It's a common notion that highly successful people often get to where they are because they've had better luck than regular folks. Likely, it's not true. If you study the daily habits of individuals who lead the kind of lives other people envy, usually you'll find they are exceptionally good at creating new opportunities. Here's insight from more than two dozen founders and executives on how you can do it.
1. Form mutually beneficial relationships.
"Surround yourself with similarly-visioned people and others that seem to afford opportunities. It takes discipline to network regularly and routinely to develop these relationships while being sincere about how the relationship will be mutually beneficial. But, don't be scared to explain how you can be valuable and a resource to the person. I always ask how I can be a resource to the person. Inevitably, I come across friendships, investment opportunities, and offered positions."
--Steve Iskander, chief growth officer at DriverReach, a digital, mobile-first applicant tracking system that helps recruiters manage the CDL driver application process, where he grew revenue at the company by 40 percent each month in 2018
2. Connect, mentor and learn with others.
"If you are dedicated to building up the success of your business, you'll be spending countless hours cooped up in your office. While not the most glamorous part of the endeavor, this is where the rubber meets the road. Balancing the scale might be a difficult task, but don't forget to level yourself out by connecting and investing in time with others. This could be a scenario where you mentor a younger entrepreneur, or where you seek mentorship yourself. You might be the CEO, but you're not alone. While there may be plenty of voices trying to hinder your efforts, you must make an effort to hear from those who can build you up or allow you to identify the strengths within yourself."
--Marshall Chesrown, founder and CEO of RumbleOn, an online powersports marketplace, on track to achieve a revenue run rate of more than $150 million by the end of 2018, with plans to double unit sales by the end of 2019
3. Seek out challenges.
"Go after something impossible. The best way to create opportunity is to seek out and embrace tough challenges. Too often, people are following someone else's lead instead of tackling something that no one else does. Not being afraid of adversity will open the doors to new opportunities and awesome life experiences."
--Itay Rosenfeld, CEO of Voxbone, a provider of Communications-as-a-Service (CaaS) where he has quintupled the company's revenue since joining in 2012
4. Stay attentive and curious.
"Creating opportunities in life requires you to pay attention to the details that the rest of those around you may not catch. In today's world, we're used to instant approval, feedback, etc. However, taking a step back and listening to those around you, rather than thinking of an instant response can open up doors of opportunity that you may not have otherwise thought existed. In addition to staying attentive, never stop asking questions. During my career, I learned not to be afraid to ask the questions that others may not want to ask. While this can be intimidating to some, asking the challenging questions can be what shines a spotlight on you as a person who is willing to take risks and challenge others to think outside the box. In the end, just as your teachers always said, there are no dumb questions."
--Patti Doyle, COO of Vennli, a content intelligence platform, who helped the company see a 235 percent increase in monthly recurring revenue in 2018
5. Love what you do and hire smart.
"I think that a lot of opportunities comes from enjoying what you do and where you are going. The entrepreneurial journey can be long, circuitous and risky. If you don't pick an endeavor that you love--and will still love 10 or 20 years later--then you could find yourself feeling stuck and lacking the opportunities you were hoping for. Similarly, I used to think it was my job to be the smartest person in the room. However, I learned quickly that instead, I need to find people who are stunningly talented in areas I am not and are the right fits for what I'm doing. I think the keys to creating opportunities in life through an entrepreneurial pursuit is to make sure you love what you are doing and that you surround yourself with stunningly talented people. In this way, you give yourself the time to achieve the opportunities and you multiply your effort by those around you--and you have people to share in the opportunities."
--Carson Conant, founder and CEO of Mediafly, a sales enablement company hired by top Fortune 500 companies such a Charles Schwab, Disney and PepsiCo
6. Never stop learning.
"Lifelong learning is essential to creating opportunities for yourself. Every time you learn something new, you gain not only useful knowledge and skills but also invaluable perspective. Furthermore, learning is a human, social endeavor that often leads to forming strong relationships. The combination of these factors is the perfect recipe for creating new personal and professional opportunities. Maybe the best thing about choosing lifelong learning is that it doesn't need to take a huge amount of time or cost a lot of money, which makes it one of the easiest ways to open a lot of doors for yourself."
