I once read about a person who had been successful at turning disasters into opportunities. Though I don’t remember a lot about how the person was so successful dealing with disasters, I do remember the following quote from the article: “I did it for nothing, because nothing is free.” It’s an interesting statement because, on the surface, it seems to give a good reason for doing something for nothing. Perhaps, in some strange way, it’s a good reason for procrastination.:-) On the other hand, the part that provides a reason for why it’s done for nothing is debatable.
Is nothing free? Yes, but only when its value is not positive or negative. So, what do I mean by that? Consider when nothing is food needed for nourishment. Does the food that you don’t get have value? Yes, and from the effect it has on you, the value is negative, but still a value.
There are many cases that I can imagine where nothing is not free. Consider doing nothing when someone is trying to conquer and enslave you. In such a case, nothing is not free, but could cause you to not be free.:-) And, what about nothing as your pay for a job that costs you much physical and mental hardship? The point here is that nothing is often not free.
I think the person who used “I did it for nothing, because nothing is free,” was talking about starting from nothing after a disaster, and then turning the disaster into an opportunity. Of course, this is a very admirable goal. Having stated that, it seems impossible to set goals for making a disaster become an opportunity. First, we would have to plan for a disaster while not knowing the impact, and then set goals from the consequences of the disaster to make it an opportunity. Wow! It’s one thing to plan for a disaster, but to plan for all possible consequences of the disaster, and then plan for making it an opportunity, is a bit much.
Now, there is a lesson to be learned here. I don’t think we should or could, have a goal of turning disasters into specific opportunities, but we can and should, look for opportunities that are unexpected. A disaster will undoubtedly involve some change, and if we look for unexpected opportunities during and after the change, we have a good positive way of dealing with what was originally, an unfortunate situation.
An example of an unexpected opportunity from a disaster occurred in my life last Spring. My wife was in a car accident that totaled our car. Though she, thankfully, was not hurt, our car was a “disaster” in many ways. The extended warranty on the car had just expired and we had the car in excellent condition with only 100,000 miles – ready to be driven for another 100,000 miles.
The car was a Toyota Avalon, fully loaded. I thought there was no way we would be able to replace it and therefore, would have to go deep in debt just to get something comparable. We spent a few days looking at used cars on reputable car dealers’ lots. The ones we found all had approximately the same mileage, but lacked the security of knowing the exact history that we knew about our Avalon. Buying one of them would cause us to pay a lot more than what the insurance would give us for our wrecked car, and we would end up with a less reliable car that likely wouldn’t last any longer.
One of the questions on my mind, before our car was totaled, was “how were we going to be able to replace the Avalon when it could no longer make the cross-country vacation driving we had become accustomed to?” I could foresee that, in about three years, we would have to replace our Avalon. So, if our car hadn’t been totaled, we still would have to deal with a major expense in the somewhat near future. The “opportunity” to get a different car was moved from the future to the present.
Our totaled car, though not major when compared to the financial disasters I have recently read about in newspapers, was still a financial disaster for my wife and I. We decided to seriously seek an unanticipated or unexpected opportunity from this disaster.
We went on Craig’s List and looked for low mileage cars that would be appropriate for cross-country driving. Within one day we found a car with 30,000 miles, in perfect condition, and it even had a better color than our wrecked car. The only caveat being the car was one year older than the Avalon. But, it was very low mileage, came with a complete verifiable history record, and was only a few dollars more than what the insurance company gave us for our Avalon. An unexpected opportunity from a disaster!
Is nothing free? When our car was totaled, we went from having a good car to nothing. Of course, because of the insurance settlement we had a check for about 70% of our old car’s Blue Book value. But, we did not have a car. So, with respect to our car, we had nothing. Was “that” nothing free? Free, as in “no cost?” No!
Is nothing free? Seldom, is my answer.