Opportunities lost

In The Woo by Jeff PeytonLeave a Comment

I didn’t realize just how badly I wanted it until that exact moment they told me I couldn’t have it ever again. Honestly, I didn’t even miss piloting. At least I didn’t think I missed it. I went 18 months without so much as sitting in the cockpit, and with nary a complaint.

Oh, my wife and daughter will tell you that I would get a little distracted driving by Reigle Field, the small airport near our home, and maybe even a little excited if we happened by just as a small plane was taking off or landing. (But come on! Who wouldn’t?)

Nobody said I couldn’t fly. My paperwork was valid. My insurance was up-to-date. The guys at the airport even checked up on me from time to time, just in case I wanted to take my favorite two-seater out for a spin.

No, those months of banishment from the sky were 100-percent self-imposed.

You see, I’d had a serious medical scare. So I’d grounded myself, unsure if soloing a small plane under the circumstances was a particularly good idea. And I was completely OK with it. After all, it was my decision. I could have climbed back into the cockpit whenever I wanted to.

And then, suddenly, I couldn’t.

A couple weeks ago, my doctor pulled the plug, effectively grounding me for good.

The loss, if you’ll pardon the melodrama, was devastating.

That indescribable feeling of control, of peace, of exhilaration, all crammed together at the precise moment you pull back on the stick and mentally will your plane off the ground! I won’t ever experience it again. Worse! I had months and months where I could have flown and didn’t!

I took it for granted, and it’s gone.

What, you may be wondering, has any of this to do with marketing? Not much. Just one little word, really.


Defined as a set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something, in business, opportunity is everything. Businesses rise on opportunities seized, and businesses fall on opportunities lost.

Sadly, opportunities lost almost always occur for one of two reasons: Fear or Apathy.

I understand Apathy. It cost me months of daily opportunities to fly. Apathy sneaks up on you, lulls you with the promise that there’s no hurry, no reason to make a decision right away, nothing to lose by focusing your attention elsewhere.

If you’re a decision-maker in your company, you’re probably running at 120-percent capacity all the time. Subordinates, vendors, customers, practically everyone you know, competes for just a few minutes of your time. It is SOOO easy – and it feels just the right amount of rewarding – to not have to worry about one little thing, just for a few minutes (this time). It’ll still be there tomorrow, and there’s so much else to focus on right now anyway. That’s how Apathy works.

I also understand Fear.

Fear shouldn’t exist in entrepreneurs. Most of us go into business for ourselves because we’re driven to do so. We see a need (an opportunity) and we meet it. The risk/reward equation is hard-wired in our brain, and the answer practically always comes up “reward,” regardless of the actual math. We believe in ourselves. We believe in our ideas. We know it’ll cost, but we know it’ll work, and we know it’ll be worth it.

We know it.

Yet, Fear manages to cost us opportunity after opportunity – without ever revealing itself.

For me, Fear presents as prudence. It masquerades as my conscience. It finds ways to demonstrate “risk” even where there is none. By the time I realize there isn’t anything to worry about, the opportunity is gone. The window is closed. I don’t know about you, but I try to console myself with the lame excuse that “it probably wouldn’t have worked anyway.”

But I know better, even if I don’t always admit it. Don’t you?

Every missed opportunity comes with a price. Sometimes it’s personal. Sometimes, it’s cash that could have – should have – gone to the bottom line. I’ve faced both. I’m sure you have too. We all have.

I shared my end-of-flying story for three reasons. I wanted to demonstrate how opportunities are lost. I wanted to show you that you aren’t alone in experiencing the phenomenon. And, frankly, I was hopng for a little sympathy. (Be gentle, I just got grounded!)

My hope going forwarrd is that you never again miss an opportunity. Or, if you do, it’s something you really, truly, intentionally pass, with no second thoughts and absolutely no regrets.

Jeff Peyton
Don’t be fooled by Jeff’s accomplishments in communications, crisis and business management. He also wing-walked on an airplane at 700 feet, co-piloted the Goodyear Blimp and swam with sharks – and still managed to obtain paperwork officially declaring him “legally sane.” Really.

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