3G #2: Your Opportunities are Your Personal Gift from Life
You can gauge how open your mindset is toward opportunity when you have these 3 attitudes:
- Your opportunities are unlimited in number and in guise.
- Your opportunities are your personal gift from Life.
- Your opportunities grow with your expectations.
Just as your mobile phones are connected to a cellular network, I call these attitudes the 3G Network (Guise, Gift, Growth) because:
Your attitude is how you communicate with your opportunity.
There’s a pivotal scene in Ben Stiller’s remake of the movie, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013), that determines whether he, Walter Mitty, will take the risk and seize his opportunity to find what he’s looking for, or fail to do so and go back to his old job as a negative asset manager at Life magazine in New York and return to his old ways, a lost, confused daydreamer.
The irony is, Walter Mitty works for Life but isn’t living. He is approaching middle age and his job is under threat when an outside team is hired to restructure the workforce in line with moving the publication from the traditional print model to an online digital model.
The magazine still uses negatives to process its photos and images, and Walter is tasked with producing the final cover image for the last-ever print run for the magazine.
The only problem is, he’s lost the negative.
This sparks the frantic search for the magazine’s lead photographer, Sean O’Connell, played by Sean Penn, who could be anywhere in the world at any particular time.
The contrast between the two characters is stark. Sean O’Connell is an adventure-seeking, risk-taking, life-loving nature photographer who sometimes won’t even press the shutter button to capture a rare photograph if he’s absorbed in the moment of being alive.
Walter Mitty is a safety-seeking, risk-averse, scared-of-life middle-employee who works in the dark basement of his building and won’t even ask the woman he is in love with, Cheryl Melhoff (played by Kristen Wiig), out on a date.
Sean O’Connell lives life to the full; Walter Mitty daydreams of it.
But circumstances push Walter Mitty to find Sean O’Connell, wherever in the world he is. The deadline for the final print run of the magazine is nearing, and his boss is demanding the cover image.
Sean O’Connell doesn’t have a mobile phone and is constantly on the move, so he can’t be contacted by conventional means. Walter Mitty reluctantly follows a set of clues to Greenland, where he believes Sean O’Connell has boarded a fishing boat.
It’s at this point that Walter Mitty comes face to face with his nemesis: his own fears of living.
He meets a helicopter pilot in a bar in a small fishing village who tells him the boat he is looking for is just offshore.
The bad news is that the ship’s radio communication is broken and so Walter Mitty can’t speak to Sean O’Connell via radio or satellite phone. The good news for Walter Mitty is that the helicopter pilot is delivering the radio parts to the boat that day and Walter can get a ride with him and speak directly to Sean O’Connell.
Unfortunately, the helicopter pilot is so drunk he can barely stand without teetering over. But he’s still going to fly the helicopter to the fishing boat and deliver the parts, and Walter Mitty is still welcome to come with him.
Scared for his life, Walter declines to get on board the helicopter. Walter Mitty watches through the window as the helicopter pilot gets into the cockpit and settles behind the controls.
He is torn between jumping into the passenger seat or staying behind, resigned to watching the only chance he has of retrieving the negative disappear over the horizon with the drunk helicopter pilot.
So Walter Mitty does what he has always done when life corners him and forces him to make a choice: he daydreams.
In his vivid imagination, he sees Cheryl Melhoff enter the bar with a guitar and start singing David Bowie’s Space Oddity. She strums the guitar and begins the song:
“Ground control to Major Tom. Ground control to Major Tom. Take your protein pills and put your helmet on…”
This becomes the most pivotal moment in Walter Mitty’s life. Does he stay or does he go? Does he continue fearing life or does he break from his past and risk it all on this one moment?
When Cheryl gets to the end of the first verse and sings, “Commencing countdown, engines on… Check ignition and may God’s love be with you…” something inside him gives.
Like an elastic cord that has been stretched so long it has no more resistance and then snaps, he is freed from all the constraints of his past and free to run towards his destiny.
Walter Mitty has broken through his fears of living and he dashes toward the helicopter to embrace his new future.
He is a new man. He is changed, and not only has his whole future changed from this moment forward, but his whole world has now changed.
Perspective, Attitude & Opportunity
Katherine Mansfield was a modernist writer and poet who grew up in New Zealand and lived in England in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. She is considered by some literary critics as one of the best short story writers of all time, a woman who pioneered the short story genre in the early 20th Century.
She also made a poignant comment on how our attitudes affect our world:
“Could we change our attitude, we should not only see life differently, but life itself would come to be different.”
Opportunities come into view through changing your perspective. If you think only of safety and security, and not opportunity, then you close yourself off to possibilities.
This is why fear needs to be contained, if not conquered. Fear will cause you to retreat into your shell, and although you might be safe, you’re also in the dark.
As the Italian proverb says,
“A ship in the harbour is safe. But that’s not what ships are made for.”
So what do you fear more, life or death?
If you’re not willing to take a risk, then opportunity will pass you by like a helicopter on the winds of time.
So, like Walter Mitty, release your moorings and use the winds of opportunity to sail forth to your destiny.