lap. But it did not…and only recently have I gained the right mindset to look at things with eyes that can really see. I may already be late or I might already have lost the best opportunities life has provided me, but I do not care. For every problem, there is chance inherent to it; with every course of action, comes an opportunity; with every disappointment, comes hope. And it is exactly because of that I will never give up, rather trying to grab as many opportunities as I can. I might miss or overlook most of them and in the end just fail miserably, but that is the only way to achieve a meaningful life.