Luck, opportunities and wonderful moments

There have been times recently when I’ve thought that I could do with a lucky break, something that will mark a new chapter in my life, a new beginning, like the cherry blossom that suddenly appears on lots of trees every spring here in Bonn.

So I decided to write about 3 moments in my life where I felt I was very lucky, to reflect  and summarise to see what can be learnt.


1. Banff, Canada

August 1994, We hired a car and took off from Calgary for a weekend trip to Banff in the Rockies. It was a long, tiring but exhilarating trip. Canada is vast, its landscape and wildlife breathtaking. We were driven by its wonder to overdo things a little. One minute we are pushing the little old car to its limits, the next we are sat in a small wooden rowing boat, in the middle of Moraine Lake, surrounded by mountains that stretch up to the sky with ferocious might. All that we could hear was the sound of the wooden paddle gently stroking the still and near-frozen waters. If we fell into the water, we would, according to the man who hired the boat to us, be dead in a couple of minutes. Thankfully, we didn’t fall in and continued our whistle-stop tour, climbing mountains, strolling around Banff and searching for somewhere to stay, as it was very busy. We eventually persuaded one hotel to put us up for the night, even though they didn’t have a room available. They reluctantly agreed to let us have The Bear Suite. We then discovered, much to our amusement, that we had been given a function room, the type used for a conference or wedding reception. On the edge of the dance floor, below the disco lights, were three camper beds made up for us. The two restrooms, normally used by the hundreds of guests, became our en suite bathrooms. It wasn’t perfect, but we were grateful to not be sleeping in the battered old hire car!

After two days of adventure, we were ready to return to Calgary for a well-earned rest. We had achieved what we set out to achieve, although despite our night in the Bear Suite, we hadn’t seen a bear. Driving home, I was persuaded by the others to take a detour to look at a ski resort that was sign posted ahead. I was not keen, but went along with their enthusiasm.  Standing on top of the mountain, up in the clouds with nothing but an empty wooden café, I longed for civilisation, so we decided to head back home. On our way back down the mountain, alone in the chair lifts, we saw what we had been waiting for. A grizzly bear and her two cubs ambling across a wide path below. It was a perfect end to the day and I’m so glad we too that detour!

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I remember a great English football team who kept scoring the winning goal in the last minute, sometimes even the last second of a game. They had a winning mindset that didn’t allow them to up, even after some fans had already left the stadium.

Don’t give up too soon, keep pushing hard, your lucky moment might be just around the corner.


2. Val D’Isere, France

About 10 years later, I was on holiday in another mountain range with two cousins whom I had completely lost touch with for many years. As children, we had lived on the same street, and our mothers were close sisters, but we had effectively lost touch for many years and had never known each other properly as adults. Yet we came together, unaided by the convenience of social media, for one of the best holidays of my life.

The opportunity arose after we had relocated to a Buckinghamshire village, 100 miles from my home town. After notifying people of our change of address, I got a message back from my cousin who lived in a nearby town. We met them for dinner, met a few times more, a friendship developed and we realised we all enjoyed skiing. They invited us to their next holiday, which as it happened, was with her brother and naturally another cousin of mine.

We said yes.

It was a one-off. A temporary fusion of three related families for seven days of fun. Moments like these are rare – for me at least – brought about by a combination of events and a willingness of the 15 people involved to give it a try, even though none of us had any idea how it might work out.

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Mixing with different people can introduce you to a whole new worldofpossibilities.

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After a couple of days skiing, I found myself spending the day in the chalet with one of my  cousins and our kids, who were not in the mood for skiing on that day. Our quiet day together gave us a chance to catch up on the years that had passed since we last met. Whilst looking out at the deep snow of the French Alps, we discussed the disappointing start I made to my adult life, and my cousin said ‘your recovery from that is now complete’.


3. Worcestershire, England.

I thought about the discussion we had back in the French Alps.

In the 1980s, I was doing all the jobs no one else wanted to do – sweeping the yard, cleaning the dustbin lorries, even sometimes cleaning the toilets. I did this for several years.

In the 1990s, I was wearing a suit, driving a company car and running a multi-million pound project.

The factors that led to this turning point in my life ranged from a new government policy that forced councils to compete for their local services, to a friend of mine who introduced me to someone who was looking for a truck driver, which was a job that I quite fancied. But the most important factor was the remarkable trust my manager showed in me – an unproven manual worker – after I told him I was going to take this new job I’d been offered. He immediately made me a better offer, working on some of the projects that this new government policy had created.

Despite this amazing opportunity, I still wanted to take the truck driving job. It was only my father’s advice, and I guess my willingness to listen to him, that led me to make the right decision.

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I once heard someone say that he got his promotion because he was in the right place at the right time, as if it had been completely out of his hands. I think it would have been more accurate to say that he got himself into the right position and when the time was right, seized the opportunity. He was not passive, he was smart, worked hard and got the promotion he deserved.


Summary

If I had told someone we saw a bear and her two cubs whilst on holiday, that person may have said how lucky we were. But if I had emphasised the determined effort we made, literally going the extra mile even when we were exhausted, then they might have congratulated us on our success.

I could make similar comments about the other two stories.

So with the benefit of hindsight, I think my actions helped to create the opportunities that we could also call good luck. I would summarize these as follows:

  1. Connect with people outside of your normal social circles.
  2. Step out of your routine, step out of your comfort zone.
  3. Be open to new possibilities, new perspectives.
  4. Show resilience and determination, don’t give in too soon.
  5. Work hard.

Bonus story: West Sussex, England.

April 2018. As I was writing this blog post, I felt a little regret that I didn’t have a picture of that bear to share with you. Then the little fox in the picture below turned up, sunbathing on the roof of our old garden shed. It wasn’t until a week later, when I was finishing off this post back in Germany, that I suddenly thought that this too could be one of those incredible moments where I was very lucky. We shared a wonderful hour together, both aware of each other’s presence, making direct eye contact on several occasions – the kind of eye contact that touches you deeply – both respecting each other, close neighbours in our little corner of the world. Sometimes you don’t create lucky moments, but you need to be alert to them, to recognise and appreciate them!

Beautiful don’t you think?

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Thank you for reading.

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