Luck, opportunities and wonderful moments

I’ve recently thought that I could do with a lucky break, something that would mark a new beginning, like the cherry blossom that appears on many trees every spring here in Bonn.

I therefore decided to write about some lucky moments in my life, 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, to bring some of our rat-race to the wilderness. 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 from whom we hired the boat, 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 almost ready to return to Calgary for a well-earned rest, 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 tired and 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 took that detour!

Lesson: 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.

Lesson: Mixing with different people can introduce you to a whole new world of possibilities.


3. Worcestershire, England.

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, a job that I felt quite excited about and applied for. 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.

Lesson: I once thought I was promoted because I was in the right place at the right time. This perspective takes away my contribution and reduces the achievement to a matter of chance. It would be more accurate to say that I got myself into the right position, waited patiently for the right moment and then seized the opportunity. I worked hard, listened to the advice of others, made a decision and got the promotion I deserved.


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 this little fellow turned up, sunbathing on the roof of our old garden shed. 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.

Lesson: you don’t always 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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