What Opportunities Mean

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Opportunity. It’s something that we all hope comes along at certain times in our lives, but it’s true when we say that it knocks. It doesn’t necessarily announce itself and it can sometimes be downright sneaky, only presenting its true form potentially months after the initial event. I’m writing about this today because I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Opportunity himself, Rob Paulsen.

This isn’t to say that I view the chance to meet him as some sort of foreshadowing or fortuitous event that will pay dividends later. No, it’s nothing like that at all. What it boils down to is the various sets of circumstances about how we came to be in the same place at the same time and how opportunity plays a large part in that.

The (extremely enjoyable) hour-long Q&A that Rob held brought forth his entire career and how he came to become a voice actor. It became apparent that he took a few chances, but also enjoyed plenty of opportunities that came his way. The original Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles (sorry, the politically correct European title was burned into my noggin) was an opportunity that he still talks about 20+ years later.

Rob’s job is one thing, but during the talk, the topic of discussion came around to what he does outside of voice-acting. For him, it’s teaching and his (just as entertaining) podcast, Talkin’ Toons. In both, Rob saw opportunities and decided to take them. They’ve worked very well for him too, but if he hadn’t seen the potential, they would have passed him by.

What got me onto this line of thinking was the realisation that you really do have to be open and receptive to opportunities in order to benefit from them. For me there have been numerous opportunities that came my way. Some have worked out, others have not. The opportunity to work in China was one that didn’t work out, although it did re-affirm my view that the I was better suited to the USA anyway.

I had to listen for the opportunity to work in China, and I had to listen really hard for the opportunity to work in the US. The latter took well over a year to finally pay off too; proof that patience can be a virtue. The point is that opportunities don’t come along and say “Hey! Look at me! I’m an opportunity you should take!”. If only they did that, and maybe slap you around the face for good measure.

Rather, opportunities are more along the lines of, “hey, I’m kind of interesting. Maybe you should look into me more.” Let me assure you, it won’t be shouted at you either. It’ll be whispered softly and it can be all too easy to miss. That’s why it’s important to always keep an ear out for these kinds of things; they’re extremely easy to miss.

I don’t say all this as some sort of pharisee; I’ve missed plenty of opportunities because I wasn’t paying attention, even when they were in plain sight in front of me screaming and yelling for my attention. Sometimes I’ve been really lucky that an opportunity has come along at just the right time; such as a job offer. Either way, I’ve learned that you have to be constantly listening and be willing to follow up on things that seemingly have no connection to your goals.

I had the opportunity to meet Rob Paulsen here in Baltimore this weekend and while it is tempting to think that it was simply fortuitous, in the grand scheme of things, the meeting was the result of both of us sensing opportunities and taking them. I’m certainly grateful that he took the opportunities he had that have led him to a long and successful career and I can only hope that I end up doing the same.

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