How to Find Life-Changing Opportunity in the Worst Situation

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Scott Dinsmore of ReadingForYourSuccess.

Have you ever been in a situation you weren’t too proud of, but haven’t done anything about it? Maybe you’re in that situation right now.

The most real example to so many of us is being in a job we don’t love (or might even despise). We know we could be spending our time in a more fulfilling way that leverages our natural strengths and likely adds more to society. But then nothing gets done about it.

Why don’t more people pursue their dreams?

I constantly talk to friends, colleagues, clients and even your average person on the street who tell me they’d love to do this or that. And they say it with awesome passion in their eyes.

Then I ask when they plan to start or why they haven’t yet. Immediately their physiology changes-their posture slumps, their voice quiets and their face tightens. You can immediately see it. And the excuses begin: I won’t make enough money, I may lose my job, it might fail. The list goes on.

No matter the excuse, they are all rooted in the same emotion: Fear.

It’s so easy to think about the worst possible outcome of what we’re attempting. And then as we focus on it, the fear intensifies. We develop all kinds of details and stories of how bad it could be. Then we attach emotions to them. Most likely the fear of failure and not being enough. All of a sudden our worst case feels so likely that we’d never think of giving our dream career a shot.

What’s really your worst case scenario?

To have a shot at taking that leap and living our dreams, we must take the time to conceptualize our realistic worst case scenario. Is it really that you are going to end up on the street starving or become unemployable? I doubt it. These are extremes and rarely apply. We develop them in our mind to keep us from going out on a limb. We may think we do it to protect us from failure but all it really does is sabotage us from reaching our highest goals.

Let’s say for example you’re working for a big corporation and you have a dream to spin off and start your own nutritional services business (or whatever). The initial thinking usually goes as follows: If I quit my job and try to go off on my own, it might not work. I might fail. If I fail it will ruin my credibility and I will no longer have a job. People will see me as a failure. If I don’t have a job then I won’t be making money and I won’t be able to support myself or my family. If I don’t have an income, then I will end up starving on the streets.

Before you know it, trying to start a business has turned into starving with your family on the streets. Our minds have linked one to mean the other. Sounds wild but this thinking is all too common. Even if we don’t think that specifically, a lot of our fears are subconsciously rooted in these types of outcomes.

Your worse case is often your current case.

Now let’s see what our honest worst case scenario is. I quit my job to start my business. The worst case is still that it fails, but what does that really mean for me? Well, if I left a good impression on my boss (as you always should) then he’ll likely be happy to take me back or at least refer me to someone else in need in the industry.

I still have my previous skills and could likely find a job doing something similar to what I was doing in the past. I also have a unique story of attempt and failure that has made me a better, smarter and more experienced contributor to society. Now my worst case has become my current case. As soon as you realize that, the world is at your fingertips. How could you not give it a try?

Sure maybe you can’t get a job in your previous industry right away. You’re forced to try something new, pick up some odd jobs or even move in with family or friends for a bit. Since you were unhappy to begin with, trying just about anything else would be an improvement. These are not awful things. They will humble you. They will make you grow. That’s good. Especially when you realize the trade off is doing something you hate. Getting out of that is worth almost any cost.

Taking chances is all about risk management. It’s possible to set things up so the risks become minimal. Such as:

Ask to work part time so you can get a start on your new idea

Ask for a sabbatical or unpaid leave to test the waters

Make yourself incredibly valuable at your current job so they’d love to have you back

Find someone else doing what you love and find a way to work with them

Often once you get an idea for your true worst case scenario, it can become your best source of inspiration.

How to turn your supposed worst case into your most powerful motivator

Be honest. Use the above scenario as an example. How bad could it really be? What options do you have if things don’t work out? Remember, you are smart. You are skilled. And if you’re going after your dream, you have passion on your side. That is unstoppable.

Know your alternatives. List all the places and people you could potentially work with if things don’t work out. Get in touch with them. Form relationships. Let them know what you’re doing and possibly begin working with them from the start. Most will admire your courage.

