Finding Gems In The Dirt.

On my morning walk last week, I looked down and saw a diamond earring lying on the sidewalk.

Yes, a real diamond, approximately a fifth of a caret, and excellent quality.

It was lying right out in plain sight, perfectly visible and sparkling in the sunlight.

But nobody else saw it — most people DON’T see the things that are right underfoot. Especially the opportunities that lie scattered all around us.

A few months ago, just as my wife and I exited the train station near our house, I found a wallet. Filled with money, but no identification. We turned it in at the train station, hoping its owner would reclaim it. Aw Son, Just HIT the Thing.

Six months went by, however, and the other day they called to say that the wallet and money (about $350.00) was ours.

But finding wallets or diamonds is not the only way to gain unexpected riches.

There are a million opportunities — little gems just waiting for somebody to pick them up, brush them off and profit from them.

These days, thousands of people are being downsized, laid off or otherwise tossed out on the street. No job. No prospects. No hopes.

What can they do?

Let’s talk about SMALL opportunities… things the average, non-rich person without huge assets, and maybe without a job or savings, can turn into a profit.

Mike, a friend of mine first came to Japan in 1965 with just enough money saved to study Judo for a few months. His dream was to become better at a sport he loved.

The mid-sixties was a time of fabulous growth in Japan. Companies were turning out massive quantities of goods for export to the Western countries. And all those products needed brochures and manuals in English, the near-universal language of business.

Mike may have been studying Judo, but he had a sensitive nose for opportunity. He visited several translation agencies and asked if they needed somebody to smooth out the English in their translations.

They did, and a new career was born. Mike went on to live many years in Japan, working first as a rewriter and advertising copywriter (neither of which he’d had training in), then eventually as a very successful translator.

Many years ago, I was out of work in a new city. I was not quite broke, though it was close, so I decided I’d start up a small part-time business while I looked around for something more substantial.

I decided on house painting. It’s easy to get into because few people want to do their own, and some of the professionals in the business are not very professional.

Art is not my strongest talent, but I spent about three hours drawing and re-drawing a simple, perky little painter character. It took me that long to get it looking good enough to use. Then I had an instant printer run me off a batch of business cards featuring that character as my logo.

Charles Burke
The Careful Painter

Note that catch phrase. A lot of people worry that when they hire a stranger, he’ll come in, sling paint around, and make a mess. Whatever business you decide on, try to identify a fear that you can soothe, making you a hero to your potential customers.

Next, I had the printer do up some more business cards, but these were on regular copy paper. He made them into pads of 50 each. I glued each pad of these “cards” onto a 3 by 5 inch index card and wrote “Take One” at the top. Dead simple concept.

About half of the grocery stores in the area had bulletin boards so that’s where I thumbtacked my little ads. I figured it’d take months to get semi-busy.

I was wrong.

The phone started ringing within two days, and after one month, I was working seven days a week and had a month and a half of work backed up.

Two years later, when I moved on, I sold the painting business to a friend for a nice little profit.

Moral of that story? If you don’t mind doing what others don’t want to do or can’t do, you’ve got a real opportunity on your hands.

Oh, I forgot to mention, I had never painted a house nor hung wallpaper before in my life. I just went to the library and checked out how-to books. For other info, I asked advice at the paint stores where I bought supplies. They were happy to help me.

Another time, I was in a small city of about 150,000. This was well before the age of computers.

I looked around and saw that there were only two or three fairly large typewriter repair shops, and they were expensive, so I went to the library and looked up a supplier of typewriter parts and tools.

The next day, I put a small classified ad in the newspaper, offering to repair typewriters.

Your Typewriter Repaired Fast
Satisfaction absolutely guaranteed
If it doesn’t work right, you don’t pay

That supplier gladly sold me parts in lots of one and two, and resurfaced the rubber plattens when they required it.

Again, I had never repaired a typewriter, but I managed to fix every machine, manual or electric, that came my way. My price was good, and I delivered fast.

Although I wasn’t flooded with work, it paid the rent, put groceries on the table and left me with considerable free time to read and goof off.

Today, the opportunity won’t be in typewriters. Think computers, web design, ad writing. If you have strong English skills, you can even do rewriting, like I did for more than 16 years here in Japan.

But you don’t have to go to Japan to find customers.

Consider how many non-native English speakers need help with the English on their websites. Visitors judge them by the quality of their English, and if they are not a native speaker, they will be judged harshly. It’s not fair, but they will be judged.

You could help them present a more professional face.

That’s just one possibility. There are literally millions of small (and not-so-small) opportunities out there. With some clever promoting, you could end up making a six-figure income without even having a product.

I’ve found that if you’ll just try, you can do nearly anything. There are always small gems, little opportunities, lying around just waiting for somebody to come along and pick them up.

But they’re often lying in the dirt. If a little dirt’s no problem, you can always make a decent living.

By the way, that wallet I found? It also contained 20 lottery tickets. When I checked them, there were no big winners, only two very small ones – but they did provide me 200 yen (about $1.50 or so).

Who says you have to win big to be a winner?

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