“When you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, you don’t ask what seat. You just get in”

One chance. One opportunity. One stroke of luck.

It’s all we ever pray for.

Unfortunately, often when the moment comes to take courage and make the leap, only a few can do it. The rest are left hoping they’d somehow turn back the clock. Perhaps, if they could, they’d choose differently.

Let me explain with two examples.

  1. Do you know Blockbuster?

Chances are you haven’t because Blockbuster went out of business eight years ago.

This wouldn’t have been the case, however, if they had accepted their big missed opportunity thirteen years earlier.

When Netflix began in 1994, the only big player in the movie distribution field was Blockbuster. Just like a library, Blockbuster operated by allowing their customers to rent movies for a certain duration from any of their 3000 physical stores.

Since Netflix didn’t have the workforce or the resources to compete against Blockbuster, they changed the game. Instead of going to a physical store, customers would rent a movie from their website, and they’d mail it to them in a DVD from their warehouses.

The model worked until the day it didn’t.

In 1999, the storage of high volumes of DVDs became a massive problem. To make things worse, the internet dot-com bubble burst, causing investors to pull out faster than you can say TLLF.

Eventually, unable to make a profit, attract new investors, and launch their IPO, Netflix was on its knees.

The only way Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph, Netflix’s founders, could stop from sinking and at least walk out with something was by selling the company.

And that’s what they did.

They walked up to Blockbuster’s offices and offered to sell Netflix for $50,000,000. The then Blockbuster’s CEO, John Antioco, said no.

Unable to sell to the only viable company in the industry, they had only two options; let the company die or make it work.

By now, you know what decision they made.

In as many trials and error as necessary, Netflix streamlined what needed streamlining and innovated where it needed innovation.

In 2007, Netflix hit the holy grail of movie distribution: online streaming. From there, things became so good they kicked Blockbuster out of business in the next three years.

Today, Netflix is worth over $280 billion. Blockbuster finally closed shop in 2013.

2. Joe Green, ever heard of him?

If before reading this you knew about Joe Green, I don’t know what to say to you. Just ger-rar-ahia! I’m kidding, don’t go.

His is a classic story you’d never wish on your worst enemy. Of course, I’m exaggerating, but I promise you’ll gnash your teeth after reading this.

Joe Green was Mark Zuckerberg’s roommate. They built Harvard’s Face Mash together.

One day, they had an idea of getting more people to use their application. They added a feature that let users rate others based on how attractive they were. For instance, two girls were put side by side and the users upvoted who was hotter.

Bad move.

The students were in an uproar. The school even threatened to expel them if they didn’t pull down the feature.

Joe’s dad took the threat to heart and warned his son about continuing any business with Mark.

Unlike most young people who’d have chosen rebellion and a little fun, Joe obeyed his father. So much that he declined Mark’s request to help in the business aspect of Facebook and 3% company shares.

Had he agreed, he’d be worth more than $3 billion today.

Ouch!

Blockbuster’s and Joe’s stories are among the few that are told. I could tell you more. But I’m sure, looking at your own life, you don’t need more examples to understand the concept of missed opportunity.

On my end, I’ve lived through such an example. And although I already forgave myself for being an idiot back then, I still regret it from time to time.

In 2020, right in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, I received a LinkedIn message from a Microsoft recruiter. Do you know how hard it is to attract the attention of a recruiter, let alone one from Microsoft?

Well, somehow I had done it.

Microsoft was rolling out their internship program, and the recruiter was inviting me to try for the Program Manager internship. She’d hold my hand through the entire process. All I had to do was send in my application.

But did I send in the application? No.

I created excuses such as I’m still in the third year and what not… I wasn’t ready.

Well, now I’m ready and no such invite has ever hit my inbox again.

All I’ve left now is chest pains when I think of what could’ve happened if only I had tried it.

Here’s the thing.

Second chances happen but rarely does lightning strike one place twice.

Deep inside you know what life-changing opportunity (es) you missed; not because you didn’t know, but because you chickened out.

You lacked the courage to make the leap into the unknown, so you made up enough excuses to talk yourself out of it. If only you could go back and choose differently?

In her book, Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg says: “When you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, you don’t ask what seat. You just get in.”

This brings us to my last point.

That one chance you’ve been waiting for won’t always be a shiny rocket ship. It won’t always be as clear as the writing on the wall. Sometimes, it’ll be an old, rusty Volkswagen by the side of the road. Other times, it’ll be taking a ridiculously low-paying job to pay the bills.

Circling back to Blockbuster and Joe Green, their missed opportunities came dressed up as scary-ass-shit moments.

Blockbuster weighed the risks of buying a failing business and decided it wasn’t worth it. Honestly, $50 million isn’t small money. There was no guarantee Netflix would make it. It could’ve gone the other way and lost their money.

You don’t need me to tell you Harvard is… Harvard. If you and I could’ve had the rare chance to attend Harvard, we both know we’d have jumped on it without thinking twice. Come on, it’s Harvard; the crème de la crème of ivy league schools (If you’re disagreeing Harvard isn’t thee it school, come fight me in the comments. Lol!).

For Joe Green, the risk of expulsion from Harvard wasn’t one he was ready to take. There was also his father’s warning. Besides, he couldn’t have known Facebook would be what it is today. How could anyone have known?

What am I trying to say?

The golden opportunity won’t always look like it. It’ll be ugly and probably make you wet your pants. Literally.

But so what if you wet your pants?

Look here, you already missed the boat once. Or maybe more than once.

Don’t make the same mistake, again.

Stop postponing. Stop waiting to get ready. Stop saying it’s not the right time.

Simply stop stopping and make the jump.

Your opportunity is here and now:

  • Apply for that scholarship
  • Start your business
  • Invest in your friend’s startup
  • Ask your crush out on a date
  • Venture into a side hustle
  • Take that job that needs you to move
  • Tell your loved ones you love them

Whatever green light you’ve been waiting for, this is it. You have a seat on a rocket ship, get in.

Until next time, into the unknown, you jump!

Before you go, what is your missed opportunity story? Tell me in the comments.

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Grace Kahinga

Copywriting | I have a teeny-tiny newsletter where I share life lessons in bite-sized letters every Thursday & Sunday. Find it here: thelastlotusflower.substack