Opportunity demands to be heard and seen, but is difficult to spot, mostly because it’s almost always dressed in the raiment of hard work and procrastination. I know that all too well, but I’ve gotten better at seeing through it (after years of trying). Sometimes, it’s easy to spot – an internship or job offer, a response to a cold email or cold call asking to set up a time to speak, or a big break you’ve been waiting for. More often, though, it’s not so easy. It’s a habit that’s like eating your vegetable – it’s good for you in the long run, but you’d rather do anything else in the short term. The disconnect, of course, is that the long-term benefits of something can only be reaped after some short-term hardship.
Nowhere is this more evident to me than learning. To use a personal example, I’m in the process of learning how to program. Why? As someone who cares very much about how their books (and music and movies and video games) are managed, there is nothing that suits my needs. I know because I’ve tried every program, app, and service under the sun. Calibre is a fine option (for books), but I find myself fighting with it instead of getting along. And so I thought the best option would be to build my own thing. This ticks off several boxes that are important to me.
- Learn how to program. I’ve had a couple of false starts over the years, but I could never find a need to fill. Now, I have a very specific goal in mind.
- Build something I need. I seriously need a way to keep track of everything. Not to mention, attending to my collection is a meditative experience.
- If it can help others keep track of their collections, even better. But as for now, I’m figuring out what I need and working off that.
- All of this helps me sharpen and mold myself – I’m able to learn and create something new, which requires all of my concentration and focus, with the final result being something usable and tangible. Doing this consistently helps me build a habit, which can be transposed to different projects.
Learning, creating, focus, and habit – I consider all of them to be opportunities to be seized. They require me to attend to them daily like clockwork. Only then, after months, will they begin to pay off. Approach opportunity with the long view in mind, knowing that the work you put in today may take a while to pay off. It may not even pay off with some big break. But the daily grind and refinement do pay off. It helps sharpen you and your skills – skills you may need to seize on a larger, more visible opportunity when it comes your way.
“Men give me some credit for genius. All the genius I have lies in this, when I have a subject in hand I study it profoundly. Day and night it is before me. I explore it in all its bearings. My mind becomes pervaded with it. Then the effort I have made is what people are pleased to call the fruit of genius. It is the fruit of labor and thought.” – Alexander Hamilton