Seize (and Profit from) Your Cubic Centimeter of Chance

"All of us, whether or not we are warriors, have a cubic centimeter of chance that pops out in front of our eyes from time to time. The difference between the average person and a warrior is that the warrior is aware of this and stays alert, deliberately waiting, so that when this cubic centimeter of chance pops out, it is picked up."
– Carlos Castaneda

I sometimes wonder where I'd be today if I had seized certain opportunities in life when I had the chance.

At my 15-year high school reunion in 2000, the woman who coordinated the event was telling me how hard it was to track people down. I said, "Wouldn't it be cool to have a networking-type website where we could reconnect with people from high school even if we didn't know their phone number or email address?"

Three years later, Facemash debuted on the web, and re-launched a few months later on February 4, 2004, as the Facebook.

Now, I realize I was one of probably 100,000 people who had the same idea, including Mark Zuckerberg. But he seized the opportunity and threw it into action.

Another time, back in 1992, I had just spent $27 plus tip on a haircut at a nice salon in downtown Minneapolis. $32 to get my hair cut?! I mean, it looked good. But I'm a guy, and it took all of 20 minutes.

I thought, "Someone should come up with a chain of hair salons exclusively for men in between a $7 barbershop cut and a $29 salon cut. Have all guy stuff: a sports theme, TVs all over to watch the game, attractive women dressed up like referees (seriously, I had all the details down). The place would be packed all the time!"

In 1993, the first Sport Clips opened in Austin, Texas. Today, there are over 650 locations in 36 states, with more locations opening every week.

Your million-dollar lost opportunity

My guess is you've had similar experiences. We all have.

Ideas come to us every day, especially us writer types. We're pretty good at the deep thinking stuff, aren't we?

But as Timothy Ferriss, the 4-Hour Workweek guy, says, "It isn't enough to think outside the box. Thinking is passive. Get used to acting outside the box."

So, how do you know when an opportunity is worth acting on, and whether or not you have the skills, network, or capital to make it happen? And how do you know when it's the real deal and not just a blip you should ignore?

I have a few general rules for analyzing opportunities, and then a few simple action steps for making something happen if it seems right.

Keep in mind, too, that I'm not just talking about Facebook and Sport Clips–size opportunities.

It could be a smaller deal, like deciding which of two directions to take in your writing career. Or whether or not to partner with a copywriting superstar for modest pay but incredible mentoring and experience. Or when to quit your job and launch your freelance business.

Here are some guidelines:

  1. Start small. If you can, test the idea on a small scale before launching it big time. In the case of employment versus freelancing, why not do both? If you have a good job, especially in this economy, hang on to it until you're sure you have enough business to sustain yourself. If it involves a business partnership, give it a contracted three-month trial basis, allowing both of you a chance to check out the situation.
  2. Stick to what you know. This was often common advice for stock investing in the '80s and '90s (the good old days!). I think it holds true for most of our decisions in life, too.

    For example, about 12 years ago, a friend of mine was starting a company selling a new web technology to real estate brokers. It sounded promising, and he wanted me to call on real estate offices to sell it. The problem was, I just didn't understand it. So I walked away. Even though he did well for a few years with it, I probably wouldn't have.

    On the other hand, when I discovered copywriting, I knew it was the right thing. It immediately resonated with me, and I could understand the selling and marketing angle of it.

  3. Don't go into debt to make it happen. We've all heard of people who founded a future blockbuster company with a huge cash advance on their credit card. But in general, it's not a good idea. Sometimes the best opportunities involve sweat and brain equity, not capital. If all that's required is your time and experience, and it feels right, go for it. But be wary of "investment opportunities" when money is tight.
  4. Follow your heart. This has never failed me, and I talk more about it below.

If you do find a unique opportunity, do what Walt Disney recommended:

"Get a good idea and stay with it. Dog it, and work at it until it's done, and done right."

Recognize potential when you see it. Seize the opportunity if it meets your criteria. Adapt it to your personality and business. And follow through.

Doors will open …

One thing I know. Every time in my life I've gone against my gut feeling, I knew it almost immediately and regretted it.

On the other hand, when I've made a decision with my heart, it's proven to be okay in the end. It may not have panned out as a business opportunity or even been the right personal decision, but I always learned something from it and didn't regret acting on instinct.

The author Joseph Campbell (The Power of Myth) said it best when interviewed by Bill Moyers for PBS a number of years ago:

"If you do follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in the field of your bliss, and they open doors to you. I say, follow your bliss and don't be afraid, and doors will open where you didn't know they were going to be."

Listen to your heart

I hope that you experience a sliver of the bliss that I've experienced since I dove into the writer's life almost three years ago.

It's opened doors to professional opportunities, travel to five continents, business niches I didn't even know existed, the ability to live and work wherever I choose, and fascinating people I never would have met otherwise.

More than anything, it's given me the chance to be a hero to my wife and kids as I use my gifts and fulfill my potential, and expand their opportunities in the process.

It doesn't get any better than that.

Go ahead! Channel your inner warrior, seize your dream opportunities when they appear, follow your bliss, and become a hero to your family and yourself.

You won't regret it.

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Published: September 20, 2011

2 Responses to “Seize (and Profit from) Your Cubic Centimeter of Chance”

  1. Great article. A great reminder for me to follow my heart during a time when I most need to remember this. Thanks!

    Guest (Serena)

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