What Do You Do ‘When Opportunity Knocks’? Here’s a 7-Step Plan
By Rita Arens on March 14, 2014
BlogHer Original Post
When I was graduating college, I created The Opportunity Pyramid to see which area of broadcasting I would pursue. Television was my strength, my passion. Radio, on the other hand, while I could do it, did nothing for me. It literally was a job. You spend the majority of your life working, so what would you just take a job? In order to excel at a job, you have to love it. You need passion. So I wrote down a list of my strengths and weaknesses, and I was honest with myself when I asked the all-important question: What will make me happy? I decided to put all of my attention into television broadcasting. In order to differentiate myself, I knew I had to learn all aspects of the news-gathering process. That would make me more valuable. I got hands-on experience running an assignment desk (digging up and following up on stories), producing (writing scripts), lighting, shooting, editing, studio cameras and even running a TelePrompTer. The behind-the-scenes knowledge gave me perspective and appreciation of what goes on behind the lens. When I made the transition to being on-camera, I was able to communicate effectively with my camera person on shots and how to tell the story. Remember, you can tell a good TV story when you turn down the volume and can still follow the story and know what it's about. Having the right video elements is crucial.
My passion for my job lead me all around the country. I even lived in a basement of a home in Nebraska, where my bedroom was the tornado shelter! The studio I worked at was next to a pig farm, so when I anchored in the morning ... you can use your imagination about the smell inside the studio. I loved my time living in different parts of the country. It enabled me to pop that bubble and meet and experience the different cultures in the U.S. Those experiences today have shaped my news judgment and my knowledge of how to present a story.
RA: Do people progress up the pyramid in a linear fashion or do they slide back and forth (as in the stages of grief)?
LL: I believe you progress up the pyramid in a linear fashion. If you are honest with yourself from the get-go, you shouldn't have to slide back. You can stall in a level—there is no set time frame on when you will achieve "world domination." As I noted in my book, BlogHer co-founder Jory des Jardins made several attempts at entrepreneurship before she finally had the confidence to leave her job. With The Opportunity Pyramid, you set the rules, the agenda. You just have to want it so bad that the benefits of leaving outweigh the risks. "Eventually you make the leap,” Jory told me. “It’s always the end goal. Not, ‘I’m going to take this small step, see if it works, and then I’m going to be an entrepreneur.’ You always have that leap as your end goal. It may take longer than you think, and you may stay in a corporation for a long time or do something other than your new business, but it’s always your end goal to leave and do your business full time.”
RA: What do you think about back-up plans? Do you need them all the time? Is there ever a situation in which you should just leap without a back-up plan?
LL: Opportunity presents itself to you, as chairman and CEO Ron Kruszewski of Stifel Financial Corp. told me when I interviewed him for the book. You can't create opportunity. Take for example Jory, Elisa, and Lisa—they knew what they wanted to create, and they set out on a journey. Jory said, "You can't get too wedded to what something will look like. You just have to go with change while remaining true to your mission. Give up on what it looks like and let it go." If you have that type of commitment to your mission, you don't need a back-up plan. The difference between a successful entrepreneur and a not-so-successful entrepreneur is that the successful leader isn't afraid to go all-in.
BlogHer's founders sacrificed a lot in order to achieve their goals. “We bootstrapped it for a really long time," Elisa told me. "I went through my entire two years' worth of savings, opened a home equity line of credit, and racked up credit card debt. We were paying a lot of people and not always paying ourselves. We saw this growth and knew there would be more growth. It was obvious we needed to make a living, and [that] we could grow this company, but we needed the manpower and infrastructure to support it." True leaders do not have fear. They make calculated risks, they see the reality for what it is and their knowledge and passion gets them through it. There is no Plan B.
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