Where opportunities come from

Jim Collins says that “Return on Luck” is one of the significant factors in extreme success.

It is not that successful companies or people have more luck… it is how they follow through on their lucky breaks that makes the difference.

One person might meet someone who could open a door of massive opportunity… but doubt and confusion mean that they don’t pursue the chance.

Another might meet the same person… and have the motivation, vision and competence to take the opportunity and turn it into a gold mine. Whether you are lucky or not today, you can invest in developing your clarity of vision, your competence, your network of trusted relationships – to be ready to maximise your return on luck when an opportunity comes to you.

Where Opportunities come from

“Stand in the traffic”

Prof Paris de l’Etraz, IE Business School, Madrid

Whilst luck is not controllable… there is something that I can do to increase the chances of lucky breaks occurring.

Prof Paris de l’Etraz of IE Business School in Madrid teaches a course on managing your life. One of his sessions is titled “Stand in the Traffic“. He says that it is important to place yourself physically and mentally where many opportunities are likely to flow. Your sofa at home is comfortable… but no opportunities are flowing past. If you spend your days at a business school… a lot of people, ideas and opportunities flow past.

Lucky Opportunities tend to be Stumbled Upon

The author of the Atomic Habits book, James Clear, has a wonderful weekly email newsletter. Here is a thought that he shared on opportunities…

from James Clear…

“Lucky opportunities tend to be stumbled upon, not handed out. 

If you’re waiting for someone to hand deliver an excellent opportunity to you, it’s unlikely to happen. But if you are exploring and moving—if you’re in the mix and engaged—then you’ll stumble upon many opportunities. 

The active mind comes across a lot. Keep tilling the soil and you will occasionally unearth something wonderful.”

Have a great Sunday.

If you liked this post, you will also like How to be Lucky (4 ways to improve your luck) and Serrendipity.

3 Life and Leadership Lessons from my Father

My father is by all accounts a successful leader. There are 3 “superpowers” that he has that I think have helped him have such a positive effect in each of these environments.

My father has had a long and successful career in business leading to a decade as the Chairman of the Board of Accenture, and then as a board member for several public companies, and now as a leader and advisor for arts, culture and universities.

2 years ago, I shared a list that my father made back in the 1980’s on “Leaders and Non-Leaders” which listed 40 contrasts helped him guide his journey as a business leader.

3 of my Dad’s “Superpowers”

  1. Remember people’s names
  2. Decide fast & Don’t think of it as “your decision”, (this allows flexibility to change without emotion/sunk cost)
  3. Never lose sight of the overall purpose & long term

I was in the medieval town of Pedraza again this week, where I made this video.

Other blog posts influenced by my father…

The $5 Challenge – A Stanford Strategy Story…

Back in 2009, Stanford prof Tina Seelig split students in the school of engineering into teams and gave them an envelope containing $5.

Teams had only two hours to generate as much money as possible. Each team would get three minutes to present their project to the entire class.

Here is Tina’s own article explaining the experience: The $5 Challenge

What would be your Strategy?

Check out the video below to hear how the challenge went… and how to use this thinking in your own life and business…

The teams that made the most money didn’t use the five dollars at all.

They realised that focusing on the money actually framed the problem way too tightly. They understood that five dollars is essentially nothing and decided to reinterpret the problem more broadly: What can we do to make money if we start with absolutely nothing?

In our own lives and businesses it is very easy to limit ourselves to “how do I do more of what I am already good at?” or “How do I use my current capacities to maximise return?”.

How do you do strategy for your life and business?

It feels good to share a video again… it has been 6 weeks of procrastination. Thanks to all of you who reached out with encouragements and ideas!

Build Strong Foundations

Build Strong Foundations before you grow higher.

Are you investing in your own Foundations – or are you building the house of your life on sand?

Leadership coach Luis Soares shared the story in the video below a few years ago on a leadership retreat for Vistage Spain.

There are two metaphors in the video:

  • Building a house on solid foundations before you build higher
  • The bamboo grows deep, extensive roots before it grows up

5 Areas where you can deliberately invest in the foundations of your life:

  • Health – get fit, eat well, learn about sleep
  • Wealth – build savings, have emergency fund (you could survive 6 months without income)
  • Network – connect to others, help them, demonstrate trust and competence, find mentors & act as a mentor (connect to 1 new person every week) (Webinar Recording: How Leaders Network)
  • Skills – read, study, practice (dedicate at least 10 days per year to professional development… or you are becoming “talentless” soon)
  • Spirit/Purpose – who are you? what do you stand for? where are you going? what are your values? (Finding Purpose: Step 1)

How are you building the foundations of your house, and of your life?

Be careful of Lazy thinking

We have a wonderful capacity to mess up our lives through lazy or fantasy thinking. We make blanket black and white statements… rather than seeking the shades of grey.

“I hate my job” -> what parts exactly?

Life is richer than black and white. You don’t hate every single part, activity, person in your job… be really specific – what do you like, what do you not like.

Solve the solve-able problems. If you don’t like something find a way to do less of it. Find someone who enjoys it. If you do like something, find a way to do more of it. Spend more time with the people who give you energy.

I love the approach of “Design Thinking”. Stay with your curiosity and take time to get the question correct. How do I improve my job, make a greater impact, feel like I am doing meaningful work, while being paid well, and enjoying my social life and with a family that is supportive of each other… you need messy questions to start to clarify what constraints, what changes, what problems you will stick with.

Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water

Days vs Years

Our emotional experience of life can depend on the time horizon we choose to look at our lives.

If you look at the progress of your life each day, there are many wild swings.

If you look at the progress of your life over longer time horizons, the wild swings blur into the background and a more steady sense of progress emerges.

Which lens are you using to look at your projects? and your life?

Serendipity

Definition: finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for

Last weekend, I asked my family a question: “what is your favourite word?”

My wife had 3 favourites. One of those words is “serendipity”.

Side note: My 6 year old had one favourite word. “Love”. She is a genius IMHO.

This week several events occurred where I found that the word serendipity was the clearest expression of how the important people and important opportunities have come into my life.

I’m on the train to Madrid this morning, and stopped to reflect on why this word came up and why it is so relevant.

What is the difference between serendipity and luck?

…from the Merriam Webster dictionary

“There is considerable similarity between luck and serendipity, but there are also settings in which one word might be more apt than the other. Serendipity has a fairly narrow meaning, one that is concerned with finding pleasing things that one had not been looking for, while luck has a somewhat broader range (with meanings such as “a force that brings good fortune or adversity,” “success,” and “the events or circumstances that operate for or against an individual”). One might easily be said to have luck that is bad, which one would not say of serendipity.”

Serendipitous Opportunities

I didn’t have it on my bucket list to do an MBA, it was someone else’s dream and they brought me along. Teaching was not something I ever imagined doing, and Brian Leggett opened that door for me. IESE now plays a huge part in my life and a huge contribution to my feeling of belonging in Spain, to contributing to society, and to developing my own reputation. Serendipity.

Vistage was not something I was looking for. I had no strategic plan that was looking for Vistage 10 years ago… I had a coffee with a friend, Verne Harnish, and he said “I think I have something for you”… and he gently pushed and encouraged me until I made a concerted effort to look at what the opportunity might mean for me. He did not just say “check this out.” He pushed me. I will always appreciate his encouragement.

EO was not something that I was looking for – I went to a lunch with a VC to get them to invest in my business… and Christopher invited me to a learning event… which led me to a 17 year participation as a member and a leader in EO.

How to Maximize Serendipity

Human relationships are the foundation of serendipity.

The more people that know who you are and what you stand for, the better.

Writing this blog and sharing my weekly youtube videos are my most powerful tools to let the world know what I stand for.

Publish content (blogs, podcasts, videos, articles) regularly. Don’t try to be an expert, publish what you are learning. Let people know what you are building, what is important to you, what sort of future you are looking to create.

People will discover you. They get a sense of what interests you. They become a global radar guidance system for you that raises your Serendipity Quotient.

The Tyranny of Convenience

Convenience makes things easy… but what is easy is not always whats most important, valuable or effective.

We choose between the options we see, not all the options… we’ve got to be increasingly careful that we don’t choose the path that is just easiest to see.

Convenience food… is not health food.

Tech companies work to make things “convenient” – but easy to begin is not the same as fulfilling or important for me.

Here’s the linkedin job post for Vistage Chair that I mention.

Here’s the original “The tyranny of convenience” article over at the NY Times.

Looking under the lamppost

photo credit: sketchplanations

A person out walking at night comes across a man searching down on the floor under a lamppost.

The man on the floor says he lost his keys.

“Did you drop them here?”

“No, I dropped them over there, but the light’s better here.”

Sometimes we can find ourselves working, or searching, or staying in the places where we find it easier rather than the places that are optimal for what is truly important or fulfilling to us.

Hard Choices

Hard choices are unavoidable: it is best to make them consciously.

Don’t let convenience be the deciding factor in what to focus on and what to neglect in your life.

Convenience makes things easy, but easiness is rarely what’s most valuable.

The real measure of your life management technique: does it help you ignore the right things.

Make Convenience work for You

Do not underestimate the power of convenience: Increase the convenience of what’s important to you. If writing more is important, leave a notebook and pen on your table. If watching less TV is important, put the remote control far away from the sofa. If drinking more water is important, have a bottle on your desk.

Freedom is not an Empty Calendar

What is freedom?

What is it to achieve freedom in life?

I spent many years thinking that “an empty calendar is freedom”. Recently a coach had me rethink this perspective… an empty calendar is dangerous… it puts my life in the hands of my “lizard brain” 😉

What are you aiming at? Are you working towards a life of “no obligations” or towards a life of “fulfilling obligations”?

Redefining Failure

“Living Safely is Dangerous”

Nietzsche

What is your relationship to success and failure? I have been reflecting these recent weeks about how I respond to “failure” – when things do not turn out as I hoped or wished.

The video below shares my thinking about a better way of approaching failure in our lives.

How I let failures derail me…

I let small failures easily put me in a state of frustration and stop me making progress (and then checking social media and seeking out other simple distractions).

I take small setbacks incredibly personally.

I’ve been reflecting on why I let these small failure events have such an effect on me.

I realised that I was telling myself that all setbacks are bad.

This is not a great story to tell myself. A new story is that failures are a sign that I am working towards important goals. A lack of setbacks would be a demonstration that I am only working towards easy, unimportant goals that don’t push me to grow as a person.

Essential Meaning of failure: (from Merriam-Webster dictionary)

  1. a lack of success in some effort
  2. a situation or occurrence in which something does not work as it should
  3. an occurrence in which someone does not do something that should be done
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