First, allow me to extend my wishes for a happy, healthy and prosperous 2017. A new year brings new opportunities
So, what are the indicators of opportunities in this year? First, we have a new president about to be inaugurated. Second, there are changes and issues in our economy that present opportunities for anyone keeping up with what's going on. Third, the world, through the Internet, is changing in interesting, exciting and, often, dramatic ways. This always offers opportunities.
It doesn't matter what your politics are. It doesn't matter what your social or economic positions or conditions are. It doesn't matter who you know or don't know. It doesn't matter what your educational background (or even a lack of educational background) is. It doesn't matter what your gender is or your color, race, ethnicity, marital status, age (considering you're probably 10 to 12 years old or older). Nothing really matters when it comes to opportunities other than your ability to recognize an opportunity and your vision.
You might be saying – but, I just don't get the lucky breaks. To that I refer back to one of the pivotal people in my life. He is one of the several pivotal people I can directly relate to where I am at this very moment in time as I write this article and why I'm sitting here writing it. I'm actually in My McVansion sitting in the driveway of a friend I met through this very blog. He's been reading it for years and invited me to meet up a couple years ago. The location is about a block from the shore of the Gulf of Mexico in Florida near St. Petersburg.
A Few Moments In Time That Changed The Course Of My Future
The pivotal person who I refer to is one Major Jack Oswald. Jack was an Air Force major during the spring of 1969. But, I'll tell you more about him later.
I had completed the course work for my masters degree in TV & Radio at the Newhouse School of Communication at Syracuse University. I was 24 years old. It was during the time of the Vietnam War and the “draft” system was still very much a factor of life for all young men age 18 and over. I had exhausted all my student and any other possible deferments and was now “prime meat” for the draft. As a matter of fact, I had already been through a military pre-draft physical and, according to my Selective Service (an interesting name for “conscription”) Board in Paterson, New Jersey, I could expect my letter notifying me that my involuntary servitude was imminent.
I had already determined I wouldn't be drafted into the Army and potentially be assigned to some infantry group in Vietnam. Sure, I could have ended up with any number of other assignments in the U.S. or other countries around the world. But, there was no way to know how I would fare. I am not a gambler. I do take calculated risks, but I don't like anyone else controlling my life. That's obvious since I have spent my life in entrepreneurial pursuits and not working for someone else. So, I surely wasn't going to allow the government to decide the course of my life, even at that young age.
If I was going to have to go into the service of my country, I wanted to choose the branch of the service and I wanted to determine what I would do with that time. I like to think in terms of win-win outcomes. So, I chose the U.S. Air Force. This decision would require a four year commitment as compared to two years if I were to be drafted. It also was the service my father was in during World War II (although it was actually the U.S. Army Air Corps at that time).
I had been involved in the sound, recording and broadcast industry for six years by that time. I had founded and launched a radio station. I was a member of the Audio Engineering Society for about four years. I had completed a masters degree in TV & Radio. I had launched my small recording business about three years earlier. I had a pretty good idea of the career path I was pursuing for my life work. How could I take my aspirations and experience and the requirement to serve my country and merge them to my country's benefit and, ultimately, my own benefit?
I was determined to find that path. I decided I would fly to Washington, DC from Syracuse, New York, where I remained after I completed my masters degree course work. I would find the person in charge of recording services, radio and TV production for the Air Force. I would find my own position in the Air Force before I signed and dated the enlistment papers (which were already filled out, but unsigned and undated) and took the oath. I had absolutely no idea who this person was, where I would find him or even how I'd go about it. But, I was determined.
Enter, Major Jack Oswald
So, getting back to opportunities (and the occasional serendipity), I had an opportunity to hang out at the local “educational” TV (now public TV) station in Syracuse. I would freelance a bit. One never new who one might meet and what opportunities might reveal themselves.
This one particular day a family musical group (light rock) named “Free Design,” from Buffalo, New York was taping a video feature for the station. During a break in the shoot, I was conversing with the group's drummer. The topic of draft status (a fairly common conversation topic among those of draft age) came up and he said he was designated 4F, exempt for medical reasons. I said I was 1A - “prime meat” and could be called up at any moment. I then related my plans to fly to Washington, DC to find the person in the Air Force I described in the last paragraph.
Here is where opportunity, pivotal people and a bit of serendipity met. The drummer said the brother in the group, Chris, was going into the Air Force and was going to be assigned to the U.S. Air Force Band in Washington, DC. He then said, you don't need to go to Washington, DC to find the person in charge of recording, radio and TV production. He was sitting right across the studio from where we were sitting. He was the person who got Chris his assignment with the Air Force band.
