As I grew up I was told things like, “if it’s meant to be, it will happen”; “if you’re lucky… [insert your dreams here]”; “all good things come to those who wait”. But now that I’m older I think that that’s all hogwash! Life is damn short, and if you don’t get out there and shake things up and make things happen, opportunities will be passing you by every day while you’re waiting for that dream opportunity to crystallise in front of your very eyes.
All of this reminds me of a joke my Dad told me as a kid. It was basically about a man who is stranded on a dessert island, adamant that God would save him. A rescue boat, a helicopter, and a seaplane come by and offer the man assistance, and each time he refuses, exclaiming, “God will save me!” At the end, the man drowns in the sea and when he gets to Heaven he asks God, “why didn’t you save me?” God responds, “I sent you a rescue boat, a helicopter AND a seaplane!”
I like this joke for a few reasons. Firstly, it highlights a person who expects the help to be in some kind of Divine form. When it appears in everyday form he dismisses it as not coming from God; it’s not in the form he expected. Secondly, I like this joke because it’s so true of so many situations in life! How many times have you been offered a great opportunity and you’ve turned it down, perhaps because you thought that the dream opportunity should somehow be thrust upon you? Or because it should be packaged differently? Little do you realise that to any great opportunity you simply need to say “yes”.
I’ve really taken this idea of creating your own opportunity on board. It all started when I took the plunge and left my budding career in the Pharmaceutical Industry to study Fine Arts for a year. I’d wanted to study Fine Arts in a tertiary setting for around 6 years, and because I’d instead studied Biomedical Science and Business (yes, quite different!) I thought it was time to study Art.
Taking the plunge meant a few things, including that I had no income. Considering that I was going to study Art, I thought I should try and get a job in a related field. This was difficult for me as I had no actual training or work experience in the area. So, I approached someone I knew vaguely, who had a business in French furniture design. I basically marched up to him with enthusiasm, blurted out my qualifications and how I could help him, and asked for an opportunity to work with him on a part-time basis.
It paid off. After a short time we worked out how I could use my skills in his business, and I ended up working there throughout my study. It was great! Not only was the business more related to Fine Arts than clinical research in the Pharmaceutical Industry was, but I got a great understanding of the operations of a small business (which helped me later). Plus, of course, I managed to earn an income whilst studying my passion.
It all came from thinking of what I wanted, who I knew, and making my request known and compelling. There is no way that I would have landed that job if I had sat back and waited for someone to offer me something. I didn’t really know anyone in an artistic field, and I hardly thought I was important enough that people would just come up to me and offer me what I wanted – as if they could read my mind!
The idea of creating your own opportunities is very apparent in Sir Richard Branson’s book, Losing My Virginity. Time and time again he saw an opportunity and threw himself at it in order to create something that would propel Virgin into ever higher levels of success. It’s quite inspiring and makes you think of what is possible if you start to see the world as a gigantic sphere of opportunity.
These days I take this idea everywhere I go. It’s quite astonishing if you think of all the connections you have in your life, and their connections, and how those connections may help you get to where you want to go in your life or career. It all starts with knowing what you want and telling people about it. Before you know it, people you speak to will be aware of what you are looking for, and you may be surprised at what opportunities may be presented to you. We all love connecting each other to great opportunities, don’t we? So, start speaking about your dreams and see who and what may materialise to help you get there.
Don’t wait for an opportunity to come to you. Be clear on what you want, and start telling everyone about it. Before you know it you will be presented with opportunities you had only dreamed of. Plus, when you are clear on what you want, you will start to notice opportunities out there in the world. It’s a little bit like when you are looking at buying a new car. Once you are clear on the car you would like to buy, you suddenly start to notice it everywhere. It works the same way with your dreams: once you are clear and know what you want, you will start to notice things out there that can help make that dream a reality.
So, get out there! Reach out for new opportunities willingly and fearlessly, and start to pull the world towards your dreams rather than wait for the opportunities to come to you. I’ll just leave you with this quote from Bruce Lee.
“To hell with circumstances; I create opportunities.”