Avoiding missed opportunities

I was reminded of an anecdote from college. I was walking across campus late one afternoon, getting dark, and it was snowing. Snow was sticking but hadn’t accumulated much yet, maybe half an inch, if that. My walk to the music building took me past a very small parking lot where there was a woman with a flat tire. She either didn’t know how to change the tire herself or just had no intention of doing so.

I know how to change a tire, and this was back before factory-installed lug nuts made them nearly impossible to get off, so I offered.

She declined. I don’t remember the conversation verbatim, but she was waiting for help from a man.

While it’s possible that I wouldn’t have been able to do it, if she had a jack and a spare, odds were in my favor. And if I couldn’t, she was no worse off than when she started.

Unless she had ulterior motives, waiting for a dude seems like a dumb reason to decline help. 

The story made me wonder how often I’ve passed up perfectly good help because it didn’t look the way I wanted it to look or the way I thought it had to look.

I don’t consider myself narrow in what I’m open to, though I used to be very much so; my world has expanded drastically over time and continues to do so. Even within an expanding world, I’m sure I’ve missed opportunities because I expected them to look different. Sound different. Feel different.

How do we avoid missing opportunities? Or, without the double-negative, how do we see and take advantage of opportunties?

My experience has taught me that the biggest piece is self-awareness. Let me give you an example.

In July, 2020, I received an email that a workshop I was interested in was opening again, running from early August through mid-November. I had passed it up the first time because my obligations at the time would not permit another thing to join my time without giving up sleep, and I don’t do that any more.

This time, I wasn’t sure. It would coincide with the beginning of the school year, a notoriously time-consuming time of year. And this year in particular school was online, so a 15-minute chat with parents was now a 5-minute video … that took four hours to make.

I invited friends to join with me. A couple were interested but ultimately said no.

At that point, I realized that yes, I wanted to do it and could do it and my hesitation was simply fear. I would have joined if any of those friends I invited said yes. I should join even though they said no.

And I did. And it changed my life. The work I did, the people I met, the groups I became a part of all have impacted me drastically and for the better. I am a different and better person now than I was when I was making that decision because of the ripples from that decision.

Without the self-awareness to realize, “Hey, Heat! You’re just scared. Take the leap,” I easily could have defaulted to “I’m going to be too busy when this thing starts; I should wait until it’s at a better time for my schedule.” And life would have gone on as it was going, and I would have never known how much I missed.

It seems sort of the opposite of FOMO (fear of missing out)—skipping things because you’re afraid to join them. FOJI? (fear of joining in) 

Do you have a way to discern when “no” is a good choice and when it’s fear-based and you should push through? Or how to see opportunity when it doesn’t look the way you think it should?

1 thought on “Avoiding missed opportunities”

  1. Without the self-awareness to realize, “Hey, Heat! You’re just scared. Take the leap,”

    It is a big step in self-awareness to realize we are “just scared”. We dismiss fear way too easily, it is the easiest emotion in the world to rationalize and that is in part because we swallow fear. We dismiss it and move on. I suspect it is only those who have been WAY out on the skinny branches of life, often, who know fear and understand it well. To know fear, and to deal with its roots and to understand how the mind wants to rationalize fear is fear, changes one’s path. Sometimes a decision made in the midst of fear has no upside and terrible downsides. The one upside that always, occurs in dealing with fear, is that we learn, we grow, we predict better the next time fear arrives at the door. Fear as a learning experience, requires familiarity that few of us in the excess of modernity find necessary. For many, fear evokes anger because it is so uncomfortable to one’s experience. For others, it evokes the death of not acting. Those who are scared and know the emotion, have at least the opportunity to learn.


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