How Do You Find Opportunity?

How Do You Find Opportunity? - Comm Before The Storm

When I wrote about personal paradigms I explored what causes us to sometimes get preoccupied and blinded by our own perspectives. When I wrote about change, I spoke about how we might manage it, but how do you work to shift your paradigm so that you can manage change? How can we step outside of our perspectives enough to even know that we are being blinded by them?

As noted in my post, The Forever Footprint, I don’t have a natural love of social media.  My transition has been a gradual one. My reluctant engagement started because I could hardly be a communications professional and put my nose up at social media, although you might be surprised to see how many communications people do. I also had a team that was only engaging in social media peripherally. We were crazy busy and social media took a lot of time. It’s deliverables were not always clear and certainly not immediate, so it was easy to ignore. It was also clear that by letting it slide we might be missing opportunities, so we held our annual strategic planning session and determined that we would each tackle a platform. The next six months were interesting to say the least as we each struggled to manage our regular communications duties and embrace this new realm. The articles about social media were interesting, the platforms, well they were another thing all together. They were inconsistent, they were finicky, and they clearly had different strengths, benefits and weaknesses. It was a bit crazy.

Communications has always been a gradually changing sector. Print advertising offered opportunity and hung around for a while before radio ventured out and gave us something new to do.  We had time to grow and adopt to radio before television made its way onto the scene. We had years to figure out television and we played happily between the three mediums for a long time.

Then the explosion occurred.  The platforms started to appear, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter, StumbledUpon, YouTube, Reddit, Google+, Triberr, Instagram, Tumblr, Vine  and on and on they go.  It’s little wonder we wanted to back away slowly.  Where to start?  What to do? Every week it seems like there is a new and better way to engage in social media.  I was giving a presentation the other day, Social Media 101, and one of the participants hadn’t heard of LinkedIn. I almost giggled, my relief was so great.  It wasn’t just me, it really was crazy out there.

So how did I get from not wanting to engage to giving advice on social media? Curiosity.  Curiosity will get you past all of your preconceived notions, your impenetrable paradigms and your reluctance to change. Cultivating a curious mind is one of the best things that you can do for yourself. Your curiosity will facilitate professional and personal growth. If you’re in any industry that requires you to engage the public, then feeding your curiosity will provide you with a wealth of opportunity. Even if you like your isolation, unless you are interested in being nothing more than still, curiosity can be satisfied through reading and watching.

Remember, when paradigms in the world around you shift, past success means nothing.  You could be ruling the world as the best advertising rep, but when social media shows up, if you don’t jump on board, your past success will be irrelevant. You’ll be left behind. You could be the best author who ever lived, but if you want new readers, then you have to exist in the new places. You have to open yourself to the possibilities.  When paradigms shift, history doesn’t matter. It didn’t matter that PC dominated the landscape when Apple introduced the iPod.

If you want to know where the new ideas are happening, they are far away from where it’s safe. They are out on the edges where curiosity flourishes and the imagination is in charge.

How do you keep yourself open to opportunity?  Have you ever found yourself fighting against something you later embraced?

 I’m looking for your communications stories. Have you ever had something go horribly wrong or amazingly right because of a little communications?  Please share your story here as a guest blogger.  For more information, please see my post, Everybody Loves A Good Story.


About Debra Yearwood

Experienced communications and public relations executive who manages challenges with an eye on outcomes and a sense of humour. Learn more about how I think at Learn more about my experience at
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42 Responses to How Do You Find Opportunity?

  1. becc03 says:

    I have been using social media since I started my blog only 1.5 years ago. I know how to use it and what I am supposed to do, but still have an issue with embracing it. It is such a time suck and they tell me I should be posting 2-3 times a day on facebook! I’d be lucky to post 2-3 times a week. I guess that is why my new visits to my site have probably stagnated. Somehow though my twitter seems to be finding new followers all the time. I could really up this and probably will in the new year.
    I think my biggest issue is I am only using it because I need to for the blog. I learnt how to use it due to curiosity, but fully embracing it is another thing altogether as you kinda need to want to use it.


    • Becc, I remind myself that if I had a different career and was left to my own devices, I would not spend time on social media, at least not as much of it as I do. It’s incredibly time consuming. As much fun as it is to explore, I could spend all day going from account to account.Why would I want to spend a day like that? I believe it’s a good idea to use it, not lose it in social media.


  2. My favorite sentence: “if you want new readers, then you have to exist in the new places.”
    My experience is a lot like yours, i.e. I was NOT an early adopter of social media. I started on Facebook in 2011, in order to stay relevant as a writer and build readership. While it was definitely the right decision, I do Facebook now and then, in focused ways, not spending long hours on it. I love to acknowledge what’s going on in my friends’ lives with likes and comments (and to get these from them). But I’d rather be physically active outdoors, and interacting with people in person, rather than staring at a screen.

