One of my favorite quotes is actually an African proverb. It goes like this:
When you want to go fast, go alone.
When you want to go far, go together.
It’s easy to understand and equally easy to forget, unfortunately.
With that in the background, let’s get to answering the question we started with: What is a real missed opportunity?
In short, the “real missed opportunity” is your inability to proactively help people in your network to accelerate the pursuit of their dreams.
Let me explain…
Let’s take an example of John. He is a member of your network and someone you have known for a while. John is young and on a fast track, but he is far from having the power to help you back in a meaningful way – at least not right now. In your conversations with John, he has shared what he is working on, the dream he is pursuing. It’s not a secret to you.
Let’s now focus on the very next step that John can take that will indicate very clear progress in the pursuit of his dream. The next step requires some additional capacity for John. This additional capacity can be something like knowledge, network, connections, out of the box thinking, brainstorming partnership etc.
There are many ways for John to get that additional capacity. YOU are one of those paths.
You are unfortunately busy. Why? Because you are pursuing your own dreams and you lack capacity to get to the next stage in those pursuits. Most of your time is spent courting those that have more power than you in the hope that they will lend that capacity to get you to the next stage. Those advances are sometimes thankless jobs because, like you there are a dozen other people who are courting the same powerful people hoping for things similar to what you are hoping for.
This creates two different scenarios on both ends of you.
1. You are courting more powerful people who have the power and money to buy additional capacity if there is a need. [Note: I am not saying that this part is not important. I am raising the awareness that this is happening so much that it may be making you ignore the second part below]
2. On the other end, there are people in your network who are starting out and need additional capacity almost as a favor now because they lack the power and money to be able to buy that additional capacity.
What complicates the matter is that people like John know how busy you are pursuing your own dreams so they rarely make an open request for help because they don’t want to be a burden in your life. For the same reason, you asking “How can I help you?” won’t cut it because John still does not know what is an acceptable ask and what is not.
The best way to help John would be to proactively lend some capacity in your area of strength to help him move the needle and push him towards that next milestone in pursuit of his dreams. By adding that capacity in your area of strength, it costs you less but it is still valuable to John.
If you choose not to help this way, John might not have it easy as he pursues alternate paths to get to the next milestone. You can be a bystander and watch that happen while knowing that you COULD have helped but you chose not to.
Why is this a “real” missed opportunity?
For multiple reasons – but most importantly for the following three reasons beyond the moral and ethical “right thing to do” reasons:
1. You build your future power base by lending your power and capacity to those that need them most. It is good to help those that are already in power in the hope that you will get into their good books but honestly they don’t have as much as need for you as someone like John who is just getting his feet wet.
2. You grow your strengths by putting your strengths to work where it matters most. This is not a fictional case study where you are “thinking” your way out. John is real and his needs are real. If you can move the needle using your strengths, you are getting better at using your strengths. Keep doing this and over a period of time you will move towards mastery in those areas.
3. This may be leaning towards a bit of spirituality but I will share it anyway because at least in my life and in the lives of many that I have personally witnessed, I know that “the more you give, the more the universe will bring back.” You get what you give out. This part is hard to prove but easy to experience once you put your faith in the process and go with the flow.
Now, over to you to think and reflect on any “real” missed opportunities in your own life…