Here’s The Opportunity We All Have Right Now (And Every Day)
“Victory comes from finding opportunities in problems.” Sun Tzu
They say that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. In the case of Sam Zemurray, this couldn’t be more true.
Sam Zemurray arrived in America in 1891 at the age of 14 with nothing to his name. Sixty-nine years later, he died in the grandest house in New Orleans and one of the richest men in the world, and it started with something that you probably have in your kitchen — a ripe banana. You know, the banana with freckles, looks ugly but is still good.
While Boston Fruit was discarding and throwing the ‘ripes’ out, Zemurray saw an opportunity. Boston Fruit deemed these bananas waste, and saw no use for their operation, due to the short term timeline before they went bad. Zemurray saw these less than perfect bananas as an opportunity.
This little venture was just the start for Sam Zemurray, who would go on to build his own fruit company and make millions of dollars. It all started because he saw opportunity where others saw waste.
It’s a lesson as old as time, and yet we still need to learn in our own lives.
There have been countless stories of wealth throughout history built on this very concept. Many see nothing. Opportunist sees possibility.
It’s the ethos of any great entrepreneur. To see something from nothing — to make something from nothing.
Warren Buffett, a man who has built his wealth on finding opportunities where others don’t see it, famously said, “Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful.”
Do we do this in our own lives? Do we see the opportunities that are right in front of us?
It doesn’t have to pertain only to entrepreneurship and wealth building. The same mindset that Sam Zemurray and Warren Buffett both used can benefit us in our personal lives, relationships, and careers.
For instance, right now, as millions of people are at home quarantining, take a minute to look around social media, and you’ll find something less than the presence of ‘opportunity.’ You’ll see people who are annoyed with being with their children. Irritated with spending extra time with their family, and upset with their inability to engage with their regular daily routine.
This time — which is otherwise at work — is an excellent opportunity to spend more time with the people we love. To spend more time in thought about the things that matter most in life. Or read more. To get caught up on little things that need attention. Or to find the time to seek more clarity, reach out to a friend you’ve lost contact with, or just rest.
It’s a great time to think about what you care about, and not be so irritated and frustrated with the current conditions.
Right now, in these moments, we need the same perception that Sam Zemurray had when he noticed the pile of ‘ripes’ that he believed he could hustle into a living.
Without this perception, we don’t see the opportunities right in front of us. A time to spend with our family, catch up with old friends, and to gain more wisdom and clarity in our lives.
We have a chance to cultivate the same wisdom and perception that we’ve seen in great entrepreneurs — in our own lives.
Look at our current financial situation in America and around the world. Each day seems to bring more heartburn to those who own a 401k.
And yet, there is opportunist out there right now who will come out of this thing wealthier. Our country will learn and grow from this in ways we can’t imagine. Some people will start businesses from home during this time that will change their future. Others, if willing, will use this time to find more peace, better their relationships, and become stronger.
Opportunity. Opportunity, because of trained perceptions, the same way Sam Zemurray did when he noticed those ripe bananas.
As Ryan Holiday wrote in Obstacle is the Way, “Our perceptions can be a source of strength or of great weakness.”
For better or worse, our perceptions play, and we must turn them into a strength. We must be objective about it — not emotional or shortsighted.
What important things am I missing right now? What am I not seeing?
Strengthening our objectivity to see things without so much emotional baggage is the best way to train our perceptions. To see beyond our first thought. To look beyond our first impression.
As the stoic Epictetus said, “Don’t let the force of an impression when it first hits you knock you off your feet; just say to it: Hold on a moment; let me see who you are and what you represent. Let me put you to the test.”
We need to put our original perceptions to the test. We need to train our eyes to be objective so that we can see the opportunity that exists.
While I hope this leads you to a million-dollar idea the same way it lead Sam Zemurray to his fruit empire — that’s not the point. All around us, each day, we have opportunities.
Opportunities to grow, gain more wisdom, gain more resilience and strength. Opportunities to improve our relationships, kindness, and empathy towards others.
These opportunities are teaching us something — if we allow them to. And this strength will lead to better lives, better relationships, and it might even lead to more money and success.
Either way, an opportunity is a part of your daily life — whether you recognize it or not. It’s an incredibly beautiful part of your everyday life, and it’s a part of your eye that must be trained and cultivated.
What’s necessary of us, what we need to require of ourselves, is to see everything with the proper perspective so that we can move forward better than where the day found us.
The same way athletes come back stronger from injuries, investors come out wealthier from crashes, and entrepreneurs come out stronger from their failures.
The same way the world will come out stronger on the other side of this virus.
Opportunity is right in front of us, and we must choose to see it with the objective perception needed for this very moment.