California is getting walloped by El Niño, which means it’s been raining pretty much non-stop since last week, but on one recent afternoon I spied a rare streak of blue sky outside, and abruptly ran down to the dock and hopped on my standup paddle board. The Sausalito waters had that syrupy calm after a storm, and while I wore ski gloves, it wasn’t even that cold.

Within minutes, I was paddling into a whirlwind of pelicans and seagulls that made me think about the new year and opportunities. The Chinese stockmarket is imploding again, naysayers are saying that the American bull market has peaked, and the 2016 presidential campaign race has all the sanity of a circus. Yet pelicans and seagulls have a lot to teach us. Driven to a frenzy by the annual herring run, they were all merciless in their pursuit of food.

Pelicans couldn’t care less about you. They whiz by your head and plunge from dramatic heights straight down out of the sky. Seagulls squabble and attack one another over a single silvery herring. This is opportunity in nature, and it teaches us about the primacy and brutality of competition. The new year is upon us and whatever the economic and political climate at some level your success will come down to how well you hunt. After two minutes engulfed in this feeding fray, I noticed something remarkable: the bird cloud was thunderously flapping toward another spot a few hundred yards away. News had spread that there was another school of herring, and just like that, a thousand birds took flight for another feeding opportunity. I too was hungry that afternoon – and seized an astounding, invigorating paddle despite the fact that my weather app was reporting rain. Before I returned to the dock, I soaked up a few precious minutes of sun and paddled with the seals, under my first rainbow of the new year. Rain was scheduled to fall again by evening and throughout the next day.

Opportunity knocks.