True opportunities are the results of alignment with our internal gifts and the happenings in the world. They are neither accidental nor coincidental. Just like talents alone, true opportunities are gifts. Our abilities to benefit from them is the cause-and-effect reward for doing the right things, at the right time, for the right reasons. In other words, I believed, I planned, I prepared, I searched, I found and I took action.
Some opportunities sit patiently on a shelf waiting to be discovered and claimed by opportunity shoppers who are willing to pay the price. There are no special requirements for acquiring the gift except that the purchaser is willing to pay the price. From then on, the investment creates an incentive to do something meaningful with the opportunity.
There are also legacy opportunities tucked away in a safe place, for the right time, like a dowry or inheritance. Others are the gifts of our potential. Still others are gifts of love and attention.
Talent is both a gift and an opportunity. It’s like a seed waiting to be planted and watered so it can grow to maturity, harvested and put to its intended use. Talent comes with a purpose. The purpose of an apple seed is to grow into an apple tree that produces apples. Talents are the seeds of our lives.
There’s something even more important than just recognizing our gifts and opportunities — full understanding and use of them. To do this, some key connections must be made. Let’s call it the Opportunity Progression…
Talents – the innate gifts of “potential.” We’re all born with unique sets of abilities.
Potential – the God-given gift that enables everything we do AND gives hints about our possibilities.
Possibility – the gift of “hope.” Hope is the attitude of expectations for a better future.
Hope – the gift that is built on trust, strengthens faith and inspires courage.
Courage – the gift that inspires and fuels action – both proactive a reactive. Proactive courage leads to preparation. The reactive gift is the courage to respond. We need both types of courage.
Action – the gift that relies on our inner voice – the gift conscience.
Conscience – God’s voice of “purpose.” It answers the purpose question “Why me?” Purpose is the gift that reveals true opportunities and redirects action to be focused on right actions. As such, conscience is the voice of character.
YOUR True Opportunities – those opportunities that successfully pass through the entire Opportunity Progression.
The Opportunity Tragedy
Lost and wasted opportunities are one human tragedy we all experience. At this very moment you are on the brink of missing one because you are unaware, afraid, confused, uncommitted, distracted, ungrateful, arrogant and/or uninformed and therefore, unwilling to claim this opportunity. Although these are the causes of breakdowns in the Opportunity Progression, there is one simple explanation that covers them all…
Lack of preparation is the cause of lost opportunities.
Preparation is a choice.
Therefore, the loss of opportunities is a choice.
We are who we are and where we are because of the daily choices we make regarding our personal preparation. The loss of opportunities is the result of not spending enough of our finite resources becoming ready. What areas of preparation am I referring to?
Wisdom – where knowledge, context and experience come together.
Beliefs – where wisdom joins with perspective, trust and confidence to form a foundation of truth.
Values – the beliefs that matter most to one or more individuals based on personal or shared relevance.
Attitudes – the way we feel about our beliefs determines the choices and quality of our actions.
Understanding – the ability to form judgments based on knowledge and circumstances.
Relationships – the way people interact, align, work and bond with one another.
Awareness – recognizing and understanding the events and opportunities around us.
Skills – the developed aptitudes, abilities and power to do something with competence.
The more we invest in ALL of these areas, the more valuable opportunities will be accessible to us. It’s a matter of one choice — to prepare or not prepare, that is the question!
You don’t have to be a Christian to learn and benefit from the wisdom contained in the Bible. However, its fair to say that it can be challenging to find the specific wisdom you are looking for and correctly interpret its meaning. This is true when reading any ancient writing whether its the words of Aristotle or the Word of God. That’s why I appreciate books like Rick Warren’s “The Purpose Driven Life.”
In Day 19 (i.e. Chapter 19) Warren writes about building community, a practice that is important to our organization’s teaching and coaching models. On page 146, he says, “Cultivating community takes honesty.” A page later he goes on to say, “Real fellowship, whether in a marriage, a friendship, or church, depends on frankness.” (I would add “at work” to his list.) “In fact, the tunnel of conflict is the passageway to intimacy in any relationship. Until you care enough to confront and resolve the underlying barriers, you will never grow close to each other. When conflict is handled correctly, we grow closer to each other by facing and resolving our differences.”
Warren continues building his case for honesty in relationships by paraphrasing Proverbs 28:23, “In the end, people appreciate frankness more than flattery.” The actual words from the New King James translation are these …
“He who rebukes a man will find more favor afterward Than he who flatters with the tongue.”
Next, Warren provides instructions using the following similes from 1 Timothy 5:1-2.
“Never use harsh words when you correct an older man,
but talk to him as if he were your father.
Talk to younger men as if they were your brothers,
older women as if they were your mothers,
and younger women as if they were your sisters.”
This lesson about building community through honesty and love concludes as Warren once again paraphrases the Bible. This time he refers to an occasion when the Apostle Paul was compelled to rebuke the church in the ancient city of Corinth for their “passive code of silence in allowing immorality in their fellowship.” Paul said, “You must not simply look the other way and hope it goes away on its own. Bring it out in the open and deal with it…. Better devastation and embarrassment than damnation…. You pass it off as a small thing, but it’s anything but that…. you shouldn’t act as if everything is just fine when one of your Christian companions is promiscuous or crooked, is flip with God or rude to friends, gets drunk or becomes greedy and predatory. You can’t just go along with this, treating it as acceptable behavior. I’m not responsible for what the outsiders do, but don’t we have some responsibility for those within our community of believers?” — 1 Corinthians 5:3-12 (Msg)
The Bible was written to tell the story of God’s relationship with His people. With a skilled teacher like Rick Warren leading the way, it can also be your user’s manual for living a purpose-driven life.