What Failure Taught Me About Opportunity

Categories Ambition,Motivation

Last week I was asked to do a talk at my eldest daughter’s school addressing the sixth formers. It was suppose to be about my achievements (*sighs*). The lecturer said she would like some footage of my races and my Gladiators experience. I managed to get a friend of mine to put a couple of races on a CD as I had most of them on the old Video tapes from prehistoric times. Visiting my old track brought back some great memories. I returned home all excited, wanting to show the girls mum in action.

In my mind I was rehearsing how I was going to deliver the talk. All excited, I’d compare the various journeys I had encountered in my life and how I ended up becoming a Sports manager. Then I watched the CD and my heart sank. It was the Commonwealth Games in New Zealand in 1990. I was 25 years old. England athletics had put my name down for four events: 200m, 400m, 4x100m and the 400m. I was the only athlete on the team who was given this opportunity and it was a very prestige one at that.


I watched the CD and looked at myself thinking: what on earth was I thinking back then?

I preformed way below my standards. Why? Because I couldn’t take the pressure. I blew a golden moment and scraped through somehow, getting relays medal as a consolation prize.


I was amazed, how the hell did that happen. Immediately I thought there is no way I can present this footage in my speech and kept looking for more examples. But in the back of my mind it the truth was nagging me: AN OPPORTUNITY WASTED.


I felt very annoyed with myself.


I then stuck the USB in and watched a few clips of the Gladiator TV Show. Wow, now thats what I am talking about – making the most of an OPPORTUNITY! It brought a smile back to my face, the difference in my persona was light years apart. Here I was a very confidence chic.


I decided to change the theme of my talk. I scrapped all the glamour that go towards the excitement of great achievements. Instead I decided to focus on what you have to do to make the most of the opportunities that past our way. I wanted to get the young girls to understand how easily a golden moment can be gone, an opportunity missed.

This is what I’ve learned, how to grab an opportunity:


1) Be prepared for an opportunity


It’s impossible to grab an opportunity if you are not ready. Having mentors, or other people who support you, is extremely helpful.


2) Build your confidence


If you lack confidence you are unable to take advantage of an opportunity when it present itself, because you don’t believe it’s your opportunity.


3) Don’t rely on others to boost your confidence


You have to work on your confidence yourself. Don’t rely on others. At the end of the day everyone has to take care of themselves and sort their own life out.


4) Don’t compare yourself to others


I wasted my energy comparing myself to the other athletes and always looked at my fellow athletes as higher achievers. How could I come out winning from such a position?


5) Fear of the unknown


You won’t be able to grab an opportunity with both hands if you don’t trust the future. Opportunity is always full of unknown elements and brings risk with it. You must be able to let go of the past and let go of fear what might happen next.


6) It’s an active process


Making the most of an opportunity is an active process that requires attention, action, discipline and concentration. You must also be selective of the opportunities as they come in all shapes and sizes, and not all of them are worth your effort.


7) Commit to your goals


Be clear of your objectives and then commit to them. Expecting something for nothing with little or no effort will take you nowhere.


8) No excuses


Don’t make excuses! It all depends on you to be responsible and sure of who you are and what you are after. It’s important to get rid of all excuses (=why you can’t grab an opportunity), go for it and learn from your mistakes. Because there’s going to be plenty, and it’s ok.


9) Believe in opportunities


Look at every day as the most positive event in your life. Trust that wealth of opportunities will come your way, today. Be proud of yourself and expect good things to happen. You must believe in your own journey for good things to happen!

I love the quote from Richard Branson: “If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say ‘yes’. Then learn how to do it later!” 


What we achieve and how we develop in life relies so much on our ability to be confident and sure of our life purpose. Set yourself up for opportunities proactively and learn your steps. Build a belief that you are worthy of opportunity in your core.


Watching the CD of the Commonwealth Games brought back a lot of tough realities on what happens when you are not prepared and the doors are left wide open. I am glad to say I have learnt a lot from that experience and it taught me a valuable lesson I’m going to pass on to the sixth formers: Never freeze when an opportunity presents itself.


I wish you a week full of opportunities!


Please comment and share your thoughts on opportunities missed or golden moments when you were able to grab them.


~ Jennifer

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Sunday, October 12th, 2014

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