John C. Maxwell: Create Opportunity
People sometimes ask me when I plan to retire. They seem to think that I “deserve” to take it easy and put my feet up at this stage in my life. Maybe they believe retirement is a prize you win at the end of a long and healthy career.
The truth is that I can’t imagine retirement. My prize is finding more ways to impact others: I just turned 67, and I’m more conscious of the opportunities to do that than ever. It’s a good thing, too, because the possibilities keep coming. There’s a phenomenon I call “success momentum”—the ability to see an opportunity, seize it, capitalize on the success and then jump at the next chance.
Here’s a good way to think about life: Picture yourself walking through a maze. You’ll test all sorts of doors, some of which might take you to new and interesting avenues, some of which might dead-end. If you just keep opening doors and moving forward, eventually you will arrive someplace worthwhile.
You can build success momentum, too. The open doors of opportunity are all around you, but they won’t do you much good unless you learn to see them and recognize when to walk through them. Let’s consider how you can align yourself with the opportunities coming your way, and open doors for yourself.
• Keep walking. On your journey, you won’t find lights illuminating your path or signs stating that your destination nears. You could be on the verge of success and not even know it. Push forward! Perseverance pays. Most people don’t get to the open door because they don’t walk far enough. As Norman Vincent Peale said, “It’s always too early to quit!”
• Keep searching. Try new things. Watch to see what works for others.
• Keep clarifying. It is easy to miss an opportunity if you don’t know what you are looking for. The most successful people wake up each morning with a clear sense of what they want to create in their lives. That clarity of purpose makes it easy to identify a good opportunity.
• Keep working. As Thomas Edison said, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” I love that! Nothing worthwhile in life comes free. If you want bigger and better things, you have to be willing to work for them.
• Keep opening. Too many people get to one door, go through it, and say, “Whew!” They don’t realize that taste of success is really just a nibble. The only advantage of going through the first door is that it leads to a second door. A dozen doors later you are really starting to experience success.
Once you conquer the maze, you can turn around and guide others. To me, that is the highest form of success. I enjoy maximizing my own opportunities, but I find more satisfaction in helping others grow and achieve. Here are four ways you can become a mentor who opens doors for people to reach their own potential:
• Push them to grow. How often have you known people with remarkable gifts but no idea how to tap into them? Sometimes people don’t recognize their potential until someone points it out. Be that motivator. Help your colleagues identify their strengths, hone their talents and recognize their capabilities. It’s the greatest gift you can give.
• Be open to their questions. Let others gain from your wisdom and experience. Good leaders are accessible to their top performers and take time to answer their questions. Your wins and losses can be a gold mine for developing leaders. When you share how you think, your people gain insight that makes them productive beyond their personal experience.
• Give them chances to change. Are your people innovative? Do they like to develop new ideas? Give people ownership and allow them to problem-solve, create new products, or interview new team members. When people contribute to meaningful change, they feel pride in the organization’s success and responsibility for it.
• Provide opportunities for them to win. Momentum is a leader’s best friend. Your team needs regular opportunities to win together. I like to encourage friendly competition among my team. I offer incentives based on measurable results and watch my people push each other to victory. It’s a fun way to improve performance, increase profits and build team unity.
Opening doors for yourself and others builds a culture that celebrates growth, change and risk-taking. Opportunity-seeking can, in fact, become a habit. Tell your team members to be on the lookout for opportunities to improve themselves, the team and the company. Ask people to look at your processes, products and procedures with fresh eyes.
By doing so, you’ll take your business to a whole new level. You may find that team members begin to come to you with their new ideas and opportunities. When you communicate that you value, appreciate and implement good ideas from any source, you set your team up for success and encourage individual contributions.
Author Orison Swett Marden once said, “Don’t wait for extraordinary opportunities. Seize common occasions and make them great. Weak men wait for opportunities; strong men make them.” That is great advice. Start opening doors and never stop. Life is full of opportunity for those who are willing to look for it.