Too often, our beliefs and assumptions get in the way of spotting new opportunities—even opportunities of a lifetime.

These filters, often based on life experiences, may have served us well in the past, but are they still useful in making today’s choices?

As a leadership coach, the question I ask myself and others is this:

What must I do as a leader, investor, coach, ambassador, strategist, inventor or student to notice when it is my own limiting beliefs that determine the choices I make?

I’ve been reading Steve Jobs’ biography, and was struck by the missed-opportunity stories of people who said no when Jobs asked for help early on.

Ron Wayne brokered the deal between Jobs and Wozniak. Jobs was so grateful, he gave Ron 10% of the new company. Ron, having been involved in a previous business failure, got cold feet and sold his shares back to Jobs and Wozniak for $800. At the end of 2010 those shares would have been worth $2 billion.

Later on, Jobs asked Nolan Bushnell,owner of Atari,  for $50,000 in exchange for one-third of Apple. Bushnell said no.

And then along came Mike Markkula. Markkula made millions on stock options he acquired as a marketing manager for Fairchild Semiconductor and Intel and retired at 32 after Intel went public. Markkula believed in Jobs and offered to help him write a business plan. He then guaranteed a $250,000 line of credit for the newly formed company in exchange for one-third ownership and a leadership role.

While most of us will not have the opportunity to invest in the next Apple Computer, all of us have opportunities come to us each day.

What are you going to do today, to notice and avoid a missed opportunity and perhaps turn it into a chance of a lifetime (or at least a chance for today)?

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