Essentials of Opportunity

Today we’re talking about the Essentials of Opportunity. As leaders, we’re all looking for the next opportunity. But, how skilled are you at finding new opportunities? Sometimes it’s easier to find what you’re looking for when you have a clear picture of it, and today that is exactly what John Maxwell is delivering.

Today, John shares 9 observations about the nature of opportunity, then Mark Cole and Chris Goede join to discuss John’s lesson and offer application for you to apply these principles and become a master at finding new opportunities.

Our BONUS resource for this episode is the “Essentials of Opportunity Worksheet,” which includes fill-in-the-blank notes from John’s teaching. You can download the worksheet by clicking “Download the Bonus Resource” below.


Mark Cole:       Hey leaders, Mark Cole here and welcome to the Maxwell Leadership Podcast. We say it often, but it's true again this week, this is the podcast that adds value to leaders who will multiply value to others. Today, we're talking about one of John Maxwell's favorite subjects, opportunities. This podcast is about the essentials of opportunity. As leaders, we're all looking for the next opportunity, the next breakthrough, but how skilled are you at finding these new opportunities? Sometimes it's easier to find what you're looking for when you have a clear picture of what it is. And today that is exactly what John Maxwell is going to deliver.

Today, John will share nine observations about the nature of opportunities. Then I and my co-host Chris Goede will be back and we'll discuss John's lessons and offer application for you to apply these principles, all of these lessons to your own life and to your leadership. As always, we have a free bonus resource for you, which is a fill in the blank worksheet that accompanies John's lesson. To download that worksheet, please visit and click the bonus resource button. Here we go. Here is John Maxwell.

John Maxwell:  What I want to do is I want to give you just a bunch of observations about opportunity, things that I have observed about opportunity that I just want you to have. These are what I call quick hits. Number one, motivation and opportunity are connected to one another. Now that's a fact. You show me a person that is motivated, I will show you a person that finds opportunity. In fact, in your notes, I put motivated people often find opportunities and opportunities often motivate people. There is a definite relationship between opportunities and motivation. But by the way, let me stop and say this. The order of agenda that I'm giving you is very key. Motivation comes before opportunities, opportunities do not come before motivation.

Number two, right attitudes precede, right opportunities. If you have the right attitude that precedes also the right opportunities that come your way. It's like the tourist who went to a person in a very, very small isolated town in the mountains and that person looked up and said, "Can you tell me what this town is noted for?" The old man scratched his head for just a moment, he said, "Well, it's the starting point to the world. You can start from here and go anywhere you want to go." Right attitudes precede right opportunities.

Number three, today is the best day for an opportunity. In fact, Ben Franklin said it right, "One today is worth two tomorrows" In fact, one person told me recently, I love this, they said, "Opportunity takes now for an answer." I thought, "Yes, that's exactly right. Opportunity takes now for an answer." Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we only know what to do with it." Today is the best day to seize the opportunity.

Number four opportunities are a result of pluck not luck. George Bernard Shaw said, "The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want and if they can't find them, they make them." James Garfield, president of the United States many, many years ago, said, "Things don't turn out in this world until someone turns them up." George Adams said, "In this life, we only get those things for which we hunt, for which we strive and for which we are willing to sacrifice." Don't just face opportunities and problems, attack them. Consider what B.C. Forbes said, "Mediocre men wait for opportunities to come to them. Strong, able, alert men go after the opportunity."

Point number five about opportunities, opportunities are not seized in the ideal situations. Very seldom do opportunities come to us packaged ideally. One of my favorite writers is a lady by the name of Ellen Metcalfe. Ellen Metcalfe said in your notes, "I would like to amend the idea of being in the right place at the right time." There are many people who are in the right place but didn't know it. You have to recognize when the right place and the right time fuse and take advantage of that opportunity. There are plenty of opportunities out there you can't sit back and wait. That is absolutely so true. Like one person told me one time said, "They're out in the backyard looking for four-leaf clovers, while opportunity was knocking at their door."

Okay, number six, opportunity without commitment will be lost. Harry Overstreet said, "The immature mind hops from one thing to another and the mature mind seeks to follow through."