Know the details. How much do you really need to make to get by? I’m not talking about what your used to making. How much can you make from your new gig and how quickly? Knowing the facts often takes off a ton of pressure. You’ll quickly realize you don’t have to have your monthly housekeeper, weekly fancy dinners or too frequent shopping trips. We need very little to actually comfortably get by. This is the perfect excuse to simplify life a bit.

Find new models. If you’re embarking on a new path, you need to find new models and mentors for success. As I began to take my writing and coaching more seriously, I searched out people like Jonathan who have found tremendous success and fulfillment in it. This helps keep the fire alive and learn what you don’t know.

Build your story. Life is about your story. It’s not about the things you check off your list. It’s about the person you become as you succeed or fail in your various endeavors. Be confident that summoning the courage to go after a dream, even if followed by a temporary failure, still makes you a stronger person. If things don’t work out and you head back to the work force, your story is what will ensure your reentry. Every one of us has a story worth telling. No matter your life situation, engage people with it and every experience will be an asset.

It all serves us.

If you haven’t already, adopt the belief that everything happens for a reason. There’s no other empowering way to see it. If you fail, it’s because there are better things in store for you. If you succeed then you’re granted a taste of your dream. Both are just as empowering. Know this to your core. Taking a leap requires some faith-in yourself, your creativity, your ingenuity an in the world.

Life is full of reasons to not get out on a limb and experience your life vision. If you prepare for your worst case scenario, you’ll find it makes the odds of it happening much less likely. And in the event that it does occur, you’ll be ready.

We all have dreams. Be one of the few to make them reality. Once you realize your biggest fears of failure will likely leave you right back where you started, they become your best motivation to go out and tackle the world. When your worse case is your current case, what do you really have to lose?

It is life’s toughest challenges that serve us most to grow and experience further enjoyment. Embrace the challenge and experience life on your terms.

About the author: Read more inspiring articles from Scott Dinsmore at Reading For Your Success where he is committed to helping you discover your own path to personal and career success, on your terms, through “action-based reading.” Subscribe here for Scott’s future articles.

photo courtesy of KatieL366

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Comment & Add Your Voice

Eduard - People Skills Decoded September 23, 2010 at 4:27 pm

This is insightful, especially the worst case scenario question. I think we often tend to exaggerate the risks of a certain change in our heads, making it look very dangerous, when the most dangerous thing is actually staying in the status-quo. Reason is our friend ;)

Reply

Scott Dinsmore September 27, 2010 at 10:30 am

You are right on Eduard. It’s so easy to build up something in our minds that is way more scary than reality. Then it gives us an easy reason not to give it a shot. We want to avoid those excuses at all time.

Thanks,
Scott

Travis September 23, 2010 at 7:07 pm

Hey, Scott. I particularly like your point about building your story. What are we doing with our lives if we aren’t building our story?

If your 40+ years of working life can be summarized with, “I did X, and it kind of sucked, but it paid the bills,” that’s not leaving much for the grandkids.

Great post.

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Scott Dinsmore September 27, 2010 at 10:33 am

Leaving something for the grandkids is an awesome way to look at it Travis. More than anything we want to leave inspiration and motivation for them to go after their dreams even more intently than we did.

The killer thing about our story is that it is being written every day. It’s on us to make it exciting and then to tell it in a way that makes people come alive.

Great quote too,
Scott

Simone September 23, 2010 at 8:20 pm

Yep, I connect a lot with these thoughts.

Actually since pursuing my dreams, my confidence in my abilities has tripled. So even if things don’t work out the way I imagine and I do have to go and work full-time, I can now confidently, toot my own horn now ;)

So no worse case scenario for me. I agree with the premise that there is no such thing is “fail”, just new paths to be followed :)

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Scott Dinsmore September 27, 2010 at 10:36 am

The confidence is an awesome bonus for sure Simone. And the more you try, the more confidence and experience you get, which will cause you to try even more wild things in search of the extraordinary. It becomes a really cool self-fulfilling circle.

