Don't Say No To An Opportunity

Going above and beyond leads to optionality.
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Earlier this week I was reminded of something kind of funny about a trait my father and I had in common. Have you ever seen one of those posts on Facebook or somewhere else that asks how you solve a simple arithmetic problem like adding 27 and 48. How in your mind do you do it? Long story short my father and I did that sort of thing the same way. This amuses me to no end.

Another trait he and I had in common is not being able to say no to a potential opportunity. We differed on what is or is not an opportunity though, pretty significantly I’d have to say. A new opportunity came my way that I am very excited about and am taking, adding to my plate.

I will be a ‘research volunteer’ with the Del Webb Foundation serving on an advisory panel, providing input on grants awarded by the foundation. The time demands are minimal, a couple of hours a week, which is how I can take this on. This week I sat in on one zoom call and reviewed one grant application and I think it was less than two hours.

First and foremost, the endowment is very big (not sure yet if they use the word endowment to describe their pool of capital) and the foundation funds a lot of grant requests. Not knowing yet what can or can not be said publicly I’ll just say there were past grants given for some amazing medical/science/tech projects and the application I reviewed yesterday was for a literacy program. If nothing else, I get to have a seat at the table funding some amazing projects.

If there is an opportunity, it would be from what this position evolves into or if it leads to something else. On the front end I have no idea what it could evolve into or lead to so in saying yes to being involved, it was important to be excited about the task I am being asked to do and have already started and I am.

A little while after being appointed fire chief, the department’s board president made a comment about being willing to do for free what others don’t want to do as means of getting the outcome you want. He was right but of course I’d already been doing extra things for years.

I think this started for me in college at San Diego State. I spent so much time playing volleyball that it was essentially my second major along with economics. I was in a fraternity for all four years and for whatever reason, I was very motivated to chair the Greek Week Volleyball Tournament my senior year. There was an interview process and then if selected, the fraternity and sorority co-chairs would then put the tournament together. Before the interview I had essentially organized the whole thing. I came in with all my paperwork and contacts went through it all and told them they could have what I’d done if they don’t give me the position. Of course, the gave it to me. It was every bit as fun as I expected. It led to nothing but again, I had a blast.

Over the weekend Josh Brown had a blog post titled Building An Investing Career Based On Writing. That title fairly describes how many of the advisors at Ritholtz Wealth Management have built and still are building their practices. This is exactly what I did 17 years ago. Josh cited quite a few investing legends that did this, I have always acknowledged following Ken Fisher’s use of writing to build, or in my case create, a practice. Back then, writing was above and beyond but the writing helped me find a career groove that I never want to give up, it led to side incomes from TheStreet.com and then AdvisorShares as well as countless media opportunities. Not sure that going on TV a bunch of times helped my practice directly but it was fun, allowed me to meet people I would have never otherwise met and do things I would have never otherwise done.

Being very active with the fire department, I’ve done a lot of stuff beyond being chief (planning regional trainings, past President of the county chiefs association and a couple of others) has also allowed me to meet people I would have never otherwise met and do things I would have never otherwise done. I’ve talked before about the financial opportunity that I think I’ve cultivated doing Incident Management Team work if I ever needed to do that. People don’t hate my guts and I’ve had some successes with Walker Fire which is why I am optimistic. I continue to cultivate this even though I doubt I will ever get into it.

With all of the above examples, I have a lot of fun with the present task regardless of whether there is any further opportunity to come, that’s important. The tasks associated with going above and beyond in your circles should be something you want to do; I mean really want to do and give it your all because there may be nothing else to come from it like chairing the volleyball tournament. If something else does come, all the better.

The bigger point is creating opportunity for yourself or as the word we use more frequently here, optionality. If you go all in with your effort for something you love doing (for free), you’re giving yourself the best chance possible to turn it into some sort of income stream if you ever need it and we know that a lot of people will need it.