- I took four years of German in high school, and did fairly well. I still remember reciting “Du bist ein gebildeter affe”, which translated to “You are a conceited ape”. Never really sure why that was a phrase we were learning. Anyway, I then went to college and took German 101, since I figured it would be an easy A.
- I took a course in BASIC programming in college in 1975, and enjoyed it quite a bit. I didn’t take another programming course until 1983, and that was the last programming course I took.
- In my business classes, I’ve used Apple as an example of a great company for the past 15 years, but I’ve never bought a single share of its stock.
- We were in New York for a weekend about 15 years ago with our oldest son checking out some of the colleges in the city. We had planned to walk around the city a little bit on Sunday morning, and then try and catch a Yankees game at Yankee stadium. We changed our plans and decided to go home early. It was the day David Cone pitched a perfect game. I never did get to see a game in the original Yankee Stadium.
I’m sure I could come up with many more missed opportunities, as we all could. The problem is that many times we don’t know something is an opportunity when we are in the middle of it.
How was I supposed to know that the ability to speak a second language or knowing how to program would be in such demand today, or that Apple would someday be the world’s most valuable company by market value, or that Yankee Stadium was going to be knocked down?
Is there a way to spot such opportunities?
I think a combination of education, experience, and having a mentor can help you become better aware of when something is an opportunity.
But just as important as the recognition of something as an opportunity is having the courage to act on that opportunity. That’s one of the key messages behind Seth Godin’s latest book, What To Do When It’s Your Turn.
So while I may have missed the run-up in Apple’s stock, I can use that experience to educate myself about what caused such a run-up, and look for guidance from experts who have been there, done that. Similar opportunities are out there; such an approach should help make me aware of them, and then it is up to me to act on those opportunities.
Sometimes I wonder…
… if I had taken advantage of all the opportunities that I’ve been exposed to, I could have developed an expertise in programming, become fluent in multiple languages, used those skills to create the first multi-language translator program, sold the company to Apple in exchange for shares of stock, and then used the proceeds to have bought Yankee season tickets…
It all may have happened too late to catch the perfect game, but at least I would have been there for Derek Jeter’s last appearance.