I will start this article with a little background on why I am writing monthly to my team. Truth be told, I feel obligated to create opportunities and enable people to take advantage of those, and then those who get exposed to the opportunities do the same for more people i.e. create more opportunities. Going back 7 or 8 years (I can’t recall), I had the same mindset having finished my 8 month internship at Study Sparkz. I feel that if I write to my team regularly, I can relay the mindset and thinking style which I believe would help exponentiate the effect I have had so far and amplify the vision and work. I really truly believe in the greater good above all.
Now, I do feel blessed to have had the opportunity to play my role at different companies outside the comfort of my home country, and being exposed to fast and result oriented work environments. However, I have noticed that most people build perspective around how any one who has got some success, landed their opportunity. Most people, I have noticed, are prone to believe that opportunities are; limited and scarce, only few and select who are lucky get access, that one needs to be extremely talented, very well accomplished, or have an introduction or reference to certain opportunities. In my case, none of the aforementioned has been true, based on which my perspective around opportunities is that; opportunities are created and manufactured. There may be all these exceptions listed above about getting opportunities where people do get lucky, get introduced, or have a shiny transcript or a variety of certifications that makes them technically qualified –but that’s not the only way to make a mark.
So what am I saying? I am saying:
- Opportunities are not limited or scarce
- Not only a few and select who are lucky get access
- One does not have to be extremely talented
- One does not have to be very well accomplished
- One does not need to have an introduction from an influential person to get introduced
I am saying that to get certain opportunities in life, all these things are great to have. And do not get me wrong, these may also be important to create the next opportunity after the first. However, my good news to you is that these aren’t roadblocks or dependents. There are people who make it everyday without having much of the above. You’re right and good question to ask, how do they do it? The straightforward answer is; Successful people enable themselves to think otherwise, and it’s that simple.
From my own experience and example, I am very strongly opinionated about not giving credit to a school, professor, an influential reference, my strikingly low educational or technical background, or to mere luck. None of these have anything to do with what I am doing today. However, like Snoop Dogg said upon receiving his Walk of Fame star; “I want to thank me for believing in me, I want to thank me for doing all this hard work. I wanna thank me for having no days off. I wanna thank me for never quitting. I wanna thank me for always being a giver and trying to give more than I receive. I wanna thank me for trying to do more right than wrong. I wanna thank me for being me at all times, Snoop Dogg you a bad **********er!”
Now obviously, there’s an element of mentorship, coaching and being inspired by one or multiple people you can look up to and there’s no denying the huge contribution it would make.
Table of Contents
How I define opportunity: An opportunity is what leads you to success, gets you your desired outcome, and helps achieve greater good.
Back to the topic creating opportunities, we need to understand how to really win at creating opportunities. There’s mindset, belief, resoluteness, and passion. But there’s more. Let’s take a look at my observations of what makes the real difference;
- Situational awareness and your impact
- Build yourself a great rapport
- Being courageous, confident and self-disciplined
- Actively looking for and engaging with people who want to push you forward
- Forming relationships that are mutually beneficial and being in it for the long run
- Building trust
- Building capacity (Mixing the right amount of grind, focus and persistence)
- Seeking and solving the unobvious and most challenging problems
Opportunities are created when you define the outcome and continuously keep that in mind, approach any and every engagement and interaction knowing the impact you want to make from it. It's critical to be able to look far. It is also critical to get yourself in places that open a door for you.
"The reason I ended up declining an offer to move to the US on an Operations Manager role at Study Sparkz after completing my internship, was based on my understanding and clarity of the outcome that I wanted to achieve from the situation I was in. My goal was to bring business and opportunities back to Pakistan to create; a positive impact on PK economy by enabling critical foreign exchange, help reduce the brain drain, and most importantly to create an abundance of the same opportunity that was offered to me for talented and aspiring young individuals back home who felt that opportunities do not exist in abundance. As a result, an offer that was made to me, I was able to expose that to numerous other people who were excited and thrilled about that outcome,learned heaps in the process and grew really fast and skilled even faster. People working with them grew at the same or higher rate. We continue to be successful in the effort and continue to impact lives. That’s the opportunity I wanted to create and make my impact with. The combined portfolio of businesses that came to PK as a result of my work employs over 200 individuals and we have positively impacted 100s of lives in the process."
