The Cubic Centimeter of Opportunity

by Steven Snyder on March 11, 2014

author_book_steven_snyderI first learned about the Cubic Centimeter of Opportunity from my friend, Stan Halle, in 1983. I was contemplating two job offers, and had sought Stan’s advice which to take. One offer came from a well-known consulting company in Boston, where I was living at the time. It was the safer of the two offers—the other was from a virtually unknown company near Seattle. I had just come from a start-up experience that didn’t go well, and was leaning toward the more predictable path.

It was then that Stan told me of the Cubic Centimeter of Opportunity—that ephemeral sliver of an opening that appears in the ether. You need to decide whether to jump through it, or to pass it by. If you miss the window, it just closes up.

Well, I took the Seattle offer. And that unknown company was Microsoft.

Once you learn about the Cubic Centimeter of Opportunity, you keep seeing it again and again. You learn how to notice when it appears, and how to act upon it. You even learn how to increase the odds that opportunities will appear when you want them to. Soon it becomes integrated into your daily practice. Something in your gut tells you to seek out opportunity, and you find yourself unconsciously gravitating toward it. Over time, you learn which ones to go after, and which ones to leave behind.

Today marks the one-year anniversary of the publication of my book, Leadership and the Art of Struggle. Reflecting on this anniversary, I see how the Cubic Centimeter of Opportunity was an organizing principle that led me down this path, filled with joy and fulfillment.

But, today I realize that there is another dimension to the Cubic Centimeter that was not obvious to me thirty years ago. Back then, I saw material success as the criterion variable in judging Cubic Centimeter moments. That is, achievement was the only thing that mattered.

Now I realize that tangible outcomes are only part of a bigger story. The other part is in relationships that emerge as you pursue your aspirations. So often, these relationships are trampled upon to capture the material things we thought we wanted.

My book-writing journey has taught me something different. The relationships and connections were every bit as fulfilling as the more tangible metrics that so often cast a fog over everything else.

I express my gratitude and appreciation to all of my friends—both old and new— who have helped me during this phase of my journey. It is my hope that you too will realize the potential of the Cubic Centimeter, not only to achieve your dreams, but also so you can feel the warmth and glow of creating meaningful connections and community.

One final note on the reference:  Several years ago, I asked Stan how he came up with the idea of the Cubic Centimeter of Opportunity. He told me that he read about it in a book, but didn’t remember which one. I finally tracked down Journey to Ixtlan by Carlos Castaneda, who talked about something called the Cubic Centimeter of Chance. While Castaneda’s alliteration is cute, Stan’s replacing the word “chance” with “opportunity” makes the concept more powerful, which is probably why it stuck with me for all those years.     

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