Most small business owners want to grow their companies, but when it comes to taking action to succeed, many remind me of the man in this joke:
A huge flood threatened a town, forcing everyone to evacuate. Joe stays put, thinking, “I’m a devout man; God will save me.” The waters rise. Joe’s neighbor comes by, urging, “Joe, come with me; we’ve got to go.” Joe declines, “I’m a devout man; God will save me.”
The waters keep rising. Joe scrambles to his second floor. Out the window, a firefighter in a rowboat comes by: “Hurry, get in the boat or you’ll drown.” Joe again refuses, “I’m a devout man; God will save me.”
Finally, the flood waters are so high that Joe is forced up on his roof. A fire department helicopter comes by and throws down a rope. “It’s your last chance, climb up or you’ll drown,” the firefighter yells. “No, I’m a devout man; God will save me.”
He arrives in Heaven and challenges God, “I’m a devout man; why didn’t you save me?”
“What do you mean,” God replies, “I did everything I could. I sent a neighbor, a firefighter, and a helicopter.”
Many of us are like Joe – waiting for something to rescue us while we keep missing opportunities to help ourselves.
Whether in our business lives or personal lives, we hope for a lifeline, a “transforming event” to save us – a big new customer or rave reviews of our product, a great relationship or better family life – to just show up. Where, we wonder, is our Fairy Godmother?
Alas, life isn’t like that. While we sit there waiting for success to fall in our laps, real life keeps trudging along. Like Joe, if we want things to be different, we must learn to recognize opportunities and seize them; we have to do SOMETHING.
Of course, most entrepreneurs are used to taking action. But all too often – especially when we’re in trouble – we think the way to improve our situation is to work harder at what we’re already doing. We have low profit margins but think we need to sell more; we target the wrong customers but think we need to make more sales calls; we can’t manage our money but think we need more loans.
When you’re in a hole, the answer is not to start digging faster.
Let’s face it: if you want your business or your life to change, you have to do some things differently. Doing nothing isn’t the answer, but neither is doing more of the same. You have to be an active participant in your own transformation.
But where do we start? How do we learn to recognize – and then seize – opportunities when they come our way?
Here are six steps to help you recognize opportunities and seize success:
- Create a vision. Delineate what your idea of success would be. You can’t judge whether an opportunity is one to seize or let pass unless you have a context for understanding whether it fits into your goals.
- Plan. Next, develop a plan of how you can make your vision a reality. Developing a plan gives you a framework for decision making.
- Get out of your “comfort zone.” Sure you’re comfortable doing what you’re doing, but if it’s not bringing you the results you want, you’re going to have to change. Change is always uncomfortable.
- Choose. Moving forward means seizing some opportunities and allowing others to pass. Life will present you with many tempting prospects. You can’t act on every good idea. But you have to act on some. Choose.
- Move. Recognize that the “perfect” solution is never going to come along. Often we fail to act because we’re waiting for the perfect opportunity or the perfect timing. Life doesn’t offer perfection, it offers chances. Looking for perfection is a way of avoiding taking action.
- Commit. Get used to saying no. Get used to saying yes. But whatever you do, do it with commitment and conviction.
Like Joe, we have to learn how to recognize opportunities to survive and succeed and then grab on.
Copyright, Rhonda Abrams, 2015
This article originally ran in USA Today on December 4, 2015