This Article Continues From Part 2
#2: Consolidating Your Opportunity – I Will
Your attitude toward opportunity determines the amplitude of your opportunity.
If you believe only rich people have opportunity, you will not see the opportunities all around you because your attitude blinds you to them.
If you believe only men have opportunity, you will not hear the opportunities all around you because your attitude deafens you to them.
If you believe only white people have opportunity, you will not sense the opportunities all around you because your attitude desensitises you to them.
In regards to making the most of your opportunities in life, I have found that, as much as anything else, your attitude toward opportunity is the defining factor in exploiting all the wonderful opportunities that exist for you.
A closed attitude toward opportunity leads to missed opportunities. An open attitude toward opportunity leads to kissed opportunities.
It doesn’t matter if the world is in recession or depression, or if the world is in riding high in boom times, opportunities always abound and it’s your attitude that determines whether or not you cash in on them.
There was a time in my youth when I had a pretty closed attitude toward opportunity. I thought opportunity happened only to others, not me, especially the rich and privileged.
As a white male graduating from a private school and going on to study medicine at university, I was stone-cold oblivious to the irony of my attitude. Entitled, some would say, but I didn’t feel entitled. I was the ‘poor kid in a rich school’ and, as such, I felt poor despite my surroundings and privilege. I saw friends and colleagues traveling overseas and snow skiing during the school holidays, while I stayed at home in my working-class suburb on the edge of town or worked in my grandfather’s petrol station to help out and save a bit of money.
Not that I wasn’t grateful for my schooling, I most certainly was and still am, but the comparisons between the wealth of other kids’ families and the struggles of my family, where money was always tight, were magnified in a private school environment.
So, despite my education, I felt poor and underprivileged, which reflected my lack of insight and teenage entitlement. I felt opportunity was only for the rich kids, and that excluded me. I was resigned to my lot and the way of the world. Essentially, I had victimised myself, and I carried this ‘woe is me’ attitude into my university days.
It wasn’t until the final 2 years of university as a 5th- and 6th-year medical student that my attitude began to change from ‘passive victim’ to ‘active victor’. Up until then, I rarely took the first step to get what I wanted. I invariably waited for other people to give me what I wanted and was invariably disappointed when they didn’t come up with the goods.
Looking back, I guess I had an attitude of powerlessness and helplessness. Other people, rich people, people in authority, held the power and not me. They could do whatever they wanted. They had all the opportunities. They had all the fun.
Not me. I was powerless. I had to make do with whatever came my way and scrap for any limited opportunity that just so happened to fall at my feet, if someone else didn’t grab it first.
Then an incident happened that caused me to reassess my attitude to ‘the way of the world’ and my attitude toward myself.
The final years of medical training require a lot of on-site attendance on the wards and in the emergency department from 9 to 5 Monday to Friday, and even some weekend and overnight assignments. The hours are long and tiring, which is why most hospitals have a student mess tucked away in the building where exhausted students can slump in a chair and put their feet up for a while, maybe catch up with what’s happening with friends and colleagues, have a bite to eat, and even catch the news or a soap opera on TV before heading back to the wards.
The old Royal Adelaide Hospital where I was training in the late 80s and early 90s had a student mess on the 7th floor of the main building. The room was spacious and overlooked the front entrance, but it was tired and in dire need of a coat of paint. The chairs puffed dust whenever you plonked down on them, and the faded lounge cushions had a permanent indentation from years of use.
Despite its dreariness, there was always a constant stream of students coming in and out, a little oasis where you could put the mayhem of the medical and surgical wards out of sight and out of earshot for just a while to catch your breath and settle your mind. But it lacked the most important thing of all—a pinball machine.
For the good part of 9 months, I tried with no avail to get the student committee to approve the installation of a pinball machine in the mess room. The committee members were in charge of everything that was allowed and not allowed in the mess. They had the power and I, because I wasn’t on the committee, didn’t. I tried to reason with them and convince them of the benefits of having a pinball machine would have on student morale, but they just weren’t interested. Everything I said fell on deaf ears. I was frustrated, and as the months went on I became angrier and resentful, as much as their reluctance to act on my requests as I was with my powerless to do something about it.
Then one lunchtime, while I was mulling over the unreasonableness of the student committee and the unfairness of life in general, a voice in my head said, “Scott, why don’t you just do it yourself?”
Like a sudden injection of anaesthetic, the idea paralysed me for a minute, but not my brain. Why not? I thought to myself. Why don’t I just go and buy a pinball machine and put it in the mess myself?
Spurred with sudden enthusiasm, I quickly tracked down my friend and fellow medical student, Mark, who thought it was a fantastic idea. We rushed out of the hospital and drove to the nearest pinball repairer and purchased a secondhand pinball machine called Mata Hari for only A$200. That evening, when most students had left the hospital, we transported the pinball machine to the Royal Adelaide Hospital, took it up the elevator, and installed it into the empty corner of the student mess.
