How to Almost Guarantee Opportunities Come Your Way

Pete Ross

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A lot of people out there believe that opportunity is one of those things that the universe doles out in an unfair manner to people who don’t need it. People who are born into a good family gain favourable connections and jobs, people with lots of money and influence get to buy stocks first on the next big thing, celebrities get business opportunities that many of us can only dream of.

All of these give the recipients outsized rewards for their efforts. Why can’t the rest of us catch a damn break?

Sure, these things happen every single day, but just because you’re one of the little people (which is most of us), it doesn’t mean that you can’t at least get a few small breaks of your own. Sure, you’re not going to get offered the first stocks in the next Tesla, but you only need to get a few small breaks to change your life significantly for the better.

But how do you get these breaks? Is it just luck or is there a way you can actually make it happen? Here are 3 great examples that you can use to start plotting your own increase in opportunity.

Chris Kyle — the American Sniper

Chris Kyle has the highest kill count of any American sniper in history following his four tours in Iraq, where he was named by the insurgents as “The Devil of Ramadhi”. You’d imagine that such a count would be due to long hours of practice and just flat out better skills than all of the other snipers the US sent to Iraq, but the answer is actually much more mundane.

In a Jocko podcast that I listened to quite some time ago, Jocko Willink (who was actually the commanding officer of Kyle’s unit) gave some insight into how Kyle operated and how he was able to increase his kill count so much more quickly than the other snipers during that tour.

If you’re one of the snipers in the unit, you’d want to know why one guy is getting so much more than you and everyone else. These guys are SEALs after all — they’re not going to be too happy with mediocrity or the fact that one guy is essentially making the rest of them look bad.

According to Jocko, it wasn’t that Kyle was in a more target rich environment or that he was lucky, or that he spent more time on the range practicing his skills. Nope, it was just the simple fact that he stayed in position longer than everyone else. The other snipers weren’t less skilled or lazy, but by virtue of the fact that Kyle would remain in place for hours longer than he was assigned, opportunities presented themselves to him far more often and thus his kill count quickly exceeded the others.

World class coaching

Over the course of around a decade, I trained at two of the best judo facilities in my country. The regulars were a mixture of national, international and Olympic level competitors, so the training was always fierce. Interestingly at one of them, there was a Saturday morning class and it really displayed the commitment — or lack thereof, from all the regulars.

I found that a lot of the best athletes didn’t turn up to the Saturday morning session. They’d be too busy enjoying their Friday night with friends or going away for the weekend. Not to mention in winter, it was really freaking cold. But by being there every Saturday without fail, I got one of the greatest training and coaching experiences I could have imagined.

That’s because on one particular nondescript Saturday morning, I got to train with a world champion. One of our regulars is Japanese and had offered to show her around while she was in town, so you know, she just happened to pop by for a training session with a couple more of her world class friends.

It wasn’t a formal seminar. We didn’t pay anything extra on top of our membership fees. And yet here we were, training with and being coached by a world champion. We got to pick her brain on everything we could have wanted and she even helped tweak our combinations and defenses. It was a freaking masterclass.

The other, better athletes would doubtless have gotten even more out of it. Based on skill, they deserved the opportunity more. But their lack of commitment to make that slightly inconvenient, uncomfortable training session on a regular basis meant that they missed out.

Writing

Jesus, writing can get depressing. I’ve written for almost 20 years now and while I’ve earned some nice money on the side, I’ve never come close to hitting the 6 figure sums that some Medium writers brag about. There is one big factor in writing or social media that gives you a huge head start, and that’s being one of the early adopters on a platform. That’s not what I want to talk about though.

The success and money I have been able to make from writing isn’t because I’m better, more insightful or more entertaining than other writers. Sure, I’m certainly a lot better than most, simply because I’ve kept working at improving. Really though, the success I have had is due to nothing more than hanging in there when other people drop out.

I still remember my first days on Medium back in 2015. It was actually no different to what it is now for newcomers — I spent months with a read count in the single digits. Publications weren’t really a thing. Curation didn’t exist. Nonetheless, I just kept at it. Then, after 6 or so months I had a piece go viral. That piece caught the attention of Observer Media, who was looking for writers at the time, which led to a paying gig.

The year I spent working for them I earned around $15,000 in addition to my full time job for writing on average one article per week. Not too bad at all hey? And this is well before the Medium Partner Program existed, so monetization like you see now was non-existent.

Since I’ve been back at Medium, I’ve found making money to be purely a game of consistency and patience. For every thirty pieces I publish, 23 will earn me just a few bucks over the course of time that they actually make money. 5 will likely earn me something in the realm of $50, maybe a bit more. But 1 or 2? They’ll make me hundreds.

And then, as was the case with Observer, I made thousands.

And just recently another writing opportunity worth at minimum, $3,000 presented itself to me. All because I stuck through the poorly performing articles.

The key difference between those who get opportunities, and those who don’t

In case you haven’t guessed it, it’s the people who stick at it long enough to see the law of averages turn in their favour that get the opportunities. The thing is, you never know when that will be. It could happen much sooner or later than you expect, so if you actually really want to excel and gain big opportunities, you can’t have the attitude of “I’ll just give it x months and if it’s not working, I’ll quit.”

It isn’t just a matter of taking advantage of statistics by time either, though that on its own is a compelling enough reason. By staying consistent and longer than everyone else, you start to see patterns, trends and cycles that everyone else is oblivious to. That level of knowledge means you develop an idea of what’s going to work and what isn’t. Sure, you’ll still be wrong a lot of the time, but now rather than just waiting for the law of averages to turn in your favour, you can start to increase your odds of success where others can’t.

Finally, if you look at opportunities where other people are involved, there’s one thing that’s always respected, and that’s effort. When an opportunity comes along, be it a job, a place on a course, a travel opportunity, whatever, the person who it’s awarded to isn’t receiving it out of luck. They’re receiving it either because they’re a top performer or their consistent effort has been recognised.

Final takeaway — opportunities aren’t a regular, linear thing

If you want more opportunities, you have to be willing to do that little bit more than the average person over a drawn out period of time, because opportunities don’t come along consistently. That’s one of the mistakes in thinking many people have. They think “if I stay after work for an hour every day, someone will see it and I’ll get an opportunity because of my hard work.”

A much more likely scenario is that you stay after work for an hour every day. 6 months in and you wonder why you’re doing it, but you keep going. Then one day after the others have gone home, you bump into the boss and have a career changing conversation.

So you have to stop thinking that opportunity is going to look a certain way or that it’s going to work to a schedule. Neither of those is true. They’ll show up when you least expect it and they may look and feel very differently than what you expected.

The only way you’re going to guarantee more of them is to stay consistent and make that extra effort other people aren’t willing to. Be patient, stay the course, and then pounce on the opportunity when it comes.

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I write about career, performance, psychology, self development and business humour. I'm an author, former national competitor in judo and strongman and a former military instructor.

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