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1 – Attitude to Opportunity

We all want more success don’t we! When I look back through my life almost all my success has come from my attitude to opportunity. It was Napoleon who said, “Don’t give me great generals, give me lucky generals” and I think the attitude of a lucky general is to see opportunities and then seize them.

But What is the Right Attitude to Opportunity?

When I work with people as they are starting to build up their future, very often there comes a point in their progress which I describe as the ‘explosion of opportunities’.

They have started with some strong sense of direction. They want to get from A to B. They start getting some traction and they start making some progress and other people start to notice. Then what happens, and I’ve seen this again and again, is that people say, “it’s great to see you do this, would you like to do this other thing”. The temptation is just to go after the next shiny thing. To respond to what other people want of you rather than what you’ve already decided you want of yourself. There is this crucial balancing act between making sure that the main thing stays the main thing, versus noticing the opportunities that could be taking you further and faster to where they want to go.

The Power of Discretionary Time

For me, the key thing that has opened me to opportunities, is my decision that I will set aside some discretionary time in my working week when I can be available to have conversations with people. Perhaps to help people out, learn something new or to explore fresh opportunities.

It was from this that the whole Portfolio Executive offer developed. I was approached by an experienced senior professional that I’d worked with in the past.  She wanted to start her own business and we explored whether she wanted to be a consultant or if there was something else that we could do. This became the Portfolio Executive Workstyle.

I would say to be open to opportunities.  But also, be very clear about filtering out those opportunities that are going to divert you from the main thing that you are trying to do.  The Portfolio Executive opportunity for me was, at first sight, complementary to the work that I was doing with CEOs.  These CEOs needed access to Portfolio Executives to grow their businesses in the way that they wanted to. It didn’t become the main thing for some time. I spent a small proportion of my time working to develop my first Portfolio Executive and then I started getting approaches from others.  It was later, I decided I was going to make it an additional substantial strand of what I did within my business.

Opportunity Cost

What are the kinds of opportunities that are coming up for you? How do you assess them? Are you creating space in your life for opportunities?  Or are you so driven by what is directly in front of you by the ‘must’, ‘should’, ‘ought’ and ‘have to’s of everyday life that too many opportunities are passing you by.

In business, we talk about ‘opportunity cost’ – the net cost of not doing something in order to make space for an alternative opportunity.  When I worked in Big Four Consulting, we had drummed into us that our priorities should always be first fee-earning, second win new business, third develop new service offers.  On a short-term basis, developing new service offers was sacrificed because of the opportunity cost of forgoing fees or new business.

However, if, in the long-term, a consulting practice failed to develop new service offers then this would ultimately undermine its capacity to win new business and charge premium fees.

The same applies to us as individuals: if we fail to look for new opportunities, we will ultimately be left behind as stale and irrelevant.


I suggest you adopt an attitude to opportunity where you are open to it, are intentional about assessing it, where you do create some discretionary time to explore it and where you don’t get diverted by other people’s agendas.

An Attitude to Opportunity for Success.


Charles McLachlan is the founder of FuturePerfect and on a mission to transform the future of work and business. The Portfolio Executive programme is a new initiative to help executives build a sustainable and impactful second-half-career. Creating an alternative future takes imagination, design, organisation and many other thinking skills. Charles is happy to lend them to you.