Number seven, opportunity is birthed out of problems. The birthplace of opportunity is always adversity. In fact, if you're looking for a big opportunity, seek out a big problems, isn't that true? My first book, I wrote it and it was published in 1979. It was entitled Think on These Things. So I'm writing this book, Think on These Things, I'm just doing my best to pull it all together. And it's my first book. In that book, I have a chapter on problems and this was back in 1979. So almost 20 years ago. Because one of the things as a young person I was dealing with, is I was dealing with a lot of problems. Especially, when you grow something, you have a lot of challenges. So I said, "I've got to work out an acrostic." And I did and I'm going to give it to you right now. The letter P stands for every problem is a predictor.

I promise you, problems more than anything in this life, by your response to them, predict who you are and what you're going to become. Problems have a way of moving people. Problems move you. Success won't, but problems will. When people are discomforted, they start to make movement. So problems are predictors. The letter R stands for the fact that they're reminders. They're pretty much reminders that life is tough. They're reminders that life isn't easy. They're reminders that every day that we get up, that we're going to have another challenge, another adversity, another difficulty, another hill to climb. That's the way it works. The letter O stands for the fact that there are opportunities. That's why I'm probably doing this acrostic because we're in a section on opportunities, but every problem presents an opportunity. Do you know almost everything you appreciate today is because it was a problem to someone else?

The medicines we all have, do you realize all medicine basically came to being out of the fact that somebody had ill health or died from something and somebody had to find a cure. The letter B stands for the fact that they're blessings. You say, "John, I'm not sure I understand that." Well, very simple. If you had a good life perspective, in biblical perspective, you would find that our problems as we look back on them in life are where we learned most of the lessons that we have in life. Which stands for the L. It stands for lessons. Problems, if we have the right attitude, teach us much. The letter E in the word problems is the fact that problems are everywhere. Isn't that true? I got problems, you got problems. All God's children got problems.

And the letter M stands for the fact that they're messages. Problems are signals that basically, by our response tell us what we need. If we have a continual reoccurring problem, it is sending us a message. I was recently doing a lecture on Conflict Management to about 1500, 2000 people in an auditorium. And well, I was dealing with them on how to handle conflict. And I said, "Let tell you something, if you are having the same kind of conflict with different people, it's because you are a conflict carrier."

If Joe and Sue have a problem, and Joe and Sally have a problem, and Joe and Harry have a problem, and Joe and Jack have a problem, and Joe and Heather have a problem, Joe probably has a problem. And the letter S, problems are solvable. Do you know how Velcro came to be? Literally, a guy was going through a field and got little burrs all over his slacks and he hated that. So he was taking them off. He was taking off these and then all of a sudden he got intrigued, "How come those burrs just grab hold of..." So he put it under microscope and he found out that all those burs have little hooks. And he said, "Oh my goodness." He said, "If I could develop a material that was like a burr." And that's exactly how Velcro came to be.

Number eight, opportunities can multiply or they can disappear, so true.

Number nine, another thought on opportunities, nourish opportunities. Let me get through all this, nourish opportunities. Basically, Peter Drucker said, "Feed an opportunity and starve a problem." How true that is? Isn't that true?

Mark Cole:       Hey, welcome back and again, Chris, I love the Peter Drucker quote, which also is our standout statement today. Feed an opportunity starve a problem. That's what it is. You and I have worked with John a long time and as soon as you and I started sitting in studio and seeing this lesson, we went, "Wow, John Maxwell is in heaven with this podcast because he loves opportunities."

Chris Goede:     Yeah I love how you said in your introduction. You said, "This is probably one of John's favorite topics." Now let me give you the other side of this topic for those that are the doers, as you have been leading the doers of John's opportunities for so many years. Sometimes we get distracted because there's so many opportunities that John has seen, that has activated, that has walked down road. Some work, some didn't, we're going to talk about that today. And yet we get distracted and he just keeps going. "Hey guys, wait, wait, wait. There's an opportunity there." I know that you can relate to that because you spent a ton of time with him. But this is so appropriate for leaders because there are opportunities in everything that we go through as leaders and John has taught me that, he has taught you that. Even when I don't... I'm a very logical person.