It was an instant success. Students, mostly males of course, crowded around the machine for hours on end. Even better, the student committee didn’t say a word.
The machine took 20c pieces and by the end of the week we had over A$100 in silver coins, which we lugged down the lobby escalator to the onsite bank and deposited into our newly-opened, joint savings account.
By the end of the second week, the machine had paid itself off, and within a month we had bought our second machine. Two months after that, we bought a third machine, and for the next two years my friend and I pocketed more than A$100 per week each in profit, which more than paid for our social life and kept us very happy.
To put this in perspective, I would have needed A$100,000 in a savings account working at 5% interest to receive the equivalent amount each year. Or in today’s low-interest environment, I’d need A$500,000 working at 1% per annum.
Remember, this all happened during the recession of the early 90s, when jobs were scarce and businesses were shutting down and boarding up.
I tell this story to highlight two points. First, I was blind to the opportunity of making a passive income through pinball machines for 9 months because of my ‘poor me’ victim mentality. Because of my attitude that it was someone else’s responsibility to provide what I wanted, I missed seeing the opportunity that was waiting for me like a puppy in that empty corner of the mess room from Day 1.
This first lesson follows along the same lines as to what Zig Ziglar said, which is something similar to the quote from Seneca (in Part 1):
“Success occurs when opportunity meets preparation.”
This, therefore, is the lesson I learned and have been mindful of for over 30 years:
When I was prepared to take responsibility for myself and what I wanted, the opportunity unveiled itself.
My ventures into pinball entrepreneurship also revealed something extraordinary: opportunity is everywhere.
There’s always opportunity, no matter your economic or social environment, no matter your job or what upbringing you have. That was my second lesson. Opportunity is as omnipresent as the air we breathe. Not a day goes by without opportunity being within your grasp.
So if that’s the case, all you need to do is make sure that you prepare yourself with an open attitude. Then you’re ready to seize your opportunity and turn it into success.
Billionaire entrepreneur, Richard Branson, is cited as saying opportunities are like buses: there’s always another one coming along. You just have to be on the lookout for them. If you’re not looking for buses (opportunities), you won’t see them, no matter how big and bright red they are.
But know this, which is probably the third lesson: opportunity doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t ignore anybody based on their gender, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, colour of their skin, age, or abilities.
If you believe it does, how did Oprah, a black woman, become one of the most successful human beings on the planet?
She didn’t have it easy. She suffered racism and sexism, and even tragedy on more than one occasion. But she prepared herself and she took the opportunity when she saw it. She made her own luck. She created her own success.
No, opportunity doesn’t discriminate, but what it does do is present itself in many guises.
In other words, opportunity presents itself differently to different people. What is an opportunity for me is not an opportunity for you, and vice versa. What presents as an opportunity for you doesn’t present itself as an opportunity for me.
Opportunity is a personalised gift from Life, the gift that never stops giving.
Your opportunities are only meant for you. In fact, I don’t even see your opportunities. They are invisible to me; your opportunities are only visible to you.
But you will only see your opportunities when you look for them through the right lens, and the right lens is the right mindset. If you don’t have the right mindset, you won’t see your opportunities. You won’t even recognise them as opportunities.
The founder of General Electric, Thomas Edison, who’s been described as America’s greatest ever inventor, pointed out that opportunity is usually dressed in overalls and looks like hard work, which is why most people miss it or don’t recognise it.
The right mindset to see your opportunities as they present to you is to have the widest lens possible. Not shuttered. Not tinted. Not closed. Not blind. But open, and you can gauge how open your mindset is 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.
3G #1: Your opportunities are unlimited in number and in guise
Do you believe your opportunities are unlimited?
Do you believe your opportunities are all around you?
Do you believe your opportunities come in many sizes, shapes, and forms?
Successful people do. They see a wonderful world full of unlimited opportunities. They see them everywhere, in every size, shape, and form.
They know that for every problem there’s a solution, and in that solution is their opportunity to grow, to profit, to learn, to become better than before that problem existed.
How, then, can we see what they see? We have the same five senses of sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell, so what’s preventing us from seeing the opportunity in every problem?
Your judgement of ‘what is’ is what stops you from seeing ‘what really is’. Your judgement of ‘what is’ blinds you to the truth of ‘what is’. It is the plank in your eye, which is like a drawn curtain—you can’t see what’s outside.
The Sufis call this your ‘permanent hidden prejudice’, which is the filter through which you view yourself, your world, and everything else that happens in and around you.
Your permanent hidden prejudice is how you think the world should be, not what is presented to you. It is often the underlying cause of all your frustrations, resistance, anger, jealousy, and fears. It is often the very reason you struggle to live the life you want, the way you want, how you want.
