Opportunity (noun / op.por.tu.ni.ty / \ˌä-pər-ˈtü-nə-tē, -ˈtyü-\)
- a favorable juncture of circumstances
- a good chance for advancement or progress
Image courtesy of: Wikipedia
A little flashback…
Wile E. Coyote- the most hard-headed, stubborn, and pathetic cartoon character that I knew of. I didn’t care much about him when I was in my pre-teen years. I was all about the Roadrunner who I considered the fastest, smartest and coolest looney toon (right after Bugs Bunny).
Everything changed when I went to Spain. Oh, how the Spanish loved the Coyote! (Just as they love Tom more than Jerry, or the fact that they feel more sympathy for Elmer Fudd than for Daffy…). It took me a while to understand their perspective but it was only lately that I began to fully appreciate Coyote.
Exactly several weeks ago, I started to entertain different side projects and I reflected on how this character always saw the glass half-full. Only then did I really see him under a different light- the most determined, creative and hard-working animated creature I have ever seen.
Finding a job is generally hard, or at least not easy. Ask anyone unemployed and most probably they’ll give you the same answer, “The company’s not hiring”, “The firm’s actually laying people off”, “I can’t renew my contract because the department has no budget”, et cetera… Added to that is the fact that more and more people are better educated, more highly trained and some of them are willing to settle becoming underpaid just to have a job.
All of these challenges multiply to 20 times more difficult in Paris, under normal circumstances. It should come as no surprise, considering it’s a big city. It houses many international companies who daily face 10,000 times as much qualified people fighting to work with them.
Given the economic crisis/slowdown (whichever makes you feel better), it becomes 100 times extra harder to even land on an interview with the recruiters!
Thus, the day it finally dawned to me that I’ll never get a job in Paris, I stopped all kinds of activities related to job hunting* such as: checking job sites for vacancies, tweaking my resumé, and writing alternative versions of my cover letter.
What I did instead was to meditate on my situation and watch some cartoons. After enjoying a several episodes of the Looney Toons, I started to think about Wile E. Coyote’s unrelenting attitude about catching the Roadrunner.
Following are the lessons I picked up.
Lesson number 1: Change your game plan.
Ironically, the first lesson is something the Coyote never applied in his own life. For years and years for as long as I can remember, he would always resort to dynamites, bombs, anvils or other heavy objects and booby traps to catch the Roadrunner. Not once did he ever think to change his strategy. (For instance, he could bribe corrupt traffic policemen to arrest the other for over-speeding and he can have the bird handed over to him in jail.)
In light of this mistrust towards change, we should not wonder why the famished canine never got roasted Roadrunner on his dinner table.
Back in the real world, I realized how all this time I had done nothing but follow the same routine: look for a job, apply for an interesting vacancy that suits my qualification, tweak my resumé, tweak my cover letter and wait for their response. I believe the only change I incorporated in the last two years is re-sending my application after 15 days of not hearing from the company. This is not so bad. In fact, this is the way people normally find livelihood. But in 730 days, all I got were 5 job interviews.
Immediately, I became aware that I actually have to do something more productive- something that would actually turn in better results. So instead of looking for jobs, I started to look for opportunities- to showcase the quality of my written work, to build contacts, to reconnect with friends and peers from the past, to learn about other fields similar to mine, to discover different fields that have nothing to do with my expertise, to see what others are doing and to be inspired with what pioneering people are developing around me.
Perhaps I could liken my opportunity-seeking efforts to that of sowing. One sows a seed, tends to it, nurtures it and does all that it takes to produce a bountiful harvest. In the same way, I have this blog where I could practice and improve my writing and researching skills. Likewise, my social media activity has granted me access to dynamic people who have very interesting stories to tell, and who have allowed me the privilege of interviewing them. Although, it must be said that none of these transpired in a day.
As it is, this leads us to the second lesson…
Lesson number 2: Do be patient.
Exercise patience in practice- not in speech, not in theory, not in your mind, not as a “what if”.
How many times have we seen the Coyote go after the Roadrunner again, and again, and again until we get tired and turn the TV off without being told to? And during those times when we would watch him go at it yet once again: how often would we see him assembling traps, studying blueprints, constructing weapons? Then after having prepared his equipment: how frequently would we catch him hiding behind a cactus, a boulder, fitting himself into the form of a telephone pole while waiting for his prey to pass by?
Just as the Coyote worked hard to ensure that his ACME materials would work and that the bird would sooner or later pass his way, so does the farmer. For he is certain that he will gain something from what was sown. He also knows that for him to be able to gain anything, he would need TIME to do its work.
Not all that I have sown bore the fruits I expected and there were instances when the seed even turned to be a bad one. Yet I had no way of knowing until it was time to know. I was in no position to rush anybody or anything. Waiting is as much part of any process as the more active tasks. The key is to learn how to wait.
Lesson number 2.1: Learn how to wait.
This is something I had to learn from my own experience because unfortunately, not all of my “targets” move as fast as the Roadrunner.
The best way I learned how to wait is to make sure there is nothing left pending on my to-do list. Why not take a look at yours?
After marking every item with a check, proceed to ask yourself these questions: When did you last visit your dentist? Have you talked to your grandparents lately? What about that coffee date you keep on postponing with your former office mate? It may seem absurd now, but in keeping yourself active you won’t notice whether time is flying fast or slow.
The second best way I spend my waiting time is observing my surroundings. With the internet, I can do this not only beyond my doorstep but also across national and continental borders. By doing this, who knows what other opportunities are waiting to be unlocked?
