The game show Jeopardy has been in the news this past year for several reasons, the most tragic of which was the passing of longtime host Alex Trebeck. Another reason was their all-time champion competition which crowed Ken Jennings as the show’s greatest winner. This was due in part to him being fast on the buzzer, having a wide range of knowledge, and good game board strategy. Recently Jennings stood in as the first post-Trebeck host. Despite his skills at the game, he is very humble about the streak of 74 games in a row that made him famous. In a recent article on SI profile, Jennings highlighted an important decision that helped him win that first game during final Jeopardy. The answer to the last question (or is the question to the last answer) was Marion Jones. Jennings only wrote “Who is Jones?” which might not have been enough information for the judges to consider it correct. As he says in the SI profile:
“That’s the moment it all hinges on,” says Jennings of the split-second decision to accept a Marion-free Jones. “It’s comforting to think of the world as a meritocracy, that the right people succeed, but that’s not always true. My whole life hinges on whether or not I put a first name down and whether the judge nods right there. I feel extremely fortunate and I think about it literally every day, because I love what I do.”
One of the great mysteries is why some people achieve enormous success while others doing the same thing get very little. Those who thrive usually credit it to their determination, hard work, intelligence, or skill. A few honest people also point to luck as Jennings does above, but it is also more than that. In 2003, Jeopardy eliminated a rule that forced champions to retire after winning five games. When he went on the show in 2004, this rule change allowed him to go on his record winning streak. Compete two years earlier and he would have finished as another anonymous five time champion. Ken Jennings took advantage of a Window of Opportunity.
In a recent blog post, Tiago Forte wrote about how our opportunities are not unlimited. They come in specific Windows of Opportunity, an idea he learned from Space Adventures founder Eric Anderson. As Tiago writes:
A Window of Opportunity, according to Eric, is “A rare set of circumstances and a brief moment of time in which an otherwise impossible outcome is potentially achievable.”
He then shows how understanding this idea can change the perspective on timing when crafting goals.
Windows of Opportunity is a revolutionary way to think about goal-setting, because it recognizes that there is now one factor that is decisive in your ability to reach your goals: timing. Timing has become even more important than vision, hard work, or planning. That “T” at the end of SMART, which stands for “Time-bound,” is no longer an afterthought tacked on at the end – it is the most important element of your goals.