Years ago I read an anecdote in a Jay Abraham book that had a formative effect on how I view innovation and opportunism. I managed to track it down:

Two men were mugged. Neither one was harmed.

Mugger No.1 took the man’s wallet and all his cash – $85. Mugger No.2 took the other man’s wallet and cash, $70, plus his watch and his Princeton class ring. The watch and ring were not expensive and had no real street value.

Ordinarily, that would be the end of the story.

But, two days later, man number two walks out of his New York City apartment on his way to the office. He hears someone calling his name. He turns, and there is the man who mugged him, smiling and not at all threatening.

Mugger No.2 asks the man if he would like to get his watch and Princeton ring back. As both items held great sentimental value to him, he said yes. The mugger offered to sell them back for $500. The man only had $90 with him. The mugger accepted the $90, but instead of returning the watch and ring, he gave the man a receipt from a pawnshop. Later that day the man went to the pawnshop and paid $80 to reclaim his watch and ring.

Mugger No.1 made $85 cash. Mugger No.2…made $70 on the mugging, $80 by pawning the watch and ring, and $90 by selling the pawn ticket. Total income: $220.

Now, rest assured I’m not advocating mugging people (literally or otherwise). This story exemplifies how the same “transaction”, when viewed through entrepreneurial eyes, can be leveraged to reap greater rewards.