Obviously, I have nothing against people getting opportunities.  However, let me caution you about a type of opportunity that you might want to pass up. There is a type of opportunity that we have to carefully consider and approach.  It is an opportunity that is way beyond our current skill level and very unlike anything we have done before.  We all can stretch some to press beyond our limits but none of us can jump the Grand Canyon.

How It Unfolds
A great opportunity comes up. This comes because we have made an idea pitch or because someone knows we work within particular creative field. It is a project that is so great we can’t pass it up. We are so flattered, so excited. A breakthrough is right around the corner if we can deliver. At last, we are getting the recognition we have deserved.

But we have to slow down and look clearly and honestly if this project is right for us. I know, I know, this sounds like such heresy. It is so hard to get people’s attention or get them to  say “yes”, who wants to slow down? Speed up, speed up! our head and heart screams.

It is so tempting, but listen to me, someone who has been in this situation more than once, an opportunity can turn into a curse.

How to Turn a Great Opportunity Into a Curse in 13 Steps

Step 1: Accept the offer.

Step 2: Be overjoyed that you got “the nod”

Step 3: Party for a few days or week(s)

Step 4: Start working on the project you promised to deliver by going out and getting the materials you need

Step 5: Start working.

Step 6: Enjoy the first few days of the project as you explore your bright-new materials, ponder the project, and continue to bask in the glow of opportunity seized.

Step 7: Do o.k. for a few days but….get “distracted”, “called away,” or go in search of “inspiration.” Progress stops.

Step 8: Discover that you like the idea of the project more than the idea of working on the project.

Step 9: Intend to get back to your project of promise but…this work, hurts. It is slow, taxing, and challenging. Ouch.

After a few weeks have gone by:

Step 10: Avoid the friends and family members who celebrated with you in step 3. Fear they will ask: “How is that project of yours going?”  Ugh.

Step 11: Avoid even thinking about the project. Ugh.

Step 12: Ask yourself: “What’s wrong with me?  How did I let this opportunity slip away? I blew it! Idiot!” Ugh.

Step 13: Repeat Steps 10 to 12 about 10,000 times, especially when already feeling down or filled with doubt. Cringe.

A Look at the Curse
What went wrong? We had a great idea, someone else agrees with us, and we have been given an opportunity.  What stalls us out?

It starts with a very rational, but unconscious realization that we have never done a project of this size or complexity before. We get push back from within that says something like:

-“Are you crazy, you have never done this before?”
– “This is going to be very, very, very hard.”
– “Do you really want to give up x,y,and z to do this?”
– “Do you know how to start?”
– “Do you see the end?”
– “This going to be painful, do you know how to handle this pain of hard work?”
– “Where are you getting your confidence from?”

These statements rattle around and we can hear them whispering or shouting at us.  Or, they can run silent.  In all cases, it is all too easy to avoid the project, not really commit to the job, and to stick with our old, usual ways. Unless we are prepared through a history of regular work in our creative field, these voices and our ways of avoidance will overwhelm us and drive us to inaction.

It is too much.  We are unpracticed in many of the technical skills but also in the skills of creative work. We are weak. Using an analogy, we are being asked to run a marathon. We may love to run but we have never gone over a 3.2 miles in a single run! Can we fake our way through a 26+ mile run without prep, without knowledge?

How to Turn an Opportunity into a Blessing in 3 Steps
We need to prepare to be ready for opportunities when they pop up and as we cultivate them:

– Start a daily routine of working a bit each and every day, NOW!  Fifteen to thirty, well used minutes per day will be make you stronger and stronger with each passing week. Working muscles of body and mind will be built.

– Start learning the methods of getting things done.  This is different from studying creative technique.  It is an art and science unto itself.  Read, go to workshops, and ask people in your creative field: “How do you get things done and not stall out?”

– Right-size your opportunities.  Don’t accept projects (be honest here) that are way out of your reach. Be reasonable. Do take projects that require a decent stretch to a new personal best.

– Get support to get it done. Find an accountability partner, support group, mentor, etc. to keep you moving and believing in yourself and your project.

Curse be gone!

2 thoughts on “The Curse of the Too Early Opportunity

  1. I love your posts! They’re always funny, real and so, so supportive. It’s a relief as well to hear from a creative that suffers from the same sort of foibles as me and your insights are consistently enlightening. It seems I need all the enlightenment I can get on my unavoidably tortuous, yet still magical creative journey, so thank you very much for your inspirations.
    Wishing you a safe, joyful and prosperous week,
    Karen K

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