The parable of the nun in the desert illustrates this point.
A nun was driving alone to her mission settlement through the Australian outback when she heard a loud bang and then noticed steam pouring through the hood of the car. She pulled over to the side of the dirt road just as the engine seized and died.
She knew traffic along the road was very infrequent, but being a woman of faith, she was not afraid. “God will provide,” she said.
As the hot midday sun beat down on her, a motorbike rider stopped and asked if she needed a ride.
“Thank you, but no, God will provide,” she said.
The night came and the hot sun rose again the next morning. By the afternoon, nobody else had driven by and she had finished her last bottle of water, but she was a woman of faith and she was not afraid.
That evening, a car pulled up next to her. “Do you need a lift?” asked the driver.
“Thank you, but no, God will provide,” she said.
On the third day, thirsty and hungry and barely able to stand, a farmer’s truck came to a halt in a cloud of dirt and dust. “Do you need a lift?” asked the farmer.
“Thank you, but no, God will provide,” she said, her throat dry and husky.
The next day, under the scorching sun, the nun perished and went to heaven. Annoyed that God had not provided for her in her hour of need, she demanded an immediate counsel with Him.
“Why did you not help me?” she asked.
“Goodness me,” said God, “I sent you a motorbike, a car, and then a truck. What else did you expect?”
When we have preconceived ideas of what opportunities should look like, we often fail to see them when they come to us.
Preconception often causes missed perception.
Just as the motorbike, the car, and the farmer’s truck were invisible opportunities to the nun, you risk missing out on the big opportunities Life sends your way if you demand that they take a certain size, shape, or form.
3G #2: Your opportunities are your personal gift from Life
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 their 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.
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.
3G #3: Your opportunities grow with your expectations
The first two attitudes of your 3G Network indicate something very important about opportunity—your opportunities have a direct relationship with your perspective.
With attitude 3G #1: Your opportunities are unlimited in number and guise, your opportunities become more visible when you let go of your preconceptions of how they should appear. Problems are often opportunities in disguise.
If you ignore your opportunities because of a hidden prejudice, they will go away.
With attitude 3G #2: Your opportunities are your personal gift from Life, your opportunities wait for you to unwrap them and look inside. Like gifts with your name on them under the Christmas tree, you won’t know what the present is until you give yourself permission to open them.
If you are too scared to receive the gifts of Life, their joy will not be released.
So too with attitude 3G #3: Your opportunities grow with your expectations, your opportunities change as your attitude changes. The more you expect from Life, the more Life rewards you. As you grow, so do your opportunities.
Or as Frances Scovel Shinn, author of the bestselling book, The Game of Life and How to Play It, put it:
“As you change, so do your opportunities.”
You cannot grow beyond the limits you set yourself. You cannot grow in ability, character, knowledge, finances, or wisdom beyond the capabilities you set yourself.
As with the custom of foot binding, you are shaped by your limitations. For centuries, despite the pain and the severe limitations to walking, Chinese aristocratic women subjected themselves and their daughters to the arduous process of foot binding. Petit bound feet were seen as cultured and desirable, and large unbound feet as uncultured and undesirable.
The process itself meant breaking the bones of young girls’ feet and then tightly binding them to shape them and retard their size as the young girls grew into adulthood.
Foot binding is an example of the extreme lengths people will go to be admired and accepted in their community (and some would add, to keep women subjugated by men). But our expectations do the same thing. For whatever reasons we put these restrictions on ourselves, the result is the same as if we deliberately break our feet and tightly bind them—a painful, deformed, retarded, and functionally useless self-imposed limitation.
The point is, whether your expectations of yourself are high or low, they are the limits to which you can expand. This has a direct impact on how you see and make the most of your opportunities:
Your expectations of yourself set your opportunities.
Do you see yourself as a winner crossing the finishing line ahead of the pack? Or do you see yourself as lagging behind everyone else?
Do you want first prize in the Game of Life, or are you prepared to take a consolation prize?
Does it matter if you live your dream, or is it not that important?
The answers to these questions reveal the expectations you have for yourself. There’s no right or wrong, but just be aware that your expectations are your limits, and you set your limits. Nobody else sets them—not society, not your teachers, not your parents, not your boss, not your partner—just you, and like tightly bounded feet you cannot grow beyond those self-imposed limits.
Thankfully, your limits aren’t set in stone. You can change your attitude. You can change your expectations. You can change the limits you set for yourself.
You can change these things and unbind yourself because you have a superpower, which is your imagination.
Athletes use their imagination superpower all the time through a technique NLP practitioners call ‘future pacing’. In the lead up to the Olympic Games, athletes will allocate time during their training schedule to visualise their event and see themselves crossing the finish line. In their mind, they perform their event over and over again, seeing and feeling every aspect of the race. If they are a sprinter, they see themselves in the starter’s block, they hear the starter saying, “On your marks… get set…” and then the starter’s pistol. They feel their muscles tense as they spring out of the blocks. They hear the roar of the crowd. They smell their sweat. They feel their heart pounding as they race down the track toward the finish line, and then the final lurch as they cross ahead of their competitors.
