“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”—Winston Churchill

As we were putting this month’s issue together it occurred to me that a recurring theme is the idea of looking for new opportunities outside your traditional business practice.

When I first read what became our cover story about a marine archeologist using sonar technology to monitor and map shipwreck sites, my first thought was, “Why isn’t this article about a hydrographic surveyor, who was already familiar with the technology, recognizing the need for this service and filling a gap in the marketplace?” This month’s Aerial Perspective column emphasizes alternative ways for surveyors to use photogrammetry. And we are introducing our new Next Generation columnist, Nathan Buchholz, who appears to be entering the profession with the dual understanding that business models of the previous generations aren’t guaranteed to work for his generation and to have a successful career he will need to be ready to seize business opportunities as they arise.

In addition, I’m writing this after attending the first two days of the ESRI Survey and Engineering GIS Summit (about which I will be writing in more depth next month). This year’s theme is “Building New Opportunities.” I came to San Diego without much practical experience in GIS but with the firm belief that expanding the range of technologies surveyors are comfortable with and of services they offer is essential for those who want surveying to survive as a relevant profession. I’ve come away from the first sessions with half a dozen ideas about how I can use GIS technologies to expand my personal business practices and offer added value to my clients in the relatively limited area I work in, land development surveying.

I am intrigued by the quote from Winston Churchill above because I see it as only half true. While I believe that an optimist sees opportunity in difficulty, I can’t quite buy into the idea that it is only the pessimist who sees difficulty in opportunity. If opportunities came without difficulty, everyone would seize them. On the contrary, I believe that opportunities, especially business opportunities, are fraught with difficulty. Whether it’s having to learn new skills and thought processes, having to expand into new markets and develop new clients, or, perhaps most importantly, staying on the right path even though the initial results are discouraging—it’s the difficulties that define the opportunity.

Both the optimist and the pessimist see the difficulty in the opportunity. What separates the optimist from the pessimist is the ability to recognize that the reward for pursuing the opportunity far outweighs the risk. Just last week I was talking to a surveyor I’ve known for almost 25 years who said that if he were entering college now he would choose another career, that surveying has no future. I strongly disagree. Not only are there opportunities out there for the surveyor who is willing to look beyond the challenges we currently face, but the opportunity is there to be part of the generation that remakes the surveying profession.

About the Author

  • James Fleming, LS
    James Fleming, LS
    James Fleming, LS, owns Antietam Land Surveying in Hagerstown, Maryland.

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