Throughout life we often let opportunities pass by, which leads to regret that can be both profound and seemingly endless.
When we miss an opportunity, self-doubt and fear of failure are often to blame. But we also pass up opportunities because of our lack of belief in the opportunity itself. As a child, did you ever plead with your parents to let you skip an activity because you thought it sounded boring, and then after they made you participate, you realized that you actually enjoyed yourself?
As adults, there is no one forcing us to open our minds and take a risk. Thus, our preconceived notions may prevent us from having a beneficial experience.
For me, it was a distrust of technology that led to a missed opportunity. In 2006 I was living in San Antonio, Texas, where I was a freelance music writer (in addition to my day job). In March of that year, a woman emailed a request for an interview on behalf of her boss, the founder of an Internet start-up who wanted information on the local music scene.
I agreed to meet her boss for lunch. Over sandwiches, a casually dressed man with reddish hair described his vision for an Internet service through which all styles of music could be accessed. The listener could search the online catalog for artists and be exposed to other artists of the same genre or style.
Being a bit of a Luddite, I was disinterested in listening to music online and I was skeptical of an approach that customized the music-listening experience. Still, this man was smart and passionate about his idea, and his willingness to travel the country collecting unsigned music seemed adventurous.
We talked about my favorite local artists, and I mentioned the CD a friend and I had recorded. After lunch, he gave me a business card and said I should send him a copy of my CD.
“I’ll make you famous,” he said, and then left.
It would have been simple to put a copy of my CD in the mail and send it to the business card address. I intended to do so; it seemed fun to see what might happen. Instead, I blew it off.
After returning to my native Kansas City about a year later, I heard someone mention the new Internet music service Pandora. It was the name of the company whose founder I had talked music with over lunch. Wow, he really made something of his idea.
Soon I knew friends with Pandora accounts, and eventually it seemed that everyone listened to Pandora. By the time I realized the scope of the opportunity I had, the email account of the contact had been disconnected. (You bet I tried.)
And the business card? It was long gone, along with the opportunity to be part of Pandora’s music catalog. It’s quite possible that my songs might not have had wide appeal among Pandora’s listeners. If I had gained some sort of following, who knows how that might have affected my overall contentment and life direction.
I had chosen a path by which publishing was my career and music my hobby. Besides, less than a decade later, Pandora’s own relevance is waning in the wake of a thousand newer Internet music services.
None of these truths prevent me from flinching when I hear the word “Pandora.” While my regret is neither profound nor unending, I still ponder the “what if” ... and the “why.” Why had I let my technological phobias cause me to doubt the feasibility of someone else’s dream?
I believe there is a simple reason. It was easier to be a skeptic than to seize an opportunity.
Brooke Palmer of Kansas City is an editor for a publishing company and freelance writer on music and nightlife. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.