Yes, you need to have goals and a plan. No, you should not flip-flop on your choices all the time.
But you should be ready to take chances and take advantage of new paths that appear in front of you unexpectedly.
While the word “opportunistic” sometimes carries negative connotations and can suggest moral ambiguity, I’m advocating the use of it in the best sense.
Many of the best things that have happened to me professionally have been completely unexpected and were the result of being in the right place at the right time with the right attitude.
That last part is important. You need to be open to these opportunities in order to fully realize their benefits.
That doesn’t mean saying “yes” to everything. You still need to exercise good judgement.
Begin by keeping your ears open. Listening can be one of the most important skills in business and in life. Yet many of us — myself included — often spend too much time talking and too little hearing what others have to say.
Sometimes listening results in hearing about an explicit opportunity that someone is placing in front of you. Perhaps it is a new job or project.
Other times, you need to listen between the lines to spot that opportunity that could provide great reward. Perhaps it is a lead or a new business idea.
All of these opportunities need to be evaluated, of course. If it takes you outside the bounds of your current goals and plan, you need to be especially critical in your assessment.
Learning to differentiate between being opportunistic and getting distracted is an important skill — especially for entrepreneurs who often chase shiny objects and have more ideas than time and resources to pursue them all.
It all starts with keeping an open mind and being prepared and flexible enough to take advantage of the right opportunities when they do appear.