Opportunity Knocks

It's been proven that the power of the mind is strong, so why not cultivate an "opportunity mindset" to help you find the success you deserve?

Perhaps you're reading this, and you have one week's worth of cash left in your bank account-and mounds of past-due bills. A major potential client (who you've been banking on) decides not to move forward with you. Is this a sign to call it quits? What more can you take? How do you survive and thrive no matter what roadblocks get in your way? The key is to take on an "opportunity mindset."

An opportunity mindset is the understanding that oftentimes, perception is reality. This means that an experience in itself is neither good nor bad-it's what you perceive that experience to mean that counts.

Take, for example, 26-year-old Dimitri Ekimov, CEO, and 23-year-old Sergei Mikhailov, president, of aTelo.com, a start-up Arlington, Virginia, personal communications portal. Ekimov was 22 and Mikhailov was 19 when they first approached an investment banker about their business concept. "He looked at our ages, saw that we were untested, and looked at our obligations and business model," Ekimov recalls. "He didn't believe [in us]."

The natural response for Ekimov and Mikhailov, as it would be for many young entrepreneurs, would be to engage in "obstacle thinking," viewing the situation as an impenetrable roadblock to their success. With obstacle thinking, you begin to focus on reasons why you can't succeed, thinking things like:

  • Maybe this idea is just a dream.
  • Perhaps I need to table my idea for a while and work a few more years in my job to get more experience.
  • Who's going to take me seriously at my age, anyway?
  • Don't have the right skills-nor do I know the people who can help me get this thing off the ground.
  • Yeah, maybe this project is way too ambitious. I'll stick with reality and a safe, steady paycheck for now.

And if Ekimov and Mikhailov had succumbed to obstacle thinking, they could also dwell on the potential barriers to opportunity that come with being first-generation immigrants from Russia. But they didn't. Instead, the aTelo founders looked at their experience as a defining moment-an opportunity, if you will, to learn what it takes to build a company that attracts investors. The botched meeting with the investment banker revealed their weaknesses, giving them insight as to how to improve the model. That day, they faced a decision: Do they keep their jobs and table their dream, or do they resolve to turn their passion into a viable business?

The partners didn't hesitate. "We took the pay cut [by leaving our jobs] and decided to move forward," says Ekimov. And they haven't look back since. With 20 employees and a recent $15 million VC round, they've had no reason to do so.


Sean M. Lyden is co-founder and CEO of PRessCafe.com Inc., an Atlanta-based business-to-business portal that connects small businesses to the right journalists-for free. The site is expected to launch this fall.

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Sean Lyden is the CEO of Prestige Positioning (a service of The Professional Writing Firm Inc.), an Atlanta-based firm that "positions" clients as leading experts in their field-through ghost-written articles and books for publication. Clients include Morgan Stanley, IFG Securities, SunTrust Service Corp. and several professional advisory and management consulting firms nationwide.

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This article was originally published in the October 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Opportunity Knocks.

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