A few months ago, I wanted to buy a new laptop. I had saved up for months and had a healthy budget for a high-end, high spec’d laptop. I had saved 80% of the money needed to buy the laptop; when I came across a deal to buy an expensive laptop at a fraction of the original cost but within my budget. I had money in my emergency savings which I could use to top up the money I had saved up for the laptop. However, I faced a moral dilemma. My emergency savings were not for buying consumer goods. I agonised for two weeks until I decided not to get the laptop as I did not want to dip into my emergency savings. This was not an emergency; what would happen if I had a real emergency? A few months later, I had saved up enough for the laptop. I went to look for that deal that I had come across and learnt that the laptop was available, but the price had increased by 30% of the original cost that I had seen the laptop for. I was heartbroken. The 30% increase meant I did not have enough money and the available laptops in that price range were nowhere as well spec’d like this laptop. It was a real deal and value for money even with a price increase of 30%. I agonized yet again if I should dip into my emergency savings or not and this time, I took the risk and paid 30% more than I would have originally paid.
Looking back, I probably would have spent 30% less had I taken a little more risk and seized the opportunity while it was there. My delayed response cost me a few hundred dollars, but it got me thinking about how expensive my decision-making process is. In business, there is a concept called transient advantages. In short, transient advantage is a business strategy that views opportunities or competitive advantages as being short-lived. Every opportunity: for example, in business, in our careers or our personal lives have a lifetime and are often fleeting. Opportunities are here today, gone tomorrow. It is our response and speed of response that ensures if we can exploit every opportunity that comes our way.
How can we use the business strategy of transient advantages in our personal lives?
Every opportunity that we will ever come across has a life cycle. It is important to understand the stage of the opportunity that we are presented with so that we can maximize our output. A young man once approached me for career advice. He was interested in living abroad and wanted my opinion on the easiest things he could do to go abroad. At the time, the cruise ship industry was booming. The cruise industry was breaking into new market segments and recruitment was at an all-time high. The young man was interested, and I forwarded him a few adverts for ships recruiting various vacancies. He decided to postpone the application and applied a year later. He got the job but before he shipped out, we were hit with the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, and he lost his job instead.
To be fair, nobody saw the COVID-19 pandemic coming. This highlights why we should respond with urgency to the opportunities presented in front of us. Nothing is guaranteed; tomorrow might never come. Every opportunity is a transient advantage that goes through five stages: launch, ramp-up, exploit, reconfigure and disengage.
The launch process of an opportunity is when an opportunity is identified, and we decide if it is worth our time. Perhaps it could be a job opening, a talent competition or even simply a discount in the store.
This stage of the process is typically exciting as we use our resources: time, energy, and networks to seize the opportunity.
While exploiting an opportunity that we have decided to pursue, we must always be analytical and identify when it is the appropriate time to move on from an idea. A few years back, I wanted to pursue a graduate program. I had exceptional grades, the motivation but did not have the funding. I was exceptionally good at identifying new scholarship opportunities to pursue and mobilised my resources in pursuit of those opportunities. However, I was never successful at securing funding and repeated the process for several years. I was fixated on graduate school and was blinded to other opportunities. Not all opportunities lead to successes, some opportunities lead to worthwhile life lessons.
“Never get comfortable” is my mantra. Advantages or opportunities do not last forever, everything is bound by time and is bound to end. Never be afraid to think radically!
“The truth will set you free!”. We should always be truthful to ourselves when assessing if our opportunity has run its course. In business or in our careers, it’s often easier to see when a transient advantage is now at risk and the business needs to pivot. However, in our personal lives, it can be difficult to pivot. What is almost certain; change is inevitable. While it is difficult to change our life’s direction and pursue new things, it is imperative for our very survival. I have learnt to let go and embrace change. It has not always been the easiest to change direction in my life, but if I hadn’t; there wouldn’t be growth in my life.
“If you are not growing, you are dying”, opportunities present a platform for growth. Chance comes to us all, so seize every opportunity.