Opportunity and Action

Success is not easy, it takes work. Success comes at the intersection of opportunity and action. Opportunity and ActionThere are a lot of people who were at the right place at the right time but didn’t take action, they let the opportunity slip through their fingers. The sad part is that many people may not even realize it.

The first step to success is recognizing potential.

When I was planning to make the transition into financial planning as a career I volunteered to speak and answer questions at informational sessions for National Guard troops and their families that were being deployed overseas. While these men and women, both the soldiers and their families, were sacrificing for their country, they were also being offered unique benefits. (Not that they were enough compensation but at least it was something).

Soldier in DesertOne benefit was that the soldier’s income while overseas was tax free. Even better than that is the fact that they could also contribute to a Roth IRA – that was huge. Why? Because normally Roth IRA contributions are after tax, meaning you pay tax before contributing. When you withdraw the money in retirement it is not taxed so you get the benefit of tax free growth. What these soldiers were being offered was an opportunity to invest money and have it grow without ever, let me repeat, ever, paying taxes.

I was standing at the back of the room when my colleague was making this presentation. A soldier and his wife were standing next to me and the wife pointed out this unusual and generous benefit. “I don’t care about that,” the soldier said. He was in the right place at the right time but unless he acted on that information, the opportunity would be lost. I wonder how many of the people we owe so much took advantage of that benefit.

Taking action is the second component of success.

The other aspect of success is that once you recognize an opportunity, you have to be willing to sacrifice to get the benefit. The soldiers aren’t paid well for their service and diverting $4,000 (the maximum at the time) into a Roth IRA could be a hardship. If they looked far enough into the future, however, they would have seen the benefit of this action but I suspect that many did not.

Are you open to opportunities? Are you constantly on the lookout? Would you be willing to sacrifice, now, for a benefit that is years in the future? Then why aren’t you?


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The Benefit of Action

In a post titled Recognizing Opportunity and Taking It I told you of a networking event I went to in NY in spite of the fact that I wouldn’t know anyone including the organizer. So why did I go? Read the post, but the short answer is because success doesn’t come from talking about an event I could have gone to, it comes from taking action, being proactive, and going to the event.

There is a back story to this that was unnecessary in the original post but has special relevance now.

Before going to the event I naturally checked out Andrew Warner, the founder of mixergy.com who organized the event. On the website he had an interview that was free to watch at the time, with a social media marketing expert, Mari Smith. In the interview Mari mentions that to be successful you have to interact with people who are already successful and get them to interact with you. But how, Andrew asked.

The key, said Mari, was to ask for help in a mutually beneficial way. But first you have to cultivate that relationship, get on the radar of the person you’re looking to interact with. The more you learn about them, the more you can figure out what to offer them. Everyone has needs.

This had a profound effect on me and it was something that stuck with me as I headed out to the mixer. But what did I have to offer?

At the end of the night, after a lot of great conversations, I got the chance to talk to Andrew and I offered to give him a copy of my book. He took it but there was no guarantee he would read it or give it a second look. He asked me what I did for a living, why I wrote the book.

It was a passing comment that caught his attention. “My day job is at ABC News'” I said, “but my success has come from many different places.” I didn’t know it but I had just offered him something that he needed.

“Where can I find people,” he asked me, “that can write, use a camera, and do some editing?”

I know why he asked but the people I know are correspondents and anchors of national broadcasts, not what he was looking for. I told him that I could find the answer very easily and email him within a day or so.

We agreed and I sent him the email. I then followed him on twitter, which he reciprocated, but never knew if the information I gave him was of any use.

Until yesterday when I got this tweet:

Tweet from Andrew Warner

What does this mean for me? Who knows and who really cares? If I only did this to get something in return then I did it for the wrong reason. Doing something of value for someone is a reward of its own. If he doesn’t like my book, he’s not going to praise it just because I did him a favor. He will remember me, however, and maybe need something again which I’ll be happy to help him with. Maybe one day I’ll find something that I need from him, something he can help me with.

The advice I got from his website and the luck of being in the city he was holding this event would have been worth nothing if I hadn’t recognized the opportunity and taken action.

What opportunities are out there for you and will you take them?

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The Permanence and Impermanence of What Next

Now that the book is out a lot of people ask me, “So, what next for you?”

My response is usually something about promoting the book, getting my name out there, anything to increase sales. 

“No, I mean what next, what do you have planned next?” They insist.

There are two answers to that question but first I want to make clear what the concept of What Next is not. What Next is not jumping from one thing to another haphazardly, it is not flighty or undisciplined, it is not unplanned. On the contrary, What Next takes a lot of planning and can last a long time.

This book was not a sudden idea that overtook me and lasted only until the next idea suddenly appeared. The idea for the book took time for me to formulate. One event was the trigger, a conversation with Julie about a business, but the decision to write a book required a lot of thought and planning over the next several months. Writing the book then took focus and commitment over two years and many drafts.

Back to the original question that started this post, what is next for me? The first part of that answer is what I always respond to whoever asks, promoting my book, getting my name out there. The second part is what they expect me to say. 

I do have a lot of ideas bouncing around but like anyone with the What Next outlook on life, many of them will never come to be, others will become part of a larger idea, while some will consume me. 

People who look at life as one opportunity after another can, and do, focus on the task at hand, they can push distractions aside. A person looking for what next finds inspiration everywhere but they don’t waste their time, they don’t sit in front of the television lost in a fantasy, they don’t play games on their cell phones or computers because that won’t improve their life. What Next is about moving forward, getting to a goal and then finding the next milestone, the next What Next. 

I’ll work on other ideas but the bulk of my time and energy is focused on What Next – the book.

In the coming weeks some of my ideas will make their way onto these pages. I hope you’ll check back often to see what plans and schemes I have and (hint) what plans and schemes others have had. Since I mentioned it what is your plan for the New Year, what is your What Next? Please share by leaving a comment below. Thanks!

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