Be Opportunity by Paul Kim
We are opportunity. Each of us.
To be clear, what I mean is not to be confused with the idea that “life is an opportunity” or “our lives are opportunities to accomplish one thing or another.” And while I believe each and every human being is “pure potential,” what I mean here is something more than noting that a human life if full of potential.
Still, I am not completely sure I can articulate exactly what I mean. This could be a topic for The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows…
Each of us is opportunity in each minute of our lives. In a quiet moment of solitude, imagination can fuel limitless possibility about what we might become in life. In every interaction, we have occasion to choose to act according to routine or with creativity. We can choose the automated responses conditioned within us or move beyond them to be opportunity for smiles, surprise, or shifts in perspective.
If we are mindful, we can make choices about how other people experience us and in that sense we are opportunity. We can be a powerful space where we are creatively becoming to make the world better. And while there are conditions that can lead us to do the opposite, we always have the capacity to change. In Buddhism there is the idea that “nothing exists, all things are becoming.” I wonder what the world would be like if we all lived in a state of becoming opportunity.
As the son of Korean immigrants, I grew up in a family and a community in which people were always figuring out how to make a foreign land their home. By definition, my parents led lives of agency as they took advantage of the opportunity to build lives in the United States. From their experience, I think that I developed a sense of my life being an experiment in which I have to figure things out.
As the son of a Presbyterian minister who was raised within cultural context of Confucianism, I grew up with some sense that my life should be some sort of instrument in the service of others. The Confucian concepts of human-heartedness, reciprocity, and relationship, along with the idea of ministering to others in the community, were subtle but constant forces in my upbringing.
Over time, this has all translated into my life as a teacher. As a teacher, I would like to believe that the courses I teach are opportunity for students to see the world through multiple perspectives and better know how they might be in the world.
As an individual, I have always felt that I am opportunity for more. This became much clearer when I got married nine years ago and felt empowered in a way that may be best expressed with the words of designer Bruce Mau: “Now that we can do anything, what will we do?”
These beliefs and feelings led me to help start Dot-to-Dot Children’s Books when the opportunity arose to start the business with some former students. Over the course of a few years, we published 12 children’s books working with a dozen organizations around the world.
More recently, these beliefs and feelings, along with inspiration from sources like Kïrsten’s Chapter Be stories, have led me to start incubating Fleissig Design along with a friend. Although we are still developing our business model, we know that Fleissig (which means industrious and diligent in German) will use design thinking processes to help clients develop strategy, which of course involves how they relate to opportunity.
Although it is still counter to our cultural focus on opportunity as something we must always take advantage of, I see subtle signs in the world that people are moving toward an understanding that we are opportunity and we want to live as such. I believe that if we are opportunity, life and work are so much more positive, engaging, meaningful and FUN!
Paul and I met at Highlands Cork & Coffee and discussed what it means to be opportunity, and how the world might be a bit different if we all saw ourselves as an opportunity to effect change. To hear more, listen on…
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Paul Kim developed and teaches several design thinking based social studies courses at Colorado Academy in Denver. While earning his master’s degree, Paul began a twenty-five year teaching career that has been focused in independent schools. Since then, he has taught everything from kindergarten to college and he has won teaching and coaching awards along the way.
Along with some of his former students, Paul co-founded Dot-to-Dot Children’s Books where he helped publish 12 books with partner organizations from around the world. He has written for several publications, spoken at various conferences, including TEDx Denver Teachers, and was a 2009 co-chair of the N.A.I.S. People of Color Conference. Outside of work, Paul enjoys getting out and about to explore cities across the country. He and his wife Tami also love to entertain at their home in Northwest Denver.
*Images via Paul Kim, Grace Boyle and Chapter Be