A Simple Guide to Finding Opportunities

I recently thought about how to find opportunities, and I came across this thought: how many opportunities you find is proportional to how many overlooked things you discover. The more overlooked things you discover, the more opportunities you will have at hand.

The key word here is overlooked.

If you want to be above the majority then following the crowd is always a bad idea. If many people already do something, then it’s practically too late for you. It will be far too difficult to gain competitive advantage over them. The more promising way to success is to become the first – or among the first – to do something, and that means you should see something that other people don’t.

So how could we find things overlooked by others? The answer – I believe – has much to do with the resources we consume. Different kinds of resources have different characteristics:

  • Conventional resources can help you avoid competitive disadvantage. They help you avoid overlooking things seen by other people.
  • Unconventional resources can help you gain competitive advantage. They help you see things overlooked by other people.

Can you see the difference? Conventional resources are important to prevent yourself from being left behind, but they can’t give you competitive advantage. Unconventional resources are your key to gaining competitive advantage.

While you should have both in your arsenal, unconventional resources receive much less attention so they are where you can make the most difference. Find more unconventional resources and opportunities will come your way.

Here are some tips to find unconventional resources:

  1. Be curious
    Curiosity is your ticket to the unconventional world. If you are not curious, you won’t have the passion to explore the unfamiliar. By being curious you will enjoy the exploration and naturally explore wider and deeper.
  2. Read challenging stuff
    Challenging stuff has fewer readers, so it’s a good place to find overlooked things. An example of such stuff is academic papers in your field. Google Scholar is a useful tool to help you find academic resources.
  3. Read things from other fields
    Most people read about their own fields, so you can gain an edge by reading things from other fields. Even the seemingly unrelated fields can often give you fresh ideas. One simple way to start doing this is by visiting random articles on Wikipedia.
  4. Read old resources
    Since most people read only the contemporary resources, reading old resources is an advantage. Project Gutenberg has tons of old e-books you can download for free.
  5. Read things from different languages
    Doing this is not easy because you should first master the language, but if you can do it, chance is you will find things few other people do. Alternatively, you can use Google’s Language Tools.
  6. Meet people outside of your field
    People from different fields can give you fresh perspectives you might haven’t considered before, so expand your social network to include them.
  7. Meet people from different cultures
    Similarly, people from different cultures often see things differently and you can learn a lot from them. Ideally, you should know people from as many different cultures as possible.

Besides consuming unconventional resources, here are two more things you can do to boost your chance of finding opportunities:

  1. Be observant
    Whatever you do, be observant of what is going on around you. Watch how people do things and listen to what other people say. Becoming an observer is a key to innovation.
  2. Find patterns
    There are many things happen in the world, but for most people they are just independent events that aren’t related to each other. Only a few people can find the patterns behind those events and recognize the bigger stories. Patterns are perhaps the most overlooked things, so people who find them are also the people who will find excellent opportunities before anyone else. While I’m not an expert, I have some tips about finding patterns in my article on anticipating the future.

These tips are easier said than done, but they will help you find more and better opportunities. In a world where most things quickly become commodities, the art of finding opportunities is the art of winning.

Photo by Wolfgang Staudt


  1. Great tips!
    It’s really important to get out of your environment in order to get creative. I spend a lot time overseas working and I find being in a new environment forces me to be creative.
    Great work Donald!

  2. Thanks, Craig! I wish I could work overseas like you to experience it even more, but I do feel how new environment makes me more creative.

  3. I TOTALLY agree with: Read things from other fields.

    It’s amazing what you can learn just by stumbling around other blogs of different nature. It’s not something you need to devote your life to, but it helps build your knowledge for sure.

  4. Hi, you really hit some great points. In general — be open (other fields, people, languages, eras — all things you mention). Looking forward to reading your site more often. Found it on alltop.com

  5. Hank,
    Yes, that is also one of my favorites in the list. It’s relatively easy to do and it gives good results.

    Welcome to Life Optimizer!
    You summarized the post well: be open.

  6. […] blog, Life Optimizer, on Alltop.com under the lifehacks section. Donald’s posting, Simple Guide to Finding Opportunities is well worth the read. Many of you out there are probably already doing some of the things he […]

  7. You’ve hit on something here. In my first 2 books, I talked about how successful people do 4 things:

    1) Vision – They see opportunities others don’t see

    2) Attraction – They attract opportunities others don’t attract

    3) Readiness – They get ready to act upon opportunities once they do come their way

    4) Action – They actually act on them once they do come their way.

    I found all 4 of these things to be common traits among successful people i met while touring the country to interview more than 80 highly successful individuals in conjunction with my soon to be released third book.

    Take care

    Mr Positioning (Stanley F. Bronstein, Atty, CPA, Author and Professional Speaker)

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  10. You have put down almost all the necessary things needed to find great opportunities but let me add that opportunities are like radio waves, you don’t know that they are there until you tune to the right frequency. Opportunities are everywhere around us, but they don’t look for us, we look for them and find them. Thank you for a wonderful post. – http://www.ideasjunction.com/grabbing-opportunities/

  11. […] officer candidate school, until I decided I really didn’t want to be in the Navy.  These opportunities didn’t come because I complained and asked for more money, but because I worked and learned […]

  12. Great post:
    I believe every change we go through in life holds both obstacles and opportunities. I try to remind myself to also look for opportunities during these life transitions. It makes a difference.
    thank you for sharing these tips with us.

  13. Nicholas Larsen
    Nicholas Larsen

    Your advice is both pretentious and useless.

  14. Great Sharing and detailed explanation.

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