    I also hold a value for Linked In, and have about 425 connections. Unlike some of the folks with, say 1,000-plus connections, I hold to the standard of actually knowing/having met the people to whom I’m linked. I don’t respond to the invitations of people I don’t know — it would render meaningless, I feel, my linkages to the people I do know.

    I believe in being a thoughtful, critical consumer of social media, and actually of all things offered to us for consumption. The fact it’s available doesn’t mean it will add value to our lives. Junk food, violence and pornography all come to mind here, along with cheap energy of the kind that drives global warming. My goal is to embrace good, life-giving choices, and turn away from the other choices.


    • Social media like any media definitely lends itself to diversity. Personalty and choice play a role in how we engage. I have very few friends on Facebook, but many more on LinkedIn despite the fact that I started my Facebook account first. The difference reflects how I see and use those mediums. Facebook is personal to me, whereas LinkedIn is a networking tool. One of my connections on LinkedIn has well over 8000 connections, a LION, that number reflects a few things, his drive to connect for sure, but also his role as a public figure, that he sees it as a networking tool and the fact that he has managed to get thousands of people connected to each other over the years.

      Whether you have 10 or a 1000 connections shouldn’t matter, it’s what you do with those connections that matter. If a LinkedIn LION uses that reach to share good messages, is it waste? As you note, just because something is available doesn’t mean it will add value. I think it’s also true to say, just because there is a lot of something, doesn’t mean it’s not valuable. 🙂


  3. cassi9879b says:

    I still find it overwhelming. You should post this here or that there but what if I get it backwards? Oy vey!


    • I hear you. I had to laugh the first time I came across a recommended schedule of the best times to post to certain platforms. As if determining what to post, creating it and then finding the time to post wasn’t enough. 🙂


  4. Arleen says:

    Well I have to tell you I wasn’t ready for all the social media hype. I am not one who likes change so this was a big hurdle for me. I don’t mind a challenge but the biggest problem is finding out what you need to do keep up with everything. What has helped me is my children and grandchildren. I don’t want to be left out and look stupid or something so I am always asking them what is new. I can remember my granddaughter trying to explain Pinterest to me. It took me months after that discussion to look into it.

    I now realize the importance of social media. I have only gotten involved since April of this year and it has been very rewarding. Writing has never been my forte and probably never will, but it is forcing me to do something outside of my comfort zone. It is all good


    • Wow, April. I had no idea. Well for someone who was not interested, you are a natural, but then you were a marketer long before social media. Social media for all it’s pervasive presence is at a heart a still just a series of tools. You may have to learn a few technical pieces, but your marketing background means you know something about how people think. What motivates and what engages.

      As for the writing, I love the way you illustrate ideas by pulling in real world examples or even the way you make links between seemingly unrelated things. Your posts are always engaging and entertaining.


  5. Hi Debra
    A very interesting idea and also times we are living in.
    I was just speaking with another blogger/social media person here in Switzerland the other day (by skype) and we had this very discussion. Switzerland is very far behind (as is Europe I think) in terms of customer service, social media and interactions with people. In fact I know a company that is only know really hiring someone to take care of this and they are huge.
    Everyone tries to keep hold of what they know and what they trust for as long as they can.
    Even Gary Vaynerchuk’s recent article in the NYT showed how much he as a social media guru struggles to get companies on board.
    Times change and so must we. I guess as someone in IT I have learnt this very early on, and it is entirely normal for me.


    • Ashley I can’t imagine a sector that is more transformative than IT and I think that gives you a tremendous advantage. You are oriented for change and change is the one thing we can all rely on.


  6. This one really puts things into perspective for me: “Remember, when paradigms in the world around you shift, past success means nothing.” While I’ve made advanced in my writing and freelancing, I know I’ve spent so much energy thinking about how I used to be a good teacher, etc. It’s been a hard road learning how to exist in this new virtual workplace I’m learning to inhabit. What you write about curiosity rings so true, and I know it’s the thing that keeps me anticipating another day and what I can learn from what the day holds in store.


    • You’re still a good teacher Jeri, that piece didn’t change, you’re classroom just got a heck of a lot bigger and you can’t keep an eye on students the way you used to. 🙂 You also gained your writing, which is clearly your first love. Imagine going through your whole life without ever giving that a shot. Thank goodness for curiosity.


  7. jacquiegum says:

    What a fantastic post…so germane t the here and now. Amazement feeds me. And I hope I never lose that sense of amazement for as long as I live and walk in stilettos! That’s what social media did for me…it’s daunting, difficult and amazing all at once. No matter if you are an entrepreneur, a pundit. a communications expert or an author, learning the different platforms to connect to your customer/student/reader is key to helping achieve your goal. It’s an amazing time for communicating!


