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Are You Missing A Big Opportunity? Ask Yourself This Question

It's easy to feel like each opportunity could be the last, but that's not usually the case.

This story appears in the June 2022 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Are you facing a moment, or the moment?

It's a critical distinction we often lose sight of. When we're facing a big decision, grappling with a change, or wondering whether to seize or pass on a new opportunity, we tend to raise the stakes on ourselves. We treat our decision as critical — as make-or-break, do-or-die. It's the last train leaving the station! The game-winning shot in your hands! Everything seems to hang in the balance.

My advice: Take a breath. Calm your emotions. Then ask yourself my simple but profound question — are you facing a moment, or the moment?

I'll give you an example.

My friend Jenny Illes Wood is high up at Google, and she has built a popular program there called Own Your Career. She gives workshops on how Googlers can increase their influence, develop new skills, better advocate for themselves, and so on, and tens of thousands of her colleagues subscribe to her email newsletter. She imagined that one day she might write a book inspired by all this — but she has two small kids and a busy job, so she was in no rush to do it.

Related: The 4 Actions You Must Take to Find Your Opportunity

Then a colleague introduced her to a book agent. The conversation went well. Jenny couldn't stop herself; she talked to a few more agents. Suddenly she had multiple agents saying they wanted to work with her, and she was calling me in a panic. "I don't know what to do," she said. "I don't have time to write a book, but I'm so excited and don't want to miss this opportunity!"

So I asked her: Are you facing a moment, or the moment? Sometimes in life, we really do only get one shot. But most of the time, we get many shots. We can do something now, or we can do it later. Or maybe we never do it at all — it's just one of many opportunities that we turn down, because we cannot do everything, and that's OK.

In my estimation, I told her, she is facing a moment. If a book agent is interested now, then a book agent will be interested later. And in fact, she might benefit from writing a book later. She'll have more time to develop material, she'll have a larger public profile, and she'll have even more Googlers on her mailing list. But that's not to say it must happen later — she could also do it now and use the book to accelerate her other goals.

The point is, she should decide based on what's best for her and the project, and not because she feels like this is her one chance to do it.

I have grappled with this myself, in many ways. I've struggled over whether to pursue jobs or say yes to new projects, all because I wasn't sure if anything like them would ever come again. In fact, I've even grappled with Jenny's same question about writing a book: I spent years on the fence, wondering when the time was right.

Related: Are You Too Efficient to Innovate?

Ultimately, I developed a way to answer these questions about timing. I started to think not about the opportunity in front of me, but about what I wanted the outcome of that opportunity to be. A job is not just a job; it's a set of experiences and learnings. A project is not just a project; it's an accomplishment that sets you up for future projects. The more we understand what we want from these things, and how they play a role in our larger vision of ourselves, the better we can decide if they're something we need now, later, or never.

In my case, I see a book as the spark for larger opportunities. I wanted to make sure I understood what I wanted those opportunities to be, and that I had the people and infrastructure in place to take advantage of them. That's why I waited for years, and why I finally said yes. My book, Build for Tomorrow, comes out in September!

Is it a moment, or the moment? That's your starting point. And you'll know when to act when you can finally say this: "It is my moment."

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