Malcolm Gladwell said it in Outliers, and I'll say it again: It takes time to achieve expertise. To be precise, it takes about 10,000 hours of practice to become a true proficient. This is no small investment of your life energy.
As such, it pays to spend time thinking about the kinds of opportunities you want to prepare yourself for.
If you're an advocate, what do you want to say to those senators? Start saying it now, even if you're speaking to an empty room at first. If you're a figure skater, what elements do you want in your Olympic program? Start practicing those elements every day.
Once you have seriously invested yourself, and have discerned what kind of opportunity you're looking for, keep your eyes open, because opportunity has a strange way of showing up once you've prepared. Said opportunity may be unexpected (the best ones are), but if you've put in the time beforehand, you can seize the opportunity when it arises.
Nevertheless, it's also essential to...
2. Realize that you'll never be totally prepared. (In other words, you may fail.)
Even if you're a professional figure skater who has put in 10,000 hours of ice time, it will still feel terrifying to take the ice for your Olympic short program. You don't know what will happen. Case in point: You may hit a rough patch and fall flat.
However, it's worth noting that many a short-program snafu has turned into long-program gold. As sports writer Robin Ritoss notes, "The short program has long been seen as where competitions have been lost—not won." In other words: Most of the world will see a stumble as a reason for you to give up.
You can choose see a screw-up as a reason to hope, an opportunity to grow. The best skaters take a fall and keep going with a smile. They have the ability to consider the audience perspective.
It's tough to smile right after you've made a mistake, but think of it this way: Is there anything an audience loves better than a good comeback? As author Mark Batterson writes, "Our best days often start out as our worst days. And our greatest opportunities are often disguised as our biggest problems."
This is also an excellent time to...