THE BLOG

When Opportunity Knocks, Will You Open the Door?

03/25/2015 05:02 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2015

Some people are entrepreneurs who create and build businesses. Some people are infopreneurs who produce and traffic news and information. I'm an opportuneur. My definition of an opportuneur is "someone who takes advantage of opportunities and turns them into something meaningful." Here is another definition from business consultant Gary Brown: "Opportuneurs seek purpose and want to create change. They follow their passions and look for opportunities where they can use their talents to create this change."

An opportuneur is a bit different from an entrepreneur. By definition, an entrepreneur "is a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk."

Opportuneurs are often entrepreneurs but not always. I am a better opportuneur than entrepreneur. I wrote a successful book, Getting Things Off My Chest, that arose from my own personal experience with breast cancer with the mission to help others facing the disease make better decisions about their well-being. That's being opportuneurial. Creating a successful business service or product to provide for the emotional and nutritional needs of cancer patients is being entrepreneurial.

An opportuneur can take small steps to create something with less capital investment than an entrepreneur. You can write a weekly newsletter for the local community listing all the tag sales in the area (as a friend on Long Island, New York, has done). That's opportuneurial. Making that newsletter a revenue generating machine through paid advertising and affiliate marketing with local businesses is entrepreneurial. Here's another example more mission-focused: The New York City restaurant Blue Hill has created a pop-up promotion called wastED challenging chefs to create dishes with food kitchens normally toss out. Chef/Owner Dan Barber is seizing the opportunity to make a statement about the need to produce and utilize food in better ways to feed a growing population.

Sometimes being an opportuneur will lead to starting a business or organization. Other times it's creating something and then moving on. Yes, you can be a serial opportuneur as much as a serial entrepreneur. Here are six questions to ask yourself to think like an opportuneur:

1. If something bad has happened to you or a friend, what good can you learn from it and how you you create something that can improve the experience for others?

2. If something good had has happened to you or a friend, how can you create something to share it in a meaningful way with others to give them a similar positive experience?

3. If you have a passion for a cause, how can you make a meaningful statement through the resources and talents you have to share it with others?

4. If you need information and can't find it easily, how can you create a resource to make it easier for yourself and for anyone else seeking the same information?

5. If something unexpected drops in your path what can you create out of it?

6. And finally, how can you turn a happening in your life into a light of happiness that you can beam on others?

Just as great mind or idea should not be wasted, neither should an opportunity. As the saying goes "opportunity only knocks once." Sometimes it may knock twice if you are lucky. You can choose to jump on it or thump your head later wishing you had.