Lesson number 3: Every result is a valid result.
In this case, the word VALID is not the same as DESIRED.
Notice how in scientific experiments, all types of results are noted down (if you did an Investigatory Project in high school maybe this will ring a bell). If there is enough occurrences of such outcome, it will be factored in drawing conclusions. Why is this? because we can always learn from the past, and there’s no better way of reviewing it than taking detailed notes.
Do you remember what the Coyote would do if the giant slingshot didn’t get him close enough to the Roadrunner? what about when the canon literally backfired on him? or that time when the rocket took him too far away? He would just keep on trying new equipment until he finds himself fallen in a ravine, crushed under a ton of boulders (or an anvil).
I never take any failure for granted. I write down everything I could describe, all that I could remember and I try to consider them the next time there is another opportunity to seize.
Once I started applying this principle, my motto has since become…
Lesson number 4: No stopping (No detenerse, in Spanish)
Mr Coyote never stopped. He just kept on running and chasing after the bird even if he already hit a wall.
Do you recall how he dealt with the situation after hitting a wall? Aside from smiling at the stars and birds that circled around his head, he would paint a door, a tunnel or any type of passageway that would allow him to cut across that roadblock.
Lesson number 5: Create opportunities for yourself.
After more than half a year of searching for opportunities other than a 9am-6pm job, I realized I had to do something more and something better. By that time, I have surrounded myself with a fantastic community of entrepreneurs, professionals, freelancers and different types of passionate people who were already giving me various ideas.
From them I learned that just like the Coyote, it is possible to create a door or a path for us to follow. The end is not the end, unless we want it to be.
Frequently, we take the already downtrodden way because it is the safest option. But truly, risks are contained in any decision we make, including when we stay undecided. Having an employment contract is financially less riskier than not having one, that’s for sure. The thing is, everything entails a risk: even signing on a “permanent” job has the risk of being dismissed. If we didn’t want to be in danger of losing it, then we shouldn’t take the job in the first place- is that how we should view life? I’m not suggesting to jump into any venture with eyes closed. Perhaps the solution is not so much to avoid risks but rather learning how to manage them. As the Spanish would say, “Quién no arriesga, no gana” (Nothing risked, nothing gained).
Do you know what the good news is? The good news is that should you decide to build your own lane and find yourself facing a cul-de-sac, you may always go back to pursue the tried and tested trails.
If we truly wish to move forward then it wouldn’t matter whether we crawl or run; it matters that we keep going (thank you, Doctor Luther King).
People who create opportunities gift themselves the chance to achieve excellence.
This is not to say that the road you will construct will be a smooth one. It never was the case for any of my auspicious friends and peers. But by letting their own selves be the engineer, contractor, builder, supervisor and financier of their ambitions, they all took the necessary preparations to face different kinds of risks. Most importantly, they worked hard and consulted with experts on their fields so they could learn how to manage those risks, in case they turn into reality.
Once or twice an impulsive plunge was taken or a hasty decision was made, yes. Then there were times when certain events were so unexpected, they didn’t even account for as risk (like a terrorist attack). Still, they went on. Most of them might not know it: but in striving to succeed, they have achieved excellence. You might be wondering how I knew this. And just to be clear, I did not have a peek at their bank accounts nor did they tell me their net earnings per year.
The excellence I speak of is being materialized far beyond any of their material possessions. The excellence I have in mind is the kind that is reflected not only in the product of their hard work (ie: a product, a service, a deliverable or a client feedback)- it is also mirrored in their speech, their actions and their intentions. For these people, excellence ceased to be a goal and has become a way of life.
It’s been two months since I had the realization of my need to do something more and do something better, other than simply looking for job vacancies and applying for them. I did stop the job hunt for a while, especially because I needed to meditate on what my next move will be.
At the end of the day (or week) I still look for a paid employment. The difference this time is I have become more selective, and I never fail to mention my other endeavors in the applications.
Truth be told, the time I took off the routine helped a lot; taking another course of action proved productive for me. For example, the moments I spent working on my blog doing independent research and writing have given me a certain level of exposure. Thanks to that, I am able to gather a portfolio of work which includes: drafting, analyzing, researching and translating in all the languages I speak. Now I am also more open-minded towards applying for other types of jobs besides the usual ones.
At the same time, I’ve connected with many interesting people who are currently teaching me and sharing their experiences with me. Some of them are even allowing and inviting me to collaborate with their projects!
The sudden burst of activity has become a training ground for me to exercise patience and learn from mistakes. Besides, being in constant motion only convinced me not to stop advancing my personal venture. Above all, I believe that I am creating opportunities for myself and for others. Knowing this gives a more meaningful purpose to every task I perform- to develop something that would serve not only my interests, but that of others as well.
However, no amount of patience, learning, motion and creation could guarantee goals being reached. During my short time in this uncommon scheme, I learned that perfect planning does not always translate to the projected outcomes. Whenever this happens, one’s patience is tested even further but simultaneously, more lessons can be learned, other doors can be opened and the most surprising opportunities could arise.
Lastly, it is worth mentioning the fact that the Coyote still hasn’t got any wins to prove his worth as a role model. Even so, at least his patience and perseverance make him one very admirable villain.
*My particular, personal circumstances are allowing me the luxury to do this. I do not mean to be insensitive towards other people who are forced to being underemployed and underpaid to support their families. I am also in no way encouraging the unemployed to stop looking for job opportunities and simply “go ahead with what they feel like doing”.
- Merriam-Webster online dictionary, available at: https://www.merriam-webster.com/