Last weekend Gloria and I were in the right place at the right time when we went up to Washington DC to celebrate our 29th wedding anniversary. Our daughter came down on her spring break and our son had just moved to Washington to find a job in the political arena so it was a family reunion too. We even had our anniversary dinner at Clyde’s in Georgetown, the same restaurant where Gloria and I got engaged some 30 —sigh— years ago. Needless to say we all had a wonderful time. On Monday I did my FOX appearance from the Washington DC bureau. That’s always a treat because of both the enormous traffic of interviews and interviewees FOX hustles through their DC outpost and because a lot of the faces you see in the hallways are the same ones you see in the House and Senate (FOX’s studio is across the street from the Capitol Building for that very reason.) For my political junkie wife and son it was like sitting on the field during the all-star game.
While we were waiting in the green room we struck up a conversation with a very nice man who was catching his breath after a heated on-air debate. Turned out he’s a political consultant and gave Danny lots of good advice on what he needed to do to find a job. David (I’ll protect his last name and identity) explained to Danny how the system works, why you need a mentor to guide you through Washington’s labyrinth-like proceedings, and why it would make sense for Danny to build his network today and worry about building his bank account tomorrow. It was a 45-minute master class in how Washington works.
While they talked I was called to do my segments and left the room for about half an hour (you can watch them HERE and HERE). When I returned they were still chatting about what Danny needed to do to launch his career. David commented on the two interviews I had done and it turned out there were a few things that I had that he needed – specifically contacts in the TV and speaking worlds. We spent the next little while exchanging VCF cards and phone numbers and promising to get together the next time I was up in DC.
Once I got back to the hotel I looked up our new friend on Google and Facebook and discovered we weren’t just chatting with any old political consultant but that we’d been with one of THE (pronounced “THEE”) political consultants. Clearly Danny, Gloria, and I were in the right place at the right time.
That got me to thinking about opportunity.
A few years ago we were at a dinner that featured a sitting Supreme Court Justice. Thanks to the generosity of my friend Phil Bakes, Gloria and I sat at the same table and got to chat with the judge. At some point during the meal I asked him how he actually made it onto the Supreme Court.
The judge explained about the basic requirements (not legal or historical, by the way, but pretty universally accepted) of first being a lawyer and then federal judge and having a good relationship with the White House. But, he said, while that was all well and good, you still have to “be on the corner when the bus goes by.”
In other words, you have to be in the right place at the right time.
Clearly I’ve been in the wrong place at the wrong time and the right place at the wrong time a lot more times than I’d like to remember but sometimes I’ve been in the right place at the right time too. And that’s when you realize how important it is to be ready when chance presents itself.
My father always said, “When opportunity knocks, you can’t say ‘come back later.’” Both our Justice’s chance to serve on the Supreme Court and Danny’s chance to find a mentor in Washington DC confirm that my dad’s words were correct.
So being in the right place at the right time is critical. But it’s not enough. Putting yourself out there, keeping your eyes open to possibility, and doing the foundational work necessary to pounce on opportunity when it presents itself are all elemental practices in the pursuit of success, regardless of what your version of success actually looks like.
Actor Denzel Washington said, “Luck is where opportunity meets preparation.”
Auto racer Bobby Unser said, Success is where preparation and opportunity meet.”