That was how I met Major Jack Oswald. Jack was an unassuming man and, at first glance, certainly didn't give me the impression of being an Air Force officer. He was well dressed in civilian clothes and looked like any other successful person one might meet in a TV studio. I immediately excused myself, made my way across the studio and introduced myself to Major Jack Oswald.
We had a terrific conversation as he told me about his work and position in the Secretary of the Air Force Office of Information (SAFOI, for short). I told him of my background, education, experience and ambition to find a place in the Air Fore to serve the country and myself to the ultimate benefit of both. He liked me and I liked him.
I told him of my plan to fly to Washington, DC and find a person like him. To which he responded by indicating I had already met him right there and right then. He indicated that I would be an asset to their operation and he would “hire” me on the spot, but they were a close knit working team at his group on Bolling Air Force Base in Washington, DC (across the river from the Pentagon). He then made this statement that made him a pivotal person in my life,
“You make your own breaks. No one makes breaks for you. That's as true in the Air Force as in life. If you want a job with us, get on that plane and come meet up with us. If you get a thumbs up from everyone, you're in.”
I did exactly that. But, rather than bouncing around the huge government and Air Force complex in Washington, DC looking for the right person, I had the address before I climbed on the plane. The rest is history as the saying goes. I went. I met up with everyone. We all liked each other. I saw the operation. I was hired – before I signed and dated those enlistment papers.
The folks in Washington, DC tracked everything that happened to me from the moment I signed and dated the enlistment contract. I ended up in San Antonio, Texas for eight months waiting for my slot to open up in Washington, however, I spent the balance of my four year Air Force enlistment doing precisely what I set out to do. I won't go into describing the numerous other opportunities that came along while I was in the Air Force. None of that would have happened if I hadn't made my own breaks, sought the opportunity, connected with the right person, Major Jack Oswald, and seized the opportunity.
By the way, the time in San Antonio wasn't wasted either. I found an opportunity on Lackland Air Force Base to put my knowledge and skills to work while, at the same time, I found an opportunity with a small recording studio in the San Antonio civilian community. All of which advanced my chosen career path.
The Pooper Scooper Lady
I recently read the story of a woman on Long Island in New York. She had been a well-paid (six figure) mid level executive with a corporation located there. When the 2008 Great Recession disrupted the economy it claimed her job. She found herself unemployed. After a long search and applying to an untold number of companies seeking employment, hopefully near the same salary rate, but eventually at any salary she found nothing. Unfortunately, she was in that segment of the workforce that had become redundant. She was either over qualified or under qualified for the tiny number of job opportunities available in her region.
So, did she throw in the towel? Heck no! She looked around her. She asked herself, what do the people in this upper class, affluent area in which she resided, need? She discovered that many, if not most of the families in this affluent area had dogs. These dogs usually used the affluent property owners' yards as their person toilets. The affluent property owners found it not only distasteful to clean up after their pets, but certainly below their station in life.
So, this unemployed, former six figure, corporate executive founded a small business cleaning the dog poop from the yards of these affluent people. The pet owners were more than happy to pay her to handle this distasteful job for them. She soon was earning a very nice six figure income again. Not only that, but she ultimately was able to hire other women who found themselves in situations similar to hers. They all made very substantial incomes. The pooper scooper lady saw an opportunity and seized it.
It often bothers me when I hear whining young college graduates. They can't find the dream job with a salary starting in the high five or low six figures as “wet behind the ears” college graduates who have no real work or life experience . So, they go home and live (mooch) off their parents who may have spent a couple hundred thousand dollars educating these kids so they could reclaim their own lives and dreams. I honestly have no sympathy for these kids.
My solution? It's simple, if you can't find a job, MAKE A JOB for yourself, like the pooper scooper lady, a person infinitely more qualified than these kids. Opportunities abound. They are everywhere and all around us. And if one thing doesn't work, try something else. As the iconic Winston Churchill said, and I loosely quote him, “Never, never, never, never give up.”
Look back in your own life. It doesn't matter how young or old you are. Opportunities have been coming at you from all sides. Some you've taken advantage of. Some you've let go by the wayside. Some were mistakes and the results turned out negative. Some were the right things at the right times and you achieved positive results. Some you weren't ready for. Some you were ahead of the timeline and the world wasn't ready for you. The point is, there has never been a time in your life when there haven't been a multitude of opportunities.