Congrats on living in your dreams,
Scott

james September 23, 2010 at 10:18 pm

If you can’t see how your dream career will unfold, its very easy to come up with reasons as to why you should stay in your current situation. But when you really, really, really know that you want something, all that you need to do is take the first step in the right direction. That’s how things seem to unfold when you’re doing what you love. Any thoughts Jonathan?

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Scott Dinsmore September 27, 2010 at 10:40 am

Right on James. It’s getting the first turn of the wheel that’s the hardest. Once you get that and back it with some passion, watch out. Like you said, one of the best ways to get up the courage for that first turn is to find a wild and intense enough reason why you want it. Once you find it, the leverage is awesome. The only thing left to do is do whatever is needed to keep things rolling. Don’t let it stop, because it will take a ton of energy to get it going again. Then watch amazing dreams come true.

Thanks for the thoughts,
Scott

Keiran September 24, 2010 at 1:48 am

Your worst case is often your current case – I like this way of looking at it and it is a great source of inspiration. I was just thinking the other day that if I’d known how things would be now when I was a teenager what would I have done differently. I’m trying to imagine what the worst case would be a few years from now and what I can do to avoid that and achieve something better. I should add that I actually have a pretty comfortable life, but certain aspects of it (day job, for example) are not what I would have wanted.

Reply

Scott Dinsmore September 27, 2010 at 10:42 am

The most liberating thing in the world can be simply realizing that your realistic worst case is your current case. Embrace that and run with it a bit!

Scott

Adam Sicinski September 24, 2010 at 4:04 am

Great article Scott.

You are absolutely right. Sensible risk management is usually all it takes to help us improve our odds of getting what we want most out of life. However, most of the time we are so afraid to take chances because of uncertainty that we simply don’t take any action at all and choose to stay within our comfort zone.

In the end it’s all about making an effort to go that extra mile to do our homework before taking the next step forward.

Reply

Scott Dinsmore September 27, 2010 at 10:46 am

Very true Adam. Doing some often simple homework is all you might need to get fired up and take that first step. Often without the homework and confidence, that first step never happens.

Whatever it is for you that ensures the first step is taken, maybe what I’ve written or something else, figure it out and do it. Things will begin to fall into place from there, assuming you stay true to your path.

-Scott

An September 24, 2010 at 5:22 am

What would you say to those who are crippled by debt and finances? A savings and get-out-of debt plan could take years… if someone is unhappy now, how can they stay motivated when the light at the end of the tunnel is so far?

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Scott Dinsmore September 27, 2010 at 10:55 am

It’s a good question An. And one with many answers of course. But first off you have to recognize that the light at the end of the tunnel is surely not as far off ass you think. There are things I bet you can do that will shed light on each day, giving you the motivation to keep rolling. You definitely want to have a plan to save and get out of debt but you don’t have to put your life on hold to do it. My guess is you feel the debt is causing you to do work you don’t love or that isn’t on purpose with you.

The most important step is to spend your time doing something that fires you up each day. Maybe that doesn’t mean starting something on your own at this point but it may mean a change in career or shift in your role at work. In order to get this right, you really have to understand yourself. Jonathan does a great job of this and I also recently wrote an article “The Beginner’s Guide To Being Congruent” that steps you through some powerful resources. If you search this on my site you’ll find it.

The key is to take conscious steps to do something every day that you enjoy. Because if you aren’t able to find happiness right now, it’s going to be even harder to find it later. I am not necessarily talking about a drastic change here. Just a conscious shift.

Good luck,
Scott

ANDY FOGARTY September 24, 2010 at 6:25 am

“Your worse case is often your current case.”

So true. Whether it’s fear, insecurity, or just laziness, so many folks don’t do anything. They know they hate were their at in life, but it’s familiar to them. They know what to expect day in and day out.

No action – No moving forward – No results.

It’s sad, really.

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Scott Dinsmore September 27, 2010 at 10:58 am

It all comes down to getting out of your comfort zone! The fruit is out on the limbs. It’s scary out there but that’s where life is lived. Let us all leave the days of trading fulfillment for familiarity behind!

Right on Andy,
Scott

Usama September 24, 2010 at 7:26 am

Most people are just lazy or afraid of moving forward. That’s why they just settle in their robotic life. Nothing can change that but them.

