A little serendipity could lead you to some amazing places.
Years ago, my wife dragged me to a party at the home of a senior executive from her place of work. I didn’t want to go. I wasn’t interested in an evening of shoptalk, office gossip and inside jokes shared among co-workers.
As it turned out, I had a good time. One of my conversations that night led to an opportunity: the chance to serve as an adjunct professor at a local university. Thanks to that cocktail party, I ended up teaching undergraduate business students on Wednesday evenings for seven years. I thoroughly enjoyed it—one of the highlights of my career.
Because of my travel schedule, I “retired” from teaching in 2009 but still keep in touch with many of the students. In fact, two of them are now my colleagues, and one of them works in the office right next door to mine.
One thing I have learned from my experiences and the experiences of others is that great opportunities are often disguised. They are often found when you’re not actively looking and in places you’re not expecting to find them and from people you don’t expect to deliver them to you.
Anybody Could Be Your Next Great Connection
Even when you don’t want to attend an event, it might be worth your while. Even the person who seems least likely to know about an opportunity could end up being someone you need to know.
In the 19th century, the Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle told us, “A great man shows his greatness by the way he treats little men.” In 2015, great men and women show their greatness in the way the treat people who seemingly can do nothing for them.
To be successful, you certainly must build relationships with the “right” people, but be careful. If you become too obsessed with impressing the rich and powerful, you might miss out on the many other people who have wonderful opportunities to offer you. After all, those who are tiny in their professions today can grow to become big-timers in the future.
You never know what person could hook you up with your biggest client ever. Constantly build relationships now to sow the seeds of future opportunity. Any relationship has the potential to bear fruit if you simply tend to it.
The Opportunity in Your Own Backyard
When searching for opportunity, don’t forget the people right in your own backyard. Too many times, we are tempted to focus solely on those who are far away from us, the hard-to-reach people whom we dream of doing business with. In pursuing them, it’s easy to forget about the people already around you. They might know more than you think.
Opportunity doesn’t always smack you in the face; you have to dig a little. You have to “scratch the dirt” and “turn over the rocks.” Opportunity is always around you, but you have to put in a little effort.