One of the greatest burdens we bear in life is that of lost opportunities. Scattered here and there in our lives are several “If only” stories. It is not uncommon for our hearts to be filled with questions of why we didn’t see an opportunity coming or why we missed an appropriate time. We wonder why we were so stupid to miss what someone else saw. As if that isn’t bad enough, we remind ourselves of the proverb that says “opportunity knocks but once” and another that says “opportunity lost can never be regained”. Doesn’t that just nail the coffin? Here, I intent to show you why it is true that you can’t regain lost opportunities but more importantly, I want to show you why that is not the end of the story.
Several financial, leadership and personal development coaches have taught us about the power of recognition. It is essential to identify opportunities for what they are and take advantage of them. Missing an opportunity can change the direction of our lives. We can never have the same opportunity twice for the following reasons:
- Different Time: opportunities are attached to time. When we miss an opportunity, we have to wait for another time. Even if a similar opportunity comes along, it wouldn’t meet us at the same time or age we missed the first one.
- Different Circumstances: it is a popular saying that the most constant thing in life is change. Hence, when we miss an opportunity, we also miss the circumstances that created it. For instance, you may miss an opportunity to share your novel idea with an investor who is new to the concept but by the time you get a second chance, your idea has become common.
- Different People: just like every other thing, people also change. One person may be replaced by another or the same person may develop a different attitude. So, when we miss an opportunity, we may also miss the quality of people we need to fully enjoy it.
So what do all these mean? Since all of us have missed one opportunity or the other, should we resign to our miserable fate? Never! Life is full of opportunities. We may not regain the same opportunity we missed but who says a better one is not on its way? We can learn from our past and become wiser for the future. We must stop searching for the tail lamp of lost opportunities and start looking for the headlamp of new ones. When we focus too much on lost opportunities, we convince ourselves that we don’t deserve new ones. We weep over what is lost and the tears blind us from seeing what we can gain.
A quote from Heraclitus says, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man”. Since the water in a river never flows backwards, the water the man stepped into is gone forever; and since the man has experience the water once, he is no longer the inexperienced person that stepped into it the first time. If we allow the river of lost opportunities to flow away with our inexperience, we will step in again wiser and better.
Talking of missed opportunities, Will Smith, one of the biggest names in Hollywood, turned down the role of Neo in The Matrix (1999) to act in Wild Wild West (1999). While The Matrix won four Academy Awards and grossed over $460 million worldwide, Wild Wild West was described as a commercial disappointment. It was nominated for 12 awards in the “worst” category and won 8 including Worst Screenplay, Worst Original Song, Worst Director and Worst Picture. I believe that is enough to ruin anyone’s career. However, Smith let go of the lost opportunity and engaged new ones like Ali (2001), Men in Black II and III (2002, 2012), I, Robot (2004) and I Am Legend (2007) among others. He is ranked as the most bankable star worldwide by Forbes. His movies grossed a total of $6.6 billion at the global box office as of 2014. You have missed great opportunities, so what? Look out; one is coming to you right now!