For years, I had heard that in Chinese, the word for crisis is the same as the word for opportunity. Recently I learned that the more popular story is that the Chinese word for crisis consists of two characters: one meaning danger, and one meaning opportunity. Both stories are interesting, but neither is true. While there’s some disagreement, there is little evidence to suggest that the word for crisis was derived in such a way.
But etymology aside, a crisis and an opportunity really aren’t that different, are they? Each is a critical point at which events will turn for the better or for the worse. A mishandled opportunity become a crisis, and a well-managed crisis becomes an opportunity. The most important factor is not the challenge itself, but how you handle it.
Everyone knows that the U.S. is in the middle of a huge financial meltdown. But the events are what they are, and worrying about things won’t change them. So you can either address the situation as a crisis or as an opportunity.
To treat it as a crisis, you should live in fear. Even though the banks are FDIC-insured, you can go withdraw all your cash in case there’s a run on the banks. To protect yourself against the collapsing dollar, you can convert most of your cash to gold and keep it in your basement. With the cash you have left, you can buy food and supplies to keep you alive when the world collapses. Of course, having all this gold and food and such will make you a target, so you’ll need to arm yourself appropriately.
On the other hand, to treat it as an opportunity, you’ll need to be bold and courageous enough to make the situation work in your favor. The downside of this path is that it’s a lot harder to figure out what to do. After all, panicking is easy. But taking constructive action when everyone is losing their head, that takes guts and vision.
Here are some ways of turning an apparent crisis into an opportunity:
1. Take advantage of unfounded pessimism
Because of all the news of bank failures and rampant speculation, bank stocks have been a wild ride lately, and some of them have been undervalued by overreacting investors. This has created some great opportunities for those with the appropriate knowledge, risk tolerance, and yes, luck.
On September 29th, Wachovia stock went as low as $0.01. The next day, it reached $3.70. Market timing is notoriously difficult, and personally I don’t recommend it. However, for someone who was brave enough to invest in a high-risk stock and lucky enough to time it perfectly, it was possible to turn $10,000 into $3.7 million in one day.
2. Take advantage of low competition
I’ve seen a lot of people saying that because of the economy, they’ve decided not to start the business they were planning on, or to put their business on hold and resume it when things turn around, or to slash their prices because no customers have any money.
While this makes sense at some level, I think most people are overreacting. And when everyone decides it’s not a good time to do something, that reduces your competition tremendously. Now might not be a great time for certain types of businesses, but the low competition makes it a wonderful time for other types of businesses.
3. Use this time to reassess your life plan
When bad things are happening, it sometimes makes you stop and think about where your life is going. While you can do this at any time, we tend to be stuck on autopilot until we encounter obstacles on the course we’re on. Unusual times can give you a much-needed wakeup call.
During this time, some people have decided that they’re in the wrong career, or they want to be self-employed, or they want to move to a different part of the country, or they want to get married, or they want to have a kid, or any number of things. Take a minute to ask yourself if your life is still moving in the direction you want.
Every critical juncture has the potential to become either a crisis or an opportunity. What will you make of this one?
Hunter Nuttall wants you to stop sucking and live a life of abundance. Visit his site to learn how to improve your life and your income.