As those of you who’ve been with me for some time know, each year begins by picking a theme. What is the theme for 2016? Look for angels wearing overalls.
What does this mean?
Well, Thomas Edison told us, “The reason that so few people recognize opportunity is that it comes dressed in overalls and looks a lot like hard work.”
Why am I talking about this? Because dreams are hard work.
One way to make the process easier is to keep your eyes open for opportunities that don’t initially seem like they could benefit you. In my experience, these often look like requests to do pro bono work, bad networking events, or favors that don’t utilize my skill set.
What I’ve discovered, however, is that some of the most extraordinary clients I’ve worked with have been the result of connections I made doing pro bono lectures—and not just pro bono: pro bono in a remote location at an unspeakable hour of the morning.
Similarly, some of the most valuable experience I’ve gained has come from doing jobs and learning skills that didn’t initially seem worth my time. For example, as an editor I learned both copyediting and proofreading. Why? Because it gave me credibility with the copyeditors and proofreaders, which meant when I needed a favor, they were more likely to accede–improving my standing with those at the top.
How can you begin to recognize when the knock at the door is opportunity? One way is to examine your knee jerk reaction that thus-and-such is “beneath” you. Getting in the trenches will not only make you more effective at your job, it will make you a more effective leader. Two of my most successful—and well-liked– CEO’s are so effective because they took the time to understand the ins and outs of their employees’ days. One, a retail magnate, set himself to work folding sweaters during the holiday rush; the other, the CEO of a food services giant, learned how to drive the eighteen wheelers used to deliver his products coast to coast. Their experiences proved invaluable for building credibility and morale.
Another thing you can do is to accept any and all networking invitations. In this regard, networking is like dating: most dates you go on don’t end in happily ever after. That said—as with dating—you aren’t going to meet Mr. or Ms. Right by going straight from your office to the gym to an order of takeout.
In short, embracing Freud’s idea that: “For conquistadors, opportunities are duties,” ensures you show up for 2016 with the correct attitude: bold, curious, attentive.
Because your angel isn’t likely to arrive wearing wings and a white nightie….