Not being clear on what you want to do in a situation disallows opportunities to be capitalized on. Know your impact and how you want to shape your current situation to your desired end result, and voilà!
If you know what you are good at, publish that about yourself. Make sure this is evident, known, appreciated and occurs naturally when people hear your name. These are qualities and traits that standout about you and help you win friends and influence people. What's good to include in this are your core values. The more people know about what you stand for, the easier it gets for you to be known and become identifiabl .
I say above that being extremely talented and very well accomplished in terms of educational background isn't all important to secure opportunities. Why? Because courage, perseverance, confidence and belief in your ability to do well, and being self disciplined are unique and compensate for the missing items for the most part since you can always lear , grow and acquire skills. These qualities mentioned are not easy to get. However, they are not hard to acquire either. Psychologists believe that shaping your personality into something is mostly a switch that you turn on mentally. If you undoubtedly believe that you have certain qualities and deny every thought otherwise, you will gain those qualities and get better everyday in their application. Courage to stand up and lift your own game, your capability and capacity, being confident that there is no reason why you should fail or surrender, being disciplined in your approach by understanding what you need to do every day, and becoming consistent; is all but a switch that is placed in a part of your brain that only you know where it is and when to turn it on.
There are great leaders everywhere. When you find someone (a manager, team leader, higher-up at your company, or anyone outside the company) who is genuinely interested in helping you grow, seize time with them, make it a priority to sit down and chat with them, learn and acquire knowledge. Remember most people don't ask, so they don't get what they are looking for. Ask for time, ask questions in that time, and ask for more time where directions are getting aligned. I got aligned with the President at Study Sparkz (where I climbed my way up from intern to Country Head) really well by building trust, confidence and showcasing undying passion and commitment towards self-learning and continuous improvement. Trust me, those really are the most important things leaders look for when picking up next leaders. Great leaders spend time with people, align at a personal level by understanding ambitions and goals and develop genuine interest very quickly.
You need to look for benefit and gain, always. Anyone eyeing opportunities needs to understand that capitalizing on relationships is the most convenient way of picking up on opportunities. You need to know how to evaluate relationships and capitalize on these while having a very good read on people to know who to pursue and when to stop. It comes with the few factors that follow over the next few bullet points… However, one thing that always precedes a credible and lasting opportunity is your intent of being in serious relationships for the long term with defined and mutually visible common ground and objective. If that common ground and objective does not exist, there is very less likelihood for things to work as planned when things get intense. The common objective helps keep alignment through uncertainty and helps ride the toughest waves.
No relationship works well without trust whether personal or professional. Building trust is the most important contributing factor when it comes to being successful in creating opportunities through relationships. You can be very strong, highly technical, expert at analyzing situations and reading people but as soon as trust gets subtracted from the equation you stand nowhere. There’s various ways of building trust. I feel the most effective method to gaining trust in any setting is through having commitments and keeping them. Trust grows when you are action oriented, show strength and capability in resolving critical issues, and you are consistent with your personality, traits and qualities. More than anything else, trust is based on perceived value. You can try very hard to build it and one bad decision or event can leave anyone estranged from having it.
