What did you see when you read the title of this article? Did you see OPPORTUNITY IS NOWHERE or OPPORTUNITY IS NOW HERE? Whether opportunity is nowhere to be found or is now here is a matter of perspective. Like the title of this article, it depends on how we view life. Everything good that happens to us is an opportunity that we have found. Everything “bad” that happens to us is an opportunity waiting to be discovered.

Take the case of Gracie and Walter. They decided to make their honeymoon peaceful and quiet, as well as romantic, so they left for a log cabin in the country. Every morning at sunrise, however, a woodpecker started hammering at the roof. The sounds echoed throughout the room, disturbing the sleep of the newlyweds. Did they get frustrated and angry? Did they demand to move to another cabin? No, they laughed it off. In fact, they used this “disturbance” as an opportunity. They used it as inspiration for creating the Woody Woodpecker cartoon character. You see, Walter Lantz was the cartoonist and his wife, Gracie, became the voice of Woody Woodpecker!

Some, like Walter and Gracie, RESPOND to a disturbance by changing it into a positive event. Others REACT in anger, oblivious to the hidden opportunity. When we respond, we are in charge; we use our reason and creativity to advance. But when we react, we abdicate our control to our emotions; we remain stuck in the mire of mediocrity. For those who react to every difficulty, opportunity is nowhere. Perhaps they’re afraid of getting eyestrain by looking at the bright side. But for those who respond to every challenge, opportunity is now here. They have an open mind, heart, and eyes.

Opportunities are handed to us, uncovered by us, or created by us. In 1962 I was accepted as a student by a Japanese language school in Tokyo, Japan. The only problem was the Japanese government wouldn’t allow me to enter the country unless I had a Japanese sponsor. The sponsor would be legally liable for any of my unpaid bills during my stay in Japan. But how could I get a sponsor if I didn’t know anyone in that country? Despite repeated visits to the Japanese Embassy in Washington D.C., no help was to be found. After all, rules are rules.

Instead of reacting in frustration and anger, I decided to respond by thinking things through. I decided I had to create my own opportunity. As I reached the bus stop close to the embassy, I saw two gentlemen speaking in Japanese. I followed them aboard the bus, and with my heart racing, sat down next to them. I’ve got to do something now, I thought, and struck up a conversation with them.

It turns out they were members of the Japanese Diet (Parliament) and in Washington to study the American congressional system. They accepted my invitation to give them a tour of the city that day. The tour was followed by dinner at my father’s house. After dinner and entertainment, I explained my problem. Instantly, both agreed to become my sponsor. I just needed one, so I choose Mr. Suzuki. Thanks to his willingness to sign the necessary documents, I spent fifteen exciting years in Japan. This is an example of the magical power of ASKING. For as Christ said, “Ask and you shall receive.” Also, this was only one in a long series of opportunities that I created, and something that we can all do.

Ladies, what if you were born unattractive? Would that be a disadvantage or an opportunity? According to Golda Meir, Israel’s first woman Prime Minister, “Not being beautiful was the true blessing… Not being beautiful forced me to develop my inner resources. The pretty girl has a handicap to overcome.” What happens when someone becomes destitute? Should they throw in the towel or try to uncover a hidden opportunity? Read what Eileen Caddy said, “When you feel that you have reached the end and that you cannot go one step further, when life seems to be drained of all purpose: What a wonderful opportunity to start all over again, to turn over a new page.”

If we are to uncover opportunity, we must realize that it often comes disguised as a problem, challenge, or obstacle. Barriers are meant to be smashed and hurdles meant to be jumped. Sure, life is full of hard knocks, but it may be opportunity that is knocking. Thomas A. Edison explains another reason why opportunities are often overlooked, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it comes dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

Opportunities abound. We are faced with hundreds, if not daily, weekly. They are in the choices we make all during the day. Do I drink water or coffee? Do I skip rope in the gym or skip my exercise? Do I jump to opportunities or jump to conclusions? Do I accept helpful criticism or ignore it. Do I arrive at work early or late? Can you see how each choice I make results in an opportunity gained or lost? To take advantage of the power of choice, it is a good idea to review our decisions at the end of the day. With constant evaluation, our choices will improve. Don’t trivialize the importance of the smallest decisions, for small opportunities add up to big ones.

Why are there so many people who never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity? Those who complain of lack of opportunity frequently have no goals. How can we find what we are not looking for? The golden opportunity we are searching for is within ourselves. It is our perception, attitude, and ambition that bring opportunity to life. It is our choices and actions that result in opportunity. Opportunity comes not only by our willingness to strike while the iron is hot, but by striking until the iron grows hot.

It is worth remembering Douglas MacArthur’s words, “There is no security in this life. There is only opportunity.” Also significant is this Arabian Proverb, “Four things come not back. The spoken word, the sped arrow, the past life, and the neglected opportunity.” Thomas Jones describes something we do not want to do: “Many do with opportunities as children do at the seashore; they fill their little hands with sand, and then let the grains fall through, one by one, till all are gone.” As we reach the next millennium, let’s graciously accept all the opportunities offered to us, diligently uncover those hidden from us, and enthusiastically create those denied to us.