2021 Phrase of the Year

I am not going to make you wait until the end to know what the phrase is. My phrase of the year is “search for the opportunity.”

Allow me to explain.

I studied business at Azusa Pacific University. Four years of (mostly) overpriced classes as I soaked in as much information as I possibly could! Though I don’t remember every lesson taught to me in those years, I do remember this one: Somebody is making money.  

Hot off the US depression of 2008, my business professor attempted to wake the young minds by letting them know that there was money to be made; a fact that all business students were happy to know. At any given moment there was always somebody who was making money. Doesn’t matter if it’s high season, low season, or not even in season. There is a person out there, making money. It may not be the same person each time, but they exist and they are making it work. 

I think about this proverbial person a lot. 

Who are they? How did they get there? What are they doing now? Did they know they were the ones that would be making the money? When did their moment come and end? How did it end? Does it have to end?
These are just the start of my questions. Most importantly, my question is, how did they know to recognize the opportunity?

It’s difficult for me to think the person who is making money is the type of person sitting idle at home watching television or meddling in the affairs of others. I imagine this is the kind of person who is antsy to make some sort of move. They were the ones itching for a renovation of any sort. They are the people who started expanding into the unknown hoping to step onto any type of footing. 

These people were searching for opportunities from their very beginning.

I learned another lesson at Azusa Pacific’s School of Business. This one came from the mouth of my Information Technology professor. During my senior year, he told me, and the rest of the class, “you’re studying for jobs that exist. You should be studying for jobs that don’t exist.” 

Thanks for telling me after I invested all my money (and future money) into this education. 

Though I don’t recall his name, I remember his reasoning behind the strange phrase. The next innovation is just around the corner and will come before we know it. Whether it’s financial, technological, or social it’s already started and will change the entire market soon. There’s nothing we can do to stop it. New jobs will sprout from it; an entire workforce will be dedicated to this innovation. Yet, not a single person in this classroom is equipped for it. Even the jobs we are preparing for could be obsolete by this innovation. 

In simpler words: change is coming. The point he wanted to drive into each of us, was to be prepared for such change. Be prepared for this unexpected event. We might not know how it affects us until it does. What he wanted us to understand is that we cannot sit thinking we’re fine simply doing what we’re currently doing. No, not if we’re going to be the ones leading our industry. Not if we’re going to be the ones making a difference. 

We need to be the ones searching for the opportunity. 

Thus far, I find this post to be most encouraging for those of the entrepreneurial mindset. So allow me to write another lesson given to me. 

While attending Azusa Pacific University (yes, a third mention. I’ve been hit with the nostalgia bug recently), I blew off a meeting with a Biblical Studies professor and friend, Bobby Duke. I mentioned to him I wasn’t attending a mutual friend’s funeral because I was dealing with the death of my brother. I believe I responded with the words “I have a strange relationship with death right now.” My brother’s passing was plenty of years before my university days, but being in college, the same age he was when he passed, brought new mental struggles I had yet to face. Professor Duke responded to me with openness and honesty about his experience with death while attending university and offered to take some time to sit down and chat with me. He told me a piece of his story and ended with words similar to mine, “you could say I have a strange relationship with death too. Want to talk about it?”

Though I needed the help, I skipped the opportunity. 

A friend made an offer for me to move in with him. In many ways, it was what I didn’t know I needed in my life: To live in a house with artists, to make a solid group of guy friends (something I didn’t have many of at the time), and centrally located on campus. It was a very cool opportunity for a young college Michael! Instead, I chose to live on a different campus, one which was in the mountains and allowed me to attend my classes in the open air of Yosemite.

It set me on a notably different path, a different opportunity. 

I had a very busy friend who played sports and was very involved with our school. She had one night off and chose to spend it with me. We had so much fun getting frozen yogurt, walking around our city, and watching the sunrise on top of our university’s cafeteria. This was a girl I was very romantically interested in at the time. But, due to my lack of confidence in that stage of life, I made no romantic move. Honestly, after all the time spent together, I was still unsure if she was even into me. Nevertheless, the clock hit 8 am, and we walked down from our rooftop view. She asked me to meet her at a school event in an hour, giving us time to go home get changed, and return to each other. I said yes. 

Walking back to my place, I convinced myself that this was my moment. No one spends all that time together and asks for more time with them without being interested in them…right? I went back to my apartment, very sleepy. I got dressed in five minutes and decided to lay down for a moment. I told my roommate to wake me up if my alarm didn’t in a half hour. 

Spoiler alert: neither my alarm nor roommate woke me. I missed the opportunity. 

Opportunities come in different forms. The first one would’ve helped a younger me struggling heavily with depression and in mourning from the death of the person who named me. The second seemed like a perfect alignment of a good year of uni. That’s not to say the year I had was poor, but it was drastically different, making an alternate impact on my life. I’m not certain if the girl and I would have enjoyed our version of happily ever after, but I know I didn’t get a chance with her like that ever again. 

Opportunities come and go every day. Some of them are like icebergs; they seem small on top, but they have a huge foundation that will change you. Others are a simple difference between how you’ll enjoy your time over the next hour, day, or year. 

There are many which are pretty easy to seize. They’re right in front of us, yet we make a bone head decision and miss out. Temporary comfort can lull us away from the opportunity we want. 

Some opportunities will be freeing for us. It may happen in a therapy session, over a cup of coffee, or these days during a Zoom meeting. Either way, these opportunities come with open honesty and letting out our truth. These are the ones that may be the most important; they deal with personal growth.
Don’t skip these opportunities. 

Despite all that happened in 2020, still there were people making money, changing their lives, growing in themselves, educating their minds, and taking leaps of faith. I had my fair share of these opportunities in 2020 showing some fluffy passion. However, 2021 is different. I’m making it my goal, my mantra, my focus; my phrase of the year!

This year I am going to search for opportunities and take them. As we rebuild the world, I’ll continue to build myself. I won’t allow myself to sit idly and for an opportunity to come to me. I will search for it and seize every moment of it. 

So, my phrase of the year, join me, please, as I believe it will make a difference in you too:

2021: Search for the Opportunity