I'm like, "Yeah, there's nothing here." He's like, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. We need to be looking at it a little bit different." Little bit. So why I'm so excited even about talking about this topic today is, yes this content is awesome. And I want to encourage you to make sure that you take notes right out of John's lesson today because it's pure gold here. I want to talk about some application. Because you are in a season right now of your leadership journey and you've told our company this. I have got to learn how to see opportunities, take advantage, discover, do some due diligence on opportunities like John Maxwell does right now in his career. So not to put any pressure on you, but the entire Maxwell Leadership Enterprise. Do you feel that way? Do you feel the heaviness of that?

Mark Cole:       I do. For our podcast, viewers and podcast listeners, John and I have really looked at succession in his world in five laps. We use a baton a lot. You perhaps have seen some pictures and social media and other things of a baton passing and things, but we've really looked at five things. And just to recap for our podcast family, we all know this, but the first was leadership. Could I really lead at this level? I don't have the background and education and experience when John first gave me the opportunity. We answered that question. We thought, "Okay, there's a chance that there's a good way that we can run this lap of leadership."

The second was communication. Can we communicate in such a way that we're believable? Is there some communication. We've come a long way, baby. We got a lot further way to go, but John's really helped me with that.

The third area was vision. As a leadership team, can we create vision that would match and even go to the next level of our founder? And John has said often, and I'm really proud of this man, Mark, "The vision for the future is bigger than the vision I had to get us to the present." And I'm really thankful for that.

The next two laps, John and I are still trying to discover. And so if you ask me right now, we meet in some event or some city somewhere around the world, you ask, "What's John mentoring you on right now?" It's two things. It's opportunities and relationships.

Let's talk about opportunities because that's what we're talking about today. He believes that I've got to learn how to sense and seize opportunity like he has. Now relationships combines with that because the type relationships that Johns want to mentor me to cultivate those relationships bring opportunity. Now we're in this time, Chris, can we, as an organization sense and seize opportunity at a way that is bigger, better and brighter than where we are today. And do I feel the pressure of that? The answer is every day, every night, in the middle of the day, in the middle of the night, the answer's yes.

Chris Goede:     And what I love about it is I'm glad you feel that. For not only in our sake, but in our passion that everybody deserves to be led well around the world and that's what we're going after. And those opportunities are out there every single day and the fact that you and John are working on that is a big feat, but we're grateful that you guys are doing that together because there is nobody better than John. I've seen him do it. I've seen him work it daily. I think as leaders, one thing that I was thinking about in this lesson is, as opportunities present themselves, the more you look for them on a daily basis, may be even on an hourly basis, they're going to start showing up. It's a bias that we have in regards to opportunities. It reminds me of when we want to go out and we want to buy a certain car and a certain color and we're like, "Man, there's none of these out on the road."

And then you go buy one and what happens? You see them everywhere. So it's the same thing with opportunities. And as you take John's principles that he gave us today and some of the application from Mark, it's what I want you to begin thinking about when it comes to opportunities. So let's dive in because I do want to give some really practical application and how you live this out from a leadership perspective. So Mark and I chatted just a minute before we started and I said, "Hey, I know you're working on this with John. There's a bunch of them here, give me two or three and let's talk about some practical application." And that's what we're going to do.

So the first one that I just want to hear from you and share with our listeners is, opportunities are not seized in ideal situations. And I think some of the greatest opportunities I've seen you and John walk through were definitely not ideal situations. But how are you growing in the mindset to understand these situations we're in right now, they're not ideal, but there are going to be opportunities in them. Talk to me about the conversations you've had, maybe example, just share from your heart on what you're learning in regards to that, from an opportunity standpoint,

Mark Cole:       I think the biggest thing for me and opportunities and especially in this opportunities not in the ideal situation is, leaders can never turn it off. And I know we're supposed to and I know we should and I know we need rest. And I got all that, but some of the greatest opportunities as John taught in this lettuce and comes win in times of problems. A problem presents itself and then boom, we have an opportunity. Well, one of our problems is Chris, you know this, our bandwidth here at the Maxwell Leadership is stretched. Now we have 22% more HR personnel, human resources. We have 22% more this year than we did last year. And that was after another 20% from the year before. We have grown significantly in the past little bit.

