By Eric Betts, Curtis Coleman Center for Religious Studies and Ethics, Athens State University. I remember many years ago while living on the West Coast, I made a trip from Nevada to Alabama. I had a layover in Atlanta, but had it fixed in my mind that when we arrived in Alabama, I would be in the Central time zone. However, after arriving in Atlanta, somehow I kept thinking about the Central time zone, unmindful that Atlanta was East Coast time. The second flight from Atlanta to Alabama was missed by an hour because of my miscalculation of time zones. Is it possible that those who are reading this article could be missing opportunities in life because of miscalculations? One of the chief miscalculations for missed opportunity in the lives of so many is that of second guessing of oneself. Many question their own abilities or giftedness. They convince themselves that they are not as good as the last person who seized their opportunity and found success. Opportunity is not an advantage that belongs only to those who have the most resources or the best connections. There may be those who reason within themselves that opportunities will never come because they are not well known in the community. Brian Vaszily said it best, “Opportunity is always knocking. The problem is that most people have the self-doubt station in their head turned up way too loud to hear it.” Once you begin to shake off the self-doubt, you will be in a better position to recognize opportunity when it comes and to seize it. A second miscalculation that causes so many to miss the flight into the land of opportunity is that of hard work. Some calculate that the opportunity that lies before them will take too many years to work on. Others declare that it is too mentally draining to do it, or that they will have to sacrifice too many enjoyable activities in order to pursue it. None of these are reasonable excuses for missing opportunities. Thomas Edison understood this best. Edison said, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” Sometimes, going on a trip takes hard work and planning; packing, dragging luggage, walking through airports and the discomfort of the plane are often considered well worth it when considering the enjoyment which is to come at the destination. A third reason why so many miss the trip into the land of opportunity is because they have failed so many times before. Remember that Michael Jordan, arguably the best professional basketball player ever, was cut from his high school basketball team when he first tried out. His coach did not see the value in his abilities the first time around. He went on to win a championship for his team at the University of North Carolina, and six championships for the NBA’s Chicago Bulls. What if he had given up the first time he did not succeed? Henry Ford, one of the great inventors of automobile manufacturing, understood that failure is not a barrier to future opportunity. Ford said, “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” Failure simply educates those who are making the attempt on what they should do or not do the next time opportunity comes. Interestingly, many miss their opportunities because they do not seek them out and do not go where they are. One of the greatest mistakes that people make when in this area is that they wait for opportunity to come to them. Delay is a major hindrance to opportunity. I saw a marquee on a church sign which said, “If your ship doesn’t come in, swim out to it.” Live your life ever seeking for opportunities to grow and improve. Do all that is within your power to fulfill your goals and dreams. Think of small things that will move you closer to your goals and act on them. The comedian Milton Berle said something similar when he stated, “If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.” One way of building doors to opportunity is community engagement and involvement. The more engaged you are, the more opportunities will appear. Every day opportunities come your way. Opportunities are often viewed as a new job or a promotion. What are you doing when it comes to the often unnoticed opportunities? These may involve good deeds, reconciling differences, spending time with your children, visiting the elderly, making a phone call and checking up on someone, encouraging someone, volunteering for the homeless, visiting the sick, and showing hospitality. It may also include sending a thank you card to show your appreciation, sending a care package to a college student, or listening to someone’s story. When smaller opportunities are taken, this creates room for more open doors of greater opportunity. Most of all, rather than complain about the difficulties of life, understand that with every difficulty there are opportunities. The words of Winston Churchill are timeless, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” By Eric Betts, Curtis Coleman Center for Religious Studies and Ethics, Athens State University.

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