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7 traits of an opportunist

7 traits of an opportunist

Can you smell it? Kris Humphries can. He first caught a whiff of it when he and Kim Kardashian split - and now the engagement ring he once used to confess his love is going up for auction at Christie's.

Sinead O'Connor inhaled its aroma as she penned out her first - and second, and third, and (sigh) fourth open letter to Miley Cyrus. Did most Miley fans even know who she was before the feud started?

Donald Trump's nose tickled with it when he first discovered there was a market for girls who thought they were princesses - and were willing to fight(with class) for the crown. Charlie Munger seized the scent in the crisis of '09 - and turned a 150 percent return-on-investment as a result. Sophia Amoruso washes her fabulous clothes in the stuff - or so one would think, considering the fabulous success she's had with Nasty Gal.

It is the smell of opportunity - and every person listed here has a sensitive nose to it. For some, opportunism has the negative connotation of selfishness attached. However, in Opportunism: How to Change the World--One Idea at a Time, the author describes opportunity as "a positive asset - not a means to create wealth but a form of wealth itself."

Those who are privy to this sometimes-positive asset likely have these seven traits in common…

Seven traits opportunists share

1) They are creative

Opportunists see the world in a different light than most. Rarely do they find themselves "victim to circumstance". Rather, they create their own circumstance based on extrinsic conditions. Where there is a will, there is a way - it just depends on the person's perception. They consider opportunity their private property because they know they are personally creating it from personal chance.

2) They don't believe in "the norm"

The masses have been conditioned to follow a specific set of rules - as have opportunists. The difference between those who dive into oceans of opportunity and those who stay on the deck is that the latter feels uncomfortable bending rules in order to seize opportunity. In contrast, opportunists believe people can and should choose their own values, which brings us to…

3) The ends always justify the means

Opportunists are viewed by critics as selfish or biased. They are said to be willing to compromise "normal" values and principles in order to maximize gain. They are driven by the allure of success. It's hard to back down from any situation until they feel they've come out with a gain - no matter the cost. They hate feeling like they've given up on something prematurely, which means...

4) They have to be optimists

Opportunist behaviour is influenced by the general life situations we all find ourselves in. However, while some see no other choice but to cut their losses and move on (sometimes to group therapy), opportunists seek solace by targeting the silver lining. The only thing an opportunist sees as a pitfall is in not being an opportunist.

5) They are resourceful

Opportunists love resources - and they seethem everywhere they go. The old adage "the whole world looks like a hammer when all you've got is a nail," might be their mantra. They feel disadvantaged if they don't access every resource available to them. Make the most of what you have, honey.

6) They like to stay informed

Opportunists know information is valuable in itself. The act of using it to one's advantage is called intellectual opportunism. They understand that human knowledge can be traded in a market of ideas - or in some cases, swindled, haggled, and hustled with.

7) They are constantly calculating outcomes

Opportunists see the world in two colours: advantaged and disadvantaged. For obvious reasons, they prefer to be in positions of advantage - and feel disadvantaged if they are not within reach of possible gain. The process of opportunity, as described in Opportunism: How to Change the World--One Idea at a Time starts with identifying opportunity and continues with selecting the right alternative and appropriate way to attain it - either immediately or sometime in the future.

When opportunism goes wrong

Wathne and Heide divided opportunism into these two categories in 2000: active opportunism and passive opportunism. Active opportunism is defined as the act of violating certain restrictions to benefit one's self, while passive opportunism is defined as the lack of action to benefit one's self.

A study on the organizational impact of these two kinds of opportunism uses Mattel (MAT) as an example. The toy distributor contracted Lee Der Industrial to produce its toys with lead-free paint. Unfortunately, they seized the opportunity to cut corners and used lead-tainted paint pigment - and even falsified its certification. Mattel had provided a list of approved suppliers, but Lee Der went another way without first notifying Mattel - resulting in a recall of over one million products and $2.3 million in government fines for the toy corporation. This is just one example of active opportunism gone awry. If Mattel had known about the lead paint and not done anything, it would have been an example of passive opportunism gone awry.

But it's not always so cut (and prime, and paint) and dry.

Opportunity for change

Opportunism can be, as explained earlier, a very valuable asset. In fact, it's most valued in business, real estate, investing, insurance, and all sorts of lucrative career fields. An entrepreneurial opportunist will likely be a successful one - albeit one constantly having to explain that the ends totally justified the means. No, really! That time we didn't sleep for 72 hours and then grumpily yelled at everyone within earshot for the next 72 hours was completely worth it.

Just kidding. A real opportunist would never put themselves in a position of disadvantage - and sleep deprivation is a severe disadvantage.

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