Every big business in the world started as a small business. Every small business owner started their business with one of two ideas in mind – Option A: They already did something or made something for someone else and saw an opportunity to do it better or make it better themselves. Or Option B: They saw an opportunity and with it had a great new idea and wanted to pursue it. In both cases, the business was started because of an opportunity.
I have had several business ideas in my life and I did nothing about them. One of the earliest I can remember was screen printing a game board on a bandana or sleeping pad sleeve so that I could play games while I was backpacking as a teenager on the rainy days stuck in a tent. I thought there was an opportunity. I did nothing. Later, someone else did. Later in life I saw sleeping pads with a checkerboard and backgammon board printed on them and saw bandanas printed with the game boards.
Another was when I was living in Brazil. There were these little juice/fruit smoothie spots, mostly at bus stations, where you could pick your fruits and vegetables and create your own combination or try one of their specialties. The smoothies were great and I thought they would be a hit in the United States. I thought there was an opportunity. I did nothing. Later, someone else did. Shortly after returning to the United States from Brazil, Zuka Juice opened their first store and fruit smoothies were a hit. (In fairness, Jamba Juice started in California in 1990, before I was in Brazil, but was unknown to me. They later bought Zuka Juice.)
I have missed many opportunities. Why? Probably not my passion. Steve Jobs said, “You need a lot of passion for what you’re doing because it’s so hard. Without passion, any rational person would give up.” Or in my case, not start.
About seven years ago, I chose to leave the corporate world and add a “self” in front of my employed status. I saw an opportunity to help people reach their dreams, save money on their taxes and worry less by running their businesses and their lives knowing their finances were secure, having confidence in their future. (And you thought I was just an accountant.) I saw an opportunity and this time I had the passion needed to do the hard work behind it. I love what I do. I love helping my clients. They become a part of my family and I love making a difference in their lives. Is it hard work? Yes. Are there ups and downs? Yes. Is it worth it? It is for me.
The Japanese have a concept called Ikigai meaning “a reason for being.” It is the intersection of that which you are good at, that which you can be paid for, that which you love, and that which the world needs. Some spend their lifetime searching for it. When you find it, you have satisfaction and meaning in life. If your opportunity intersects what you are good at, what you love, what the world needs and what you can get paid for…don’t miss the opportunity. Chances are you will never look back if you seize the opportunity and start it up!
We were driving down a dark road on Maui after a long day of play. My wife was driving. The kids were doing their things. I was looking out the window to see as much as I could see on my first trip to Hawaii. Suddenly, my wife and my kids all start to say, “What is that noise? What’s that sound? Do you hear it?” I said, “No. What sound?” They all begin to describe a deep noise that they say was like a cricket chirp but lower. “There it is again!” This went on for a couple of minutes. For the life of me, I could not hear the sound they were all hearing.
Which reminds me…I still need to get my hearing checked.
From that simple question “What do you hear?” our senses are shifted and our brain begins to focus on that one sense. Some people close their eyes so they can focus on the auditory sense. Our brains pick up sound almost ten times faster than we process other senses. Many believe this stems from the built in life-line alarms we have developed since the days our ancestors were not top of the food chain. Hearing is something most species do and do well to warn of potential dangers. Hearing (if we haven’t lost the sense) is easy.
Listening, really listening is hard. We are surrounded by potential distractions that enter our ears every fifty-thousandth of a second. Listening is a skill. It is a skill we are in danger of losing in a world of information and technology designed to distract.
Because listening is a skill, we can learn it. Take some time to practice. Don’t give someone the opportunity to say, “You never listen!” or “We want our voices heard.” Being a better listener will make you a better spouse, parent, boss, employee, salesperson, problem solver and a better leader. Here are some suggestions to practice listening:
We can listen to new music rather than familiar songs.
We can listen to our significant other’s voice – not just their words – to listen for the emotions in the harmonics.
We can ask questions to really find out an answer not because we need an answer but because we care.
We can engage ourselves in the conversation by putting the phone down, taking out the headphones, turning off the television and focus on the important sounds coming from the mouths of the important people in your life.
We can be mindful of our surroundings. Listen to what your eyes see – body language, facial expressions, nods, etc. We can engage with eye contact and gestures.
Learn rather than judge or criticize. We can embrace differences and learn new ideas and ideals rather than shutting someone down.
Don’t interrupt. Let people express themselves. Give time in the conversation for silence so both can comprehend. We don’t always have to provide a solution.
Summarize. End the conversation with a summary statement. This is especially important in conversations that result in agreements.
Genuine listening is a skill. It is a skill we can all learn with practice. It will improve our lives and relationships. It is also a very rare gift – a gift of time.
This blog allows you to experience the raw, gut wrenching drama of human conflict through accounting in each of its three stages: preparing to do battle, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.