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We must take advantage of opportunities if we want success. But, does that mean we should sit idle, waiting for luck? Or can we do something to attract opportunity? How you answer that question says a lot about you as a person. And it has a huge impact on your chance for success.
One of Strength and Reason’s core ideas is that action creates opportunity. Yet many of us are content to sit idle and hope for luck. In this article, I’ll explain that opportunity is superior to luck. That’s because we can influence opportunity while luck is beyond our control. Then I’ll tell why an arbitrary action isn’t enough. Instead, you must take a meaningful action intended to accomplish your goals to create opportunities. It’s through creating and taking advantage of the opportunity that we become successful.
Luck? Opportunity? What’s the Difference?
There’s a function in the Universal OS that manages chance. Within that function, there’s an IF statement that guides us into one of two subroutines: luck or opportunity.
It looks something like this:
IF Person is a lazy, do nothing, beer-swilling couch lump, then do Luck.
ELSE, do Opportunity1
This function is telling us that action is what separates luck and opportunity. See, folks who want success and do something to get it are inviting opportunity to them. The people who want success but aren’t doing anything about it are waiting for luck.
Because our actions don’t have a bearing on whether we’re lucky, we don’t control luck. It either comes, or it doesn’t. Even hoping, praying, or believing won’t convince luck to visit us. Opportunity, in contrast, is the bit of chance that comes about because of an action we took.2
In other words, luck is something that happens to us, and opportunity is something we create.
Remember, at Strength and Reason, we focus on what’s in our control.
Luck: The Siren Song That Will Lure Us to Our Doom
Luck3 is the Siren song that comes wrapped in the melody of hope, cascading across the land to drag us to our doom. The song lures us in with the promise of easy success. It promises us that if we sit and wait long enough, luck appears before us and allows us to gaze into its beautiful eyes. Then with a flick of its wrist, it grants us the success we deserve without any effort on our part.
Here’s the kicker. Luck doesn’t thrive by giving us what we want. Instead, it feeds off our unfulfilled desire as a vampire feeds off blood. So, it will never grant our wishes. Why should it? If we never satisfy our craving, it gets to feed off us for our lifetime.4 If luck has it’s way, success will forever remain beyond our grasp.
Enter Opportunity: The Real Hero of Our Tale
You see, opportunity doesn’t come looking for you while you’re sitting on the couch. And it doesn’t waste time with people who stumble through life without a purpose.
Opportunity is like you, the readers of Strength and Reason. It avoids people without a mission.
You attract it by showing it that you have a willingness to make things happen. And that you’re ready to pursue your mission.
In short, you must act.
Meaningful Action: The Opportunity Magnet
Not any arbitrary action will do. It must be meaningful action.
In my success equation, Meaningful Action is an action essential to achieving a goal. These are the actions you must focus on while limiting the time you spend on non-meaningful tasks.
It’s helpful to picture the interplay between meaningful action and opportunity. To do so, we can borrow from the fields of physics and finance.7
Newton’s Third Law of Motion
Remember Newton’s Third Law of Motion from physics? We recognize it as: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
I visualize the action/opportunity dynamic like Newton’s Third Law of Motion. The reaction to my action is the creation of an opportunity. So, my first action is the starting point for a chain reaction of activity and opportunity.
It works like this:
- I act.
- My act creates opportunities.
- I perform on the opportunity created in step 2.
- My action in step 3 creates more opportunities.
- Rinse and repeat.
Stop a second and visualize it. It’s a beautiful image, isn’t it? 8
Here’s another concept: compounding. This concept comes to us from banking and finance. We know that compound interest, earning interest on interest, is a powerful tool. Using it, your savings growth is slow at first but increases over time.
Like when we put money in a savings account, and each year we earn interest on all the prior years’ interest. When you act on an opportunity, you create many new opportunities. Act on those opportunities and create even more opportunities. (See step 4, above)
Down to the basics. each iteration of the action/opportunity cycle creates more opportunities.
An Example: Comparing Opportunity to Luck
Let’s say we want to start a blog. To do so, we must have a domain name, web hosting, and blogging software like WordPress. So, our essential tasks are to get each of those. As we complete each of these tasks, we’re one step closer to our goal.
Buying a desk and a new ergonomic chair are not meaningful actions. Sure, they’re nice to have. And they may even boost our productivity. But our blog doesn’t depend on our having them.
Going back to our meaningful actions. Purchasing a domain, setting up hosting, and installing WordPress allows us to publish articles. Publishing articles creates the opportunity to build a following. And, having a following creates the opportunity to market products to our audience. And so on.
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
Each step in that process requires a meaningful action to create an opportunity. We then act on that opportunity to kick off the next level.
Now, let’s contrast that with relying on luck to start a blog.
