Tuesday, December 16, 2008


73. Opportunity

According to the old adage, “Opportunity only knocks once,” and I suppose that for certain spectacular events that is true. On the other hand, I’m a potter, and I see opportunity in every lump of clay, in every pile of wood, in every estate auction or used bookstore or antique mall. I see opportunity in every student and in every audience. I see no shortage of opportunities, quite the reverse.
Some opportunities are, of course, limited by the calendar. You can enter countless juried shows all over the country but if you fail to get into this year’s ‘Strictly Functional Show’ you’ll have to wait another year to try again. Two years, if the show you had your heart set on was the Orton Cone Box Show.
Plan for it. The same delay that is your frustration is also your opportunity. Use the time to make more work, improve your skills, get better photographs, and to develop broader ambitions. Sure, having your work on the next Cone Box Show poster would be great, but so would having it on the cover of Ceramics Monthly, or on the promotional poster for the Smithsonian Craft Show, or on the cover of Time or Newsweek.
Focus can get things done, but focus can also make you crazy. Don’t turn focus into tunnel vision. Tunnel vision is an opportunity for social, psychological, and professional disaster. When you obsess about a limited number and range of opportunities missed or achieved you undervalue everything else and everyone else. You yourself lose value as a person.
Lighten up. Give the world the opportunity to give you things you hadn’t been looking for. Take another look at what you thought was good and bad in your life. Think through your ambitions in order to recognize their component parts and learn to celebrate your incremental successes. Stop looking for your one big break and don’t expect your future to come to you as a miraculous moment accompanied by the songs of angels.
You’re a potter, for heaven’s sake! Get some clay. Make something. How much more opportunity do you really need than that? You need to show your work? You need to sell your work? Improve your presentation and widen your search for venues. Most people would drown in this much opportunity.

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