Opportunities Squandered Or Seized?

Look even casually at anyone you truly admire for having met with success and you’ll undoubtedly find a person who given an opportunity, made a conscious decision to seize it.

There are the athletes who train hard outside the limelight and put in hours when it’s just themselves and their strength and conditioning programs. There are the explorers who took risks heading off into the then unknown with hopes of what they might find to fuel their dreams. There are the students in school who place themselves in the hands of others to learn, become educated and lay the groundwork for their individual futures. What binds them all together is the choice they made to place themselves in positions to succeed.

Not everyone however recognizes the opportunities before them or makes the decisions you and I might assume they would to better themselves. We can look around and easily find students in Universities and Colleges who have a lack of investment in the learning before them. We can readily find athletes with potential who become complacent; who settle for mediocre, would rather party than continue to commit to the regime of training and self-discipline that had them formerly on the rise.

From the outside, it’s often clear when we look at others who is committed and who is not; who is seizing opportunity with both hands and who is squandering that which may or may not come again.

What is harder and less appealing is to look at ourselves. We don’t always recognize real opportunities when they lay before us, and even when we do, isn’t it the case that we often squander them? The reasons? Perhaps a lack of money, courage, self-motivation, reluctance to put in the hard work required, competing commitments etc. For those that squander chances and opportunities, there’s always a reason.

I work with people in receipt of social assistance, most of whom are unemployed and some of whom are underemployed in part-time jobs both in and outside their fields of training, education and interest. You might assume that every one of these people would be looking to improve their financial situation; looking to get back to being gainfully employed and productively contributing to the society in which they live as a result. You’d be wrong. Just like in any other group of people, you’ll find the highly motivated and the ones letting opportunities pass them by.

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve had the distinct privilege to work closely with 10 unemployed people who are looking for employment. Each of the 10 had the same introduction to the two weeks given to them individually. They heard that one of my key expectations was that they must want a job more than I want it for them to be successful. They were even advised that if they didn’t want to put in the work required, I’d rather they didn’t choose to join in, and no penalty would befall them for turning the opportunity down. Now of these 10, there wasn’t one who didn’t agree.

Things being what they are however; and yes you’ve probably guessed it, not all 10 seized this opportunity with the same enthusiasm. At the end of the first week I asked everyone in the group to share how many jobs they’d applied to, how many calls they’d made and how many interviews they’d had. While each person reported at least some achievement, one person reported no calls made, no jobs applied to and not surprisingly no interviews forthcoming. Puzzling.

This isn’t the place to share all the background I explored and learned for reasons of confidentiality however, I can say with conviction that this is an opportunity squandered. Sure there’s personal factors; there always are. Not one of the 10 in the group doesn’t have barriers to overcome and in this they are just normal people like you and I. Everybody has challenges; things that we either face, struggle with and commit to overcoming or things we choose to give power over us.

Now what of you? What’s your personal situation at the moment? I’m willing to say that you’ve got something now before you that is an opportunity hanging in the balance. It might be an employment program, a return to school, a job that would need a move on your part, an apprenticeship, a course to upgrade a licence or certificate. You might have put off this opportunity for a long time too, and with the passage of time you’re feeling that chance is now becoming more remote than ever. But it still keeps nagging at you.

Is it your age, wondering how you’d pay to go back to school and still pay the mortgage and provide for the family? Is it not wanting to have wasted the education you have already which at one time you thought would set you on your career path? Maybe it’s that your afraid of the pressure it takes to throw yourself back into a determined job search; pressure being something that has in the past triggered your dependency on drugs to cope with; a path you don’t want to revisit.

The good thing about opportunities is that they come to us all the time. You’ve got several before you today in fact. Today – yes today – could be the very day you make a decision to seize one.



Heard The One About The Guy Who Said, “I Want To Work But…”

When you hear someone say, “Heard the one about the guy who said…”, it’s usually the start of a joke. When the next 5 words are, “I want to work but…”, then it sounds like the idea of making a joke about someone looking for work is in bad taste.

It is true however – and most unfortunately so, that there are a great number of people who claim to want to work but who follow-up that statement with single or multiple barriers. The nature of those barriers are either self-imposed barriers or barriers beyond their control. Of the two, self-imposed barriers are far more common. So if then these barriers are so often self-imposed, why is it some people still make claims of wanting to work, but don’t take the steps to remove the barriers they’ve set upon themselves?

The answer is actually very simple; while they profess to wanting employment, they don’t want the employment more than they are content to live within the barriers they have constructed. So the person who wants to work but needs their high school diploma would much rather live without going back to get it, hence jeopardizing their own ability to get the work that requires the diploma. Similarly, the person who says they want to work and gets offered a job interview, declines it because it would mean having to work 15 kilometres away and in their mind that’s too far to be expected to travel every day.

In both cases above, the person states a desire to work, knows what has to be done to obtain employment, but doesn’t want the end goal of a job bad enough to in the one case, get their high school diploma and in the other travel outside some predetermined and largely arbitrary geographical boundary. How bad do they really want to work? Not bad enough.

These kind of examples work really well in the sense that most of us can see how the person is self-sabotaging themselves. We might go so far as to say, “15 kilometres? Really? Come on, that’s like a short bus ride. You’re not serious right?” Oh but they are. And it’s easy to look at someone else’s situation and gape, laugh, question, or puzzle over. But what of our situation; more directly YOUR situation? Are you equally putting up your own barriers to employment?

Suddenly the thought that someone might look your way and suggest that you are your own worst barrier to employment might not seem so funny. How dare they! How dare I. But I stand by this assertion; in many cases, the single biggest barrier to someone gaining meaningful employment is themselves.

I’ve heard some single parents say, “I want to work but I have no childcare.” Others say, “I want to work but everything is on computers these days”. There’s the classic, “I want to work but I’ve got this 15-year-old criminal record.” That one is only topped by the ever popular, “I want to work but nobody is hiring in this town.” If this was a music album, it’d be a cheesy collection of country-wailing fiddles and bluesy saxophones.

At what point does a person say to themselves, “Okay, I’ve got a situation of my own making, I’m taking responsibility for it, and the solution is also mine to own.” It’s far too easy and much more comfortable to continue on blaming others for our circumstances. In some cases, it’s even necessary quite frankly. Some current situations exist because of past situations in which we found ourselves – shady employers who duped us, maybe families who put us down and suppressed us.

At some point however, for each and every person who pulled themselves out of that “woe is me” life, a decision was made by the person themselves that enough was enough, life was passing them by, they were going to succeed where they had only ever failed, and that change – REAL CHANGE – was needed. The second thing beyond that initial decision was an equally important next step and that was to act.

If you are truly happy with your present life there is no real desire to embrace change because there is no motivation to experience things differently. If you are not happy with life as it is, you DO have the power to change how you experience it. In fact, you are the only person on the planet who can really drive that change if it’s change that’s to last.

If you are unemployed and don’t want to work, stop telling people you do. You are only going to waste both your time and theirs. Is that your goal? I would hope not. If you are sincere about wanting to make a change and gain employment, the real work is about to begin. Getting work IS work. You’ll need to update your skills, education, your appearance, self-confidence, decision-making ability, change your daily routines. It will involve struggles, setbacks but also gains, achievements and successes.

Eliminate the word, “but” from your vocabulary for starters. If you want to succeed and work, get going. “But I don’t have my grade 12!” becomes, “I’m enrolling in school”.  “But I don’t have childcare becomes, “I’m getting a sitter.” But I’ve got a criminal record!” becomes, “I’m getting a pardon”. etc.

Who said getting a job would be easy? So you have problems to overcome? It all starts with YOU.