If we’re lucky, something happens that we didn’t initiate through our actions. Something like the phone rings. We answer, and it’s an attorney. She’s calling to inform us that a great aunt who we never knew existed passed away. And, wouldn’t we know it, she left us a successful blog.
To make it even better, our heretofore unknown great aunt knew of her pending demise. So, she penned the next five years of blog posts. All we must do is send the attorney our bank account information and she will start sending us payments from the blog.
In which of those scenarios do you have more control? Which offers a higher chance of success?
How to be the Mad Scientist of Opportunity
I imagine successful people already have their own way of creating opportunities. Here’s the method I use. It’s not rocket science, but it works.
1. Define the Mission
We start by defining our mission. But our mission isn’t some vague statement. It’s specific.
In our blog example, our mission could be:
To have a blog that generates $1M in monthly income and has 1M email subscribers.
2. Set a Deadline for the Mission
A lot of people fail in their mission because they don’t set a deadline. When we don’t set a deadline, we give ourselves the ready-made excuse to start tomorrow. But tomorrow never comes.
Adding a deadline, our mission becomes:
To have a blog that generates $1M in monthly incomes and has 1M email subscribers by 12/31/2025.
Now, we have a specific mission and a deadline. Time to start breaking our mission down into actionable steps.
3. Break the Mission Down into a Series of Goals
Next, we take a hard look at our mission and figure out what steps we must go through to accomplish it.
For our blog, our mission is to build it to $1M in monthly revenue. So, our first goal could be $10k/mo. in revenue. From there, our goals could be $100k/mo., then $250k/mo., and so on up to $1M/mo.
4. Set a Deadline for Each Goal
See step #2. There’s nothing different here.
5. Break the First Goal Down into Meaningful Actions
For each goal, we next figure out the essential steps to complete that goal. Once we’ve done all this, we’ll have all our meaningful actions laid out in a road map.
To continue with our blog example from above, our first three required tasks could be:
- Purchase a domain name
- Sign up with a web host
- Install WordPress
As we complete each goal, we’ll come back to this step and break the next goal down into its required tasks.
6. Get to Work
Now that we have our road map of meaningful actions, all that’s left is to get to work. Make phone calls, knock on doors, build a website, and whatever else you must do. Don’t wait around for the world to notice you.
If you want something to happen, you must make it happen.
A Lesson from a Stoic Emperor
Remember this if you need some motivation.
Marcus Aurelius reminded himself several times in Meditations that he would soon die. His reminder to himself wasn’t a morbid fascination with death. It was a note to himself to live every moment like it was his last. That means not waiting. Instead, act to create and take advantage of the opportunity.
Conclusion: Have a Bias for Action
We can think of life as a river full of logs floating along with its current. Each log represents an opportunity. Our mission is to get to the other side. We can sit on the shore, watching the logs float past. We can hope that a giant eagle or a helpful alligator9 will come along to take us to the other side. While we wait, we can nap and not even realize how many logs passed as we slumbered.
Or, we can act to get to the other side and fulfill our mission. We can jump into the river and grab a log. Then, when another log floats close enough, we grasp that one. We work our way across the river one log at a time. Before we know it, we’re sunning ourselves on the other bank.
Luck and opportunity are two sides of the same coin. What separates them is action. We can sit and hope we get lucky. Or we can take action to create an opportunity.
It’s better to focus our effort on where we have the most control. Our actions influence the opportunities available to us. So, we should focus our attention there.
Focus on what we control => Success
Focus on what we don’t control ≠> Success
Your mindset goes a long way to determine which one you choose. But remember, success favors action.
What are you doing to create opportunities? Let me know in the comments.
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1 I know this isn’t a real programming language. It’s only here to explain to you, the reader, the point I’m making.
2 While we don’t control whether we create an opportunity, we control whether we act. So, we have some influence over opportunity. But luck lies beyond our control.
3 In the U.S., luck sometimes goes by the name lottery. But it’s the same evil beast.
4 Like how the U.S. Government doesn’t give welfare recipients an incentive to get off the program.
5 To be honest, I’m not sure luck exists. It may be a figment of our collective imagination. If it does exist, it’s scarce.
6 A lot of Americans are allergic to doing something. So, they prefer luck to opportunity.
8 I know I’m taking liberty with this analogy. I haven’t worked out the equal and opposite parts. If the reaction is equal and opposite to the action, then wouldn’t the reaction cancel out the action? I don’t think so. If you throw a ball against the wall, the equal and opposite reaction is that the ball will bounce back to you. That reaction will allow you to throw the ball again. So, in that example, our action creates opportunities. This analogy isn’t perfect, but it works.
9 What did the Gator say to the Seminole? Want fries with that? (just some college rivalry humor, but it’s true)