Opportunity looks a lot like work

In an email, a friend wrote:

“I thought that idea was going to amount to something, but I couldn’t make the inventor/owner understand what she had in front of her. Perhaps I should work on my power of persuasion and sales skills?”

Without going into too much detail, I walked a prototype for a medical aid around to some people at my local hospital and assistance resources. After a day or two, I told my friend that the idea was good but not complete. There were some industry standards that would have to be met. It was a small setback, but my friend couldn’t get the owner to keep pushing forward.

She found herself in an uncomfortable spot a lot of us end up in: She couldn’t sell success.

She couldn’t even sell it to the owner of a venture probably less than a year away from having the final product, with a great business manager ready to make it all happen. Unfortunately, sometimes it seems that you can’t even give success away.

Opportunity often looks exactly like work, and risk, and some people just aren’t interested in that sort of thing.

The owner of the medical aid just didn’t understand industry standards for material. All she needed was a small investment of time and money. I understand how hard time and money are to come by at the same moment, so please don’t think I’m looking down on her or anyone else in that situation. We all find ourselves there sooner or later.

I’ve found the same problem in my day job over the years. When the path to success is clear, sometimes even well trodden, not everyone is interested in the hike it takes to get someplace great.

For my own example, I remember the big rejection from an agent I’d been stalking for years, who I still think is the best in the nation. In a nutshell, his response was:

“I put the book down about a third of the way through. It’s obvious that you’re not ready for publishing, and it’s not my job to get you there. I recommend you get a professional editor and try again later.”

I didn’t understand some of the basics, and I needed a considerable investment of time and money to un-learn my bad habits. What I thought was just a few steps away was actually five years of really humbling work.

So, you’ve written a book. You’ve written a chapbook of poetry, or an instrument comes easy to you, or you have an idea for a product. Maybe your rhythm is perfect, or your comedic timing, or business sense. Your life’s passion is turning itself into an opportunity. You have talent, I know you do, and hopefully you’ll realize that talent and do something with it, but here’s the thing:

You’re going to have a setback, and it’s going to kick you right in some tender area.

And you know what?

You’re going to have another.

Heck, I might even be the person who gives it to you. I did it this weekend to a new author who is already as close to publishable writing at fifteen as I was at 30.

When you find yourself in that uncomfortable spot where talent and passion has you overwhelmed and maybe a bit tender, please don’t give up. The formula to success hasn’t changed, but it looks exactly like work, and risk, and no one else can do it. You can’t sell it, and no one can give it to you.

So, let’s chat.

What was the big setback that almost stopped you, and what are you doing about it?

Have a great week out there.

– JT


James Tinker

About James Tinker

James was born and raised in Bangor, and left home at 18 for the Navy. Twenty-five years later, he retired as a Command Master Chief, the highest enlisted rank on a warship in San Diego. His popular blog series, The Day Job, shares personal and professional lessons learned through his career.