    • You know Jacqueline, there have been times when I wondered why I went down the communications road, it is always such a challenging sector. Social media reminds me why I love communications. It helps me to connect to like minded people, allows me to see and meet people I never would have had a chance to meet, makes me explore ideas I never would have considered, opens my mind to opportunity and more than anything, reminds me why I like to connect and why connecting people to each other is so important.


  8. I had to laugh because it is SO true. Exploring new ways of doing things is not comfortable and not, as you said, in a safe zone. I have always been a timidly curious person. What that means is I am careful and slow to act but fast when I finally get there.

    Many of my friends are very curious about what I do and why. They just don’t get the attraction. That has posed a problem as time has passed because my old friends (and my age group) and I have less in common as a result. Part of the disconnect is that they feel out of step when I start talking about blogging, SM and all that I’ve learned. Would I change that?… not on your life. It is so exciting and fun to keep learning and growing and you just never know where it will lead. 🙂


    • Susan I have found people staring at me as though I had grown a second head when I talked about social media. 🙂 It’s hard to understand the enthusiasm when you haven’t tried any of it out or you have tried it and found it uninteresting or confusing. To me, it’s a bit like magic, everywhere I look a new idea springs up.


  9. Glynis Jolly says:

    I have to admit that I shy away from some of the social media sites, but it isn’t because I’m afraid to try them. I found Tumblr boring. Instagram is okay but only if you’re able to take your own pictures because of copyright laws. I can’t because of disability. I do have a Google+ account but I’m rarely there because I get confused with the circles. MySpace is infected with spam and viruses. I know this from having an account there in the past. I had to buy a whole new computer because of that site. I do like LinkedIn and use it. I like Twitter the best. I guess I like the limit of how many characters you can use. You have to get to the point or forget it.


  10. Claire Cappetta says:

    I found social media a little overwhelming when I started. I’d only had a myspace page to keep in touch with my kids, but when I was starting to write I knew I had to learn and embrace it. Sometimes with Facebook, Linkedin, Blog, website, twitter it is just crazy but so far so good. I just need to bring them all together into one space… Which I think soo will be my website with the social media plugins into it. Then it will all come from one place : )


    • Managing social media so it doesn’t manage you is essential. It’s a powerful tool, but like anything with so much potential, you have to approach it with care. If you don’t have time for multiple accounts, then don’t have multiple accounts 🙂 Bringing them together in one place is a smart way to regain control.


  11. Great blog and all about one of my favourite subjects: social media! To me, social media works in combination with blogging and networking. It is about finding the right platforms for you (and your business) and taking the first step. I remember my first foray into social media (Facebook) as if it was yesterday! It was that significant and unlike anything I had done before. You’re right! It was a kind of curiosity that got me there. After that, I became a bit bolder and now I interact on social media as if it was second nature. Thank you Debra. Really enjoyed this post.


  12. So true. We had to embrace social media or get left behind. Now that I’ve become comfortable with it, for the most part, I love it!


  13. Mark Brody says:

    Very engaging post! I am struggling with wrapping my arms around all of the social media outlets that are available and where my customers are “hanging out” most frequently. Once I find them, it is disconcerting that I can’t relay the information I truly want to due to terms of use and other legal restrictions for businesses. Your post reminds me of the book, “Who Moved My Cheese”. Understanding the juggernaut of social media will forever be evolving. Those organizations who don’t create nimbleness in their communication strategy will struggle keeping up with their competitors, in my opinion.

    Thank you for sharing, Debra!


    • Thank you! I loved that book (the story reminds me of Susan P Coopers stories). You’re so right about the need to understand and accept that social media will keep changing. When you look to those organizations that have been successful over a long period of time they always have some aspect that lives close to the edges, there is always a maverick, exploratory or innovative component that keeps them from becoming obsolete. Accepting that change is inevitable and embracing it allows you to stay nimble and survive.


  14. StephB says:

    How did I find opportunity? By removing all doubt and addressing my frustrations. After years of selling for other people and making them revenue rich, training their teams without the promotion while being the number one salesPERSON, I realized that I needed to stop allowing the hurdles that others were setting in front of me to become impactful and utilize my true potential. Once I embraced my passion for sales in a general sense things took off, my writing improved, and my career path changed for the better.

    This article has great insight, thanks Debra!


  15. I like to think I look at most things with an open mind, except for twitter. I fought against twitter forever. Lately I have been paying a bit more attention to it and growing a twitter verse of my own.

    Any communication story I might have would be bad communication. I seem to be really good at saying the wrong things.


