Friday, May 21, 2010

Trust Your Gut

Today an opportunity came my way. The downside is that it went too. The story goes like this, I was taking lunch at my favorite independent bookseller - they have a really great Cajun cafe I wanted to try, so I sat solo and ordered some grub.

I was seated at a narrow two-top, filled with all sorts of condiments which, being a bookstore, was a bit cluttered and left me without the ability to have my usual "lunch read." Behind me sat a few men discussing their business, the troubles they were having, and what they could possibly do about it. The startling bit was that it was EXACTLY my domain of expertise and EXACTLY the type of environment I have historically produced big results in. I wondered how I could break into the conversation and offer my services - I do consulting projects after all and often I'm willing to share information just to help. But, "How do I do this and not seem like a creepy interloper?" I thought. I checked my pockets and, sure enough, I had business cards on me. I should just say something I thought. I decided I would after I finished my lunch. Then I decided I would after they finished lunch. And again when we were in line together to pay the bill.

In the end, I couldn't get over appearing nosy that I didn't say anything. Even though I knew I could help. As I drove back to work I called a confidante and gave him an explanation. "You blew it," was all he said. The thing is, I knew I did. The tightness in my chest told me. The nausea in my gut was telling me. I had missed an opportunity.

The lesson here is to put myself into time out until I realize nothing awful could have happened. Who cares if they thought I was a creep, the upshot would have been that at least I tried. When I weigh the upside versus the downside, the former far outweighs the latter. I missed an opportunity and that pains me.

I'm grateful that this has happened. For all of the speaking that I do, the mentoring, consulting, and presenting; for all of the talking to random strangers I am regularly a party to, apparently I have trouble when "selling" is on the line.

Now that I know this happens, I'll make sure it never happens again.

Am I alone? Have you ever missed an opportunity? What have you done about it?


  1. Everyone misses opportunities because it seems terribly rude to admit to overhearing a conversation. I think that in public it is in a way acceptable though because conversations in public are not exactly given a stamp of privacy. Next time, I would simply get my lunch to go to ensure I was leaving before them, and on my way out say something like, "I am terribly sorry to interject but I couldn't help but overhear your dilemna, I am a consultant and from what I heard an expert in resolving this issue. Here is my business card, perhaps we can set up time to discuss how I can help you."
    I think that's a great way to put the ball in their court (and get out before they feel like they have to discuss right then!)

  2. Sharra, you got it - I knew what needed to be done yet held back for fear of being impolite. The fact is, if these folks really were in trouble, any interruption on my part was likely to be a welcome one. Thanks!