Opportunities aren’t always wrapped in pretty packages with a bow on them. Or the packaging is beautiful, and disguises a “gift” fraught with obstacles.
Yet when we look deeper, we can find the opportunity buried deep within.
It started when I went to a 4-day retreat for people who wanted to write a book. It was run by two best-selling authors, and was limited to a very small group. It was a great opportunity to learn, and also to meet some like-minded people.
I did all the prep work. I took it seriously. I wanted to make the most of this opportunity. I also prepped myself emotionally. I knew the guys running this event were super successful. That was already intimidating, but also why I signed up for the program.
Then I started reading people’s postings in the Facebook group. So many people seemed really successful, much more so than I. I began to wonder why I had signed up. I began to feel out of my league. Way out.
Eventually I fought through my feelings of inadequacy, and decided to go with love, service, and a song in my heart. I packed my homework, and the previous work I had done on a book, and arrived on the scene.
I met some cool people right away. We launched into discussions about financial statements, healthy eating, sustainable business, cyber-security, and more. The room was filled with energy, buzzing with creativity. I loved it! Our first activity together was a cooking class to help us work together and have some fun. Again – I loved it. Healthy cooking is right up my alley, and the recipes were so creative. Good for the body and soul. I was right at home.
And then the next morning came. We started into the material in earnest. And it wasn’t just teaching. We were meant to put it into practice right away, beginning with the book title and subtitle. We worked on our own, and shared with the group for feedback.
Other people had catchy titles that were clear and specific. A perfect trifecta. Something to catch the eye and attention, and then clearly stating what the book was about to capture the right audience.
My title? Catchy, but not clear. Not for a specific audience. Something that people might pick up at first and then put down because they wouldn’t be sure who it was meant to be for. I got psyched out right there and then. From that point on, I was stuck. Knowing that until I got more clear, I wasn’t going to make any progress. And stuck with those feelings of inadequacy I had felt before I even got there.
That evening after dinner a smaller group met to chat. And my inadequate feelings grew. Some had wildly successful businesses to the tune of millions of dollars per year. And there I was working in my corporate job with a fledgling business. I shrunk into the couch, feeling smaller.
As I sat there, this verse came into my head: “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity…” I didn’t want my emotions to stop me from making the most of this opportunity – to learn, to grow, and to serve. I decided to engage in the discussion, no matter how I felt. I decided to help others get clear on what they were doing, what they were thinking. To affirm and encourage them. I figured when you don’t know what to do, there’s always love.
It was so hard. I can’t tell you how hard. Every night when I went back to my room I battled with myself. My insecurities. My uncertainty. I spent a lot of time writing. Some prayer, some pep-talk, and some whining. Trying to bring the voice of truth to the situation. Wisdom. I battled long and hard. I knew if I didn’t I would regret it. I knew my own growth depended on fighting this battle.
Each day the feelings hit me again. I engaged in the battle once more. I ended up battle-scarred and weary, and also victorious. Sure, I didn’t leave with a final title or subtitle. I didn’t leave with a book outline. I didn’t leave with the best clarity about my project. But I did leave with the knowledge that when my entire insides had screamed in fear and threatened to run away, I had fought back and made the most of that opportunity.
It’s funny, isn’t it, how opportunities so often disguise themselves as difficulties? As something that makes us want to sink into the couch and disappear. Or scream in fear or pain. Many of these opportunities don’t look like opportunities at all. They look like hell on earth. And unlike my book retreat, some of them are. Cancer. Death. Divorce. Bankruptcy. Not what we would consider opportunities. Yet, even in the midst of these lies opportunity. The opportunity to grow in wisdom, empathy, grace, forgiveness, or trust.
I wouldn’t be able to help others if I didn’t understand suffering and pain. You wouldn’t either. It’s just how it is. The situations that cause emotional or physical pain are the very things that enable us to touch others.
When you want to run and hide, play it safe, or feel like you can’t keep going, remember that opportunities often come wrapped in nasty packages. Gather some strength from the verse, from your friends, or by emailing me. Then get out there and make the most of it. You may be battle-scarred. You may be weary. And you will be victorious.
When have you had a situation that looked like a threat, rather than an opportunity? Please tell your story below about how you were able to make the most of it.