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Success Is Where Preparation & Opportunity Meet

I had a fascinating school run the other morning. School runs are many things, but fascinating is not generally a word I'd use to describe them; but this one was.


Let's start at the beginning, because this is a story of three follow road users. The first of our teachers on this day was the driver of a smoke emitting Nissan Navara, whilst travelling along a dual carriageway. I was in the outside lane and Mr Navara was on the inside lane right up the backside of a camper van, clearly desperate to move out, so I flashed my lights and attempted to give way to him. Nothing happened. Mr Navara perhaps hadn't seen me, so I flashed my lights again, giving him a second opportunity to extricate himself from his predicament, and he duly moved out in front of me to overtake the camper van. Not a hand up in thanks, or a brief flash of his hazard lights in acknowledgement, nothing. Oh well, thems the breaks.


Next up on my fascinating school run found me driving up a long road, in a residential area, with traffic lights at the top. It was rush hour, so traffic was backed up approximately a quarter of a mile away from the lights. As I was about to join the queue I noticed a black BMW sitting at the junction to my left, waiting to turn into the same road. I slowed down and flashed my lights, inviting him to join the minor traffic jam ahead of us. Nothing, he just sat there, so I flashed again, giving him a second opportunity to make progress in his day. Still nothing. For the love of God, what is wrong with these people? As I had tried twice to help him, and had to be on my way with my own life, I shrugged my shoulders and drove past him at the junction. The driver had his head turned towards his front seat passenger, with his attention clearly engaged elsewhere. I found this fascinating.

Here was a man who had positioned himself at the right place at the right time (I'm guessing) for getting to where he wanted to go, only to then let his attention and energy drift away from the goal of getting to his destination. Hmm. This life lesson slapped me in the face like a kipper in hobnail boots. Scale this example up from a minor traffic incident, to a metaphor for our entire lives. How many of us i.e.: start a business wanting entrepreneurial success, but then fail to look out for, or notice, the opportunities presented to us? Was Mr BMW expecting me to lay out a red carpet for him to drive over before accepting my invitation to join the queue? Probably not, but he had positioned himself at the junction specifically to make further progress on his journey - which I was happy to help him with - only to be distracted by something else. What a wasted opportunity. How much longer was he sat there waiting for another benevolent soul to let him out? Missed opportunities can never be recovered. Sure, someone else might - might - have let him out, but I wasn't going to reverse back to try again.


The third and final road user was Miss Ford Fiesta, who had parked on the side of the road to drop off her kids at school, and was now indicating her wish to join the flow of traffic. I counted five cars ahead of me who ignored her patiently blinking light, with little or no regard for where she might have to get to next. That's the thing about being selfish and childish in traffic, you never know where the other person might need to be. This lady could have been late for work, or had an urgent appointment to attend to; how did I know? I didn't know, but if I can be kind and considerate, then I will be kind and considerate. I remember having to make an urgent time-is-of-the-essence dash to the hospital once, only to be slowed down by drivers who could easily have granted me an easier journey. Of course they had no idea of the dire time constraint I was up against, but a little more all round humanity and humility would have made them more considerate to the possibilities. This experience has shaped who I am and how I drive.

The thing is, Miss Fiesta had done all she could to help herself in the situation she'd found herself in. The wheels of her car were pointed in the direction she wanted to go, her indicator and intentions were clearly visible, she exhibited patience and readiness for when I presented her with an opportunity to move out and get going. And this is exactly how life works. You have to position yourself as best you can and then be ready for anything at any time. You have to be constantly vigilant for anything that could possibly be twisted, turned, molded into and accepted as an opportunity, because (as Thomas Edison famously said) opportunities are often disguised as hard work. Too many people position themselves okay-ish, and then expect a red carpet to be laid out for them on the way to a Mercedes showroom. This is the definition of delusion.

Within less than one hour I witnessed Mr Navara and Mr BMW being unnecessarily delayed in making the progress they desired, simply because they weren't paying attention. I also witnessed Miss Fiesta's well-positioned attentiveness go unrewarded by five other road users, but that too is life. Just because you think you're well-positioned and ready to go, don't expect opportunity to arrive a nano second later, because maybe you're not quite ready yet, perhaps you have more to learn or do before you're the person you need to be to handle the success an opportunity will present you with? Don't assume you have all the answers and never assume you alone know what's best for you. The most you can ever do is your best in every situation, because that puts you in the best possible position in the next situation.

