My life has a mantra: Luck is what happens when opportunity meets preparation.
The funny thing with opportunity is you never really know when it will present itself. Opportunity has this crazy habit of being disguised as something else, like a set back or an undesirable choice. Often, you don’t even recognize an opportunity as being an opportunity until it’s too late to act.
For me it began with a pair of Vibram Five Fingers. You know…those weird toe shoes.
My sophomore year of college I rolled my ankle at a Rugby tournament–not playing–walking to the pitch. It was the first match in a three-day tournament. After the injury healed I remained plagued with debilitating Planters Fasciitis in my left foot. Every morning I woke to a shooting pain when trying to walk, the intensity of which only increased as time progressed. Eventually, this resulted in me having to sleep wearing a brace.
My doctor tossed around the idea of surgery, but I didn’t like it. I wanted to think there was another option. So, I turned to the definitive source on everything; Google. It provided me with two options: acupuncture…or…Vibram Five Fingers. Being a broke college student, I opted for the less expensive-and less painful sounding-option.
For the first two weeks I could only wear the shoes for a few hours at a time. My lower legs were constantly sore, a sensation I gladly exchanged for the sharp pain in my heel. Fortunately, this subsided as the days passed. After the first month of wearing the Five Fingers, the pain I had been experiencing on a daily basis was quickly becoming a faint memory, only resurfacing (though in a much less severe manner) after a few days of wearing ‘normal’ shoes.
This caused me to take a more critical look at the lifestyle I was living. Reflecting inwards, I realized that most of my meals were filled with processed foods. I couldn’t walk a flight of stairs without becoming winded. My foot ailment was a physical manifestation of my lifestyle. Slowly but surely, I was destroying my body.
Planters Fasciitis wasn’t just an injury. It was an opportunity to start fixing the rest of myself.
Inspired, I made a commitment to become a healthier person. I joined a gym. My workouts improved as did my dietary choices. Without proper diet, the workouts would have been for naught. I eliminated all non-water or tea beverages, stopped eating heavily processed foods, and eventually adopted the Paleo ideology of nutrition.
What began as an attempt to simply heal my foot resulted in me healing myself. Today I have lost nearly 100 lbs. I recently signed up for Tough Mudder this fall. I’m arguably the healthiest I have ever been.
Thanks to a pair of ridiculous looking shoes, I learned how to prepare for unexpected opportunities.
Expose yourself to new situations. Make yourself available. You won’t be presented with any new opportunities by never leaving your comfort zone. Try doing so on a daily basis. Try doing one thing each day that is new or makes you feel a little uncomfortable…even if it is as small as saying hello to someone you sit near but haven’t spoken to.
Learn something new. Embrace the notion that you are an evolving entity who will never be done learning or growing. Learning new and different skills will allow you to make connections.
Stay positive. View challenges as strategic opportunities. Turning setbacks into stepping stones. Everyone faces tough situations, whether this means failing a course, loosing a job, ending a relationship, etc. What separates people is how we react to unfortunate events. Do we see ourselves as victims of situation or do we find the silver lining and become a stronger person?