People often want to do a lot but don’t deliver. This makes anyone weak in keeping commitments. To get others to value you, and for you to fully utilize opportunities to your advantage, one of the first things you need to do is master the art of liberating yourself from things that do not matter to allow yourself space that you can use to capitalize on the things that actually do matter. In capturing opportunities, keeping opportunities intact, and ensuring that they turn into longer term successes; your ability to give focused time and attention is critical. This comes with being able to consistently do more compared to each yesterday. It’s been talked about a lot and we can never talk enough about the ability to grind with focus and being persistent. These three qualities make successful people conquer new heights. Humans did not just imagine being in the air and crossing continents above sea over an 8 hour flight, it takes high grit to get an end result. Refer to any of my previous articles and you will find me talking about it over and over. Opportunities get attracted to people that can put in the work and create more space. I have recently started asking my managers to be focused on finding more and more free time in their work hours and have a continuous objective to free up at least 30% of their time at any given point. It takes creativity, intent, good time management skills, and lastly a serious evaluation of the impact you plan to create and in doing that knowing what's productive VS what's distracting.
Opportunity seekers look for problems they can solve and take credit for. There are two sorts of problems that create the most benefit when they are solved;
- Those problems that have not yet been identified by someone else, or impending problems.
- Those that are seemingly very complex and people tend to avoid.
Note that for the second one I said “seemingly complex”, that's because most aren't approaching these and those approaching the problem haven't focused enough on solving them. In times when we live with A , (almost) nothing is unsolvable.
It is better to have no opportunity than to waste time with something you can't get passionate about or you won’t love being in the process for a long time before the end result is achieved. This is usually called alignment in an organizational setting. Seek opportunities and engage where you know you can live and love the process of doing, without getting burned out, or becoming a person you never wanted to be.
When there’s ambition to get somewhere and create an opportunity, it's always going to be a testing ride. From when I started building a team for Study Sparkz the first time in 2016 till date as I run two successful and profitable companies, there's discomfort everyday. This is where an entrepreneurial mindset, strongest of belief, resoluteness, and undying passion comes in. Creating strong opportunities comes with continuously dealing with uneasiness and making hard decisions keeping the bigger picture in mind. In order to be successful long term, you need to be in the habit of crushing it in ambiguity, through challenges, uncertainty, and adversity. You become better with time as you learn that staying calm and not being reactive, but being absorbing is key to coming out well every time. Running through pressure situations and picking the hardest job most times gives you enough practice runs to build "being absorbing" as your second nature. A calm head does wonders as you see things more clearly and you can spend time and focus to come up with meaningful solutions as opposed to being reactive. Being reactive to situations disallows you to capture the essence and learnings from the situation.
A lot of times people get stuck with making a call instead of just making a call. People overthink and it kills the fun. It creates a drag, destroys opportunities as they come and makes you lose confidence. When capturing opportunities, time is of the essence. You want to go left or right, just go instead of standing at the junction and over analyzing and weighing each pro and each con twice before taking the first step. If you fail the first few times, that's completely okay because you can reroute, adjust and adapt. What's most important is taking action and being in action because that's where the learning and the fun is and it will always be the faster route compared to only being in the over analyzing mindset.
This is coming last but holds very high importance in getting successful with opportunities once you have secured a spot in the competition. Continued learning by allowing yourself exposure to versatile and diverse experiences will account for how far you can shot-put your spherical ball. Self growth and allowing your growth to impact other people in gaining and developing skills allows you to take on challenges head-on. Narrow your area of focus by each 3 or 6 months to give yourself goals on what you need to acquire as knowledge and actively seek it through literatur , but above everything practical experience and application.
To conclude, opportunities do not happen. Opportunities are created and manufactured. This requires knowing and believing that you are capable of shaping situations, interactions and engagements to the results that you want to tie them to.
Creating opportunities for yourself is great. What’s even better is that the opportunities that you create have an impact on more than just yourself, and you enable yourself to change lives for other people. Not everyone is concerned about it and most usually look to make their own life better.
Real success, contentment and happiness is in creating greater good and bigger impact. How I see it, knowing that your actions result in helping people; become better versions of themselves, achieve more, and be happier with the quality of their life is the real definition of “creating opportunities”.