Should you take on that new opportunity?

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Opportunities tend to present themselves in clusters. And as much as you'd like to be able to take them all on, you may have to say no to some of them. These opportunities may be one-time things, or they may be ongoing commitments. In the thrill and excitement of the moment, it's easy to just say yes and (over)commit yourself. Such ambition isn't a bad thing, but it needs to be tempered with some thoughtful analysis.

Here's a quiz I use to determine whether to pursue a given endeavor. It's not prescriptive and doesn't tell you whether you should or shouldn't take that new gig. It's just a list of questions that you should carefully think through and then answer.

Pre-quiz quiz

Before even considering an opportunity, you must be able to answer no to both questions:

Will this require me to engage in any immoral, deceptive, or misleading activity? (E.g. Marketing something you don't believe in, or)a pyramid scheme.

Is there a significant concrete cost to not doing it? For example, you’ve already committed and can’t get out. Or if not doing it could have serious, far reaching implications.

This is does not include “what if” costs like "if I don’t do this now, I’ll never do it" or "if I don’t do this, I won’t become a millionaire."

If you can’t answer no to both, then you have your answer. Do not proceed with your endeavor! If you can answer no to both, go on to the quiz.

Now for the quiz:

  • Will it require a significant time investment?

  • Will it necessitate additional commitments or costs? (e.g. purchase of new equipment, lead into another project, overcoming a learning curve)

  • Will it jeopardize another project or relationship?

  • If you begin to pursue it and fail (e.g. miss a deadline), will it have implications beyond the project? (e.g. reputation, future projects)

  • Will it overlap with an upcoming event that may impact it?

  • Is there an unrelated event that, if it occurs, would jeopardize the endeavor? (illness, internet outage, weather event)

  • Is my motivation selfish? This is not to be confused with self interest. For instance, you want to get a certification to advance your career vs. you just want to show it off and brag.

Assessing your answers

As you might have noticed, the questions are set up in such a way that a "yes" is bad. If you answered with a lot of yeses, consider that taking on the opportunity might be a bad idea.

Can the endeavor be changed to result in fewer yeses? This means an actual change, not just a change in perception. If an opportunity falls into the bad idea category, it is likely just that--a bad idea.

If you have few enough yeses that you're fairly comfortable with taking on the opportunity, it's still a good idea to wait a day or two and do the quiz again. You might think of some important details you didn't the first time.

If you're still on the fence, ask yourself one more question: If you don’t pursue it, will you regret it a year from now?