“It’s better to be prepared and not have an opportunity, rather than missing an opportunity because you weren’t prepared for it.” – Les Brown.
That struck a chord with me when I heard it while watching a short video of Mr. Brown that I found in my morning social media feeds. It immediately made me remember times in my past where I prepared for… something, even though that “something” wasn’t on any immediate horizon. It made me see opportunities I was able to take advantage of, and that some of my coworkers had taken advantage of, simply because we were able to when the time arose; when the opportunity presented itself. It also reminds me of a statement made by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson: “When you walk up to opportunity’s door… don’t knock on it. Kick that bitch in, smile and introduce yourself.”
Let’s first look at an opportunity made and then a situation wherein preparedness preceded the opportunity, so when it was presented, it could be more fully taken advantage of.
Perhaps the only reason I’m sitting here typing this blog as part of my work day, and perhaps the only reason I now make my primary living as an Editorial Director, is because I harassed a man into giving me a chance; I created an opportunity. Way back in 2002 I went to sniper school at what was then Blackwater in Moyock, NC. One of the things they presented us with at the training was the “suggestion” that we subscribe to the Blackwater Tactical Weekly newsletter or the “BTW.” I had the chance to meet the then VP of Operations (who later became the CEO of Blackwater) and asked him if he’d consider publishing equipment reviews if I provided them. He told me that they had tried that but their writer had flaked out after about three months so he’d have to think about it. He told me to get back to him.
After the class was over and I was back home, I waited about a week and sent him an email and asked if he’d thought about it. His response was, in essence, “I’ve been busy. Check back in a few days.” Three days later I sent him another email asking if he’d thought about it. His response? “I haven’t had the chance. Check back in a few days.”
That went on for about three weeks with me sending an email every three business days. Finally I got a little tired of it and called him. “Sir, if the answer is ‘no,’ just say so. I’m a big boy. I can accept that. But if you’re just avoiding the question, please stop so I can stop harassing you.” He made the comment that I didn’t seem to give up easy. I told him I’d stop as soon as I had a firm ‘no,’ but until then I intended to pursue the opportunity. So, he threw out a challenge. “If you can give me three months worth in advance, we’ll try it out.” Three months worth represented twelve equipment reviews. I’m pretty sure he thought it was going to dissuade me. The surprise in his voice was apparent when I asked him how he wanted me to send them: email? Burned on a CD? What format? I had them done and waiting. (I was prepared when the opportunity I’d been working for was finally presented.) He stuttered just a moment before saying, “Email is fine.” I flooded his inbox.
That was April 2003. From then through June 2011, I wrote either one or two equipment evaluations (or other articles) for the Blackwater Tactical Weekly each week. I did it without pay. It represented my break into the industry and was the reason why, when the editor for officer.com was leaving in November 2007, he recommended me as his replacement and I was offered the position. Here it is, ten and a half years later, and I’ve had hundreds of articles, seven fiction books, two self-help books, two political opinion books and two research papers published. I make my living as the editorial director for a law enforcement publishing group… and none of it would have happened if I hadn’t pursued and created an opportunity that I saw as feasible.
Another part of my inspiration this morning as I type this are my work conditions. I’m sitting in my gazebo, typing on my iPad with a coffee mug to my right, my dog laying nearby and surrounded by Mother Nature. (Okay… the pollen sucks, but the rest of it is beautiful this morning.) Working from home (usually) allows for awesome work conditions, but not everyone has the option. I know a man – one of my work compatriots – who used to go into the office every day but who now works from home four days each week.
Let’s be honest: there are some HUGE benefits to working from home. If you go into an office for work, you have to be in the office for a certain number of hours. That’s not to say that you have to work those hours. We all know people who “work” forty hours per week in their office but they get about 10-15 hours of work done… in a good week. That’s called “working to time.” They’re there for a preset amount of time and get credit for working. Then there are those who are in the office and work conscientiously for the entire time, minus unavoidable distractions – like phone calls and meetings. They get a full work day / week in. The TIME mandate is the constraint that places a challenge on productivity (just my opinion).
Then there are those who work from home. They aren’t necessarily in their office for a fixed time frame but the total hours spent are at least the same; quite often they are greater because the worker is tracking them as diligently. Why would he? He’s not as eager to get “out of the office and go home.” He’s already home. He doesn’t lose time on the commute (unless you count the time spent walking to the kitchen for coffee). They usually have fewer distractions and get the same or more work accomplished in the work hours spent.
Back to my work compatriot who worked in the office five days a week. He lived about thirty minutes away. Even though he was working in the office, he set up a home office and did so because he lives in a region where winter snows could easily trap him at home and he was motivated enough to want to still be productive even when that happened. As a result, he was prepared when the opportunity arose for him to be offered the chance to work from home one day each week. He was able to immediately say, “Yes. Thanks.” The one day per week proved to be a trial period to see how his productivity would fair and soon he was working three days a week from home which is now four days per week. Had he not already had that home office set up… if he hadn’t been prepared… when the opportunity showed up, he wouldn’t have been able to take advantage of it.
There are two life’s experiences – true stories – as examples of how MAKING an opportunity or being PREPARED for an opportunity can benefit you in the long run. In a perfect world, we do BOTH. We prepare for opportunities that might come our way AND we look to make our own. So… what are you doing today?