You could have been successful and famous if only you had the right opportunity or a lucky break. But you weren’t born with the connections of a Rockefeller or the looks of Brad Pitt, so you are doomed to just being average.
Or at least that’s the story you tell yourself.
Emphasis on the word story. You may have even convinced yourself that your story is fact. After all, all you have to do is point to your life and say, “Look! I’m not a millionaire. I’m not a famous movie star. Clearly I am not one of the lucky ones.”
Stop for a second and just try this exercise now. Look around the room and find everything that is red. Keep going until you’ve spotted everything that is red. Found them all? Great.
Now tell me all the things you saw that were yellow. Wha.. What? You can’t think of a single thing that was yellow?
This simple exercise illustrates the fact that we not only tend to find the things that we are looking for, but the things we are not focused on actually become completely invisible to us.
What do you think your life would look like in 30 years if your default thinking pattern were to look for explanations for why you aren’t succeeding and won’t be successful?
What do you think your life would look like in 30 years if your default thinking pattern were to look for opportunities and think about how to be ready to pounce on them when they come along?
Just like the yellow objects in the room, opportunities are there. Your focus is distracted and you just can’t see them.
But you can do something about it. You can use a few simple mindsets to retrain your brain to be an opportunity radar that pings at the slightest whiff of possibility.
Interesting things happen to me.
A precursor to opportunity is simply noting different and interesting things that happen around you.
Do curious chance things happen to you? Have you ever struck up a conversation with someone while waiting in line and discovered that they went on vacation to the same place you were thinking about going to? Have you ever gotten a job because it turns out you had a friend of a friend someplace? Have you ever grilled a steak and discovered that you made an Elvis-shaped brown mark on one side?
Even if you think your life is boring, pour through your memories you’ll find a few chance occurrences that injected a moment of unexpected excitement into your life. Indeed, interesting things do happen to you.
Sometimes interesting things even go out of their way to find you. The other day I was walking the two blocks from my apartment to the subway on my way to work and got randomly approached on the street by a Japanese men’s fashion magazine and they took some pictures of what I was wearing right there on the street (photos to come if it actually goes to print).
Interesting is in the eye of the beholder. Brad Pitt would probably look at my life as pretty damn dull and see my random encounter with a magazine photographer as nothing compared to his many magazine covers. It doesn’t matter. Don’t discount interesting things that happen to you just because they may be commonplace to 0.01% of the population.
I have actually internalized the belief “interesting things happen to me” to the point that even if Brad Pitt were to call me out in person about that not being an interesting occurrence I would just think there was something wrong with him because clearly it was interesting and interesting things happen to me.
I feel lucky.
Do you have an overriding sense of optimism that somehow good things are going to happen? Do you prepare yourself for disappointment by just assuming that most things you try aren’t going to work out?
What kind of energy do you think you project to others if you carry each of those mindsets?
Feeling lucky is about believing that you’re sitting on a rising tide. Like you’re on the nosecone of a rocket that’s just about to take off. Like events are going to conspire in your favor.
You don’t have to find a million dollars hiding under your pillow to be lucky. Maybe you’re playing solitaire and the stars align for a perfect game. Maybe you pull up to a traffic light just as it’s turning green. Maybe you buy an iPad and the next day your friend tells you he tried to buy one but they were sold out.
Be constantly amazed at how lucky you are getting, no matter how small the event. Feeling lucky also gives you a certain charm that may cause you to get lucky in another way.
I’m into dressing sharp, and I decided to try getting some clothes tailor made so I looked up tailors where I live in New York City. There was a rave review on Yelp for Michael Andrews Bespoke by a client who won Esquire Magazine’s 2009 Best Dressed Real Man award. I decided to check out the tailor and it turns out the guy had started working there. I felt incredibly lucky to have the Best Dressed Real Man help me design some stylish clothing.
I am good at quickly recognizing, exploring, and taking action on potential opportunities.
As Nassim Taleb points out in his book The Black Swan, often a handful of watershed events have a disproportionately large impact on our lives.
Often the window of opportunity is narrow, so you have to be prepared to act on it quickly. Something as simple as being at a cafe one day instead of another could lead to meeting someone that you spend the rest of your life with. Finding out that your dream home is for sale the day before someone else could make the difference between you getting it or someone else.
Rather than thinking, “okay, this is something I will make a point to do in the future,” get a head start on yourself and look back on opportunities that you have seized in the past. Maybe you got a last minute invitation to an event that you wavered over whether to go or not, but you went and you won a door prize.
Large or small, if you look over your past you will see that you already are taking advantage of opportunities and you have the ability to refine this skill to take advantage of even more opportunities.
While you do want to evaluate opportunities and act on them quickly, this is not the same thing as acting rashly and blindly grabbing at everything.
When I first moved to New York I was looking for a new job. I attended a Czech Meetup group and randomly struck up a conversation with a guy there who also happened to be in internet marketing. I got to talking about various projects I had been working on and he suggested I come in to talk shop with his business partners.
While I was talking to him I didn’t have any intention at all of trying to get a job from him. In fact, when he first told me what his business was I was a bit put off by it. However, I believe that things generally work out more favorably when you go where you are wanted then where you manage to weasel yourself into.
It doesn’t get much better than an invitation to discuss working for someone, so rather than turn him down flat I decided to meet with the owners of the business and see what was what. At the time of this post, I still work for that company.
If I hadn’t been on my game and allowed myself to recognize and explore the opportunity further, I would have missed out on a good job and the opportunity of working with some guys that I have learned a lot from.
Acting on the opportunity quickly didn’t mean that I had to immediately seek and accept a job offer from them right away. I simply stepped into the process and allowed it to take it’s natural course. I was still interviewing at a couple other companies at the time and didn’t commit until I was sure that was what the best choice for me was.
Get Ready for Opportunities
When interesting things happen to you and you feel lucky, it’s only a matter of time before some genuine opportunities will present themselves.
And if you believe that you are good at recognizing, exploring, and acting on opportunities, then you will.
If it helps, use these three mindsets as affirmations. Repeat them to yourself in the morning or during break times and remind yourself of the times in your life where they are already true. Add new experiences that affirm these beliefs to your mental catalogue as they come along.