May 25

Land of Opportunity

Happy Memorial Day to all of us in the United States! It is a great time of year, as students start winding down the school year, and we kick off the unofficial start to the summer vacation season. Second to the Fourth of July, it might also be the most patriotic holiday of the year. Many cities and townships will have community events, parades, and activities that bring us together. We will also participate in solemn ceremonies that honor the memories of those who have served and given the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

Whether you participate in one of these ceremonies or not, take a moment to reflect and thank those who have helped make this the “land of the free and home of the brave.” Too often, myself included at times, take our liberties and freedoms for granted, and this holiday is a great reminder of how important those that have served, and continue to serve, are to our day to day lives.

We also refer to ourselves as the “land of opportunity.” Perhaps just as important, and perhaps just as forgotten, we are blessed to live in a country where an individual can take themselves as far and as high as they want when they embrace the opportunities that enter their lives. A colleague of mine often says “Opportunity plus hard work equals success.” Success will not be handed to you in a gift wrapped package. Success is achieved when those willing to work hard and persevere take full advantage of an opportunity presented to them. It begins at a young age, and continues through your entire life. You get an opportunity to try out for a sports team as a youngster, and no one is going to just give you a spot on the roster, you have to work hard to earn it. You have opportunities to grow as a student, and no one is going to just give you an “A” or hand you a diploma, you have to study and work hard to receive it. Throughout our professional careers, we have and will be presented with many opportunities – new jobs, promotions, etc., and those that are successful will be those who are willing to make the effort, and work hard in order to advance within your company, industry, or the workforce in general.

We often joke at times as to the Millennium generation, and how they expect everything handed to them once they enter the work force. In fairness, they have grown up in a time where instant gratification is a big driver in life – information at your fingertips via the internet, immediately connected with one another via smart phones, on-demand television and streaming videos as soon as you feel the impulse to watch something. It is easy to see why you might expect the same in your career path. My response to those who have only recently entered the workforce, or even those who are still a few years out, but already plotting their path to the executive wing of a company, is that while we are fortunate to have all of these advances, and things can truly happen instantly, they came about because we are blessed to live in a land of opportunity, and those who created those advances worked very, very hard to accomplish those things in order to become highly successful.

So, as you’re relaxing on this three day weekend, and taking a break from the office, first, be sure to thank those that served, and paid the ultimate price, so that you could live in a land filled with wonderful opportunities. And then, when you go back to work on Tuesday, remind yourself that hard work and determination will eventually get you where you want to go. The determination and commitment of our armed forces opened the door for you – be sure to step through and take full advantage of it.

The following originally appeared in May 2015 as a post on BEALEADER – a widely recognized blog that focuses on aspects and attributes of great leadership.  The original post can be found here.