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O For Opportunity

May 15, 2020

O For Opportunity

 

Today we were having a conversation with my son over dinner and he “misheard” what I’d said about something. When he repeated to me what he thought I’d said, what he said sounded like a great business idea. Right there we started brainstorming on the possibilities of him activating that idea with an aim of turning it into a business. I honestly believe that if he takes this seriously, one day it might be something massive, and since the idea falls in the category of things he enjoys doing, I believe it will be easier for him than if he did something that wasn’t in his “blood”. 

 

Like the saying goes, “do something you love and you will never have to work a day in your life”.  What this simply means is that when you do something you enjoy doing, even when challenges come (as they will come), the fact that you enjoy doing what you are doing will cushion the impact of the challenges, plus the enjoyment will keep you going for more. But when you do something you don’t enjoy, you automatically start enduring it from the first day, which means when challenges come your way they find you already drained, and so just one punch in the face gives you a TKO i.e. Technical Knock Out. At that point it is very easy to just give up.

 

Anyway, I digress.

 

So as I was thinking about today’s word, I couldn’t help but think about how a “mistake” turned into a very practical and possible idea. Thinking of it now (close to midnight) I believe what he “misheard” was not really mishearing, but it was a blessing in disguise. It is my sincere hope that he will take action on the various ideas that came out of that conversation. It will be interesting to one day stand and say that the business idea was an accidental invention. 

 

Speaking of accidental inventions, who discovered that when you pull the four hanging pink things under the belly of a female cow they would produce a liquid called milk? What was he or she thinking? Forget about that. Who discovered that when you accidentally inhale smoke from a burning dry cannabis leaf you get wings to fly high without your feet ever leaving the ground? Sometimes I imagine that the person must have been trying to clear his farm of “weeds” by burning them, and as he inhaled the smoke or fumes from the burning weeds, he started dancing reggae and feeling “irie”. I can almost picture him dancing to the music in his head, lifting one fist up and jumping around in complete oblivion. Again, I digress….

 

Well, if you were to ask me, I guess the two scenarios above were both accidental discoveries.

 

But let’s talk about intentional discoveries. Did you know that every challenge is an opportunity? When you discover new ways of addressing that challenge, you will have learned something new and probably discovered a shareable solution that can be applied by other people. Like Sun Tzu said, “Victory comes from finding opportunities in problems”.

Yes, every problem or challenge you encounter in life is an intentional discovery waiting to happen. That intentional discovery is what I call an opportunity.

According to my usual online dictionary, an opportunity refers to a situation or condition favorable for attainment of a goal. It is a good position, or a chance, or a prospect, for advancement or for success.

 

At the beginning of these series I did mention that there are some business models that we might never see again while there are new ones that will come up that were never there before. For instance, did you ever imagine that people would be making money by making cloth-masks? There are factories that are churning thousands of masks daily, selling them approximately $2 each. That was not a business model that existed in March 2020, yet 6 weeks down the line, some guys are making millions. 

How about those who are making sanitizers? Previously, sanitizers could only be found in ladies handbags but today, you will find them dangling like keys from the belt loops of some men’s trousers. In short, right now almost everyone is walking around with a mini bottle of sanitizer. Others have a bottle everywhere; in the car, in the laptop bag, dangling from their belt loops, in the inner pocket of their jackets, in every toilet….literally everywhere. Then there is those public hand washing buckets and stands. Who would have thought they would become “hot cakes” like they are now? My point is, during this challenging times we are living in, things that most people had no value for have suddenly become multi-million dollar businesses.

Then there’s this Chinese guy who when he was still a freshman in college had to travel 10-hours every weekend to go visit his girlfriend. He loved the lady yes, but that does not mean he didn’t dread those bus rides. In that moment of his discomfort, he started thinking of a possible solution, and I guess the fastest way was for him to marry her. While still a master’s student at one of the local universities in China, he married the lady and to date they are still together and have three children. 

Marrying her did not displace the idea he had conceived during those days he used to take that 10-hour bus ride. Many challenges and several years later, in 2012, Eric Yuan launched a company called Zoom. Less than a decade later since its launch, in January 2019 to be precise, he took his company public through an IPO. Owning only 22% of the company, with that 22% his net worth shot up to US$1.9M.  

Then in came COVID-19 and Zoooooom, his net worth zoomed to US$7.8B between March and mid April 2020. I remember I read somewhere that in March or April, there is a day Zoom was downloaded 2.2 million times in one day. By the way, the US$7.8B does not include the month of May. Today he is one of the richest guys in the world, and he has ascended into the list of one of the top-ten billionaires in the world.

 

So how did he get there? His then girlfriend, now his wife! If it was not for that 10-hour bus ride to go see her every weekend, he would never have thought about creating a platform that would minimize the distance for them, even if this would only be virtual. Young men reading this, that is why it is very important to marry a woman who inspires you to do something positive with your life! Anyway, that’s a story for another day.

 

My point is, Eric saw an opportunity in the challenge he was having at the time, and he decided to get a solution some day. Even though it took him long to finally get it done, he never let the idea die. I guess what pushed him to do this is the fact that after marrying his wife, he knew there would be times when he would be away from her and needed to keep in touch with her and the children. This solution provided a platform that metamorphosed into the massive platform the world is leaning on today. Again I repeat; when looking for a life partner,get someone who inspires you to do great things in life

When working on solutions to problems or challenges, please keep in mind that there are instant solutions but there are solutions that take a loooooong time to materialize. A classic example is the masks and sanitizer business – they didn’t take long to become lucrative businesses. But for zoom, it took Eric nine years to reap the fruits of his hard work. 

During this season when businesses are collapsing and certainty is shaky, there is one thing that is certain; there are opportunities hidden in the midst of all the panic, fear and confusion. The only thing is, only those who prepare themselves well will grab those opportunities.

 

My encouragement to you is this; don’t just look at what is happening now and allow yourself to be subdued by fear and depression No! Look around you and identify the opportunities the current challenges are posing to you. Train your mind to think beyond Covid-19 because there will still be life after this pandemic. Life might not be exactly as we knew it before, but it will still be life all the same. 

 

Remember, every challenge is an opportunity waiting to happen. You just need to identify the opportunity and run with it.

Listen to my podcast on O for Opprtunity here.

Be ignited. Be inspired. Be influenced to become the best version of yourself you can ever be. This right here is an opportunity for that to happen. God bless you. Stay safe and stay sane.

 

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