“Success occurs when preparation meets opportunity”. Zig Ziglar
Our entire life is a process of preparation. Each moment is preparing us for the next. As we embrace that moment, it blossoms into the next seeding future opportunity and creating success. It means we’re evolving.
My earliest memory of being successful at anything was of creating a building out of blocks at kindergarten. One of those times you wish you had a cell-phone with a camera. Well, it was over fifty years ago before cell phones were even conceived. Would ‘ve been great to capture moments like that back in the day. Wonderful that parents these days can grab those memories as they happen.
I’m not sure how I prepared for that particular success. I imagine it was something like osmosis. This is the gradual integration of ideas, principles, knowledge etc. into our understanding of the world as we know it. I can’t remember my first day at kindergarten but I imagine I was in awe tinged with fear as I was deposited into this unknown environment for the first time. I’m guessing I was escorted around the place being introduced to my peers and having the important places pointed out.
It was probably pretty much the same as I do now when coming into new surroundings. I look around and discover the layout of the place. Then I turn my attention to what is happening in the interactions between those present. I tend to pick up what is happening emotionally for people so I endeavour to keep an air of detachment now in similar situations. Back then I think it was that sort of process only in a more rudimentary form.
Preparation takes time. There are elements that take just moments and others that take longer – may be days or even weeks. Even building with blocks. The time between working with the different shapes, and seeing how they fit together. Building simple structures initially until you receive a realization that something more complex can be produced. I vaguely remember being inspired by “Thunderbirds” and their home base when I put it all together. It was a wow moment as a toddler.
A Journey Preparing
I guess I’ve carried that with me as I’ve journeyed through life. Without really being conscious that it is happening I use building blocks as I embark on any new venture. I am a chef and at present working as a trainer and supervisor. The ingredients in any recipe are the building blocks for a dish. And each part of a work plan are the blocks that create the framework to produce the series of dishes that make up a menu. Commercial kitchens these days are of a modular design to achieve optimal results from appropriate workflows.
Preparation involves creating systems to allow all aspects of production to flow to the desired outcome. I remember when I was employed as a Catering Manager at an Outdoor Activities centre. When I say Manager – it was more of a sole charge “do-almost-everything” kind of position. During the first few months, I was finding my way leaning heavily on the staff already working there.
While I had no problems with my skill-set, I did struggle a bit. What was required came from the experience I’d collected 10 years before. From a cooking perspective, the transition was seamless, from the systems angle there was work to do.
Getting used to a new environment has its challenges. The first couple of months was a bit of a frenzy working 12 hour days and familiarizing myself with systems and processes, making new relationships with staff. I attempted to maintain the status quo in the first instance. When it became apparent that something the previous manager had been doing could be done better I changed.
I previously worked in situations where I had a captive audience and variety was essential. Now the diners would be here for 3 to 5 days and so I was able to relax. There were less building blocks to deal with.
As I relaxed I was able to bring more of myself to the job and consequently any worries I had begun to melt away. I had 2 part-time staff to help me when I first started and that was whittled away to 1 before the year was out. I hardly noticed as the system I was bringing in had begun to become solid. 2 of us could easily achieve what was required. And I was posting myself challenges along the way.
The site had 2 kitchens – 1 up the hill and 1 down. With 2 of us, it was easily covered if required. Towards the end of my employment there I lost my other worker and there were times when I had to work in both kitchens. A challenge I would’ve preferred not to have and one that held a degree of difficulty but was managed without loss of quality. The methodology I put in place to achieve this were again building blocks to its successful outcome.
Anywhere there are systems, structures have been built to support them. Courses have modular components that lead to successful learning outcomes. Visual technologies and vehicles come to us through the combination of many components. When we use these and achieve the results they offer we are successful. When we are successful we change our self-image for the better.
The building of Self-Image is a lifelong process.
Aristotle, the Greek philosopher famously said, ‘Give me a child ’til he is seven and I will show you the man’.
So much of self-image relies on the experiences we had with parents in those formative years. I imagine being in a constant state of absorption. Not only of food but everything around us. Was it safe?
We’d sense the vibrations around us. The vibrations of love, of stress, anxiety, anger, happiness, concern, care. Understanding when we could remain open to receiving, or when to withdraw our energy. It’s a response without judgement to the negativity we were experiencing, even though we couldn’t name it as such.
The self-image itself has a structure, a combination of elements – physical, emotional, intellectual, relational, financial, spiritual. All of these have a part to play in a strong self-image. When we move into making judgements and creating meaning around experiences, any that we perceive as negative can damage that strength. This not to say that an adverse incident can’t be beneficial in the long term creating a growth edge for us.
In a perfect world, our self-image would expand as we reached and moved through the different phases and stages of life. If only it was as simple as, “Oh it’s just a phase he’s going through”. To recognise some of the struggles we have as, “just phases”, and to notice that we are moving along to a natural conclusion, is healthy. There are other times when the shoulds, the oughts, the musts, and the can’ts arrest the passages of these experiences and the self-image begins to contract. If we don’t catch this contraction early and face it with openness this image begins to solidify. Once it has solidified we may need assistance to soften it up and allow it to expand naturally again. Friends, mentors, journalling can assist with this.
Each of the elements mentioned before needs to be nurtured to maintain confidence in the image we’re presenting to the world. A deficit in any of them can lead to self-doubt affecting them all.
I know when my marriage broke up life went into a slight downward spiral. The self-image that was generated by the love of my work kept me from sinking into a black hole. While my spirit and emotions were down, I was maintaining at a functional level the other aspects that created my self-esteem. Being in the Defence force at the time keeping physically fit was an essential requirement.
