A friend’s hairstylist saw her bookings drop as the economy fell, ultimately losing her job at a salon. But when my friend asked her if she’d be willing to make a house-call to style her ailing mother’s hair, the stylist saw an opportunity. Ultimately, she launched a specialized in-home business and now makes more money than she ever did.
In these difficult times I’m enamored by this simple success story. I regularly talk to people on my radio show, work with individuals or client organizations, and connect with people when I speak at conferences. Recently I’ve been hearing intense heels-dug-in resistance to change. And I’ve also watched more and more people overlooking the opportunities that problems, challenges and difficult changes can bring.
But not this hairstylist. She heard a problem, saw a niche, tried it, learned from it, and then leveraged it into a new delivery model for her services. She didn’t resist change in how she delivered her skills, nor did she focus on all the reasons why going to someone else’s home to style hair wouldn’t work. Instead, she tried it by taking action on the seed of an idea, and ultimately evolving that shoot into a thriving business.
If immigrant Levi Strauss, arriving in San Francisco with bundles of cloth for making tents and wagon coverings, hadn’t seen an opportunity in complaining gold miners with torn trousers, he wouldn’t have created what we know today as jeans.
If Dr. June Carroll hadn’t been struggling to navigate desert roads at night to treat remote patients, she never would have painted white lines on the road to help her find her way, a practice quickly adopted for all roads by the California Highway Commission.
If Clarence Birdseye hadn’t noticed the almost frozen fish he’d caught ice-fishing in sub-zero weather was revived in a bucket of water, he never would have contemplated that fresh food might be able to be frozen and then restored.
These people were creatively focused, gathering bits and pieces here and there, absorbing information, and threading it together to create new pathways for their careers, new ideas for their businesses, new financial avenues for their innovative problem solving. That approach differentiates people who are winning at working from those who aren’t.
You see, people who are winning at working understand that opportunity can be anywhere and everywhere. It can be in the recurring problem you have the skills to solve if you listen; it can be in the new request you can fill if you’re open to it; it can be in the observation of everyday life if you’re curious.
But there’s a critical difference. Being able to leverage your creative focus is not about having ideas or noticing opportunities. It’s about action. As the father of electronic gaming, Nolan Bushnell put it, “Everyone who has ever taken a shower has had an idea. It’s the person who gets out of the shower, dries off, and does something about it that makes a difference.”
Want to be winning at working? Creatively focus your ideas to leverage your future.
Author of Hitting Your Stride: Your Work, Your Way (Capital Books; January 2008), and host of “Work Matters with Nan Russell” weekly on www.webtalkradio.net, Nan Russell has spent over 20 years in management, most recently with QVC as a vice president. Sign up to receive Nan’s “Winning at Working” tips and insights at www.nanrussell.com.