To take your idea, business, or career, and turn it into something truly successful, we have to be capable of taking full advantage of the opportunities that come our way. However, despite what many of us have been led to believe, the best opportunities for success are often not the ones we stumble upon by pure luck. As Twitter co-founder and Jelly CEO, Biz Stone, explains in an article for Harvard Business Review, the absolute best opportunities are the ones that we create for ourselves:
Some people think of opportunity the way it’s defined in the dictionary—as a set of circumstances that make something possible—and they talk about it as if it just arrives organically. You ‘spot opportunity’ or wait around for ‘opportunity to knock.’ I look at it differently. I believe that you have to be the architect of the circumstances—that opportunity is something you manufacture, not something you wait for.
To “architect the circumstances” for opportunities, as Stone puts it, requires a few key critical components for creating our own opportunities:
Take even the lightest risks
“An extreme example of creating an opportunity led to my first full-time job,”Stone writes. While working late one evening as a part-time mover for a publishing company, Stone decided to secretly submit a design for a book cover project he saw sitting on a desk, even though he had no formal design training. The result of taking that risk? The company loved the design so much they hired Stone to be a full-time designer.
Audit who you surround yourself with
It seems obvious, but how often do we step back and take note of the individuals we surround ourselves with and, when possible, choose to work with? If we’re not surrounding ourselves with people who energize and inspire us, “smart and funny people” as Stone put sit, we’re likely missing out on opportunities to do great work. For Stone, surrounding himself with—and pushing to consistently work alongside—really intelligent and fun people is what allowed him to not only work at Google, but also allowed him to co-found Twitter and start his latest venture, Jelly.
Constantly push to evolve your ideas
Twitter was founded when an idea Stone and a co-worker had one day while talking about the value of brief status messages and the power of cell phone texting. The idea for Twitter only evolved when the two took their idea to Stone’s mentor (and boss) to flush it out into what would eventually become Twitter. They took what they learned at Google and Twitter and later made Jelly, a “search engine for everything in your mind.”
Communicate, more than you think you need to
Lastly, Stone emphasizes the importance of communication, sometimes more than you think is enough. “Our company is only seven people right now, and we’re all in the same room, so it’s easy to assume that we’re all on the same page,” Stone says, “But we’re not—I have to work to make sure we get there, even if I spend 50% of my time communicating.”
To create opportunities for yourself, you must be willing to take risks, surround yourself with people who are smarter than you, work to evolve your ideas, and communicate often. Follow these guidelines and undoubtedly opportunities will start to appear.
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