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5 Insights on Opportunities and Relationships

Ansel Adams was fond of saying “chance favors the prepared mind,” a variation of a quote by Louis Pasteur:

“Dans les champs de l'observation le hasard ne favorise que les esprits préparés,” or en englais:

“In the fields of observation chance favors only the prepared mind.”

Pasteur was a microbiologist, and the scientist who invented pasteurization (the process that keeps milk and other beverages fresh and tasty). Adams was a photographer who captured images of the American Wilderness in the 20th century.

Both were observers.

One of the weaknesses in the culture of entrepreneurship (or cult of entrepreneurs) is its focus on youth as the primary source of new and innovative ideas.  When I graduated from college I thought I knew it all; 35 years later what I know is I'm still learning, with the benefit of 35 years of knowledge, experience, and wisdom that grows with time.

I’m often encouraged by this passage from Proverbs 4:20-27, where the writer of Proverbs speaks again and again of being prepared by listening to, learning from, observing, and practicing what he has taught his child.

My son,
    pay attention to my words.
    Open your ears to what I say.
21     Do not lose sight of these things.
    Keep them deep within your heart
22         because they are life to those who find them
            and they heal the whole body.
23     Guard your heart more than anything else,
        because the source of your life flows from it.
24     Remove dishonesty from your mouth.
    Put deceptive speech far away from your lips.
25     Let your eyes look straight ahead
        and your sight be focused in front of you.
26     Carefully walk a straight path,
        and all your ways will be secure.
27     Do not lean to the right or to the left.
    Walk away from evil.

— Proverbs 4:20-27 GOD’S WORD Translation (GW)

If you were to ask me, my insights would be:

  • Purpose trumps passion—if you are confident in why you are driven to pursue your calling, your passion for it will inspire and compel you to achieve it.  Purpose is the foundation for a mission-driven life.
  • Relationships—Build relational bridges, and make every effort not to burn them.  These begin with your parents (and their relational networks).
  • Character— You can't fake character.  Without character, you may be able to create a positive perception for a while; eventually, those around you will see through the facade. Your true character is revealed through your words and actions, and people are always watching and listening. 
  • Words matter—Guard your tongue because what you say and how you say it reveals your character.
  • Hustle—If you don't know how to hustle (hard work and perseverance applied over time), you need to learn—now.  There's no room in your life or regard for lack of motivation.  Your family, friends, peers, and colleagues are watching.
  • Be willing to be mentored—You won't get the same depth of wisdom informed by experience from your peers who haven't experienced enough of life yet.  A mentor may be closer than you think; if you’re a young woman who needs a mentor, find one at The Aspire Foundation.  If you’re a young man, try Mentoring.org.

The people you meet today form the relationships that will make a difference in your life tomorrow and beyond.  What you learn today is preparing you for challenges and problems you will face tomorrow.

Time not only increases wisdom (if you’re listening, learning, and observing); time adds to the depth and network of relationships.

The opportunities you have now will be dramatically different than those that a combination of time and relationships will present later in life. The key is for you to prepare yourself for future opportunity, and be prepared now for the opportunities that you encounter today.

Listen. Learn. Observe. And put these things into practice.

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