Then, when the Olympics arrive and they’re being interviewed, you’ll hear them tell the journalist, “I’ve been preparing for this moment for a long time.”
They’ve prepared their minds and their bodies for success. Deliberately or not, they’ve actually followed the formula of The BreakThrough Solution:
- They defined who they were—an Olympic athlete.
- They determined what they wanted—to participate in the Olympics and win a gold medal.
- They designed how to do it—they developed a training regime that would prepare them.
Then they took action and did it.
So can you. No matter what it is you want to achieve, all it takes is the right attitude and some imagination.
In my article, Everybody Needs An Air Castle The Outside World Cannot Wreck, I discuss the process of using your imagination for future pacing and creating the outcome you want. Without repeating the same article, the important point is that, like all superpowers, your imagination must be trained. If you don’t master your imagination, your imagination will master you.
It’s important to control your imagination because up until now your imagination has probably been controlling you, like a toddler who has you wrapped around their little finger. We have all future paced our day when we anticipate what’s ahead and make assumptions about how it will turn out. We’re all doing it, just not with any degree of conscious control. Certainly not with the clarity and preciseness of a professional Olympic athlete preparing for their gold medal event.
In The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Walter Mitty has an extremely vivid imagination. He constructs an imaginary world in which he is various heroic and daring characters, such as an intrepid explorer coming to the rescue of Cheryl, a master sculptor wooing his lover, and which generally involve him having superpowers.
But he uses his fantasy world to escape the humdrum of his real world. His imaginations aren’t constructive, more flights of fancy than creative imaginings. They involve superhuman feats rather than down-to-earth human capabilities.
At least his imaginings have a good ending, usually with him saving the day. How often, though, do we imagine the opposite, that the worst will happen? How often do we anticipate that the outcome is going to be painful, or a burden, or just plainly unwanted? That the effort and cost we’ll need to put in and invest just isn’t worth it?
We often use our superpower imagination to imagine failure. We see ourselves unable to cross the finish line. We project an outcome we don’t want more often than projecting an outcome we do want, and these negative forecasts are usually uncovered in the stories we tell ourselves.
“I’m not good enough.”
“I don’t deserve it.”
“I always get things wrong.”
“I’ll never be able to afford it.”
“What if I fail?”
In 2019, my youngest daughter’s school netball team had made the grand final, a remarkable feat considering the motley crew that had been assembled just a season before. But each girl had improved immensely since their first game and they had developed into a tight little team punching way above their weight. They had already won two previous finals to progress to the grand final, and as I was driving my daughter to the game I could tell she was feeling nervous.
“What if I stuff up and we lose?” she said, visibly tense.
As the best player and linchpin of the team, she was putting a lot of pressure on herself to perform. Her low expectations were binding her. So I wanted her to visualise a better ending than the one she was currently projecting.
“What if you do well and win?” I replied.
This seemed to work, and as this new vision of doing well and winning, and not performing well and losing the game, had a visible relaxing effect. Her change in attitude released her mental bindings and she was able to expand into her new, higher expectations.
(As a side note, her team won the grand final by 1 point against the top team in the competition.)
The upshot when we imagine or future pace an unwanted result is that we get filled with negative emotions based on those negative assumptions.
We end up reacting to something that hasn’t yet happened, often with anxiety, worry, fear, and stress.
We then bring that anxiety, worry, fear, and stress into our present moment. It affects our interactions with others and our relationships with them. It affects our energy levels and wellbeing. It affects the quality of our work and what we’re doing.
This negative forecasting makes use of The BreakThrough solution too, but to our detriment not benefit. Let’s use my daughter’s grand final preparation as an example:
- Define who you are—a netballer who is not very good.
- Determine what you want—we’re probably going to lose.
- Design how to do it—I’m going to stuff up and not do very well.
This is not the best use of the formula for having fun and making the most of your opportunities. Each layer of thought is a layer of tight mental bindings, which you can’t really hope to perform at your best under such constrictions.
But let’s see how my daughter was able to change her negative forecast into a positive one:
- Define who you are—a netballer who is going to give it her best for the team.
- Determine what you want—we can actually pull this off and win.
- Design how to do it—I’m going to play well and give 100% effort.
This is a better use of the formula for having fun and making the most of your opportunities. Each layer of thought is now a possibility into which you can grow and perform to your best.
Your opportunities grow with your expectations.
This article is an excerpt from Dr. Scott Zarcinas’s upcoming book, The SCOPE of YOU!
Why Success in Anything You Do Depends on Your SCOPE (and Your Failure Too)