How to be, for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity

Someday you may be invited to a space, place, meeting, opportunity or community that we sense may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It could be through hard work, good fortune and deliberate intention, you are invited to:

  • interview someone you’ve long admired,
  • travel on an international fellowship,
  • hang out on an island with inspiring leaders, or
  • represent your nation at a global summit or competition.

You know it’s going to be amazing, someone selected you for a good reason, and it’s an invitation to step up personally and in your level of contribution.

So what do you prepare and engage?

If you’ve never done something like this before, how would you know what’s appropriate?

[ This post was co-authored by Bec Johnson and first published on LinkedIn here ]

Bec Johnson, and I shared this question. In response she intuited and embodied the way, and I made a list. Two different perspectives, yet aligned and complementary. So, we thought it worth sharing for anyone who may have the same question, and to see if others had better answers. Posting on LinkedIn, this article will focus on professional opportunities, but this way and principles may be relevant in other contexts.

The way, directly, is:

“be very, very present, learn and contribute”

Easy. Just be, relate and enact exactly that way.

And, your mind may chatter: “Yeah, but how?” or “What does that mean precisely, prosaically, practically?”.

So, below is the list.

As you read, feel what the words are communicating, and kinaesthetically find that in your experience, before you think about what that means for you, practically. The words are signifiers but aren’t the principles nor way to be themselves, and each person may experience, express and enact them differently.


  • Clear – Strip out all other commitments so you can be present, participate undistracted, e.g. communicate your unavailability to colleagues and clients, turn on email out-of-office, turn off your phone, defer or deal with deadlines that may distract you.
  • Prepared – Sort out all logistics, packing, your schedule and everything else practical, completely, e.g. agendas, transport, power adapters,
  • Healthy – Be responsible for your health, e.g. water, your dietary needs, and find gyms, pools or parks you can use while attending.


  • Ground – remember how you got here, on whose shoulders you stand, to whom you can be grateful, e.g. sponsors, founders, governments, those who saw or enabled your potential
  • Connect – prioritise creating deep relationships with others, and be social, e.g. share meals and walks, follow other’s leads, help others and be helped
  • Gift – take or create memorable artefacts for others, e.g. souvenir gifts, a shared photo album, or sincere thank you letters.


  • Intend – that this unique opportunity results in real learning. Intend that actually (not just in theory or abstractly) you will step up and get more out of it than you put into it
  • Ask – find questions at your limits, as this is the place and time to ask them, e.g. what don’t you know, what’s limiting, what’s possible?
  • Open – expand your attention beyond what you usually value. Notice limiting self-talk (‘How do I not screw this up’), doubting questions (‘How did I get here’) or self-imposed rules (‘I can’t say what I feel’) ….then relax, let them be. Open to serendipity, opportunity and say ‘YES’ to invitations.


  • Change – you are here, invited, participating to become differently purposed. Allow change towards better alignment, fuller expression and more inspiring embodiment to occur at this moment. Expect that you will be changed, affected, as will all participating, and the trajectory of your life and work after forever altered. This may be healthily disturbing – of your old patterns and priorities. So, practically, allow time for reflection, integration and re-organisation after, rather than going straight back to your old agenda.

If you can master this level of presence, contribution and learning for a unique once-in-a-lifetime professional opportunity, it may also be something one could do daily, or momentarily in any situation.

Perhaps, if we are very, very present, contributing and learning, then we are not just prepared, we are living in presence, learning and contribution. Living as though this one moment, one flow of interaction, and one precious lifetime, matters.


Dan Smith recommended the following additions:

  • Remember that they are all people. Sometimes we reduce ourselves (self-talk above) and question our ability. The people present are nearly always on your side even if they challenge you. Be confident and walk the line of tall but humble.
  • Don’t act to fit a mould or what you think is wanted. Trying to figure out what people want to see is a bad strategy in nearly all cases (eg job interviews!). Chances are you will get it wrong anyway, be your best self.
  • Finally, once in a lifetime opportunities come around more often than you think 😉 Relieve yourself of pressure and enjoy it.

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