Today isn't any different. We hear recent high school, college, graduate school and professional/technical training schools graduates complaining about there not being any opportunities for them when they get out of school. At the same time we hear about people who created their own niche – or as Jack Oswald told me to do, they made their own breaks. They didn't wait for someone to make a break for them.
Of course, not everyone is going to be the next Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Jeff Besos, Carly Fiorina, Arianna Huffington, J.K. Rowling, Oprah Winfrey, etc. But, do you have to be?
Ultimately, in my opinion, as a lifelong entrepreneur, it was never so much about the financial rewards of success. It was about seeking out opportunities and turning them into successes that would make life a little better for someone else. The challenge was to come up with a spark of inspiration and mold and work that idea into something tangible. Did it work every time? Absolutely not! But, plenty of them did. Many were ahead of their time and while I didn't succeed with some of my ideas, future entrepreneurs did. I simply said, I knew it was a good idea and I'm glad someone made it successful.
The Ultimate Opportunity
In my mind, the ultimate opportunity is to find a way to be personally free. It took me most of a lifetime to realize that I mostly limited or even imprisoned myself in jails of my own making. We've all heard the, probably, overused saying, “Freedom isn't free!” Truer words have never been spoken. There is a price for everything, but especially personal freedom.
We often admire and envy people with huge success and accumulated fortunes. But the cost of those successes and fortunes has taken a huge toll on their lives. And, even after they have accumulated vast fortunes, there is no real freedom. Sure, they can buy anything they want. They can live anywhere they choose. But, attached to all of this is usually massive responsibility. It often includes large numbers of employees one has an economic and social responsibility and obligation to. There are laws, rules, regulations, etc. that must be adhered to, often requiring banks of specialized lawyers and accountants. We may think they are freer than we are, but in reality, we are likely far freer than they can be in their high status, high profile positions. All that glitters is not gold.
So, what does it take to be free? The “ultimate opportunity” is the answer. What is that ultimate opportunity? I don't know. At least I don't know what it is for you. In my lifetime and experience it's been a game of trial and error.
First you have to determine what you ultimately want from life? Only you can determine this. Some people want to live in a large, fine home. Some want to drive exotic cars. Some want to have status and belong to the best country clubs.
Meanwhile, some want a small, cozy, comfortable cabin on a wooded mountain top overlooking a gorgeous view of nature. Or, perhaps they want a small sail boat they can sail around the world on. Or, maybe, like me and a million or more people just like me, they want to own a small, economical, comfortable (by their own definition) tiny house on wheels (self contained or towed). Then we can travel this and other countries exploring nature, history and culture while meeting interesting people of all kinds, shapes and positions in life.
Once you've determined what you ultimately want, then you can seek out the ultimate opportunities to fulfill your ultimate wants. Remember, it's not about money, though having some money certainly helps in most cases. But, you can't take anything with you on your final day on this planet . . . except your memories.
I personally believe humans, like virtually all animal life on this planet, were created to be free. And, when you're free you attain the ultimate state of mind . . . happiness. Who can say that anyone who dies with little in material possessions or money in the bank, yet lived a free life, on their own terms, happy with everyday he or she breathed in fresh air, leaves the Earth unfulfilled.
It's 2017 – Are You Ready For New Opportunities?
So, here we are at the beginning of a new year. It's really not unlike any other new year. Despite politics, economics, social unrest, the world continues to turn. And, just like last year, the year before and every year since humans began walking the face of this planet, there are myriad opportunities for those seeking them. Actually, there are more opportunities for opportunists than there have ever been before.
Whatever your current circumstances, you need to eliminate whatever negative attitudes and thinking you may have. Your mind is the only thing holding you back. Good old Napoleon Hill, in his book, Think and Grow Rich, dating back to the 1930's during the Great Depression, said, “Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” Some dismiss this as so much positive thinking brainwashing. Those are the naysayers and negative thinkers.
If you feel you are imprisoned in a life you created for yourself, this is the time to peek outside the bars. There are opportunities awaiting you, many of them. Maybe you need to buy an old van or utility trailer, equip it for travel and join some of us free living nomads traveling the country (or the world) and not only see the unlimited opportunities and the people who are seizing them, but seek out your own.
Life is short. It may not seem like it when we are young, but believe me, it goes so fast. Don't reach the end regretting what you didn't do or try. Reach the end reveling in all the opportunities you discovered and took advantage of. Remember we'll all leave this Earth with “unfinished business.” But, there's no reason to not experience everything and every opportunity you can during your brief tenure here.
Once again, my best wishes for a happy, healthy and prosperous (by your own definition) 2017 and remember to . . . live free and be happy. EH