Would You Recognize Opportunity?

How to recognize opportunity when it knocksIt’s often difficult to recognize opportunity, even if you’re looking for it. That’s because opportunity doesn’t bop you over the head and say “Congratulations, you’ve won an all expense paid vacation to Maui! Just say you’ll go!”.

Instead, as Thomas Edison said, opportunity “comes dressed in overalls and looks like hard work.”

Opportunity knocks daily

We have all kinds of opportunities every day — opportunities to improve our finances, advance our careers, start a small business, or even just to get better organized.

But what do they look like? Maybe those opportunities look like piles of debt or a book on investing. Or maybe they look like volunteering for extra projects that are outside your normal job duties. Or working hours every night on your own stuff while holding down a full time job and taking care of the kids. Or something a simple as paperwork that arrives in the mail.

Overcome your own objections

Taking advantage of those opportunities once we do recognize them means several things. Often we must start by taking a risk and dispelling doubts, even if it’s just the risk of change. We’re can be so set in our ways — even if we’re unhappy about them or long for something else — that it may seem easier just to keep things as they are.

We ask ourselves things like: What if the alternative is worse? What if we find out we can’t fulfill our lifelong dream of becoming a veterinarian or running our own business? What if we try to get out of debt and find out that we’re just so terrible at managing money that it’s impossible?

Even if opportunity is practically bopping us over the head — such as when we’re offered the chance to go back to college for free by our employer — we still have doubts.

Embrace the hard work

Once we do decide to go for it and take action, a whole bunch of hard work usually follows. And that work can extend for a long time; sometimes for years and years. It can be tempting to give up, but welcoming opportunity also means sticking with it despite setbacks and exhaustion.

For me, the doubts don’t usually set in until I’m partway through making a change, working on a new endeavor, or trying to reach a goal. Then the doubts hit hard. (Along with the temptation to just go and do something else instead, or to start a tempting new project.)

That’s when I remember another quote by Thomas Edison: “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”

Keep going

Remember that opportunity doesn’t come gift wrapped. It comes disguised as hard work, much of which involves working through the doubts — or just plain old continuing on despite them, especially if you know they’re mostly irrational. And remember that you can get to where you want to be.


  • I love that Edison quote. I think lots of people think opportunity = getting lucky. Working through the doubts is often the hard part for me. It’s a challenge to keep going when you aren’t sure of your footing.

  • I have to admit I used to be a very passive person. I always had doubts when opportunities and chances arrive. Doubts always took over me. But now that I got a family of my own, I would rather take chances rather than get lose with my own fears and doubts.