Opportunities are everywhere. And if you add your imagination to that, you have an infinite variety of possibility that, when snatched by those with vision and daring, makes the world go round.

Most people struggle with the concept that opportunities are actually staring them in the face. They argue immediately from a defeatist position: all the jobs are taken; I’m too old, too young, not qualified enough; too much travelling; a fear of failure; not enough money; not enough time; it isn’t a comfort zone.

But the answer to the apparent dearth of opportunities lies in the fact that they are all there if you look for them, shimmering with tantalizing prospect – in your own mind.

Don’t look for the job, look for the opportunity

Before you can see something, you have to be looking for it. So the first thing you do is imagine the opportunities. Picture them, describe them, make them fit like a puzzle in the background of your current reality. Can you see them? A yard needs cleaning; a person who needs help; a system that needs improving; a solution to a problem. A better mousetrap.

Once your mind has opened and you’re motivated (even the wildest ideas are good) then you power up with further stimulation. And you begin by reading. Read anything and everything that inspires action and offers new perspective. There is an amazing amount of material out there, across a variety of options. Maybe begin with venture capitalists – how did they begin, what gave them their ideas? Then learn about investment so that you understand how money and business works. Read everything you can about investors, entrepreneurs, inventors, business management, patenting, etc. Make libraries your friend and investigate online courses. Attend workshops. Enroll for one of the many adult education programmes. Information liberates the mind, it does not block it up. The old saying that knowledge is wealth has never been more true.

Talk to an expert

Once you have done a host of quiet learning and thinking, talk to an experienced person about their success, their philosophy, their starter map, and gain their advice. Stay current with new developments. Not everything has been sorted, not everything has been done; the possibility of a different way to do something can be positively luminous if you keep thinking. There are errors everywhere you look, and every plan gone wrong may provide an opportunity.

Yes, get out there – even if it’s just taking a bus or a train to a place you don’t usually go to. This stimulates the mind; if you see issues that irk you, think of a solution – or think of ways that you would do things differently. Ideas are the brain’s real muscle – exercise it, make it work. Once the mind begins to generate ideas, more will come – and the opportunities that you couldn’t see before will come knocking. Remember, everything is relevant and may be used at a later stage, and connected to something else. That’s how discoveries, inventions and ideas work. Opportunities may be all around you, but that doesn’t mean you have the luxury of staying in one place. Change jobs, cities, countries – but never search blindly – always keep an eye on the moment and the kernel of ideas you have been building over time.

And time is important. Give yourself time. Time to think, time to nurture ideas. Nothing happens in a day (well, not always). Be kind to yourself – some ideas may be bombs, but if you keep exercising that brain muscle, you will become better at spotting an opportunity and formulating an idea that will work.

Problems should be welcomed

There is no better and more fertile ground for ideas and opportunities than something that need fixing. If you always think of problems positively, you are guaranteed to see more opportunities. So changing your mindset and approaching a problem with blithe enthusiasm will open a floodgate of potential. If you can practice leveraging the innovative potential of a problem, you will become more and more adept at finding solutions that work. And if you can present such viable ideas to your company, you would be creating golden opportunities for yourself.

Connectivity plays a big part

Search for the right people to assist you and support you. Never stay five minutes with someone who immediately tells you not to do something; always move with positive, enthusiastic people. The more people you engage with, the more opportunities may come your way. Network dynamically, engage generously.

Some ideas may come from small needs you see around you – like the amazing small business of ‘Just Junk’ which started with one man and a van – a person who saw a need and acted upon it. Or ideas can germinate from larger needs – such as Discovery who saw a gap in the market, or Capitec Bank who seized on the idea of serving the less wealthy or ‘unbanked’ population. Make sure your mind is open for business.

Know yourself. Your strengths and weaknesses

Before you fling yourself off a cliff, you need to know if you can fly. Are you utilising your skills to full potential? Does the opportunity truly match your skills set? This is not a measure for withdrawing from an idea, but rather to know how to strengthen up for the challenges. Hone your skills. Don’t be afraid within your company or business to put your best abilities forward, and to work on flaws to constantly improve

Get to the point where you can see opportunities and hone your ideas muscle to its best performance

There will be times when you don’t succeed quite as you’d like to, but always pushing forward with new potential is the way to go. When people see that you are passionate and determined, they will be motivated to follow you and support you. Keep them focused on an opportunity that is more than a dream, but has a solid chance of success. Play the cards in your favour: an open, agile mind; a sense of realism; a well-thought out plan; tenacity and a keen eye for business.

If you’re working for a company make every effort to understand the company. Actively look for unexplored opportunities and business objectives to which you can innovatively contribute. Use your initiative. In a company you will need to go further than possibility and imagination, you will need to win over the management to your point of view, so make certain to take care of the details. Learn to summarise, explain, and shine up the potential value of your idea. If you truly believe in it, it should fly.

Whether in a company or your own business, knowledge, imagination, a sharp eye, and a good dose of business acumen create the prime feeding ground for ideas. Opportunity is neither selective nor restrictive, but offers an infinite variety. The world is your crystal ball. The ideas bureau is in your mind.