An equation for opportunity

A current Nissan commercial advertises the fastest way to a promotion:

3-sentence summary: An executive has a big meeting. His car reservation has fallen through, but our hero, Daniel from Accounts, offers the executive a ride. In the course of the 33-second commercial, Daniel goes from being just some guy in Accounts to being VP of Accounts.

While the commercial is partly a comedy of errors, its basic narrative makes an excellent point: Daniel wins a great opportunity (he joins the executive for the meeting, after all) because he is available and because he has the qualifications to take advantage of his availability. It’s part of the allure of the commercial, an it’s a reminder that’s always in season.

Here’s how it breaks down.

Available + Qualified = Opportunity

  • Available. Daniel is willing and able to help out when the need arises. He doesn’t even need to be asked—he volunteers. If we want tomorrow to be different than today, we have to show up. We have to demonstrate that we’re willing to assist.
  • Qualified. Daniel has not only the bare minimum of what it takes to help out (a car), but ample qualifications (a really great car, so the commercial tells us). He makes an impression. We can build our own qualifications by obtaining relevant certifications, gaining competence with a new software program, or pursuing whatever else may be pertinent to our particular aspirations and circumstances.
  • Opportunity. Together, Daniel’s availability and his qualifications produce a singular opportunity. Note, however, that he saw the opportunity and took action. We, too, owe it to ourselves to keep our eyes open and be ready to act.

I had many encounters with this equation while working for a nonprofit, where the budget didn’t make many allowances for, well, anything. For me, that meant an abundance of opportunities. I was available, I was willing to work hard, and I was capable of doing the work well. In only a few years, I went from intern to magazine editor.

Because this isn’t math, it’s not a guarantee. We may not get that one opportunity that we want more than any other, but we have a much greater chance of obtaining it if we’re available and qualified. And who knows what unexpected adventures we might have along the way?

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