I came across this article in the Huffington Post which talks about Essie Weingarten (creator of the Essie nail polish line) and her husband Max. One of the quotes from Max really struck a chord with me because it's something that I have believed for a long time:
"2. "Be lucky." This isn't something that happens to a lucky few, but a way of being you can choose: Embrace the good things that happen to you! Opportunities will not jump out at you and scream "opportunity!" You have to recognize them and seize them -- choose to be lucky."
When I was in 4th year university, as a part of my placement course, I had to attend lectures with guest speakers on career/workplace related topics. One of them told us something that I'll never forget. He said that good careers don't happen just because people are lucky or just because they work hard. He said that they happen when people recognize opportunities.
This lecture came at a time when I felt really lost. I was trying to figure out what I was doing and where I wanted to go. I worked hard in university, but with no real direction, that hard work wasn't paying off in a tangible way. Once I started looking for opportunities, however, my life started changing. I heard the term "emergency management" for the first time. I volunteered for extra projects at the law firm and my work was presented to a bunch of other law firms. I started volunteering for the Red Cross, and asking a million questions of everyone I met. And things started to fall into place, almost by magic.
The same thing happened last summer, after I had just graduated and was convinced I was never going to get a job. I was starting to get really down on myself, especially when I lost an opportunity to interview for a job that would have been perfect for me. I was at my aunt's house for a dinner party, feeling pretty bummed out, when I started talking to a guy about what he did for a living. He worked for a consulting firm that specialized in business continuity (which is the private sector equivalent of EM)--how random! He promised to share my resume around.
This fall, I happened to pick up the phone when a friend of my Dad's called. She asked me how my job search was coming and ended up being, I'm convinced, the reason I have the job I do right now.
A more personal example is my friend Anaïs.* She is one of the happiest, most positive people I know, and she has been through an incredible amount of tragedy in the last few years. To Anais, every day is a beautiful day and should be lived to the fullest. She can't control the terrible things that happen around her, but because of her inspiring outlook on life, wonderful things happen, too. She meets amazing people because of this quality, and those amazing people tend to present more unique opportunities--which Anaïs embraces. She is one of the most inspiring people I know, and I've tried to learn from her. It's only recently that I feel like I've been able to really understand just how powerful her attitude is.
There are a lot of days when it would be easier for me to complain, or frown my way through the day. I am having a spectacularly difficult time dealing with night shifts, for example, or waking up at 4:30am when I work day shifts. I've made some mistakes at work and been reprimanded and it's been really hard not to want to wallow a little bit. Instead, I'm focusing on the things I'm doing right--and there are a lot. Mostly I'm just trying to find pleasure in the little things: Listening to music on my commute. Having dance parties while I make dinner. The latte I pick up on my way into work. It's a process, but it's one that I'm finding more and more rewarding.
"Be lucky" sounds too simple. "Stay positive" sounds condescending. It's hard to tell someone going through a terrible time that things could be better with a change in attitude. I get it...attitude doesn't cure cancer. It doesn't give you a job. But I swear it's helped me get through any number of situations, and I don't think I'd be where I am now if I wasn't always on the lookout for opportunities.
Wake up smiling, and tell me it doesn't make your morning a little brighter.
*Anaïs's blog is in French, but even google translated, it's beautiful and well-written--although as a translator herself I'm sure she would be alarmed that I'm suggesting that google translate is even remotely accurate!