Intellectual pursuits have always been present in my life. That box was ticked. Most jobs have a relational aspect and being part of a team helped me with that particular feature of self-image. It is a career that has good remuneration so while not financially well off I was able to put aside money to see my children on a regular basis (they’d moved to the North Island of New Zealand). My self-image had reached a plateau and life a status quo.
We can experience self-image as a set of stairs. That plateau I reached was like a landing at the top of some steps. I hit a flat spot until life brought me something else to be interested in. This is the course of self-development. It expands our self-esteem. When we find another interest we ascend a flight of stairs learning what we need to know about that particular activity and on the landing, we absorb and apply.
Climbing the stairs
My stairs have consisted of foundations in counselling and psychotherapy, HeartMath, shamanism, mythology, coaching, education, and currently I’m climbing the stairs of Internet/Affiliate Marketing. These stairways enable us to reach the towers of our inner castle. The higher we get, the further we are able to see not only outwardly but also our inner selves. And when we share what we see we can change the world.
The journey of discovery is a search for treasure. There is work to do on the quest. We sail towards and over the horizons of our knowledge. Information gives us clues but not the full story. Practical application is the spade we use to dig for the gold. We unearth more opportunity and begin the learning process again. Our self-image continues to expand
Knowledge is the compass we use to traverse the oceans of opportunity. The speck on the horizon is where we find buried treasure. And we also find it within. When we take the opportunities that come through preparation and the expansion of our self-image we break open the treasure chest. Opportunities lead to increased confidence in our physical abilities, increased confidence in our intellectual, relational, emotional, financial and spiritual abilities.
Some of the opportunities that arise may be specific to only one of the abilities, while others may encompass more. Some may involve all of those elements.
When the student is ready
We’ve, most of us, heard the saying, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear”. Likewise, when the student is ready, the opportunity will appear. Opportunity is a teacher. Many times an opening became available when I was ready for it. And there is still a choice point at the cusp of each of these openings. When I did choose to embrace what life was offering there were still challenges to overcome. There were still obstacles on the path before reaching and knocking at the door to success.
I was talking to my mother today and she told me about a time when life offered her a choice – one that she took life up on. She told me she went and sat at the beach and watched the waves and considered the option that she had received. She said the waves had helped her make that decision. I thought about that and saw the beach as being any one of us. And the opportunity, as waves breaking on the beach and ebbing out to sea again. Choice is ever present. When we’re ready we can dive right in and ride our chosen wave.
The sea offers us another analogy for Opportunity. If you’ve ever watched the Americas’ Cup you’ll know there’s no greater sight than seeing a yacht running with the wind under a spinnaker especially if its a run to the finish.
You’ll know that there is a lot of gamesmanship and jockeying for position even before they get to the start. Their actions need precision. If they prepare badly and start too early the penalty is having to go round and start again.
When they’re tacking against the wind they work hard as they tack from side to side making progress up the course. There are times when they’ll stay with the boat that is leading so they don’t lose any position they’ve gained. Other times they may tack away from the lead boat and seek a stiffer breeze to enable them to get into the lead. Sometimes this tactic will pay off and the lead will change.
At the top of the course, they reach the first mark. They have to round the mark (a bhoy) and then tack away again to another mark. If they touch it on the turn they have to go round again. There are also penalties if one boat touches another, depending on the circumstances.
The way they work the boat is the preparation, what the wind is doing is the opportunity. Success is an organic outcome of what they’re doing and where they are.
What can we take away from this?
- planning is essential
- get your start right
- seek an advantage
- care and precision aid the cause
- run your own race
- plot any turns ahead of time
- be ready to ride when the wave breaks for you
- embrace opportunity as a teacher
Life breathes a sigh of relief when preparation meets opportunity. You can almost hear it when you say “SUCCESS”. The rose has bloomed.
When autumn segues into winter the roses’ sap stops running and they fall into a dormant state. Those who tend roses know this is the time to give them their winter prune. This is much harder than what they get during the growing season. In summer some gardeners may only remove “dead heads”, others may give a summer prune which will take the stem back to a point where it can easily support more and healthy blooms.
Removing “dead heads” and pruning are great parallels for our understanding of success. We remove anything not serving the process. We invest in whatever allows strength to flourish.
Witness the rose bush coming into spring after pruning in the winter. It’s fascinating. The stem manifests a pinkish blush where the new stem is about to come through. The rose seems coy about its future beauty.
Successful projects coming to fruition are beautiful moments.
Why then can we not define success for others? What makes its definition an elusive beast to catch for anyone but ourselves?
Only I know…
- what my success means to me.
- where I am on the path to manifesting success.
- what importance I place on the tangible and intangible outcomes of the success.
- the sense of relief when that sigh of success comes.
- what I want the future to hold once this goal has been achieved
Have you ?…
- articulated the meaning of success for yourself.
- defined the trail you’ll follow in the quest for success.
- decided what the tangible results (physical representations) will be.
- determined the intangible, but no less important effects (mental, emotional & spiritual).
- asked yourself, “Is there more”.
“No man is an island”, John Donne
Even as solopreneurs our successes don’t come to us in isolation. Yes, writing or any exercise that requires us to work alone can be a lonely occupation, and it can also be collaborative when we gather to share.
Though we can be alone in our work the experiences of a past shared with others create food for our thoughts. That food loads the cannon of our imagination and explodes on to the page. Emotion gives colour to the facts, metaphor and symbol enhance understanding.
I am grateful for those who people both my past and present and give thanks in advance for those yet to arrive that will assist in my future successes.
Any success leaves a trail of gratitude. We’re grateful to those whose example and experiences we followed on the quest for our success. And through our achievements, we lay down tracks for others to come after us, for which, no doubt, they will also be grateful. Being in gratitude creates a shortcut to further success.
As Rumi said, “What we are seeking is also seeking us”. And that includes success.