Crossing the minefield of opportunity

​You stop and you look around. “How the hell did I end up here, doing this?”

Sometimes, it’s because when we are presented with an opportunity, we snatch it without thought. Without pausing to ask ourselves some questions.

I’ve been guilty of this. Something new and exciting comes along and I lunge at it with both hands, before thinking about where the road is really going to lead me. Before I know it, I’m far away from where I intended to be and I have to expend even more time and energy getting myself back on the right course.

I don’t want that to happen again. To me or to you.

Below I’ve created a list of questions that you can ask yourself before taking something on. These questions will help you sniff out the best opportunities and navigate the potential minefield of opportunity.

Does this move me closer to accomplishing my grand strategy?

You should know the ultimate aim of your efforts. The goal behind the goal. And what it’s going to take to reach it. Does this opportunity give you something or take you somewhere that allows you to move closer to attaining it?

What are the costs, both hidden and obvious?

If I do this, what can’t I do? How much of my time and energy and attention is this going to take up? Is this going to cause me stress and anxiety? What do I have to give up to take and get the most from this chance?

What are my exit criteria?

Am I prepared to walk away from this after taking it? After how long? What conditions need to be satisfied for me to call it a day? What am I willing to put up with and what am I not?

What’s the timeline? How long will it take me to get maximum value from this opportunity?

Find the point of diminishing returns and don’t exceed it.

Does it scare me?

No? Maybe it’s too easy then. Or maybe you should do it because it you can take some value from it without expending much effort. 

Yes? Maybe you should do it, even if it doesn’t offer you that much. Perhaps you can use the experience and skills you gain in the future.

Is it the best way for me to provide the most value to others?

If it doesn’t do that, why do it? The only exception is that it allows you to become a better person. Because only by being your best self, can you provide maximum value for others.

Am I doing it for the money or the prestige?

Which is fine by the way. Money and prestige are tools that you can leverage further down the line. But they are not ends in themselves. Don’t do it solely because of the money or prestige. Do it because you can use those things. Or maybe, for what you are trying to accomplish, you don’t need either of them…

Is there much room to benefit from serendipity and randomness?

Who will this allow me to meet? How many more opportunities will this allow me to create or stumble upon? Will this put me in unfamiliar situations?

What doors does this open that would otherwise remain closed? Are there other ways to open those doors?

Sometimes A leads to B. More often than not, it doesn’t. Usually you’re told you need X before you can Y. Usually, that’s not true. Is it in this case? Do I really need to do this before I can do that?

Have you explored all the options?

Following on from the previous, if you’re doing this in order to get that, have you considered all the other ways to get that. Remember, options are limited only by your ability to imagine them. This might not be the only way.

Have you done your research?

On the people and companies you’ll be working with. On the competitors. On the field. On the discipline. On the history and the future trends that are coming. On what happened to other people who walked a similar path.

Does it feel right?

All the above questions involved using your mind to untangle obscurities and discover the key arguments for and against.

This one is about intuition. About giving yourself the time, space and stillness to listen to yourself. It’s probably the most important question of all.

There are things we see and understand which we cannot explain. Things we sense but cannot rationalise. These things are important.

You could ask yourself all of the above questions, discover it’s the best opportunity in the world, and it still might not feel right. Or the reverse could happen. The opportunity could look positively awful, but you could still be drawn to it.

Explore those feelings.

All but one of the questions are asking you, “is this logical, does it make sense?” The final is asking you, “is it right?”

Ideally, you want an affirmative answer to both.