Opportunities are Usually Disguised as PROBLEMS

Most problems hide opportunities. Remember the saying "a blessing in disguise"? In the midst of everything certain experiences might seem tragic, but as time passes we might realize they were, in fact, useful lessons.

The only difference between opportunities and problems stands in one's perception. In other words, it depends on our mindset.


A Tale of Two Wolves

On a hot summer day, the grandfather takes his grandson for a walk to the field they were planning to work on. On their way there, the grandfather noticed the young man was dispirited, so he started a conversation. Soon thereafter, the grandson insisted they rested and continued talking in the shade of a tree.

"What is your greatest challenge at this point in your life?" the grandfather asked.

"Well, grandpapa, everything is going very well. The only thing is that I'm having some trouble with determining whether a moment is an opportunity or a challenge."

"Son, have I ever told you about the two wolves?"

The young man shook his head no, so the elder began his anecdote.

"There are two wolves inside each one of us. And they're at war with each other. One wolf is white. It is brave, kind and has a lot of love to offer. The other one is grey and always frowns. It's mean, greedy and scared."

The grandfather stops there. They begin walking again, in silence. After a few minutes of thought, the grandson stops and asks:

"But, grand-papa, which one wins?"

"The one you feed most" the elder almost whispers.

Mindset is but a matter of attention. Invest your attention in a way of thinking and your entire worldview will take a turn in that direction. Leave it to chance and you'll always be confused.

Opportunities and Challenges

A problem is an opportunity waiting to happen.

Some problems are, indeed, huge and the potential for opportunity may seem to be limited.

Illness, for example, might be essentially damaging in one way or another. However, even illness itself could be an opportunity for someone with courage, heart, and determination to find a cure.

Problems often lead to opportunities because they challenge us to find a prescription to ease the pain caused by a particular problem. How you approach a problem determines if it can generate an opportunity or not.

If you're not looking for opportunities, you are unlikely to discover them. One's mindset when facing challenges contracts or expands the number of possibilities and the extent to which things change.

An undesirable event is just that - an undesirable event. Reacting to it, though, implies we have given it a certain meaning. Meaning is what we make of life. Challenges and opportunities are no longer just experiences, they have "meaning" and we've attached those labels.

Therefore, it all comes down to how one perceives things. A 'problem' for one, is an 'opportunity' for the other.

Having a Problem Mindset

There are people who see the problem in every opportunity and others who see opportunity in every problem.

The challenge with problem-in-every-opportunity thinking is that we become blind to the possibilities the problem presents. Therefore, we end up seeing only the inconveniences and pains the problem causes.

When we focus so much on the negatives we miss the fact that the pain is actually a fertilizer intended to help us GROW.

Developing an Opportunity Mindset

Opportunities arise from the problems that people face. Today, with the latest technology tools, the real advantage is to foresee opportunities before the problem arises, to anticipate latent needs and find solutions for them.

An-opportunity-in-every-problem thinking opens us to the possibilities the problem presents. It awakens us, opens our eyes, broadens our scope or vision, and stimulates our minds to look for ways to transform the problem into an opportunity.

To better identify the difference between having a problem-based and having an opportunity based mindset, here's the different interpretations we often give to generic life events:




Relationship problems

Broken friendships

Broken marriages

Ways to think creatively about improving matters

Re-prioritizing time and attention

Learning new ways to communicate

Learning from the break-up to do better next time

Death of a loved one

Painful emptiness

Meaningless isolation

Endless remorse

Stuck in the tragedy

Trapped in the loss

It still hurts, no doubts

Opportunity to reconnect with the rest of the family

Feel gratitude for what was

Motivate changes to our lifestyle

Inspire interest in spiritual matters

Job loss or business failure




Loss of identity and self-worth

Frozen in a trance of self-doubt

Reevaluation of passions and prospects

Time to rethink life purpose

Taking stock of skills

Motivation to learn and improve abilities

New, perhaps untraditional ways of earning income

Time of introspection and creativity

In the End, it's Your Choice

As a young man, Ross Perot, one of the richest men in the world, was working for IBM. One day, he noticed that customers buying IBM computers needed help in processing their data, so he went to management with a proposal to offer that service, as well. His superiors didn't seem interested, so he started his own business that he eventually sold for $2.8 billion dollars. He found a need and filled it.

Jack Ma is the owner of Alibaba, an e-commerce company with roughly 100 million shoppers a day. Before he became one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the world, Jack went to a KFC job interview, when the fast food came to his city. He was the only one out of 24 people to not be selected for the job.

Both of them could have responded differently to their problems. They could have fed the grey wolf. Instead, they decided to see the opportunity within the challenge.

We all Make Choices Every Single Day

There are always two ways to live life. One promotes criticism, anger, misery, and pain, or at very least frustration, fear, and cynicism. The other inspires joy, freedom, gratitude, growth, and wisdom. Just like the two wolves. It pretty much depends on which one you feed. Each one of us makes a choice.

In business, listen to other people's problems because problems are often opportunities in disguise - especially those of your customers.

In every problem, there is an expression of a need. Needs can very often be translated into new or additional products and services for your business to offer.

In my case, the majority of product or service innovations we have come up with over the years were either customer suggestions or customer problems. Thus, look at and listen carefully to whatever clients tell you.

Your customers' problems can be the keys to your next new innovation, product, or service.

"Whether it's called a problem or an opportunity usually depends on who is doing the calling."  - Ben Kubassek

From my new book KNOW GO & GROW: The Entrepreneur Within You. Get your copy today at  Amazon.

Ben Kubassek is an international expert on social entrepreneurship, author, and speaker. He’s on a mission to help young people in developing countries launch their own businesses in order to create jobs and bring transformation to their communities.

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