Disruptive Leader Lesson #2: How Do Disruptive Leaders Anticipate the Best Opportunities?

SeizeTheMomentSurferAmazing things happen when we turn the corner.

It was a narrow two lane road that quickly emerged from the trees, providing a stunning view of the ocean.  I just knew I wanted to pull over and snap a few shots on my camera.  But where would I park?  In a bit of a panic, I saw the parking lot and slid to a stop.

Looking back on it, I should have expected it, but I didn’t – yet I was pleased.  There before me was a mesmerizing site.  This small slice of a beach was crowded with surfers challenging the waves, improving their skills and  having fun.

I didn’t even think about what I was about to do – I just took out my camera and began shooting.  This was an opportunity to capture a moment I would never forget.

Disruptive leaders know what they are looking for. They watch the trends and anticipate the opportunities. But they do more. They seek the opportunity. They purposely work to be where the opportunity appears.

In this series we are discussing the five steps disruptive leaders take to do the impossible.  In this second lesson of five, we learn to anticipate the best opportunities.   Last week we focused on taking the time to plan and practice.  Next week, in lesson three, we focus on assessing the environment that yields the best opportunities.

It Should Not Be a Surprise

I was pleased that I found the surfers but it really should not have been a surprise. Anyone who had done their homework knew the best spots on the island of Oahu to see the surfing. I knew about the north shore because all the tourist materials mention it.  I also knew about the south shore but I didn’t know about the east shore where the waves break hard and provide excellent surfing.  So I wasn’t expecting to see surfers as I drove that winding two lane road.

Instead of anticipating so I could plan and practice, I was surprised. Now that was a pleasant surprise but disruptive leaders are less surprised and better prepared than the mediocre leaders. They see what others don’t because they have prepared ahead of time.

Photographers are known for their planning.  Maybe that was the problem.  I was a tourist taking photos instead of a photographer practicing my profession.  Photographers know what time the sun rises and sets so they can utilize the optimum lighting.  They know what equipment they need to capture the exact moment and create the perfect image.  They also know when to press the shutter.

But here I stood, giddy in my excitement although I had never photographed surfers before.  So as I was standing on the shore, long zoom ready, snapping the shutter in an excited fashion.  No wonder I clicked just before the action or just a touch too late.  I was not prepared for the opportunity.

Are you surprised by the business opportunities that suddenly appear?  Are you frustrated that you are not seizing those opportunities?

If We Observe the Patterns

My challenge was to capture the exact moment where the surfer nailed their move, breaking free from gravity and floating in the air.  I wanted that signature shot that captured their legacy, that one split second where they were in all their glory of an ultimate performance.

To do that, I knew I had to change my approach.  I knew I didn’t know enough to get that shot.

So I pulled the camera down, leaned back and  watched.

I observed where the surfers were coming from and how they were attacking the waves.  I watched several surfers and I observed two or three different patterns.  Some were riding the lower waves to the left and others off to the right, near some dangerous rocks.  I noticed that I was most fascinated in those attacking the harsh breaks toward the middle.  That was where the ultimate action was.  They were the ones who stood tall on their boards and sought out the biggest waves.  They quickly overshadowed the others who sat or laid flat on their boards.

It was only after observing that I knew what I ultimately wanted and where I had to look.  But I still wasn’t ready to begin snapping the shutter.

I watched a little longer, this time looking further out to see the surfers waiting, almost lounging in anticipation.  Then one by one, they chose their wave.  I followed a number to see who was daring and who was not.  Would they take the most difficult challenge? Or would they settle for the less dangerous?  If they did, where did the wave break and what would they do before, during and after that break?  In pausing, I was looking for the patterns of those in the process.

What patterns are you seeing when you pause to observe?  Are you noticing where your best opportunity emerges?

And Anticipate the Action

It didn’t take long to anticipate who was going to do the best stunts.  I noticed one guy with a yellow board.  He seemed to be one of the most daring so I made a mental note to keep an eye open for him.

It was only then, after I carefully observed the patterns that I knew I could anticipate the action.  Once I was able to predict what was going to happen and the exact moment the action would be at its peak, then I knew I was prepared to capture the photo I wanted.

A few minutes later, I saw my favorite surfer on his yellow board paddling to catch a bigger wave.   I recognized the pattern and anticipated the action.  That was the scene I longed for.

I brought the camera up, found him in the lens, zoomed in and waited.  He rose to his knees.  I zoomed in.  Then he stood, arms outstretched as he crested the wave just as the wave broke.


I pressed the shutter.

Shading the screen, I couldn’t wait to check the photo.  .

“I got it”

In this process of observing, anticipating and executing, I got the shot I wanted.  I had found my opportunity and seized the moment.

What action are you anticipating?

Before Anticipating the Next Opportunity

Some day I will  be back in Oahu and will be better prepared. I will have better camera equipment, better skills and anticipate the situation better.  I won’t be surprised like I was and I will have far better photos.

There is considerable power in being so prepared that you can anticipate the opportunity to execute at the perfect time.

As disruptive leaders, we see opportunities when we have taken the time to know exactly what we are looking for.  There is incredible power we can leverage when we notice the patterns so we can anticipate that specific opportunity.  It is then that we can execute at the perfect moment.

Too often we are surprised and reactive because we have not paused to observe the patterns.  But when we have, we find the power to be patient, planning our specific action at the perfect moment.  That is when others are impressed and wonder “how did you do that?”  That is how we build our legacy.

The disruptive leader tracks the trends and can see the intersection of what can be and what is.  Disruptive leaders are not surprised.  They are prepared.  Disruptive leaders learn to anticipate the best opportunities.

What future action are you planning today?

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I am Dr. Loren Murfield and I help aspiring and emerging leaders do what followers and critics think is impossible. The big announcement is coming very soon.  Keep watching.  In the meantime . . .

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