Mr Navara and Mr BMW were stuck where they were for longer than was necessary because they weren't prepared to meet with opportunity, so success was not possible until they were. This reminds me of a true story Elizabeth Gilbert conveys in her book Big Magic. Liz explains her theory of Inspiration Bubbles, and then combines it with an inspiring true story about the best book she never wrote. I urge you to read the book, because no one can tell this story better than Liz herself, but I shall highlight the key points here, whilst missing out additional key lessons in the name of expediency; which is why you must read it for yourself.

In a nutshell, Liz was once visited by a so called Inspiration Bubble, which she believes float over our heads and visit us when we're capable of implementing the idea. The outline for a book came to Liz, complete with highly specific events and characters to capture in written form. Even the title of the book was gifted to Liz, so she was all set and good to go. However life got in the way and Liz never wrote the book. Shortly after this the contents of the Inspiration Bubble left Liz altogether as she went about her life. A period of time later, Liz met Ann Patchett and they came long distance pen pals pursuing a deeper friendship. During their many letters and conversations, the subject of Liz's "best book never written" came up, and Ann asked after the plot line and details of the characters. Ann went on to be stunned and aghast to recognise the contents of the book she had only just finished writing, with almost exactly the same premise and characters (although the minute details and title were different). Liz laughed knowingly and generously, wished Ann every success and put it all down to not implementing the opportunity an Inspiration Bubble had offered her previously. It's important to know Inspiration Bubbles will drift off and land on someone else if you don't do anything with them, so grab 'em when they land on you!


Going back to my brief dalliance with Miss Fiesta, I was struck by how she held her hand up to acknowledge me letting her out, in a small gesture of thanks. This was not something Mr Navara had seen fit to offer, but that's more common than not now, isn't it? This was such a small courtesy, which cost Miss Fiesta nothing in time, money or energy, but meant everything to me. There was no sense of entitlement from her, that I should give way to her, but she offered polite gratitude when I did. It's sad how civility like this is less common nowadays, but therein lies another life lesson.

Gratitude is a powerful process for shifting your energy and bringing you more of what you want into your life. You get what you repeatedly think about, so think about what you want, as opposed to what you don't want. I want to be let out of road junctions, I want civility, I want a higher quality of life and engagement with others, so I must be the change I wish to experience. I must contribute to the cause. I can't be stomping around like Victor Meldrew, being rude and ungracious to those around me, whilst expecting reverence and grace from others. If you have the time and inclination, please consider reading my blog article: What They Happy Waggy Dog Saw for more on this. In the meantime please remember that everything you send out into the universe comes back to you.

If you choose to send ill-will and negativity out, that's what you're going to get back. Conversely, if you send out love, compassion and kindness, you'll get that back. Not all of the time of course, but because you're looking through your Gratitude Goggles, you'll find it often. You always find what you're looking for. No, I'm not let out of every junction. No, not everyone has a kind word for me, but that's a reflection of them not me so I don't take it personally. I feel bad for them for not having enough joy and reasons for gratitude in their world, which would otherwise drive them to make others feel as good as they do; but unless they're prepared to make a change, nothing will change for them. Let them go.

So now do you see how success is where preparation and opportunity meet? If you're not paying attention, like Mr BMW, opportunity will drive on by leaving you stuck in your present situation (behind a camper van, as per Mr Navara) for longer than is necessary. Miss Fiesta was thwarted by five other drivers who refused to let her out, but she remained vigilant and primed for when opportunity presented itself, and she was ready to go forwards when she got the chance. Opportunity, inspiration and motivation are transient little beasties, who will bugger off as quick as look at you if you're not ready with a butterfly net to catch them. So as my Mum used to say, be alert! She would also follow that up with "because Britain needs lerts", but that's besides the point.

Think back to when you missed out on something great because you just weren't paying attention. Now vow to never let that happen again. If you would like some more information about this, reach out to me and ask me about your Reticular Activating System, and how this can help you recognise opportunities in the future. Let's stop the waste and live the lives of our dreams.


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