The trouble with opportunity is that it always comes disguised as hard work.
The year was 1995. I was 14 years old and recently purchased a screaming fast 14.4 Kbps modem and signed up with a local ISP to finally get graphical Internet. This was the Internet with pictures! Ah, how I remember the days watching the purple going in and out waiting for pages to load. 28.8 Kbps modems had recently come out but they were around $250. Luckily for me, the 14.4 modems had been reduced in price to only $100 which I could afford with my paper route money. How could I complain though? Previously I had been using a 2400 bps modem to access the Internet in text-form through the Lynx browser.
This was incredible! I was amazed by the World Wide Web.
Fast forward a couple years and I was itching to learn how to make websites. What should I make one about? I was a big hockey fan at the time so after some thinking about it, I decided to make a website about my favourite hockey team, the Toronto Maple Leafs. I put countless hours into the site entering statistics from a book I bought and updating the site after games. I opened an account with Geocities, taught myself HTML and even a little bit about graphics to “pretty” up the site. It’s even still available on the Internet Archive. It wasn’t the best site but I put a lot of work into it and it was a labour of love.
Forward again another couple years to 2001. I was off to university and didn’t have the time to maintain it anymore so I let it die. Just before school let out for the summer one of my friends asks me if I can make websites. I say “Yeah, I’ve been doing that for a couple years now.” His brother wants to setup a simple online store website to sell some products. I talk to him about it and we agree on a price of $1500, half paid up front and half on delivery.
After getting back home for the summer I have lots of free time and figure it will be a piece of cake. But I procrastinate and procrastinate until finally a month later I feel bad about it and I tell him I can’t do it and return his money.
One thing I’ve since learned in life is that each time I do good work, I get rewarded with a greater opportunity as a result of it. It may not be from the same person or company but somehow life tries to put me at the next level and give me a reward.
Looking back on this decision to fail, I figure it probably cost me tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars and probably set my career back 5-6 years. I wouldn’t start doing any web development until after I graduated in 2007, six years later.
If I had successfully completed that project, I could have easily found others. The Internet was just getting started and was hot at that time. I could have worked while I went to university in web development instead of brainless part-time jobs earning barely above minimum wage. I could have built up a portfolio and client base that would still serve me today. But I chose to give up.
Life always seems to present opportunities when we’re ready. It might not be in the form we like and it certainly won’t be gift wrapped up in a nice perfect package with a bow on top. But you’re ready for it. You wouldn’t be receiving it if not. If you say yes and complete it, you will be able to move on to bigger and better things. However, if you reject life’s opportunity, it will say “Ok, never mind” and then you won’t get it again until you prove you are ready again. This may take years as in my case.
If you are currently being presented with an opportunity, are you accepting the present? If you choose to pass it along, it will take some time to get back.