Opportunity and Preparation
‘Opportunity plus preparation equals success’ is a saying you have probably heard or read about. Opportunity is defined as a possibility due to a favourable combination of circumstances (WordNet). An extension of this definition is that favourable circumstances required to capture opportunity are enhanced through preparation.
If preparation is critical for success, the question is: how do you and I prepare for success? This depends on what one wants to succeed at. For instance, a student who wants to succeed in an examination prepares by studying adequately; a businessperson desirous of succeeding in business prepares by getting acquainted with the needs of his customers, his internal resource requirements, his industry competitive dynamics, among others issues.
As important as these forms of preparation are, there is a variant of preparation for success that cuts across all kinds of endeavour. I never thought about this until recently.
I had a unique experience not long ago that opened my mind to this crucial ingredient of success. I set out from Lagos to visit a site on the outskirts. Because the site is on the inbound lane to Lagos, it meant I had to make a U-turn at some point to get to my destination. I was aware that the contractor handling the on-going reconstruction work on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway (Julius Berger) had closed the old turning point and opened another further down the road. Based on this knowledge, I moved rather fast to get to where I would turn.
To my surprise, when I got to the old turning point that was previously closed, I realized that it had been opened. Unfortunately, I could not use it even though I was on the inner lane because the car speed was too much to make a turn. So I made for the new turning point I was aware the contractor had opened. Shockingly, the new one had been closed. Apparently, the old turning point was opened after construction works had been completed on that road section while the erstwhile new one was closed. At that point, I had to travel further down the road before I found a place to turn.
After accessing the inbound lane to Lagos, I started reflecting on the experience. I wanted to know what I did wrong that resulted in the waste of resources of time, money (fuel cost) coupled with the additional risk of going on a needless journey. It dawned on me that there were obvious signs that the old turning point has been opened that I ignored. I remembered that there was a thought that crossed my mind to the effect that it could have been opened (for instance, I noticed the completion of the road section) that I cast aside. The overriding thought was the previous knowledge of the closure.
In a nutshell, I could not take advantage of an opportunity to access a faster route to my destination because I was not expecting it. Rather I was fixated on the old knowledge of the route to access. Even though going further down the road added just about 15 minutes travel time to my journey, I did not allow the lessons to be lost on me because 15 minutes could translate to 10 years delay in other areas of life if the lessons are not learned.
I came up with two perspectives on missing a turning point that have implications for succeeding at future endeavours:
- Adaptive / Rational Expectation Perspective
Reflecting on the importance of expectation, I remembered learning during my undergraduate studies that there are two kinds of expectation – adaptive expectation and rational expectation. Adaptive expectation basically says that future events can always be represented in relation to the past. This is the foundation of trend analysis. It is also the premise used in incremental budgeting.
Rational expectation, on the other hand, says that future events can be a radical departure from the past. This is the class disruptive innovators belong. We can attest to events that have happened that are unrelated with what we know in the past.
I had always seen myself as belonging to the Rational Expectation (Ratex) School but this experience reminded me that I am not there yet.
- Spiritual Perspective
As I reflected on God’s relationship with man, I realized that, almost always, God wants us to seize every opportunity He brings our way by letting go of the familiar and reaching for the new horizons.
One of the attributes of God is that He does new things. In fact, the greatest mistake anyone can make is to judge God strictly on the basis of His past deeds. What He did in the past should only serve as a reference to His ability.
The scripture that readily comes to mind is: “Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I am about to do something brand-new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? There it is! I’m making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands” (Isaiah 43:18-19, TM).
The key to seizing the opportunity God is bringing your way is hope – positive (rational) expectation.
To all your preparation for the opportunity that will come your way, add hope. Without hope, chances are that you will miss the opportunity.
“But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly” (I Corinthians 13:13, TM).