“I feel that luck is preparation meeting opportunity.” – Oprah Winfrey.
I like this statement. I would add one thing to it: flexibility. You can prepare yourself to be ready for an opportunity, but if you have a set opportunity in your mind, you may not recognize all of the great opportunities that are out there, no matter how prepared you are. Open your eyes and be willing to change your perception of how you define an opportunity.
This reminds me of a story. I was working an a call center years ago (horrible job, by the way), and I was in a select and close-knit department. I was new to this department, so I hadn’t formed any close associations, but some of my co-workers had been there for 30 years, and I sat near many of them. Every now and then, the area would shut down for a briefing from the supervisors, and one day I was stuck on a call during the briefing. I wrapped up the call when my co-workers were coming back, so I asked them what was going on before I saw their faces. They were livid. They proceeded to tell me that our department had been assigned 2 new supervisors coming out of the leadership development program. One of them, “Carol” was a woman who had been best friends with someone who had been in the department, “Suzy”. It turns out, Carol had carried on an affair with Suzy’s husband (who also worked in the building) while Suzy was pregnant (2 pregnancies actually, the first one sadly ending in a late-term miscarriage). Suzy had transferred to a different part of the company about a year before I’d joined this department, so most of the department was very against Carol. Management knew this, so they assigned those of us who’d been there less than a year to Carol.
Now, I could have held what I’d heard (and I got an earful!) against Carol, but what would that have helped? Did I like or agree with what she’d done? Of course not. But, I decided that what had happened didn’t directly affect me. It really wasn’t any of my business. What was my business was the fact that she was now my boss. Knowing the background did help me, because I knew that she would be more inclined to like someone who was nice to her. So, I never gave her a hint that I’d heard the stories, and instead treated her like the awesome supervisor that I knew she could be. And that woman delivered! She supported me and my ideas, she was flexible and agreeable, and she was genuinely helpful. When I was interviewing to leave the call center (did I mention that it was a horrible job?) she pulled me off the phones to mock interview me so I could go into my interview more confidently. She worked with me regarding my last day in the department, and gave me a Hallmark card congratulating me on my move. Maybe she would have done this for anyone, but I really believe that it helped tremendously that she knew I had to have heard about her past and I didn’t let it affect how I treated her.
All of that to say this: if I had not been flexible, I may have missed the opportunity to have the best supervisor in my career. I could have seen her as a walking disaster and avoided her at all costs. Instead, I saw an opportunity to have a supportive and beneficial relationship. And for that, I feel lucky.