--Andrew Geant, cofounder and CEO of Wyzant, a tutoring marketplace that supports more than one million hours of one-on-one, online and in-person instruction each year for students kindergarten through career
7. Stay focused and prioritize goals.
"Precious working time should be spent on handling your highest-level goals. Constant interruptions from social media, messages, and new tasks make it challenging to remain focused. When new tasks pop up, decide if they'll help you reach your high-level goals or if they can wait until later. Through focus and careful prioritization, you'll achieve your higher-level goals faster, opening up new windows of opportunity."
--Eden Amirav, cofounder and CEO of Lending Express, which has helped 90,000 small business owners connect to $75 million in financing from 35 top-tier alternative lenders including BlueVine, OnDeck, and Kabbage
8. Look for a win-win.
"When striking a new deal, partnership or any business opportunity, I'm always looking for a win-win. Nobody benefits from a lopsided deal. The most successful partnerships or contract are the ones that let each party have a better outcome or story at the end of it. I used to be a corporate attorney before running startups and saw this consistently in [mergers and acquisitions] deals I was working on. When both parties were thrilled about the combination, the deals had a much higher chance of success. It's so much better to structure a win-win than to go all out for the best terms of a deal since the other party won't put their heart into it if they're not equally excited about it."
--Craig Walker, cofounder and CEO of Dialpad, the maker of UberConference that recently acquired real-time speech recognition and artificial intelligence company TalkIQ and in the last year added 10,000 new customers with doubled recurring revenue
9. Empower others to create change.
"As a leader, I see it as one of my responsibilities to empower and create opportunities for those around me. For example, one of my roles is to oversee the speaking line-up at our annual conference. This year, I set a personal goal that 50 percent of keynote speakers would be women and 25 percent would be minorities, and we accomplished it. I didn't communicate these hard numbers to my team, but encouraged them to think beyond the typical titles or usual kinds of speakers to ensure a diverse group of speakers were represented. I empowered them to make bold choices, and as a result, I'm so proud that we're giving the stage to a broader set of voices and perspectives this year."
--Julia Stead, VP of marketing at Invoca, a marketing software company which uses AI-powered call tracking and analytics to power 100 million calls per year
10. Start with inclusivity.
"Creating new opportunities in life starts with inclusivity. It's about being more open to everyone, from the people you work with daily to those you've just met. Take time to truly listen to the people around you. Welcome every perspective and the unique ideas and experiences every individual brings with them. You not only increase your knowledge and understanding, but you might even uncover a new passion or cause."
--Vivian Maza, chief people officer at Ultimate Software, a cloud provider of human capital management solutions including HR, payroll, talent management, and employee surveys with more than 4,700 employees and 4,400 customers
11. Engage in deliberate discomfort and self-disruption.
"In the tech industry, we talk a lot about disruption when engaging with our prospective customers. However, how often do we truly disrupt ourselves? After spending 15 years in the infrastructure business, I wanted to make myself uncomfortable one more time and build something new in a completely different space. The thought process being: when you are comfortable, you learn less; when you learn less, you become more irrelevant and this industry has no patience for irrelevant thoughts, ideas or people. I wanted to work with people who are audacious and courageous enough to disrupt a large market with an approach that is difficult to pull off. I wanted to join the go-getters, the mountain-movers, the innovation-enablers. Surrounding yourself with this energy will undoubtedly lead to an infusion of personal creativity and passion, and you'll find that opportunities will sprout up out of nowhere. Negate complacency. Get uncomfortable. Then make room for real personal and professional growth."
--Sudheesh Nair, CEO of search and AI analytics company ThoughtSpot, which helps business users at hundreds of global enterprises answer millions of data questions, and former president at Nutanix, both of which are valued well over $1 billion
12. Encourage knowledge sharing.
"Create opportunities within your company by encouraging a culture of knowledge sharing. You have, most likely, put in the work of hiring great people, but are you giving them the opportunities to grow, learn and share amongst themselves and improve the company in the process? The truth is, you never know where your next big idea will come from. But as any leader of a growing business can attest, it gets exponentially more difficult to share knowledge as you add new people, open new offices and introduce new team structures. I've experienced this first-hand as the founder and CEO of a company that grew from a two-person team in Tel Aviv to a 200-person operation with offices on three continents. There are plenty of ways to create virtual communication channels--email, video conferencing, Slack, gChat--but don't be afraid to get creative. At Optimove, we use Trello as a central place for employees to curate five significant points from their week--anything from a big achievement to a worry or challenge they're facing--and encourage team members to respond and commiserate. We call it 'O5,' or Optimove 5. Making reflection a regular habit has boosted morale, increased transparency and created new opportunities for connection and brainstorming--no conference room needed."
