The Bitch Slap: An Incredible Opportunity

bitch slap incredible opportunityHaving 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.

We’d know.

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.

38 comments
Simona Goldin
Simona Goldin

Preach on sistah, this is the shit. I always follow my gut when people present "amazing opportunities" to me and 99.99% of the time it's crap. Make that 100%. Thanks girlie!

Paul Gillespie
Paul Gillespie

Hey - can you go back about, oh, ten years or so and write this piece, then staple it to my forehead, please? Pretty please? Might have saved me a few thousand dollars. When an "incredible opportunity" comes along I've learned it's usually only an "incredible opportunity" for the person I'm buying it from... To anyone who hasn't dropped some shiny coin on an "incredible opportunity": read this entry and accept it as fact. Don't pretend you're "different". You're not.

Kneale Mann
Kneale Mann

Early in our career, the "opportunity" is wrapped in pretty paper preying on our hopes that if we mop that floor we will - one day, if we really work hard - become the president of the company. As we go through life, we are told that this is a great chance to network with people and meet potential customers yet we end up in a room filled with others hoping the same. We often rest on a world full of sellers and no buyers. We're offered that speaking gig but they have no budget so a conference ticket and a hotel room will be payment enough. Prospects balk at the price because they were hoping that they could usb your brain to their bottom line for the mere cost of a extra foam non-fat half-calf laugh-raff latte and a scone. We can smell it from ten miles away yet we often find ourselves, yet again, being fooled by a great opportunity. The gut is the single most underrated organ in our bodies and it works really well with that 8 pound organ that resides in our skull. I was reminded just last year when working on a project when my colleague said "It's not that you don't trust the client, it's that you don't trust yourself". Sound advice indeed.

PJ Mullen
PJ Mullen

Preach it. This was me early in my now abandoned career path. I jumped for new, incredible, once in a lifetime opportunities more times than I care to admit. What's that, 1mm shares of stock for $.05/share to sign up? VP title at 22? Rock on. How stoked was I that at 23 that stock was worth $3/share? Really stoked, until the jackwagon re-bankrupted the company, making all that paper (and the other 1mm shares I had warrants for) worth nothing. Plus, I got to spend the next 8 years having random chats with the SEC before spending two days in federal court on the witness stand. Good times. That's why some may laugh at what I'm doing now, but it's mine and I own it. I'll never worry about the great incredible opportunity that I delete from my inbox because I'm going to make my own. And I second that on C.C. We go back to our days at Bentley and he's kind enough to let me spill some digital ink over at his dad site each week. Sharp guy, hell of dude.

Lewis LaLanne aka Nerd #2
Lewis LaLanne aka Nerd #2

This is so cool that you bring this up. Being the marketing and copywriting junkie that I am, just last week I was listening to an outstanding 2 hour interview between Shaune Clarke and Robert Stover. Both of these guys are fucking awesome but I think Stover's a little more famous because he's got the street cred of working side by side with Jay Abraham before. One thing Stover talked about that floored me with was a simple strategy you can use to reduce most headlines/statements such as "This Is An Incredible Opportunity," to the shit pile they really are. Take out all the adjectives. If what's left isn't compelling enough to stand on it's own, rework that shit until it does. Just like you're pointing out here, you can't put lipstick on a pig and call it Jessica Alba, in pixel, print or in person. Keep calling it like you see it Nerdette! Hahaha

Jenny Jinx
Jenny Jinx

I just wanted to let you know that when I saw "the bomb-diggity" my girlie bits quivered just a bit. That happens to be my favorite phrase of praise. Also, last summer I encountered a "great opportunity". I later found out that it was mostly a "great opportunity to build your portfolio". Promises of money never materialized. That was a huge disappointment to me and set me back a little on my current career path. I've learned my lesson and am now disdainful of "great opportunities" and crap that "builds your portfolio" (work for free!).

Bree Ervin
Bree Ervin

First - I LOVE this line, "The situation or person in front of us is something we simply must do". I've been with a few of those people, and been in those amazing situations. Those are the magic moments, those rare flashes of "Ah-ha!" or "Eureka" when everything just clicks - and you know. The great thing is that as we, people, get better at trusting ourselves and our instinct those situations become increasingly less rare. As we stop wasting so much time on those false "Amazing/Incredible/Great Opportunities" we are freed up to invest ourselves in the really, truly amazing shit that is out there, calling to us. Once we ditch the distractions and stop rationalizing bad choices we're suddenly able to see the real opportunities and jump on board. Thanks for the reminder. I've been bitch slapped. (And I liked it!)