Here's why, I'm building the platform. I'm building the foundation where we can have bandwidth to pursue more opportunities. This is a little bit of teaching and I'm going to get into application but John teaches test, fail, learn, improve, reenter. We've talked about that multiple times, we hear that all the time here in our community. But for us to have a test, fail, learn, improve, reenter mindset, going from founder to foundation, one of the things that I've found that we have to do, is we have to increase the bandwidth. We have to crease our ability to pursue opportunities because John has a nose for opportunity. Number one, he's gifted. Number two, he has wisdom of many, many years of being able to ascertain pretty quickly is that a good opportunity, is it not? Well, I'm a new leader. I'm a new guy to having to sense and seize opportunity.

I've just been the guy executing on yesterday's opportunities. Well, now I've got a sense and seize them. Well guess what's going to have to happen for this 52 a year old guy. I'm going to have to test, fail, learn, improve and reenter. I'm going to have to try a lot of things to determine if some things work. Now, will I have to try everything 10 years from now that I'm having to try now? No. But right now I'm having to try a lot.

So leaders, here's my first practical point. If you're new at sensing and seizing opportunity, build bandwidth within your team that gives your organization elasticity to test things that are not going to work out. Your fail ratio will be less in the first part of sensing and seizing opportunity. You will get better. And I think for me that one is, it doesn't speak to me if I try a bad opportunity speaks to my immaturity. It doesn't speak to me that it was a failure, it speaks to me that it was a lesson learned. And I think for what I would tell you at the very beginning of opportunities are not ideal situations, you've got to change the perspective and say, "Failure is okay, trying too many things is okay and our ability to learn from them is the desired outcome not a successful opportunity." You know what I want today? I want to know something didn't work as much as I want to know something did work. That mindset is absolutely imperative if you're going to learn how to sense and seize opportunity.

Chris Goede:     And what underlines all of what you've just talked about, is one of our values and John's so passionate about, which is growth. I mean that is a personal growth journey, that's one of many that you're on. But as leaders as we go through those opportunities, if we're okay and we're open to that and testing and failing, we're going to be learning. And every day we should be learning, just like we're sensing for new opportunities. Now, one of the things I want to transition you in, because this is something we've struggled with when it comes to focus on certain opportunities, there is a time and I know both you and I have sought counsel and wisdom from John's brother Larry. And he says, "One of the things leaders don't do is, get out fast enough." And so there are going to be opportunities that we have the privilege of walking down the road that will multiply our business, our top line revenue, our reach, whatever your KPIs are.

There are opportunities that are going to multiply that for you. But then there are opportunities that are just going to disappear. And I think you have to have, not only from the leader perspective but the team and the capacity that you talked about, that's working on, you guys have to be okay with saying, "Where did it go?" Don't go try to dig it back up if it is disappearing, if you walk through that door and there was a reason to do that and the opportunity was there, it's either going to multiply or disappear. So talk to us a little bit about that in regards to what you're seeing, running this lap with John and where you're at around opportunities.

Mark Cole:       Recently, a few weeks now ago, we all got to watch the masters of golf. And for those of you that don't watch it, I'm sorry you miss one of the greatest televised sporting events that there is. But and you've played sports at every level and in sports you realize that there are opportunities that come and you miss them and you know what the greatest of athletes do, when they realized they missed it, they learned from it, but they move on. And I've watched too many business people that when the opportunity disappeared, they try to go recreate the opportunity and they spend more time on resurrecting yesterday's opportunity than looking for tomorrow's opportunity. And what we can learn from sports right here, Chris is an opportunity will disappear. You missed it. Okay get over it. Let's go. Let's keep moving rather than going and trying to resurrect it.

I've also seen, to the point of your question here, to where you sense an opportunity and it begins to multiply and begins to produce greater results than you can even handle. I think learning to triage is a word or learning to prioritize is another word on opportunities that began to multiply is very important. Let me explain, several years ago, we were launching a new initiative for one of our non-profit. And as we launch this, the opportunities began to explode. In other words, you've heard us talk about it. We went from two presidents of countries inviting us to come in to 22. You know what John wanted to do? Say yes to every one of them. What was the statement that he made? Opportunities takes no for an answer.

