Experiencing success after envisioning it, planning for it, and tirelessly working towards it is hard to beat. The only thing that comes close is a different brand of success–the kind you weren’t specifically expecting or planning for. It’s a different kind of found joy.
But unexpected success isn’t as random as you think it is. Especially if you can answer ‘yes’ to this one question:
Are you willing to do the hard work to create opportunity, not just corral it?
There are those that say the key to being successful is to be ready for when that moment comes. You know the drill, success = opportunity + preparation. That’s a good formula.
But even better is when you do more to control one of the variables in this equation–opportunity. My experience across 30 years in the corporate world and now four years in the entrepreneurial world has taught me that you can indeed create your own opportunities to invite success in, even if you have no idea what form that success will take or when it will come.
It’s about putting in the work to create opportunities, not just corralling the ones that present themselves. Here’s how.
1. Create an expert niche.
When I was at Procter & Gamble, I became the go-to person for inspirational talks within the company of more than 100,000 employees. While I was happy to give these talks, I was never really certain where it would lead me–but I knew in my gut that something good would come out of it (besides the help I gave employees along the way).
As it turns out, today I’m a professional speaker for a living, something I didn’t see coming when I started giving keynotes within corporate. Your expertise in a niche could serve you in the future, in ways you never imagined, too.
2. Always add value.
Anyone can be a bump on a log in a meeting or do just what’s required of a task they’re asked to do. But as a leader of others for over three decades, I can tell you that the people I always wanted to reward with more opportunities were those that sought to always add value.
They’re the ones that are all-in in that brainstorming session, peppering in ideas left and right, not just hoping that everyone else will cover for their being on auto-pilot. They’re the ones that volunteer to sum up who will do what by when at the end of each meeting to maximize productivity and forward movement and the ones who offer helpful feedback when asked.
You don’t set out to always add value in every interaction with a plan to be successful at something specific, it’s just a mindset. One that takes a lot of consistent, hard work. And it’s a mindset that when displayed, makes other people want to reward you and give you opportunities. Unexpected, unplanned for success from an unequivocally powerful mindset.
3. Ask much, expect nothing.
Two parts to this. First, being bold and asking for more opportunities from your boss increases the odds that more opportunities and success that you didn’t see coming will come your way. And yes, asking for more opportunities is hard work because you have to earn the right to do so. Once you truly feel you have, it’s no time to be shy about it.
The second part of this is to expect nothing of your ask, as counterintuitive as that sounds. The truth is no one owes you more opportunities, but often times people don’t connect the dots that you deserve them because they’re too caught up in themselves.
But just because you ask, doesn’t mean you shall receive. This strategy blows up when the ask for opportunities comes with a chip on the shoulder or an entitlement mentality. And if you go in not expecting much of your ask, by definition, it’s surprising success when you get it.
4. Commit to open-mindedness and optimism.
It can be excruciatingly difficult work to remain optimistic when things aren’t going your way. Likewise, it can be difficult to remain open-minded when you’re certain you’re right or are just too exhausted to be open to alternative ways of thinking or doing things.
But being both of these things puts you in position to attract opportunity. You’ll spot things that close-minded pessimists wouldn’t see if it was right in front of them. I’ve had much surprise success over the years come my way simply because of maintaining an optimistic, open-minded attitude. You can too.