I’ve been an entrepreneur all my life.
Do I think I deserve an award for that? Hell yeah! But I know I’m not getting one (or am I?). Well, almost all my life. I feel that I have the battle scars that allow me to speak authoritatively on behalf of entrepreneurs. There is a brief period when I took up the comfort of employment. It was rewarding in its own way and truth be told, I was allowed to express myself entrepreneurially even in that setup. I learned something important during that time. I understood that the biggest difference between an employee and an entrepreneur is that entrepreneurs are hardly ever comfortable. Not that they never make money or attain wealth, that’s not what I mean. What I mean is that entrepreneurs rarely ever sit back, feel content and think they are done regardless of their successes or failures. They are often asking, “What’s next?”
Opportunity is next. You see, the answer to that question lies in the next opportunity. That’s what’s next.
Though it’s probably impossible to prove, I believe that less than 50% of the opportunities available to human beings are ever taken up. That’s a disappointing percentage, isn’t it? There are a myriad of reasons why opportunities are never utilised. There may be capital constraints, poor timing, bad location etc. However, in my view, the biggest reason is that we don’t even know that the opportunity is there. So may opportunities come by and pass without us ever seeing that they were there. The good thing about these is that they leave us with less regret but wouldn’t we stand a better chance if we knew they were there? How much better would we be if we were able to pick these opportunities up? So much better, I say.
We owe it to ourselves to develop our skills to be able to identify opportunities wherever they may present themselves. But how do we do that? How do we turn ourselves into efficient receptors for opportunities that we often miss? The first answer lies in the very essence of being an entrepreneur. Instinct. Before you ask, instinct is naturally contained in some people but it must be developed and can be learned. Like most things, if you don’t build on it, it dies and if you build on it, it grows. If you are asking what happens if you don’t have good instincts, let me break it down for you. If you are an entrepreneur and have set up a new business and it has survived more than 1000 days, then you’ve got it. Just build on it by putting it more to the test. See what your instinct tell you about a situation and act on it. The only way to hone in your instinct is through experience. I realised this in my own experience. Now, when a client approaches us, I can tell with 90% accuracy, which client will cost us time and money. That has saved us quite a bit of money. So now, we are quite selective about the clients we take up. Better not to earn money than to lose it, right?
The second answer came to me when I took a trip to Zimbabwe a few months back. Whilst there, I was driving a Japanese imported vehicle. I’m generally a creature of habit and when I’m there, I listen to the same radio station. For some odd reason, the radio in the car I had could only pick up 2 radio channels. None of which were my regular channel. The fact that I couldn’t listen to the channel didn’t mean that it wasn’t there. It simply meant that the frequency at which it was broadcasting isn’t the frequency at which I was listening. That’s often the same problem with us and opportunities. They are often broadcasting at frequencies that we aren’t listening at. For some of us, these are frequencies we aren’t able to listen at. There are various reasons for this. Sometimes we consume our minds with noise borne from disappointments, frustrations or a lack of focus or any of a million reasons. The opportunities simply come and go. We need to keep our minds open and aware so we are able to pick up the frequencies when we need to.
I know, I seem to be creating a maze but it gets clearer. Wait for it.
The best way to make your mind “opportunity ready” is to constantly and continuously feed your mind. Yep, you heard right, feed your mind. The process of feeding your mind is easier than many people would think. You do this by reading, listening and watching things that challenge your mind and developing a healthy curiosity about the things in the world around you. Make that brain work. That’s how you expand it. If you constantly feed your mind, you become a receptor for much more stimuli around you than before and you are more likely to see opportunity when it comes. What may seem like useless information becomes your next breakthrough because you have opened up your mind to it. You become more aware of it. Sometimes, it may simply be because you are more aware of coming trends because your mind is now in that space. And as your mind continues to expand, you become more pre-emptive of trends. Here’s where it gets more exciting. When you get here, not only do you start picking up more opportunities, you begin to create opportunities. This is a realisation that has profoundly changed my life and has made me more relevant.
If you think about it, this message isn’t just for entrepreneurs. It can be for anyone because the concepts are universally applicable. Like anything in this world, it’s not easy. You must invest in the time and resources that allow you to be better. Read a book (I know some of you haven’t since college), play a game of chess or even scrabble. The basic principles hold true. You must strive and you must seek. That is the only way that you will find.
Garikai M. Nhongo
Garikai is the Thinking Entrepreneur. He has interests in Advertising, Media and consultancy in East & Southern Africa. He is a published poet with 2 books of poetry available worldwide. Visions of My Heart: 101 Tales Tales Told in Verse and Words on My Canvas. He has a poetry blog and he is also a speaker and a trainer. Talk to him by email or social media below.