Sydney Owen
Sydney Owen

So I too am in a post-SXSW hangover, and not just the kind that results from me punishing my liver. I mean, my brain is mush and I'm trying to sort and process the amazing shit I learned and kickass people I met. That being said, I guess I'm confused. Are you saying that people shouldn't fall for other people saying "this is an incredible opportunity" when they're offering up some viable form of employment? Or are you saying that we all need to stop describing the shit we're doing or that next step we're taking as an incredible opportunity? I guess I'm wondering because I've said incredible opportunity about eleventy billion and one times when describing how I left my sexy little cubicle for the incredible opportunity to combine two things I'm absofuckinglutely batshit crazy about: skydiving and the social space. When people say "gee, Sydney, why would you leave your perfectly stable job with kickass benefits and a hunky hunky salary to go pursue what you love and start your own company in the process?" I would respond with, "I'd be stupid NOT to, it's an incredible opportunity." So do I need to bitchslap myself or the guy that recruited me to my last fancy ass cubicle job, saying it was an "incredible opportunity" - because in his case, the "incredible opportunity" was the polar fucking opposite of what I thought I was signing up for. Are you still with me? If so, I have twelve dollars one paypal click away for you being able to comprehend what I just vomited into your comment box. Oh, and it was borderline orgasmic to actually meet you whilst consuming copious amounts of Amber's tequila. We should probably make that happen again sooner rather than later.

Gp12ster
Gp12ster

Loved this! I totally agree. But I have a question. What if you're in a situation (whether business or personal relationships) and it takes two (the person in front of you or persons) to make it work, and your gut feeling is telling you to keeping working, keep pressing forward, keep fighting, but the other person(s) is showing that their gut feeling is telling them something different? Is that even possible?

The Redhead
The Redhead

Can I simply say how wonderful it was to meet you and your crew at SXSW? You're not only gorgeous and shit, but smart as hellballz.

shellieshel
shellieshel

Perhaps I have been drinking the corporate Kool-aid far too long, actually I KNOW I have, and maybe my comments don't apply to this situation, but I disagree. There have been three very defining moments in my 15 year career and they both started out as "amazing opportunities." Despite the fact that I have grown in my success within the same company, I continue to doubt my ability. Had senior management and executives not presented me with these "amazing opportunities" and basically forced me to move, I would not be positioned where I am today. A "junior" level account exec, making six figures, who currently has two VPs fighting over who gets me next. No doubt these "amazing opportunities" could have been translated to "you will work your fucking ass off for the next year, contributing blood, sweat and tears until you are teetering on the edge" but I sorta like it that way. I work best when forced outside of my comfort zone into "amazing opportunities" and I am not sure I would have taken the leap had it not been packaged with such a nice looking bow. Of course, I could just be old and working within an archaic work value system - but I work for a 100 year old company. I can't help it! Bottom line is that I cannot wait for my next "amazing opportunity" - even just a pig with lipstick can produce some amazing bacon if you dissect that fucker right.

Erroin Martin
Erroin Martin

I would like to be the first to highlight point three at the beginning of your piece with this little piece of advice: No matter how hard you try, you can never shine a turd.

Mark Aaron Murnahan
Mark Aaron Murnahan

I grew up in a home with a rather unique breed of marketers, so I get this. They were not the ones with the "incredible opportunity" as much as the asshats coming to swarm them with this crap. I learned very young, as I started my first business at age 16, to filter out bullshit and build up a common sense meter. Common sense is not very common, so there will always be bullshitters out there conning people. They just don't last very long, and a lot of them end up with a truly miserable life. I have witnessed it enough to know this for a fact. We can stomp our feet and bitch and moan, but in the end, they will believe us, Erika. Nothing comes from nothing, and the sooner people grasp that fact, the better. Some will never learn, and they will always be seeking the next incredible opportunity. To them, I say rub another fucking lamp. Keep rubbing until you get your genie. Just don't cry to me when you need to borrow money or cry on my shoulder. I gave you all the incredible opportunity to stop believing in incredible opportunities that you are going to get from me.

