Having spent the better part of the last week wandering around at SXSW Interactive in Austin, my brain’s been reduced to a certain kind of mush. However, after a night in my own bed, I’m beginning to think more like an urban citizen than a refugee, so I’m going to lay something out that I’ve been mulling over and we’ll see if you feel like picking up what I’m putting down.
There are a metric shit ton of mechanism we use to rationalize everything that’s not good for us. There have to be, because one single coping mechanism can’t possibly cover the three types of things that aren’t good for us:
- It wasn’t good in the first place.
- It turned bad after we got into it.
- It wasn’t good to start, it’s never been good yet we are still trying to put a dog turd in a Tiffany’s box and make it look better.
So today, there’s a coping mechanism I want you to take out of your vocabulary (and I’m going to take it out of mine toot-sweet as well):
It’s an incredible opportunity.
Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit. I want you to promise me right now that you will douse the next person who says this to you with your drink of choice. Let your dog pee on their leg. Sneeze on their ballpark hotdog. If these words ever escape mouths (yours, mine or someone else’s), we’re letting ourselves fall victim to one of the greatest lies we’ve ever been told.
When’s the last time anything that’s been an “incredible opportunity” has turned out well for you?
I’m venturing to guess that the answer is never. And before you think I’m asking you to remove the word “opportunity” itself from your vocabulary, grab another sip of your morning joe and let’s lean into my reasoning…
If someone has to tell us (or if we have to tell ourselves) that something is an incredible opportunity before we jump into it feet first, the situation doesn’t bear enough merit on its own. It needs a crutch, and that crutch is our own willingness to rationalize piece of shit after piece of shit until it becomes brilliance. There’s a look that slowly manifests on a face once its been told its about to pass up an incredible opportunity. It’s a forced smirk, borderline grimace. Eyes afraid to blink that try to find something to focus on other than the matter at hand or person in front of us. A nose that flares a bit, offended by the oniony funk our thoughts just created.
And that’s because we know what’s a good idea and what’s not.
The best salespeople in the world have one rare quality: the ability to make others feel like the purchase decision was THEIR idea. It’s not trickery – it’s pure talent and requires a deep understanding of the buyer in front of you. But a great opportunity is superficial. Great salesmanship leaves both parties feeling fulfilled. Being sold a bill of goods (by yourself or someone else) leaves one party (usually YOU) feeling as if they’re the naked midget sideshow in a convention trade show they never signed up to attend. No dancing ladies, no cool display booth. Just you, standing alone in a 10X10 square with your nekkidness and that incredible opportunity.
Humans are built pretty well, all things considered. Aside from bones that break and fashion disasters (“clothing opportunities”), our intuition remains the chief design triumph. We’ve got this built in bullshit detector and its called a gut. (I call mine my Super Secret Squirrel sense.) Statements like “it’s an incredible opportunity” are used to thwart our bullshit detector and trick us into thinking that someone before us is more than the pile of shit it seems on the surface. Because if it truly was all unicorns, rainbow sprinkles and a favorite NFL team that always made the playoffs, we wouldn’t need to say how incredible it was.
My last week’s been filled with some incredible fan girl moments as I got to share space and conversation with people I’ve admired, read long-time and who brighten my digital days. Dishing with Laura Fitton (damn, is she fiery!), meeting Matt Ridings and having him capture the Fandango mascot eating my head, hugging CC Chapman and admitting I think he’s the bomb-diggity, and sharing dinner with Owen Stone and Julien Smith. At one point during dinner, Julien asked in relation to what we were discussing, “But how do you know?”
Here’s how I think we know about anything, though I left my thoughts unvoiced that evening:
We don’t have to be told. The situation or person in front of us is something we simply must do, must keep within reach. We can’t bear the thought of not weaving it or them into our lives and days. There is no alternative and the drive to integrate, move forward, grow and explore with and through this path or person wraps itself around us like a perfectly cooked piece of bacon ’round a grilled scallop.
And its antithesis is one we’re all familiar with: we’ve had multiple meetings with a potential business partner or gone on 11 dates with this person who is, on the surface, everything we’ve ever wanted. It’s a great opportunity. They’re a great catch.
We rationalize the reasons why we continue. Because we know…and try to bury it.
So ditch the great opportunities. Start looking for the real ones that drive you to become more than you are and could hope to be without them. When you find them, you’ll know. And I stand by my thoughts above about jimmy-kicking and dog peeing on the purveyors of the incredible opportunities – because the only opportunity they have that’s incredible is the chance to lead yet another person down a path they never were meant to walk.
You’ve been slapped.