Opportunity is all the buzz when you graduate college.  Everyone is searching for it, yet it seems that so few truly find it right away.  Our issue isn’t that there aren’t enough opportunities out there, it’s that you are overthinking the definition of opportunity and are missing them in plain sight.

February 17, 1992.  Just shy of one year and nine months before I was brought into this world my life changed forever.  This is the date my only brother, Tyler was born.  It was also less than 24 hours before he died.  October 6, 1993, my birthday, opportunity number 1, born perfectly healthy.  January 7, 1995, one year and three months after my birth came my youngest sister, Maggie.  Unfortunately, she was pronounced dead just two days later.  Both passed away of the same thing. Now you may be saying, wow this is a super depressing way to start a story, and it undoubtedly is, but it one of the main stories that shaped who I am today.

I could look at those two dates as a sad event in my life and simply move on, but those two dates became much more than that.  They became my opportunity to live for not only myself but for Maggie and Tyler as well.  December 14, 2012, I decided to make this a permanent reminder of the opportunity that I received all those years ago.  That takes us back to present day and why I’m so aware of opportunity when it shows itself and why I’m not afraid to take risks.

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Risk #1 – California Dreamin’ – My family consisted of my mom, dad, and two older sisters.  I always wanted a brother to play with so my parents decided to become host parents of exchange students from countries around the world.  It was a great experience for me to be able to grow up with constant diversity around (I think that’s why I’m such a jet setter at heart). Coincidentally, one of our exchange students’ families owned a winery equipment company in Italy.  We had been out of touch with their family for many years which we were very sad about.  Life happens, and sometimes those who aren’t constantly around you drift away.  I was a Junior at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and decided to attempt to reconnect with them.  It was always a dream of mine to move to California and it just so happened that they have an office based in Santa Rosa.  Crazy enough, I was able to not only get a response from them but also got the opportunity to travel to Italy for 2 weeks and get offered an internship upon graduation.  As I explained in my post “Why The Overpaid Intern” I packed up my car, drove across the country, did not get brought on full time after the internship, and was completely lost in my direction.  Here was my dilemma, do I stay in California where I don’t know anyone and the housing costs are 3x what they are in Wisconsin, or do I cut my losses, pack up my car, and move back home? Well, I’m here, I’m the one that had the opportunity to live this beautiful life, and damn it I’m going to live it up as much as I possibly can.  What saddens me is that I know the decision I made is not one that most of you would make.  I know this is the case because everyone wants comfort, and not everyone feels like they are living life for three people.  You may say, “but you’re living in California, seriously how bad can it be?”  Well, until you’ve segregated yourself like I did, really have no idea.  I dealt with countless panic attacks, nearly constant anxiety and stints of depression that could last weeks or months at a time and the only thing I could turn to was my phone to call my family.  I felt smaller than the dust particle sitting on your screen.  However, the lessons I learned from putting myself in this extremely uncomfortable situation are lessons that I am eternally grateful for. They led me to where I am now.

Risk #2 – Make Your Own Luck – About a month ago I reached out to a marketing influencer by the name of Leonard Kim.  He’s been featured in publications including, but not limited to Forbes, Inc, and Huffington Post. Leonard also was recently named one of Forbes 25 Marketing Influencers To Watch In 2017.  My message was simple, it read – “Hey Leonard, I’m a 23-year-old recent college grad just trying to find my way in this crazy world!” “Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help you out either personally or professionally in the upcoming year.” “Have a great New Year!” “Thank you, Zach McArthur”  I knew it was a long shot but had I not taken the risk to send the message the answer would have always been no.  Five days after the original message I received a response which was followed up by a 20-minute phone conversation and an invitation to jump on a conference call the following day with his team.  During the call, I was invited to help with Leonard’s business, InfluenceTree, and at the end of the call, I was invited to be a guest on Ryan Foland’s LA based radio show.  WOW!  All this happened in the course of 48 hours and it was all made possible by sending that long shot email.

The moral of the story is that you are capable of so much more than you think, but going along with that if you don’t change the way you think then you won’t be.  Growing up in a town of 2,400 made the LA’s and the New York’s of the world seem way out of reach, but that’s simply not the case.  I’m not saying that because I wasn’t happy to grow up in Darlington.  I loved the sense of community that was there and the safety of the town, but it didn’t provide the business opportunity that the major cities did.  You are not a tree, so if you want to go somewhere then do it!  However, know that it’s not going to happen right away.  You’re going to struggle over and over and over again, but eventually, you’ll get a win, and then another, and another until the losses start to become rare and the wins just keep compounding.  Play the long game and know that nothing is out of reach if you’re willing to dedicate your life to it.