by Robert Wood, Social Media Adviser – Prison Scholar Fund

Only take on opportunities you are fully prepared to capitalize on or risk squandering the current opportunity, future opportunities, and your credibility. One of the reasons that proper preparation and opportunity creation are so important is that when those opportunities come you must be ready to show, through results, that the right person has been granted an opportunity, and thus, for having the good judgement to grant you that opportunity the grantor of that opportunity will reap the reward of impressive results. In turn you will in turn reap more opportunity. In many cases just the opposite happens. People see what appears to be an opportunity, fake readiness or get it waived through an intermediary, (such as a family member, a friend, or mentor) and then not only squander that opportunity, but any future opportunities that may have stemmed from it, and in some cases severely damage their reputation. I assert that opportunity should be prepared for through education, training, and/or mock execution in all circumstances where this is possible and that opportunities should only be accepted commensurate with your ability to execute in a manner that allows you to capitalize on the opportunity while rendering viable results which could in turn yield more opportunity and increase your reputation as someone known for results. In some instances we are prepared or at least in striking range of the necessary preparation to take advantage of opportunity when it comes our way and that’s fine. In other cases adequate preparation should proceed taking on any new opportunity and therefore, it is where we begin.

Opportunity preparation is something that many people seldom think of as they wish for various opportunities. Instead they think of opportunity as something that falls from the sky. They don’t look at performers, like Fantasia, a singer who went on “American Idol” and hit it big as people who worked hard, instead they look at those individuals as people who got lucky breaks. In reality, in the case of Fantasia, she had been singing in the church and perfecting her craft since childhood. They look at actors and think of them as people who just went to Hollywood and magically became stars instead of, as in most cases, like people who worked hard educating themselves in regards to their craft and paying dues along the way to make it big. In business it’s the same way. People see someone like Mark Zuckerberg, who dropped out of college, start an ultra-successful business like Facebook, and think wow he did that without a college education. Although that is not true, he actually got the inspiration and the talent to make facebook happen while attending and being educated in college and then did it. Although he didn’t complete his degree right at that time it was education that prompted him to start Facebook. He did prepare for that opportunity. The myth that businesspeople who don’t go to school haven’t prepared either is usually false also because in most cases they have hands on experience (training) and then they hire people to perform those functions they don’t understand or they get the training to understand those things them self. There are rare instances where opportunity just comes but preparing for, and creating it, make much more likely.

What happens when opportunity is engaged without preparation?

When opportunity is engaged without prior preparation it usually ends in disaster. That is the case in a very high percentage of lotto winners who go broke within five years of receiving their final payment. It is also the case in many small businesses where the rate of failure far outweighs the success rate. The reason is simple. Without preparation you are not ready for what happens next and often you will squander opportunity so bad that the next opportunity won’t even be presented to you. Taking the time to understand what you want and the types of opportunities you’d like to capitalize on gives you the chance to prepare for the opportunities and even participate in the creation of the opportunities. It is imperative that you understand that one good opportunity well executed opens many doors. One good opportunity squandered, conversely closes many doors.

In this instance it’s fair to ask what is the striking range necessary to capitalize on an opportunity. I contend that if you have knowledge of 85% of the skills needed to adequately execute the task that the opportunity represents and the other knowledge is readily available you are at least in striking range of adequate task performance related to the opportunity you are attempting to capitalize on. For many this is the case and in that situation your chances of adequate execution are high, but if that’s not the case you must be honest with yourself and reject the opportunity or explain that at this time your readiness is limited, to manage expectations and preserve your personal brand, if you do engage the opportunity. That way you don not ruin the future opportunities or your reputation. Be mindful that simply being scared as opposed to un-prepared is not a valid reason to pass up opportunity. The butterflies and jitters will pass and the preparation will kick in if you are actually prepared. Through education, execution, and constant upgrades in knowledge you stand ready, not only to engage opportunity, but to optimize it and possibly even parlay it into more opportunity. Your personal brand is important and it’s very delicate. The way you respond to opportunity has a direct effect on that personal brand. The best thing you can do while you await or create opportunity is prepare, prepare, and prepare. That way when opportunity does knock you can answer confidently and execute brilliantly.