I'm going to tell you something I've only told three of my closest friends: I saw a leprechaun once.
I did. And he wasn't on the side of a cereal box, either. Nope. It was still hours from breakfast, when I saw the little guy, in the flesh, standing next to my bed, staring down at me, where I had been sleeping.
He wasn’t cute and cartoonish either—like our General Mills friend, Lucky—but rather, he had a sloppy look about him. The sort of disheveled appearance you’d expect of any man, at four in the morning. He stood about four and a half feet tall, weighing maybe a hundred and thirty pounds. And he wore an outfit not dissimilar to Santa’s—except, it was green, of course. His hair was red, curly, and full, to match the beard surrounding his irritated scowl. He wore no hat that I recall. Or maybe he did. What I do remember, and distinctly, is the stale, sour smell he had about him—or maybe that was me. I'd been drinking margaritas, the previous evening.
Anyway, the point isn’t that I saw a leprechaun, or even whether I did. The point is what I did about it. Or rather what I didn't do.
Several years prior to this night, on an afternoon in November, my children—three, six and eight years old, at the time—came flying up the stairs, from the playroom, screaming with anxious excitement.
“We saw a leprechaun!” they said, over top of one another. "We need a box to catch him.”
"Hurry!" my son said.
I didn’t have a box. I offered them spatulas and whisks, instead—tools perfect for any childhood game—and a big blanket that I suggested they could toss over him.
Off they went. I didn’t go with them. I didn't believe in leprechauns.
Only minutes later they came moping back up again.
“He’s gone,” they said. And they settled in to watch television, escaping their disappointment for the lost opportunity.
So, what didn’t I do when I awoke to find a leprechaun standing within a foot of my person, well within my grasp? Well, I certainly didn’t try to catch him. Instead, I spent precious seconds convincing myself that he wasn’t there.
Then I yanked the sheets from my bed, but not to toss them over the scowling little man and demand his gold. Instead, I jerked them up over my own head, and had a stern conversation with myself about drinking too much, and delusions, and pulling it together. Then, a few good headshakes later, I peeked out again.
He was still there.
Up the blankets went again, for two full minutes, this time, while my heart beat fast with fear, and my rational brain argued with my wide and blinking eyes.
When I ventured out again, still nothing had changed, except for the leprechaun’s scowl; he was thoroughly disgusted with me.
Up came the covers a third time.
“Go away,” I finally said, loudly and forcefully, past lips dry from the previous night's imbibing, and thoroughly convinced I had lost my mind.
When I finally came out again, several minutes later, he was gone.
I don't expect he'll come knocking again.
So, why am I sharing this with you, this incident that—if a sane person were to experience it—a sane person would know better than to share it?
Well, in hindsight, it occurs to me that this evening fell sometime during the spring of 2008, around the time that the price of gold was spiking, and just months before the recession would land on my doorstep with a loud and heavy thud. A stash of gold would have come in quite handy around then. But, of course, I didn't believe in leprechauns.
So, there's a lesson that comes with this wacky experience, and it applies to all, the believers and the nonbelievers, and it's pretty basic: The first requirement of opportunity is that you believe. The second is that you recognize it. And the third is that you reach out and grab it, with all the enthusiasm and excitement of child at play. Then you have it: Opportunity.
And there you have it. My motivational gift to you. Happy St. Paddy's Day!