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Career Advice

Create More Opportunities By Asking Yourself This One Question


Not all of our big breaks in life come from those who are closest to us.

My family and I were in the middle of a 30-minute hike to a secluded beach in Menorca, Spain when we overheard a man ahead of us speaking to his family in English.

As our gap closed, I could see that he and his wife were struggling to juggle their two young children while carrying their bags, so I said hello and I offered them a hand.

Over the next three hours, our kids played together non-stop. While our wives went for a long walk the husband and I took turns snorkeling and building arguably the worst sandcastle ever made.

When we were parting ways, having learned that my wife’s sister lived on the island, the man asked us for some recommendations for things to do that were off the beaten path. Later that night, after my kids had fallen asleep, I sat down and wrote out the ultimate list of how to spend a week in Menorca.

The man replied the next morning with the following words: “This is amazing. Do you write? You should.”

Underneath his signature was a link to his website — it turns out he was a senior writer for one of my favorite magazines. I would later learn that his wife was a travel writer for every mainstream lifestyle publication under the sun.

At that time I had been tossing around the idea of writing more often and this man’s message gave me the kick I needed to get started. Today, we aren’t close friends — but we’ve stayed in touch. During this time he’s given me the heads up on some interesting opportunities.

You never know who you’re standing next to

In a world fuelled by deadlines, meetings, and to-do lists it’s easy to forget that sometimes the things that shape our lives the most are the moments in-between — when we stop, look around, and simply acknowledge the people around us.

That friendly face you see every day walking into your building — maybe she works in your sector and the two of you could help each other out.

That elderly man you see every afternoon picking up his granddaughter from school — maybe he wrote a book and he can give you some tips.

Opportunities in life do not appear out of thin air. They are given to us by the people around us. But that doesn’t mean our big breaks always come from those who are closest to us. Sometimes Lady Luck shows her face in the strangest of places. A chance encounter. A passing conversation. You have to be willing to put yourself out into the world for these moments to take place.

Everywhere we turn today we’re reminded to put our heads down and ask ourselves “Where should I focus my attention?” and “How can I be more productive?”

However, the story above is just one example from my life that reminds me of the importance of lifting up our heads every day and also asking ourselves — “Who am I going to meet today?”

Stopping to talk to the people around you. Getting involved in your community. These recommendations may sound basic but when done consistently they help you to create more future opportunities. This doesn’t mean that everyone has to love you and it doesn’t mean you have to run around all day acting like Positive Pat. Thoughtful and generous people come in all shapes and sizes.

Start by simply being polite and offer to help out the people around you when you can. Embrace the dreaded small talk in order to get to know what is important to each of them. Striking up a conversation doesn’t have to be fancy, a simple “Hi, how are you?” will do.

You may just find that by asking other people about their stories it becomes easier for you to write your own.