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Scott Dinsmore September 27, 2010 at 11:00 am

…But everyone can change it. That’s the awesome part. All a lot of us need is that push.

Thanks Usama,
Scott

Stella Stopfer September 24, 2010 at 8:14 am

I am right at the point of completely turning my idea into a reality and I’ve never been happier. Coincidently, today I met some old friends from school and one of them commented how young I was and how I was already a director. She also said that the rest of them will probably start thinking about their careers in 10 years and who knows where I’ll be then.

People make excuses to excuse themselves from not saying or not looking at what’s really holding them back. Most people in their twenties already don’t believe they can achieve the success they would like to.

Although venturing on your own is risky, it’s also exhilarating, and scary, and fun, and it makes you learn a lot. And you just might succeed. So why wait and postpone and be afraid without trying?

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Scott Dinsmore September 27, 2010 at 11:05 am

I could not have said it better Stella. Thank you. The most dangerous word in the world is “later” as far as I’m concerned. If you’re not careful it will never actually happen.

If you ever find yourself saying you’ll do something later (especially way later like in a few years), stop yourself, ask why, then ask why 5 or 10 more times (until you get to the real essence of it-usually fear), then if it actually means something to you, make time for it right now.

Rarely is it really necessary to put off your dreams. The sooner you start the better.

When is right now a good time to life life on your terms?

-Scott

Financial Samurai September 25, 2010 at 8:13 pm

What would you do if you make about $40,000-$60,000 a month, enjoy your job, but don’t love it.

Would it be better to jut try and work on another business on the side? Can one really give up this much money?

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ProcrastWriter October 18, 2011 at 2:28 pm

If I made that much money a month, I’d work for a year, save every penny that I made (minus bills) and QUIT!!! Hell, you could work for a month and then quit and you’d still come out majorly on top. What do you do? How can I make that much money a month??!! :-)

Scott Dinsmore September 27, 2010 at 11:11 am

That’s a pretty interesting and exciting place to be no doubt.

If you would have said you made that type of money but hated it, my response would be different. But enjoying it is a pretty nice spot to be given the payout. There are plenty of things in between 100% and quitting that you should consider. Why not trim down a little time each week, maybe a day or a few hours at first, to dedicate to better discovering your true path? Maybe you’ll only make 30-50k a month but it’s a worthwhile trade off.

Once you find something exciting to work on you can bring it up to full speed as you fund yourself with your other gig. And knowing you plan to go out on your own at some point, you can sock away a bunch more cash in preparation for the journey. Think about how you might blend the two together as your first step. This doesn’t require a really dramatic in the beginning and will be more likely to put to action.

Hope that helps,
Scott

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Sarah September 29, 2010 at 6:18 am

Loved the article and the comments. It rang so true. Although I like my job I would love to try and work in our family business and do some writing on the side, but have always thought my salary was really needed – but as you say very few people end up on the streets and you do what you have to do to get by. I may be able to get voluntary severance which at least gives me breathing space and I have just enrolled on a writing course. After 25 years with the same employer it would be a good opportunity – and if it goes pear shaped I can always eat beans on toast! Lots of positive things to think about, Thanks for the article.

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Scott Dinsmore October 1, 2010 at 4:32 pm

Awesome to hear you taking the first step Sarah. That’s by far the most wild, exciting and liberating! I love the voluntary severance idea. Get funded to do what you really love. Takes a lot of the risk out, doesn’t it?

Right on!
Scott

murphtim March 4, 2012 at 1:28 pm

Great article Scott. I did exactly that a couple of years ago. I hated my job and wanted to take a crack at my own business. So I quit and worked my ass off for 6 months until the money ran out. Funny thing, right when the money was coming to an end and I started to worry a little, a recruiter contacted me and I was offered a job right when I needed it. This experience was invaluable. I learned so much over that 6 months that I never would have learned if I had stayed with my job. It also taught me that things will always work out. Plus the time off from the corporate world gave me clarity on what I really wanted to do for a living which was the biggest missing piece.

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