I started working before I was in high school. Before I could legally drive, I was working. I remember telling friends & family members how I was more interested in having a checkbook than a driver’s license. I’ve always been fascinated with the game of making money and work and business. When I was in grade school I used to pretend to be a businessman. I pretended again in my twenties, but that’s a story for another time. With few exceptions throughout my life (and the exceptions were always self-inflicted) I have always been able to find opportunities for work. Generally speaking, I excelled in whatever position I held throughout the years. Rarely were bridges burned when I left any position. I’ve worked on a US Presidential campaign, in the K-12 education environment, for Fortune 500 companies, as a poker player, a cave guide, in construction, and the list goes on. People would tell me things like “you are always so lucky”, and “you are always in the right place at the right time” I’m here to tell you, there is a methodology to becoming lucky, being in the right place, and taking advantage of opportunities which are presented. It’s understanding the philosophy of things. It’s being able to see the big picture; which allow us to see the opportunities.
I have never felt like the smartest person in the room. I always wanted to be the smartest person in the room, but most of the time, I wasn’t. Most of the time, I’ve been smart enough to realize a few important things. First, unless you tell people otherwise, they have no idea about your intelligence. Because of this, it pays dividends to choose appropriately the time for our words. Secondly, being able to understand concepts and philosophies about any topic will generally allow you to have a functional grasp of the topic. At least enough to appear competent when discussing said topic. The ability to learn on the fly & grasp the philosophies, mostly high level overviews, has been my secret weapon. And it can be yours too.
For a long time I didn’t realize this was my methodology. It was most likely born from social situations where I wanted to be part of the conversation, but was too ignorant of a topic to do so. I would listen carefully and try to make sure I understood the concepts being discussed. Once there was a grasp of the concept(s), common sense, logic, or both can be applied. We then find a point within the conversation which hadn’t been discussed or a different perspective to ponder. Making sure to phrase the point or perspective in question form will allow those with in-depth knowledge of the topic to discuss without feeling challenged. And we accomplished a couple of things for ourselves. We appear more competent than we probably are of the subject because we are now able to discuss it, to some degree, with those who have in-depth knowledge, and we are able to appear intelligent because we asked a question which moves the conversation forward. Additionally, we might also have gained some acquaintances from this exercise because, honestly, people like to answer questions & appear intelligent. Setting folks up for success usually helps them like you.
This methodology can be applied to almost any endeavor not just social situations. In fact, it has served me very well throughout my professional career. Once you are able to understand the philosophies which flow through and are the guiding principles of any position, social situation, industry, etc. you understand the why. At that point, you can usually figure out the “how” more easily because you understand the process at a high level. Then it is a matter of applying what action makes the most sense in the environment where you are working. For example, in data backup & recovery the simplest way to shrink the window of time for data backup would be to backup less data. Which is why compression & de-duplication come heavily into play. The big picture issue is getting a smaller window by backing up less data. Applying the logic is investing in compression & de-duplication technologies. If I didn’t understand the concept of backing up less data to shrink the window, then I might be off in the probably more costly direction of trying to increase bandwidth or protecting less data (backing up only part of what we have). This works in any field. Understanding a house needs a solid foundation as a big picture concept will allow you to build a solid house when it comes to the hands on of pouring the concrete. The action is always derived from the philosophy. Philosophies & concepts allow you to understand the big pictures & find the opportunities.
How you plain ordinary dragons think about things shapes your world. And your opportunities. The more creative you are in the way you look at & think about the world around you the more opportunity you will see around you. None of this takes away from hard work. Hard work is a given to be successful. How you think about things & act on those thoughts, that’s what can set you apart from the pack. It’s what gets people to think you are “lucky”.