    • I had a reluctance with Twitter too…love it now though. My hesitancy was because I kept imagining all the ways that people could screw up using Twitter. It just looked like a crisis communications activity waiting to happen.

      Jon, I encourage you to share a communications faux pas, those stories are always the funniest and the ones we learn the most from.


  16. edjumpoff says:

    Followed you here from the Linkedin group Bloggers Helping Bloggers. An interesting read, yes there are a lot of social media outlets out there. I agree with Jeannette, you have decide which one works best for you. Even though I am not a business, I still have to consider which social medias work best for me as a blogger.


    • One of the things I like best about blogging is that it provides a natural education about social media on an ongoing basis. Blogging means that every week or every day, depending on how often you engage, you’re going to learn something new.


  17. Diana says:

    I am curious, alright! Too curious sometimes (i am giggling now, too 😉 )

    Great post, Debra – it’s curiosity and also a hint of bravery, don’t you think? This reminds me of the how-do-you-handle-change question… Well, if you dare to find the truth, to change, to be proactive – you will move forward, social media or something else – we need to leave our comfort zone. It’s that simple; and scary… 😀

    And to you question – i don;t think i have been fighting against something only to embrace it later. But i gotta tell you – i handle it very differently – if I find something, i try and if i like – i embrace; but if someone is found for me and i am told it’s good and should be embraced – i usually end up fighting against it LOL.


    • Oh bravery is definitely a requirement Diana. Fear freezes you in place, closes doors and cuts off escape routes.

      I’m definitely someone who likes to make my own discoveries, but I’ve learned that I can’t be everywhere and see everything, so I better pay attention when someone says, hey Deb, check this out.


  18. jbutler1914 says:

    I am very curious about things. Doing things out the box is what motivates me. 2013 has been a very out of the box type year for me. I love it.


    • Isn’t it great when you can jump in an explore? 2013 is the year that I celebrate my blog’s first year anniversary, I can’t say how proud I am and how much fun I have had doing it. I can’t wait to see what I will discover in 2014.


  19. Personally am motivated by curiosity and, most of the time, like change. Hence started my international blog in 2009. Actually started using Linkedin in 2005 when I was living in Saudi Arabia. Now have over 4,000 connections and whenever I post an update it reaches more than 20 million people.

    However a lot of middle aged people do not understand, or use, social media. An arrogant university student studying communications told me that I should go back to school. Asked him if he had a website that’s amongst the top 0,5 % most visited in the world? He didn’t know what to say. The odd thing is that when it comes to middle aged people and social media it seems to be that we either thrive on it or know nothing at all.

    Can’t help wondering how such an arrogant university student will get a job. Would have been easier if he had studied something that there is a shortage of. But communications – there are 50 to the dozen. Most such student end up with no job but still having to pay off their student loans.


    • Catarina I laughed when I read that you had started on LinkedIn in 2005, I don’t think I even knew there was a LinkedIn in 2005. Just goes to show how easy it is to get insular.

      I have to admit, I wouldn’t want to be a communications student in the current market. Right now being a communications professional means you have to be a master of many trades. One of my online colleagues recently shared a job post he found for a senior communications position, the job description was well over 2000 words long. We all mocked it for being unrealistic, but the truth is, it’s not the first time any of us have seen requirements that extensive. There are many, many applicants and very few postings. It takes time to master that many skills, but how can you when the jobs aren’t there?


  20. Debra — your posts are always so thoughtful. I once had a boss who said, “Just remember you can be a hero yesterday, and a bum today.” He meant that we can’t live on past laurels. If you’re in the communications business than you have no choice but to become fluent in social media. No one can keep up with every social network. What networks will work best for your business? When you should add/drop a network? These aren’t easy questions to answer because you need to allocate so much time to the networks that will produce the best results. And you need to constantly explore every communications channel to push out your messages — not only social media.


    • Jeannette, you make an interesting point that sometimes gets lost. You have to have social media, but the rest of the mediums didn’t stop. Television is still a very powerful tool and many successful online campaigns begin in the real world. It’s really about being open to all opportunities.


  21. Leora says:

    Curiosity certainly motivates me! Yesterday I was trying to convince a small business owner the value of social media. He thinks it’s not worth his time. I think he needs a good social media plan. But what I suggested he poo-pooed or said it would work for a different business. But I’ll be having more conversations with him.

    I like your request for communications stories. Will keep that in mind. Look forward to reading some of those.


    • The resistance to social media is an interesting, but common thing with many small businesses. Social media can be overwhelming, but its an incredible engine and more importantly, it is increasingly becoming the case that if you are not engaged in social media, then you are simply not engaged. Trying to be found online gets a harder every day and even if you have a website, unless it’s tied to some other interactive online activity, it’s doesn’t always show up on the first few pages of a search, if it shows up at all.


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