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  • Writer's pictureBolaji Akinola-Alli

The Opportunity Express

Opportunities are all around us waiting to be discovered, they come in different shapes and sizes, and we should be ready to seize them.

In life, we are often presented with opportunities that can change our lives for the better. These may come in the form of a promotion at work, a chance encounter with someone who shares our interests, or even a new business idea.

But do we always recognise opportunities when they present themselves? And when we do, are we ready to take advantage of them?

Opportunities are like clouds. They can be fleeting, but they can also bring the much-needed rain to nourish our dreams.

Therefore by being prepared and staying open-minded, we can make the most of the opportunities that come our way, allowing us to achieve our goals.

And while there is an element of randomness to them, it is also true that we can increase our chances of being lucky by being prepared. By staying curious, being proactive, and seeking out new experiences, we can position ourselves to take advantage of the opportunities that come our way.

I believe there is an element of luck that we can engineer because luck is created when opportunities meet our level of preparedness.

Luck = Opportunities + Preparedness

I use a train analogy to explain what I mean by preparedness hence the title of this post was inspired by The Orient Express.


Plan Your Journey

When travelling by train, there are a couple of things we need to do before actually getting on the train. These include:

  1. Identifying where we are trying to get to and by when.

  2. Buying a valid train ticket.

  3. Arriving at the correct platform in enough time, accounting for the time it takes to buy the overpriced croissant and coffee.

Similarly in life, there are a few things that we need to have done before the hidden opportunities around us begin to emerge. Following the same order as the train analogy above, we need to:

1. Have a vision of what we want our future to look like. I have learnt over the years that this does not have to be as clear as day. A rough idea may do the job, but in general if we can't see it first in our minds, then it is very difficult for us to see it in reality.

2. Pay the price. This could be financially through further eduction or by spending time to practice a newly acquired skill. However, there always seem to be a sacrifice to be made. 

3. Be at the right place at the right time. Now I believe this is largely driven by the randomness of being lucky, but remember there is an element of engineering luck. My version of this, is spending time with people who inspire you, and getting into those circles where your interests lie. 

Without a plan, it is very difficult to spot the right opportunities around us. It is equivalent to jumping into the first train you see on a platform, hoping that it takes you to your destination. I remember a time I was late for an appointment in London and I took the wrong train because everyone was rushing into it before the doors closed. - It added another 30 mins to my journey that day.

Anyway, the point is that:

We do not wait to see the clouds before we start planting our seeds. We plant our seeds in hope that it rains.

Stay ready.

Waiting on the Platform

Once we locate our platform, we often need to wait for a few minutes before our train arrives. This is assuming that there are no delays or diversions. During this time, we watch the screens and listen carefully for any announcements.

There is an aspect of patience in finding the right opportunity. This is where you have no real control. This is where it might feel like you are waiting forever. Just as you would for a platform, this is where you would need to put yourself out there and curiously wait for the right opportunity to rare its head.

What has helped me in my wait has been sharing my thoughts and ideas around topics that interest me. For example, it is no secret that I am passionate about the role of energy and technology in Africa's economic development. So I speak about it but most importantly, I keep my ears and eyes glued to the events happening on the continent, waiting patiently for my train (opportunity) to arrive.

What is interesting is that during this time, we watch other trains come and go from other platforms and sometimes even from your platform, but we know that they will not take us to our desired destination, because we know where are heading towards.

Why wait for a sit at the table when you can become a carpenter.
I wait to say yes or no to new opportunities until I have sufficient time to prayerfully and carefully discern God's will - Peter Scazzero

Just in Time

At university I learnt about the Just-in-Time (JIT) manufacturing methodology. It is a workflow methodology that helps manufacturers improve their production process in order to reduce costs and improve efficiency. In essence it aims to have the right amount of raw materials arriving at the right time in the manufacturing process, with less inventory and waste. [1]

Now in the context of opportunities, I like to think that the best opportunities arrive Just-in-Time.

Their risks are rightly-sized towards a beneficial outcome and they come at a time when we are in a position to act.

Three questions I tend to ask myself when considering an opportunity:

1. Why not? What do I have to lose?

2. Why now? Does this feel like a good time?

3. Why me? Does this align with my purpose?

If I answer yes to these three questions, best believe there is a high chance I am hoping on that train.

All aboard!

Remember, the point of any opportunity is its ability to propel us towards a desired destination.

Whilst our opportunity train takes us to a desired destination, we need to remain aware of our location so that we do not miss our stop. We keep our ears open for any announcements on the train such as diversions. This is because what might seem like a great opportunity at first may not be the case. So we pull out google maps again, go back to the drawing board and plan our route to get to our destination.

Once we get there, we hop off the train!

Please mind the gap between the train and platform - Transport for London

So the next time you see an opportunity floating by, don't just watch it pass you by. Plant your seeds, position yourself, and be ready to seize the moment.

Who knows what kind of rain it might bring?


I enjoyed writing this one, and I hope you enjoyed reading it.

I am currently exploring more ways that I can add value through my writing, so if you have any feedback for me, positive and negative, please feel free to drop me a message below.

As always, thank you for reading!

If you give people the right tools, and make them more productive, then everyone, no matter their lot in life, will have an opportunity to achieve their real potential - Bill Gates


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