Reebes
Reebes

I have to admit that when I was younger that I fell for these a couple of time the first time was with a company called Vector that sells Cutco knives. While I like the knives the thing is that they hit you up with all these saying like this is the biggest opportunity ever, ever. I worked for them sold a ton of knives then didnt get paid shit. Then a couple years later I fell for it again with a company that was called Apex Alarm, and then they changed their name to APX, then this year they changed their name again to Vivint. The reason that they change their name every few is because they are scam artists that prey on young people who are looking to make some money. These kind of companies make me sick and I would love for you to give Vivint a bitch slap. Great post as always Erika.

Kellie J. Walker
Kellie J. Walker

"When there is doubt, there is no doubt." ~ Ronin This is a Bitch Slap that Ronin could get behind. Well done, Red. Well done.

Killian
Killian

Yeesh. I just got slapped up and back. I've been nailed by this too, and man, the turd stains are a bitch to scrub out. And that smell? Yeah. It lingers.

Visual Adventures
Visual Adventures

Yep. Was just told this by someone that owes me money....instead of paying, I have this "incredible opportunity". Learning the lessons of doing business!

Sandi Amorim
Sandi Amorim

I can't even tell you how many times I've succumbed to the so-called incredible opportunity that turned out to be a big ol' turd! I'd rationalize it by giving people the benefit of the doubt, thinking positive and other bullshit ways of fooling myself. Thinking back, each time I had a gut feeling that it wasn't right...and then I went for it anyway. Couldn't you have bitch slapped me sooner??? Anyhoo...lesson learned. Our bodies don't lie. Pay attention when you get that gut feeling that something's not...quite...right. It's usually not. Thanks again Red for a great reminder!

MegCarpen
MegCarpen

I've always called mine "Gut-Jumping". I could never really explain it, but always just knew. And every time I've ignored it, it's peed on my leg (not a good time by the way). So now, I keep an ear out for real opportunities, and work my butt off to make my own. Besides, I've always equated "Incredible Opportunities" with the slimy car salesman who's ad only runs in the middle of the night. Creepy.

Kyle Patac
Kyle Patac

Wow that is dead on. I think it even works in relationships too. Your Gut always knows. It is never wrong.

jim
jim

But I like naked midget sideshows. (As long as I'm not in them.)

Nick Rapson
Nick Rapson

Nice to know that the gut is still considered a viable working tool. I trust mine more than anything! Thanks for posting :)

The Redhead
The Redhead

Right on, my good man Kneale. Keep on keepin' on...and we should learn to trust that gut just a little bit more, no?

The Redhead
The Redhead

CC is totally solid. Love that guy like I'd love a pet hedgehog...and everyone knows how I like hedgehogs!

The Redhead
The Redhead

You're right on both counts, I think. I guess in my vernacular, what you did wasn't take advantage of an incredible opportunity: you found a way to combine two life's passions into a career. That's a path you can't help but travel when it calls. And yes, you should slap BOTH yourself and the purveyor of cubicle happiness from your last gig. But I doubt you'll be falling for that one again. And yes---the tequila-laden intros were one of the highlights of my SXSW experience. I'm lucky to have had the change to meet you :)

The Redhead
The Redhead

Yep - it's possible. And I've been there. The best one can do, I think, is to call 'em on it. Ask the tough questions. Nobody wants to work on something where it takes two to tango and the other person's already done dancing :)

The Redhead
The Redhead

And this is what I like to hear, Michelle - bacon comes in different flavors! Having worked with you and seen what you bring to events, planning and outcomes, it's no wonder they're fighting over you. Mad skillz, m'dear. Mad! And maybe they weren't "incredible opportunities." Maybe they were just the right ones brought to you by people who cared about your success ;)

The Redhead
The Redhead

I couldn't have said it better, sir! Great to see you stop by, Aaron.

The Redhead
The Redhead

I think you just gave your own bitch slap! *high five*

The Redhead
The Redhead

Thank you for that quote, Kellie. I've always been a fan of Ronin's musings and it's good to know there's one that fits today's ramblings!

The Redhead
The Redhead

Yeah, I don't do those kinds of opportunities. They have the opportunity to pay you or get sent to collections. How's them apples?

The Redhead
The Redhead

My Super Secret Squirrel Sense is spot-on. And I do apologize for not slapping you sooner, Sandi :)

The Redhead
The Redhead

Slimy. Smarmy. Ookie. *insert adjective here*

The Redhead
The Redhead

Never wrong. Ever. EVAH EVAH (in true Kanye fashion)

The Redhead
The Redhead

"The gut is a viable working tool." Yes. What HE said!

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