Identifying Opportunities

Positions are advanced only by finding openings in people's minds.

In normal usage, we use the word "opportunity" to describe any situation that offers an advantage or a combination of favorable circumstances. However, our control over “situations” is limited and the range of different situations unlimited. So this definition of “opportunity” is useless when looking for practical way to advance our position.

In practical strategy, we use the term "opportunity" to specifically to describe an opening that allows us to move our position in the direction of our goal. Since positions are mental constructs in our minds and the minds of those who make decisions affecting us, an opportunity is, in a sense, and open place in the minds of people, an unfilled mental category, or, more specifically and more often, an unfulfilled need in the conscious or subconscious mind.

Mimicry is an important human ability, one by which we learn most lessons in life. However, one of the most common strategic mistakes is working to occupy the same exact position as someone else does. Two things cannot occupy the same space at the same time. This is the nature of all competitive ground. If we desire a position like the position of another, what we can and should emulate are the methods by which someone found their place in life. In doing so, we will discover than no one can use the exact same opportunities, because all openings are temporary, existing in climate, that is, the shifting patterns of events. The events that occurred to allow the success of another, will and cannot occur for us because they are in the past. Instead, we take command of our lives by seeing and utilizing the openings that make themselves temporarily available for our own unique position.

If we think in terms of advancing our position in the minds of others, openings allow us to move forward easily, without creating conflict with others (or cognitive dissonance in others). An opening is a vacant position that is better than our current one. However, because it is vacant is it is often invisible. What we must see is not a position that someone else already holds, which is an invitation to conflict, but the potential for an open position for which our current position qualifies us.

Of course, life often sets up competitive contests where the “openings” seem predefined outside of people’s minds, that is, in the “real world.” Individuals compete for the same political office, the same job opening, the same starting position on a sports team, and so on. Such contests have clear winners and losers and seem based on conflict. However, people qualify for such positions by first winning positions in the minds of the decision-makers involved. We can become blinded to the real underlying, psychological process that is taking place constantly, below the surface, if we focus on these visible win/lose contests. Over time, most people create unique positions for themselves in the minds of others that are never listed in the want ads.

  1. Opportunities are constantly created and destroyed by the natural shifts in needs.

    Once an opening is filled, once a need satisfied, the opportunity is no longer in that opening but it moves somewhere else. Phrases such as a "window of opportunity" express our commonsense appreciation for how needs arise from the constant stream of events. Since human need is unbounded, the opportunities to satisfy than are unlimited as well. Opportunities are generated by the natural dynamics of our world. No one creates their own opportunities. All we can do is position ourselves correctly to be in the right place at the right time when openings occur around us.

  2. An opportunity is only an opportunity if we have the resources to pursue it. 

    Pursuing opportunities without understanding the constraints of our limited resources can be extremely costly. All openings or unmet needs are opportunities for someone, but we are interesting only in openings that our current position gives us the resources to pursued. Our resources come from the ground that our current position allows us to control. Another way of saying this is that our resources come from the current position that we occupy in people’s minds.

  3. Opportunities are hard to see because they sit in gaps in our perception.

    We cannot see openings because there is nothing there. An opening is only the potential for something. We see success, but success is what happens after someone fills an opening, using up its potential. We can find success by emulating successful people, but only if we find a distinct set of needs, a new potential, within a different group of people. The “potential” that everyone thinks they see, potential that many different people are trying to satisfy, is often a solution looking for a need. It is not a true need and doesn’t have true potential.

  4. Small opportunities are more common and easier to use than large ones.

    Every day offers us opportunities. We can continuously and consistently improve our position in the minds of everyone we meet. All that is necessary is taking an interest in people’s needs and looking for ways we can be rewarded for serving those needs. Small commitments in time allow us to adapt more quickly to change. Our mission sets our direction, but no opportunity takes use exactly where we want to go. We never know what an opportunity leads exactly until we follow it. As we follow opportunities, moving, seeing the world from different angles, we get better perspective on our position, the positions of others, and eal mission in life.

  5. We must be selective in choosing our opportunities.

    We cannot always serve all the needs of all people and all times. We have limited resources, especially limited time.  There are five types of openings, five types of opportunities: 1) adopting a new shared mission,2) taking advantage of an event, 3) a move to new ground, 4) accepting new responsibilities of command, and 5) learning new method of skills. Each of these allows us to improve our positions in one dimension of another. These are the dimensions in which we are compared by others, so these are the dimensions in which we must advance our positions.