[Outlook]Be aware of life’s opportunities

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[Outlook]Be aware of life’s opportunities

I live in Muk-dong, Joongnang District, Seoul. Not many people have heard of Muk-dong and people often mistake it for Mok-dong, Yangcheon District.
But if I say its pure Korean name, “Meok-gol,” people understand and know that the area is famous for pears.
It is said that the village was named Meok-gol ― meaning a village of Chinese ink ― because people manufactured and sold Chinese ink there during the Joseon Dynasty.
There are two stories that explain why people started growing pears in the village.
One is that King Danjong was exiled there during the Joseon Dynasty and he took up growing pears. He was later assassinated
The other story is that Eom Heung-do, a petty official, brought Danjong’s body, despite King Sejo’s warning that anybody who took his body would be killed, along with his sons and grandsons. Eum hid in the village and planted pear trees there.
In the early 1990s, most of the pear fields were bulldozed and the Sinnae residential area was established. My family moved into one of the apartments in December 1995 and has lived there since. A patch of a pear field is still left on Mount Bonghwa, right next to my apartment building. In April of each year, pear blossoms come out and I become intoxicated with the beauty. In the morning, I awaken to birds chirping.
But it is still not very far from downtown, so I can commute to work on the subway. I have been happy living in this area.
In the summer of 2001, my wife said we should move to an apartment in the former Olympic Village in Bangi-dong, Songpa District. She said she already checked out the apartment. But the apartment was so expensive that if we wanted to move we had to pay more than 100 million won ($100,000) on top of the price of our own apartment, even though it is smaller than ours. I said I didn’t want to move. So we stayed.
But since the autumn of that year, the price of apartments in the southern Seoul area kept surging. The apartment that my wife wanted to move to was 400 million won in the summer but soon it grew to more than 1 billion won. I regretted my decision. I should have moved in the summer.
But do I hate those who live in the apartment complex? No, I don’t. Was I jealous of them? No. I just blamed myself for making the wrong decision.
The British psychologist Richard Wiseman conducted an interesting experiment with the BBC.
He observed how people who believe they are lucky and those who think they are not behave in the same situation.
He dropped a five-pound bill near an entrance to a cafe where a competent businessman was seated inside.
And this is what happened. Those who believed they were lucky found the bill on the way into the cafe, picked it up and soon started talking with the businessman who had been a total stranger to them minutes before.
Meanwhile, those who believed they were unlucky didn’t find the bill, sat still in the cafe and did nothing. They were unaware of opportunities they had and what was going on around them.
Among the subjects of the experiment, one person had often won promotional gifts. He won not only basic goods but also a TV set, a car and even a voucher for an overseas trip. You could say he was very, very lucky. But Wiseman found one thing about this guy. He applied to promotional events of all types more than 50 times per week. Meanwhhile, those who thought they were unlucky applied to such event only once in a while, and if they didn’t win anything, it confirmed that they were indeed unlucky.
In the course of life, numerous opportunities come to us. We take them or miss them, depending on our lifestyle, habits, attitude, effort and thought.
We may not even see them as opportunities. Then, it is entirely our fault.
All of us want to make money, preferably a fortune.
At times we play the lotto, dreaming of becoming a millionaire, or we become envious of a singer who earned 20 billion won through real estate investment.
But some of us have prejudices about rich people because we think people get rich only through real estate speculation, illegal conduct and close ties with influential politicians.
But some become rich because they took advantage of the right opportunity given to them, or because they slept less, ate less, had less fun and saved more than others.
If we miss a chance now we shouldn’t blame others. We can wait for the next one. For now, I’m waiting for April for the pear blossoms to unveil their beauty once again.

*The writer is the editor of the special reporting team of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Sohn Jang-hwan
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