Knock, Knock. Who’s There?

Seizing Life’s Most Valuable Currency

No quality is as wily or appears in more indiscernible disguises than opportunity. Edison described its camouflaged nature when he said, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

Though all of us can survey our lives and find the proverbial “coulda, shoulda, woulda’s,” few rise to the level of Ronald Wayne. Not exactly a household name is it?

Wayne worked with Steve Jobs at Atari before he, Jobs, and Steve Wozniak founded Apple Computer on April 1, 1976. Serving as the venture’s self-described “adult supervision,” Wayne drafted the trio’s original partnership agreement and wrote the Apple I manual. He received a 10 percent stake in Apple, but relinquished his stock for $800 less than two weeks later. Wayne was later given $1,500 to forfeit any claims against the new company. For $2,300, he walked away from a company that in 2012 was valued at $626 billion! Had he kept his 10 percent ownership it would have been worth as much as $35 billion.

Another infamous opportunity fumble was the one most of us are familiar with when Decca Records rejected the Beatles in 1962 saying, “Guitar groups are on the way out.” The story most of us don’t know is that they were signed by EMI, Electrical and Musical Industries, which had sold off its fledging computer division and was floundering until they signed the Beatles, who immediately shot to international fame (under its Capitol Records brand). Soon flush with cash from the Beatles success, they were able to fund the research of Godfrey Hounsfield, who produced the first commercially viable version of the CT scanner. Hounsfield was knighted for his medical breakthrough.  It’s amazing how seizing one opportunity opens the door for others to do the same.

Usually They Are Not Financial

Often, the opportunities we miss don’t come with regret over fortunes that were lost. They don’t come with any sense of loss at all because we failed to see them and their return wouldn’t appear on a balance sheet.

Years ago, my wife and I were looking at cars in west Orlando and found ourselves cornered in a small office with a dynamic and enthusiastic young salesman. I’ve never had a problem saying “no,” but my wife, Susan, always assumes that if someone tells her what he or she is excited about, she has the right to respond accordingly. For her, it was her very effervescent faith. What I thought would be a 10-minute lap around a dealership, turned into a 45-minute, open-heart conversation about the meaning and purpose of life.

Almost a year later, we were spending the weekend in Cocoa Beach and stopped in Publix. As we wandered the aisles, a man I didn’t immediately recognize came up to me and literally put his arms around my neck and started to weep – yea, I was as weirded out as you would be. Then he told me he was the salesman who had talked to my wife and me. Through sobs that seemed inconsolable, he shared how a week earlier his wife had lost their child in a tragic birthing experience. He was convinced that the chance meeting in Publix was an appointment and thanked us repeatedly for the time we had taken to steer our earlier conversation beyond automobile makes and models.

Every day opportunity knocks; sometimes it is an idea we must run with or a door we have to go through, but often it is simply the chance to make a difference in someone’s life.

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About the author

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Eric Wright

Eric Wright is an innovative leader, dynamic speaker and published author. He turns complex principles into simple and practical life applications. As President of Publishing at SCB Marketing, Eric oversees the production of four business and lifestyle journals, along with numerous specialty publications. Eric is co-author of Dogs Don't Bark at Parked Cars. www.dogsdontbark.com

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