How good are you at opportunity spotting?

English: A photo of a cup of coffee. Esperanto...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A middle-aged man was out of work. He’d been a slacker. Now he was out of income. His lifestyle was going down fast. One day he saw something that gave him idea.

The man’s idea was to run a gourmet coffee mobile stand outside a petrol service station in a local community. He made an arrangement with the petrol station manager and soon people who filled up their cars with petrol got used to also buying a cup of fresh, delicious coffee from the man.

He went at this for about four years. But then he came up with a big idea. The service station manager was putting pressure on him. The disruption to motorists filling up with petrol was getting too much for the petrol station owner. The mobile gourmet coffee trader abandoned his mobile business and bought a small restaurant at a seaside village which was regaining popularity because of its ideal location for surfers. More and more women were becoming involved in surfing.

Funny isn’t it? When your back is against the wall, you seem more willing to try out new things. It’s not a recommended strategy to get into dire straits just so that you can come up with a new business idea but it does provide hope. When we are under pressure to perform suddenly the survival instinct kicks in.

Why is it that we don’t seem to so easily recognise opportunities when things are running smoothly? How come we don’t become opportunity spotters all the time? Is there some sort of pain trigger that makes the old brain, our reptilian brain, scan our environment for opportunities?

It’s unfortunate but our brains tend to seek and thrive on “problems”. Our own “problems” just give us a headache and excuses. Yes, other people’s problems especially when it comes to products and services may provide an idea or opportunity. But how do we learn to orientate ourselves to become more aware of the opportunities in our environment?

If we flip our “problems” into challenges and opportunities, we increase the odds of coming up with something new.

When our brain clicks into opportunity conscious gear we begin to see the true value of our resources, no matter how limited, and the strength of our personal networks. We realise then that a small savings habit can build up an important cash kitty or pot for financing small projects or new ventures that no one else will finance. Projects that you believe in and have a conviction that will work.

The other day I saw a sign outside a BP service station that read, “Don’t limit your challenges. Challenge your limits.” Isn’t it amazing that when we have the least going for us we tend to jump over our limitations and make a success of things despite the odds? Is it because we are able to refuse to accept our limitations and are able to muster the courage to create something new?

You might say the guy with the mobile gourmetcoffee stand was just at the right place at the right time. You might think he started that coffee shop just on the wing of an idea. Not so. He, pressured as much as he was, was able to surpass his limitations and see opportunities despite his challenges.

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