LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas—An obvious trait I see in successful people is their ability to recognize opportunity and act on it. Success usually doesn’t come by sitting back and waiting for it to come to you. Opportunity may present itself to you or you may have to seek it out, but once it comes, you have to have the fortitude to seize it and do something with it.
Being in a leadership position in the Air Force has allowed me to watch opportunity play out. Some people look at an opportunity and watch it fly right by and wonder later why nothing good ever happens to them. Other people pounce when opportunity shows itself.
Opportunities aren’t created equally and the highly regarded ones often get offered first to individuals with previously proven abilities and skills. Individuals offering the opportunity are often risk adverse; therefore when it comes to selecting someone for the important mission, high-speed TDY or competitively selected position, the one who gets first crack at the opportunity is generally the one who’s already proven to be up for the challenge.
People earn opportunity by doing their job well, exceeding expectations and building trust. They create opportunity for themselves and don’t just sit back and expect it to come to them. They don’t disqualify themselves right off the bat for failing to meet basic requirements.
It took me a while to learn these things. My journey of joining the Air Force was sort of a happy accident and the good fortune of having good people looking out for me and pushing me in the right direction. I also did not close any doors on myself by not meeting prerequisites when I was in school (SATs, GPA, etc.). I didn’t have big plans of what to do after high school. Luckily, almost by default, I was able to attend my local state university and as luck would have it, they had an Air Force ROTC program, which my father pushed me into. I am glad I took advantage of that opportunity because it led me to where I am today. However, it also made me realize if I wanted to continue this path and make a career for myself, I needed to put in the effort and create opportunity or be forced to follow a path potentially not of my own choosing.
It was then I learned always to meet or exceed the basic expectations so that, even if I don’t like where I am today, at least I keep my options open so that down the road, I get to choose what I want to do and not let someone else decide it for me.
Opportunity isn’t created equally and opportunity isn’t always distributed equally either. Sometimes it’s just being in the right place, at the right time and having the guts to say "yes" when it’s offered. That can happen, but don’t count on it.
More often than not, being in the right place at the right time wasn’t an accident. You were in the right place because you worked hard and put yourself there. You can’t count on an opportunity to come while you’re just sitting on your hands. Take care of the things that are within your control. Don’t close doors on yourself by not doing what’s required or expected of you. Give yourself the opportunity to decide your own fate, your own future…don’t leave it in the hands of someone else to choose your path for you. Get out there and go get it!