Opportunity cost

Departments - Editor's Insight

Sometimes, you're given an opportunity to do something you don't think you can do.

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June 16, 2011

Chuck Bowen

Sometimes, you’re given an opportunity to do something you don’t think you can do. You really want to do it – for pride, for money or just to prove you can – but it seems impossible. You don’t know how to do it. You’re too busy. You don’t have the time or the energy.

I like to say yes. I like to take on projects and extra work. I like new experiences, and I like making people happy. About two years ago, I got an opportunity to run Lawn & Landscape. I didn’t think I could – I’d never run a magazine before, and to be honest, it was pretty scary.

Last summer, Benton Foret got an opportunity, too. His, though, was much bigger and much more important. BP wanted his help to coordinate the expansion of its 24-hour response center during the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. He wasn’t sure he and his company could do it. But, thanks to the support and hard work of his employees and colleagues, he did.

For a year, Foret and his brother, Ryan, took their attention away from their landscape company and clients – handed the whole thing over to a foreman. They worked to help out a client in a time of need, sure, but more, to help fix a terrible environmental disaster.

“I prayed a lot,” Foret told me, when I asked him about how he handled the stress and uncertainty of such a big and uncertain job. “I said a lot of prayers.”

I wasn’t sure I could run L&L, but now I am. Foret wasn’t sure he could take on this job, but he did. We both had the faith that, in the end, things would work out.

John Paul Jones, the great American naval officer (not the great British bassist for Led Zeppelin) put it this way: “If fear is cultivated it will become stronger. If faith is cultivated it will achieve mastery.”

It’s OK to be scared of new things – of new projects and new opportunities. If you never feel afraid, you’re not taking enough chances and you won’t grow. But you have to balance that fear with the faith that things will work out, that you will succeed. In the end, very few things are truly impossible.

So say yes. Give it a shot. Otherwise, you might miss out on a great opportunity.

– Chuck Bowen