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Are You a Visionary or an Opportunist?

Some people are visionaries, while others are opportunist. Which one are you? After listening to the Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Series, I thought I’d open my thoughts on the subject of visionaries and opportunists.

Photo courtesy of: graur razvan ionut


The Oxford Dictionary defines opportunism as “the practice of looking for and using opportunities to gain an advantage for oneself, without considering if this is fair or right.” I’m not sure moral rationale should be part of the definition, and therefore it can be simplified as “An opportunist is someone that finds and takes advantage of opportunities.” Does that sound like you?


Unlike an opportunist, a visionary not only finds opportunities, but they are able to sustain a vision – a direction. A visionary is able to differentiate between opportunities of the moment and sustainable opportunities for the future. A visionary is an opportunist, but a opportunist is not a visionary.

What’s the difference and why care?

If you’re always seeking opportunities without a vision, you’re going to be behind and on the back-beat of the future/industry. Trying to keep up with the pack is not nearly as fun as being chased.

  • An opportunist feels the temptation to take all opportunities that come their way.
  • Opportunists see the current opportunity as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, while visionaries know that there are many once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.
  • A visionary is confident that their vision won’t be hindered by masquerading opportunities that will inevitably take them off course.
  • Essentially, a visionary is able to differentiate between the opportunities that benefit the vision and those that detour it.
  • Opportunists are often lost when an opportunity is fulfilled and motivated by new opportunity rather than confidence in a solid direction.

‘Visionary’ is a a buzz word and if you’re like me, you probably thought a visionary was someone that changes the world. It can be, but it doesn’t have to be. We can all be visionaries. All it takes is a direction and a vision (a focused idea) rather than an opportunistic path of leaping from one open door to another. Jim Collins in “Good to Great” states that ‘disciplined people, who engage in disciplined thought and who take disciplined action’ can become great. This greatness, I believe, equates to the transition from opportunist to visionary.

With social media so prominent and news at our fingertips, constant distraction is inevitable. If you’re keen on keeping up with the latest and greatest, it’s clear that opportunity is everywhere. It’s not a question of whether there will be opportunities, but rather how we can leverage them to be an accelerator instead of a distraction.

Bringing it home

All of this may sounds like common sense, but chances are you’re more likely an opportunist than a visionary. Otherwise, we’d all be incredibly successful, focused, hardworking, happy and driven – and we know that’s not the case. I’m sure you’ll witness some of my own opportunistic tendencies scouring my blog. So before thinking “Of course I’m a visionary”, reflect on whether you’re motivated by opportunity over direction, feel like you’re a step behind rather than steps ahead, and whether you’re doing something sustainable. The first step to any transition is acknowledging where you need to transition from.

Questions: What is your definition of visionary/opportunist? As an individual,  team member, organization, boss or worker, are you an opportunist or a visionary? Has it helped or hindered you/work/life/business? Do you have a clear direction for where you’re headed? How did you get there? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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