And we begin to accept bad partners in the sake of sensing and seizing opportunity. And I know John is teaching this from a great perspective of, "Hey, sometimes they multiply. Sometimes they disappear, be okay with either one, keep moving." But at the same time, I think we also need to understand that when we miss an opportunity, we need to learn from it so that we don't miss it again, but we do need to move. And the second thing is, sometimes there's too much opportunity and we need to learn how to prioritize that so that the multiplication of that opportunity doesn't become distraction to what's working within the organization.

Chris Goede:     That's good. Listeners and viewers, I hope you caught that right there because we can sit here at this podcast and as we're sharing on video and you're listening to audio, we've been distracted before. We've made some mistakes where we've lack focus. Matter of fact, you've taken us through some exercises where we went back over a 5 or a 7, 10 year period and we said, "Where was the greatest impact and influence that we've had?" And we looked and it was where we were keeping focus on certain things. And so don't miss that point as we talk about opportunities. Well, as we wrap up, there's one other one, as we talked about in this season of growth that you're in from a leadership with John. And this is nourishing the opportunities. They're going to be there. They're going to multiply, they're going to grow.

Daily, we're going to be looking at it. But we have to intentionally... There's another one of our favorite words around here. Intentionally nourish these opportunities to even give them a shot. Talk about some things you put in place and I'm sitting here smiling while I tell you that, because even you working with me and giving me some additional responsibility outside of my day job, which we all have day jobs around here. And then we have the other jobs that we have around here, but you got to nourish some. They are given to you for an opportunity, you were aware, you were keen. You got to nourish them and to know if they're going to improve.

Mark Cole:       It's funny that your mind went the same place but we did not-

Chris Goede:     I saw the look in your eye. Almost like you had something else you wanted to share with me too.

Mark Cole:       ... In fact, right now I brought you here to tell you about another opportunity that you should work on. What's interesting is as you were saying that I did, I went right back to what you did and we're in a window and most organizations and most leaders do feel like it's a window. It's now or never, it's fight right now, let's go. We're in this window of going from founder to foundation. We're in this window of taking our one pen that we've been writing with for many, many years, John Maxwell's pen. And we're placing the Maxwell Leadership pen into multiple thought leaders hands. And we're merging, we're acquiring organizations and I believe that in merging and acquiring organizations and sensing the opportunity like we're talking about and seizing the opportunity, there are some non-negotiables.

One is this culture. Culture has got to be protected. It's got to be fought for because there's been too... The statistics are not with us in mergers and acquisitions. Don't go look at the statistics, because it'll scare you from ever merging and acquiring anything. However, there are success rates, there are success factors. And I think one of those is culture. So going back to you, Chris, we've got a window here to where our opportunities need to be nourished. So what are we feeding our opportunities? We're feeding them culture. We're feeding them foundational principles. You've been in John's world. You took a sabbatical, we all laughed about that, but you started John's world before I did. You get this in a way that very few people do. So when I am acquiring or merging, or sensing an opportunity, in this case, bringing organizations' teams together. You know who I rely on to nourish that opportunity? The person, the people that know what the opportunity should look like when it is culminated into our organization.

It's Goede. The other day we had a leadership meeting and I was talking about the worst case scenarios with a particular opportunity that we're going. And I said, "I'm prepared for the worst case scenario." Because if the worst case scenario happened, you know what I do, Chris Goede would change his office. He's going to start coming in another part of town, because I got to have him there. And you kind of laugh because we've said we're willing to do whatever and maybe that was the first you heard it positioned like that. But we already know, we're going to nourish these opportunities that we have by feeding the nutrients and the things that's needed for that opportunity to ever have a chance.

