There's this really fucking good New York Hardcore band, The Last Stand, Mike from Inhuman fronts them and they put on a sick show. The songs hit hard and are to the point. One of my favorites is called "Opportunities Lost and Found".
The future's ours so let's take a chance!
Now, the time is now
Opportunities lost and found
This isn't just a "keep it positive" anthem, like the kind that Crucial Youth would poke fun at (Positive Dental Outlook, anyone?) but it IS a seriously motivational song without being cringe-worthy or rehashing the same things over and over. And frankly, even if you don't like heavy music "Opportunities Lost and Found" should be the fucking anthem of all forms of entrepreneurialism/hustling.
Now that I'm no longer in a super buckled down industry, I can freely voice things like this and proudly show my longtime involvement in the scene instead of hiding it for fear of losing of my job. Or merely losing the promise of work. It may sound innocuous today because subcultures are more accepted in and out of the workplace than they used to be, but the financial industry aside this was at a time when it was still an abject danger to even have a tiny tattoo on your ankle showing at an interview and any possibility that you did something deviant-- pretty much not being a type who'd love to gather around the water cooler talking about the latest Top 40 band and "Oh, Desperate Housewives is on tonight! Let's all have appletinis and watch it!"-- would be cause to not get the job at best, lose the job at worst. We DO live in a nation where most states are right-to-be-fired! Simply no longer having to waste mental energy on worrying about my worlds clashing has done wonders for my productivity and overall happiness.
Because freedom to no longer hide your true self aside, life is about opportunities. There were opportunities I definitely lost and will never have again. I had fallen in with the whole "you must go to college to get a good job" paradigm and I felt like it wound up being a colossal waste of time and my youth. For some more NYHC wisdom...
You're only young once
So do it right
Wasted years you can't get back
Half your life
Spent on the wrong track
Hey, you can't make it last forever
Oh boy, I found myself listening to that one a lot around the time I left the tax biz. I truly felt like I wasted my goddamn youth on that whole track to yield a whole lot of nothing.*
But on the new path I ran towards, I was faced with opportunities I never would've had in that world. And on the same token, a big part of this whole hustling game is simply being able to make peace with your choices, knowing that things are not the same day in day out for better or worse.
I know I definitely lost opportunities when I had to work at a tax office to keep a roof over my head instead of being at GDC. I am well aware that I could lose some supremely awesome networking opportunity if I take a vacation, and that working on one project takes time away from another. So I try not to think about it too hard. For new entrepreneurs, this can lead to utter system failure.
Then there's figuring out where you fit in. Some people prefer the employment mindset and honestly, an employer can bring some amazing opportunities or hold you back in more ways than you could possibly imagine. But let's say you do take the plunge: how do you sell your expertise? What makes you special and more equipped to handle a problem than anyone else? Most of all, who is your market? I wrote an e-book about how creative professionals can crush it (get it for free if you sign up for the Toad Tribune!) because it broke my heart to see many of my indie dev compatriots give up on freelancing because of shitty clients or being unable to find work, and going back to looking for a job and giving up on opportunities that they could damn well have as game devs.
Which brings me to the point of this post: opportunities are lost and found, so is there any way you can make your own opportunity?
Sometimes those opportunities will find you. But you still need to get out there and look, and you do that by talking to people. When you're taking a more formulaic approach to things like drawing traffic to a site, getting consulting work, etc. it could work well but you also need to think beyond that formula: if you don't see an opportunity, can you make one?
For instance, I've been building up my affiliate partnerships as I grow my following. Most bloggers suggest prioritizing the audience first and it's a good rule of thumb. But when I attended a blogging class at General Assembly a few months ago, the instructor suggested that you don't do serious traffic generation until you have at least three months of content, because people like to read a backlog of stuff. She runs the highly-successful Smart, Pretty, and Awkward and it seemed like good advice. But I figured, why not start building up both my affiliates and my backlog to do things a little differently? Like I love how Cracked writers add captions to the stock photos they use. I do that on some of my images I buy from Fotolia (see what I did there?), but I decided to add captions to most of the picture ads like I did in this post. To me, it has more fun and human connection to it than just mindlessly plunking some HTML in the vain hope that it gets clicks.
Like the fact that it's the middle of fucking February and I threw in this Groupon ad out of the countless other ads they had to pick from. I dunno, something also seemed off that ice pop. Like it's made of bacon or sex toy rubber something. But hey, saving money with Groupon is how I can afford to do things like go out to eat, have rock climbing fails, and stumble into opportunities on my adventures! So click it and buy a Groupon, because bacon sex toy popsicles for all!
I could do a whole other post on what it's like to apply for affiliate programs. But there's businesses I use who don't have an affiliate program at all, so I wrote in suggesting that they start one. One company said they'd consider implementing one, another helped me out by promoting Sonic Toad to their sizable mailing list! That's making an opportunity.
You don't know til you ask, and the absolute worst thing that can happen is being told "no". Dear Toadlet, I'm going to do posts soon about how you put yourself out there when you feel like you don't know how to, and the power of "no". You may have some mental hurdles to jump over-- or smash the living fuck out of with a hammer!-- before you figure out how to make an opportunity.
You will also need other entrepreneurial types, creative geniuses and weirdos, and thought leaders to help you on this journey. Hey, why else did I build Sonic Toad? In turn, I'm learning how to make and find opportunities every day.
How do you plan on making an opportunity? Share and discuss!
*-If you got the punk scene references in that sentence, I'm buying you a cookie if we hang out. Or something boozy. Maybe one of Yael's worm treats.
Make some opportunities with one of my affiliate networks, Share-a-Sale! (A fine partner of Sonic Toad Media LLC)