Opportunity is everywhere, but we all filter what we see, hear and feel through our own perspective – a shield we wear to protect us that is made up of our beliefs, values and attitudes. The fact that we’re all so different means that we can all look at the exact same situation, yet interpret it differently.
The Shoe Salesman in Africa
My regular blog readers may recall a post I wrote back in 2010 about this timeless story…
One day, a shoe sales company decided to give one of their salesmen a new opportunity. They sent him to Africa to launch their new product range.
He was very excited to have been chosen for such a promotion, but within a week of arrival, he was on the phone to his boss back home, sounding very dejected and disheartened,
“Boss, I’m sorry, but you may as well bring me back home. This is a complete waste of my time and the Company’s money. No-one wears shoes in Africa!”
The boss agreed to let him come home, as he didn’t want unhappy staff.
He decided however, to give another of his salesman a try instead.
Within a week, the second shoe salesman was back in touch with his boss, barely able to contain his excitement!
“Boss, this is amazing! Quick – send me more shoes! Give me everything you’ve got – no-one wears shoes in Africa!
My Interpretation of the Moral of the Story
We can all choose how we look at things in life. Some of us get bogged down in the problems and the obstacles. The go-getters, however, choose to focus on the opportunity and the prize.
It’s never too late to change YOUR personal filters!
Blake Mycoskie’s Shoe Story
Whilst looking for a photo for this post, I found a heartening story from Shannon Cook of CNN:
Step into Blake Mycoskie’s shoes for a day, and you might wind up feeling enlightened. Not just because the shoes he wears are incredibly lightweight, but because they transport him to regions of the globe where footwear is a rare, precious commodity.
So what are these magical slippers? They’re called TOMS, and they’re the foundation of Mycoskie’s one-for-one business principle: for every pair of TOMS sold, the 32-year-old gives a pair to a child in need.
The idea came to Mycoskie while he was vacationing in Argentina. He calls himself a “serial entrepreneur” and his first company was a laundry business he started in college. Blake says he was overwhelmed by the sight of children living without shoes, but instead of simply starting a charity, he decided he could achieve more by launching a for-profit business.
What Opportunities Can You See for this Year?
Most people have their own stories of the opportunities they saw, but which they let slip past, for a host of ‘genuine reasons’. They usually then saw someone else seize that opportunity and make it work. As an entrepreneur myself, who is constantly thinking of ideas, I’ve been guilty of this on many occasions.
On the other hand, I’ve also learned that just because I could do something, doesn’t mean that I should do it. I’ve been guilty of trying to make something work when I wasn’t properly ready or didn’t have enough time to devote to doing it properly.
Sometimes, you may simply not have the resources or the capital required to make an idea come to fruition, but there are countless stories where other people didn’t have those same pre-requisites, yet they persisted and found a way to make it happen, often using other people’s money and other people’s resources. The key is to ask better questions until you find a better solution.
One lesson is clear though – everything is changing, and changing quickly.
The opportunities you miss may well be picked up by your competitors, so my advice is to set aside some time to step back from your business, look at it through the eyes of your customers and ask if you are solving their problems and giving them the products and services that they need and want. Is there another opportunity that you could grab and run with?
If you need any help with that, feel free to contact me for a chat over a coffee.