Small Opportunities Lead to Big Opportunities

By | February 18, 2019

[February 18, 2019]  It seemed like only a few years ago, but my first Platoon Sergeant gave me some good words of advice.  He said it was important to take on small opportunities that would lead to big opportunities.  At the time, I had no idea what he was talking about; it made no sense.

When people can “see” small opportunities and take advantage of them, they are more likely to encounter bigger opportunities that can have a greater impact on their lives.  Senior leaders are adept at finding large opportunities and naturally want to encourage people to make the decisions to take advantage of them.

Just before the radical Islamic terror attacks on 9/11, I took command of an Engineer Battalion.  Years before I was given a chance to command a smaller Company.  My boss seemed to think I had done a good job and indicated his appreciation by giving me a high rating on my annual evaluation.  This was the small opportunity that propelled me into gaining more responsibility and authority.

Anyone who has the desire and aptitude to seek out opportunities will be noticed.  My commander saw my good works as a company commander and gave this information to more senior leaders.  When I became eligible to be promoted up to the battalion commander level, I was contacted and asked to submit my request for selection.

Years later I would also be selected by a board of brigadier generals for Brigade command.  This was a command that had 17 company commanders that reported to me.  Brigade command is a big opportunity for which only a few officers even get to compete.  I was honored to be selected.  Several board members told me that I could see smaller opportunities and take advantage of them that got me selected.

It was Sergeant First Class Robert Kneedler, my Platoon Sergeant when I took my very first platoon as a Second Lieutenant that gave me advice that I should have understood from the beginning.  Thanks to his insight, mentoring, and patience, I was able to advance from an inexperienced Lieutenant with 33 soldiers to a General with 14,000 soldiers.

Today, I try to provide this same advice to those who I believe can “see” opportunities and take advantage of them.  As the old saying goes, when opportunity knocks … get moving!

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Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

20 thoughts on “Small Opportunities Lead to Big Opportunities

  1. Dennis Mathes

    Another good article at Thanks to all who give us commentary also.

    1. Scotty Bush

      Yep, that is why I keep coming back here. Glad you are on board, Dennis.

  2. Max Foster

    Much has been said and written about opportunities and why we should seek them out. What I think is that the point of Gen. Satterfield’s article goes beyond this and tells us that we should start with the small and the bigger will come. Others will see that we can take on smaller tasks and missions and those more senior people will help guide us to bigger and bigger opportunities. This is no revelation but most folks overlook it.

    1. Janna Faulkner

      Thank you Max. You are always pulling us back into reality. 🙂

    2. Joe Omerrod

      Okay, but what about those who are being prevented from taking an opportunity and thus shutdown from future, better opportunities? There is an argument that people are left out for reasons that are not ethical. Of course that happens all the time and should be viewed as something to stop.

      1. Eddie Ray Anderson, Jr.

        There will always be discrimination (I think that is what you’re getting at) and it is incumbent upon all of us to stand up and shine a bright light on it. Only then will discrimination be reduced to a point that it becomes only a nuisance.

  3. Georgie M.

    “The more you seek security, the less of it you have. But the more you seek opportunity, the more likely it is that you will achieve the security that you desire.”
    Brian Tracy

  4. Lady Hawk

    It helps to be creative and focused but even the slowest person can seek and find opportunities. Patience is a good thing to have.

    1. Forrest Gump

      Yes, great point. And what has made America great have been the opportunities given to everyone in this country. Since our founding, individuals and families have come to America to seek freedom, opportunity and the choice for a better life.

  5. Tony B. Custer

    Once you develop the habit of opportunity seeking, keeping your eyes and ears open, you will find that there are clues everywhere that can lead you to an innovative idea.

  6. Lynn Pitts

    The world is filled with surprising opportunities. It can be something small that catches your attention; a conversation you have with your grandma, seeing a young child play under a table or losing your keys at the beach. Absolutely anything can kick-start a great idea.

    1. Joe the Aussie

      Quotable quote from this article, “We spend way too little time opportunity seeking.” So very true!

    2. Mr. T.J. Asper

      Thanks. This is what I teach my High School students. An opportunity seeking person uses their skills to take up opportunity on which they can perform well that’s what it means.

  7. Army Captain

    Spot-on article about the idea of opportunities. They are everywhere. A person just has to take advantage of the small ones and the bigger ones will eventually come to them. Once you have experienced jumping onto smaller ones, the big stuff is easier.

  8. Willie Shrumburger

    There are many ways for the inexperienced to “see” opportunities and the most effective is to watch successful people and speak with them. You don’t have to be smart, beautiful, or strong. You just have to have a little brain power to pay attention and stay focused.

    1. Andrew Dooley

      Willie, you are soooo right. Too many just give up.

      1. Fred Weber

        Not only do we need to seek the opportunity to love the Lord, we should also seek the opportunity to do good. Just saying …..

    2. Gil Johnson

      I agree. Creative people are always on the quest for inspiration and new starting points. They know that opportunities can be found everywhere. They can appear in a surprising fact, or they can be hidden in something that you experience. You can find opportunities in every possible field.

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