Chris Goede:     Yeah and what I love about what you're doing and even just what you said is this, as you nourish these opportunities for maybe your business, maybe you have a selfless lens on why you're looking at it. The awesome thing about what we're doing is we're nourishing the souls, if you don't mind, of those that are inside those organizations. We're adding value to people, again, coming back to another core principle of ours and a value, we're adding value to people that then can even multiply. You talk about bringing additional pens. I was on a call this morning, Chad Johnson and I with one of our thought leaders and we were like, "Hey, what else can we help you with? What can we take off your plate? How can we get you to the point to where...?" And having those conversations, nourishes not only a bigger opportunity for our enterprise to be able to get a message out there to people that we have a passion about, but also it nourishes those individuals and adds value to those people.

So those were just three that we wanted to share and pull out, again, there is nobody better and nobody better than John that ceases opportunities and works some and has taught you to be able to do that. We wanted to give you some applications to be able to do that. Closing thoughts for our audience?

Mark Cole:       One is, it goes back to Sun Tzu's quote that says victory comes from finding opportunities in problems. And in my case, and all I can bring to you podcast family is where I am and how I'm leading. The biggest thing that I have in sensing and seizing opportunities is not letting how I used to view environments, affect the opportunity that is laden in that environment. We were at a golf tournament recently with some very well known recognizable names to you and we went to the golf tournament in the guise of supporting a new friend, a new partner. What we found was more opportunity than we knew what to do with. What we discovered was partners that did not even know that there was something we could partner on. And I can tell you that golf tournament that could have been just a golf tournament, went and had fun in a very, very nice course, but we had a little bit more intention.

We wanted to support a friend. It could have stopped at the golf. It could have stopped at supporting a friend, but what happened by the end of the night, Chris was a realization that opportunities are more prevalent than we're aware of. They're more readily available for the picking if you will, than we even realize. And that would be my challenge for you. I think John disciplined himself to think like that. We as leaders listening to this podcast and watching, we need to cultivate that ability to look for opportunities everywhere. Then the season comes after we start seeing them, "Hey, I do want to close today." As we always do with a comment from one of our podcast family, and it's [Manj 00:31:23]. Manj said, "I came to the US from India a long time ago. I've been listening to your podcast since the beginning." This particular podcast, which by the way was Players versus Pretenders.

And I will put that in the show notes. I would encourage you to go listen to it. Manj said, "This particular podcast is my all time favorite. I've been listening to it since the beginning, but this is my favorite." He said, "It really struck me that I should give that nugget of golden wisdom to my 16 year old daughter." Now the nugget was when Traci Morrow said, "I wish I had learned this lesson when I was younger." He said, "So I had her listen to the podcast. After his lesson, she asked me if she was a player or a pretender and started to process her behavior in all of her activities." Isn't this cool?

Chris Goede:     That's awesome.

Mark Cole:       "The seed has been planted and I told her to check in with herself every now and then to make sure she didn't drift into pretender land for too long." Manj said, "Grateful for your podcast and the unpacking of this lesson." That's why we do what we do. The question for you today is, are you going to be like Manj or are you going to pass this along to somebody else and make them better in their impact and influence because they're now seeing the essentials of opportunity. Hey, let's go find some opportunities. Chris, thank you for being here. John Maxwell as always, thank you and to those of you that are listening, let's listen, let's learn something. Let's go love someone and then let's lead.

2 thoughts on “Essentials of Opportunity”

  1. Love John! I’m with Advisors Excel. I’m an estate planning attorney, CPA and financial advisor. In between all of that I spent 2 yrs as a coach with my dad with the Denver Nuggets. Doug Moe.

    My favorite perspective so far from an AE conference was in hiring and developing people we want to focus on getting them from an 8 to a 10. Have no interest in making people into a 5 from a 3.

    It’s what makes a great team in sports. Coaches getting Players understanding their roles. Putting them in a position to be a 10

  2. Hi Mark, I wanted to let you know how thankful I am for this podcast. I always get so much out of listening. I started listening about three years ago and have since purchased several of John’s books. I’ve also given copies of Developing the Leader Within You 2.0 to my staff and met with them to discuss each chapter. Yesterday I met with one of my team members who is almost finished with it. It was so exciting and gratifying hearing him talk about how the book was impacting him and where he sees himself heading.
    Thank you for the work that you all do. It is making a difference.

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