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Finding opportunities through work

Improving Systems and Habits

Scott Miker is the author of several books that describe how to use systems and habits to improve.  This free blog provides articles that to help understand the principles related to building systems.  

Finding opportunities through work

Scott Miker

There is a great quote by Ann Landers.  She said, “Opportunities are usually disguised as hard work, so most people don’t recognize them.”

I love this quote.  Not just because it emphasizes the hard work element of success but because we can all relate. 

I know there were times when I would avoid something because it seemed too hard.  Other times I didn’t have a choice.  If there were something I wanted or needed and had an obstacle to overcome I would drudgingly do the task.  But I would have a negative attitude about the whole experience and would do just enough to get through it. 

Some people would argue that this means we have to always have a positive attitude.  I’ve heard the argument that, as long as we take a positive attitude, we won’t work a day in our lives. 

But this isn’t true.  Instead of looking at work as something to skim past to get to what we want, or try to force happiness while working, the better approach is to simply understand that it is part of it. 

I reference the Tao Te Ching often in my articles.  One of the reasons is the paradoxical nature of the writing.  It wisely points out that opposites exist together.  We can’t have beauty without ugliness and we can’t have good without some bad. 

This is why we have to be willing to tackle the difficulties in life head on.  We have to realize that tough tasks help define us and they help make the victories sweeter.  Without the adversity, success wouldn’t feel the same.  It is because of the overcoming of challenges that we truly succeed. 

Landers’ quote speaks to this but also points out that opportunities exist within hard work.  Once you get past judging work as good or bad and accept that it is part of the overall system, you can start to see that opportunity exists in hard work because most people look for the easy answer.

We all do this from time to time.  We look for the easy path forward.  By looking for the easy path forward we miss the layers of opportunity that comes from taking a difficult path. 

So the next time you are presented with a challenge and hard work, realize that there may be opportunity within that others missed.  Instead of trying to judge the situation, simply allow yourself to become engulfed in work.  By doing this you may just see an opportunity that others have missed. 

For me the answer was to rely on the systems and habits approach.  This allowed me to tackle small pieces and work systematically to improve over time.  I would start to be able to tackle more and more work and get more and more done. 

But it isn’t always intuitive to work this way.  Most of the time when we are presented with a series of tasks we prioritize and then work through the to do list.  But if we take a step back and look at it systematically we will find ways to take steps now that will have a lasting impact. 

We may develop a better organizational system that will allow us to work more efficiently or we may create a new process that accounts for variances and makes the outcome more consistent. 

But we miss that if we aren’t careful.  Therefore we have to realize the opportunity in hard and find systematic ways to improve over time.  Together this will help us to see the opportunities and also take advantage of the opportunities we uncover.