--Pini Yakuel, cofounder and CEO of Optimove, a relationship marketing hub used by over 300 brands
13. Seize the moment no matter what.
"I was seven months pregnant when I started discussions to sell my company. I got the final term sheet when I was nine months pregnant, and signed the terms of the deal while nursing my three-month-old. This wasn't an easy time to negotiate a big acquisition, but it is important to strike while the iron is hot. This means not waiting until later and not saying 'now isn't a good time.' It's rarely a good time for a big change. Sometimes big leaps present themselves when you least expect them. Don't delay or you may miss a life-altering opportunity."
--Claire Vo, VP of product at Optimizely, a digital experience optimization platform that powers thousands of experiments every month and serves 1 billion impressions per day
14. Chill and enjoy the ride.
"Too much focus on the short term creates stress and actually decreases your chances of success. Great opportunities come to those that are ready to receive them. If you are open to new ideas, new people, new ways of being and new learnings you'll find that wonderful things come your way. What's the point of success if you are not having fun?"
--Sarika Garg, chief strategy officer at Tradeshift, a supply chain payments and marketplaces platform that digitally connects 1.5 million companies across 190 countries
15. Walk away from your problems.
"Even when we're not actively thinking about them, our minds can process incredibly complex problems. I like to develop a deep understanding of a really tough problem, spend a few minutes considering solutions, and then stop thinking about it altogether for hours or even days. After a few nights of sleep and some time focused on a different issue, a fresh idea or new approach comes to me. I often find the solutions my mind develops while I'm concentrating on something else are much better than my initial ones, even though I'm not thinking about the problem at all. Take time to understand a challenging problem, then walk away from it for a while giving yourself the opportunity to solve it in a better way."
--Mark Groden, cofounder and CEO of SkyRyse, a technology-enabled air mobility company backed by $25 million in funding
16. Trust your gut.
"You'll encounter more opportunities, whether at work or in your personal life, if you follow your intuition. As a venture investor and film producer, I know from experience that instincts are just as important as hard data in selecting which businesses and media projects to back--my biggest successes have all had an element of gut instinct. I've learned to trust those feelings, but it takes practice. I'm a big proponent of meditation and yoga as ways to cultivate intuition."
--Amy Nauiokas, founder and interim CEO of Anthemis, a venture investment organization focused on financial services, and founder and chair of Archer Gray, a media and technology investment company
17. Pursue your passions.
"Pursue a career or an idea that you are passionate about. By doing something you love, you'll find yourself among people who share your passions and can help you actualize your goals. Doing something you love will also help you weather the storms that you'll inevitably face over the course of your career and personal life. Inspiration allows people to find opportunity and purpose in the face of challenge."
--Harishankaran Karunanidhi, cofounder and CTO of HackerRank, a technical hiring platform that helps over 1,100 companies find, evaluate software developers around the world based on skill
18. Live and work in different countries.
"I moved into a leadership position at a young age, and it definitely helped me become a better person, both professionally and as a human being. I've worked for the same company for 19 years, but across three different divisions and in five countries. I think living and working in such a variety of environments makes someone a more tolerant and compassionate person, and more open to each country's realities."
--Vitor Gregorio, regional president of Bosch Thermotechnology, a division of Bosch Global, which invests 8.6 billion a year in research and development and is in the top three companies in the world in terms of patents issued per year
19. Ask questions.
"We always ask questions--internally and externally--some easy and some hard to answer. We have learned that by asking questions and surrounding our business with advisers and board members we can then laser focus on our business, industry, competition, and future."
--Robert Burke, CEO of Repair Clinic, an online replacement parts retailer and digital DIY platform which has helped more than 20 million people save $2.5 billion in repair costs since launching in 1999
20. Imagine that you have your own time machine.
"[Imagine a time machine] that helps you see the future, but allows you to come back and create the version of the future you want instead. The probability of your future becoming reality, starts with a choice, and an act of will. [The good news is] we all have a time machine, and it's called our imagination. Our imagination can help us create a vision for a better future... and is a magical way to create more opportunities in life for you and those around you."
--Michael Serbinis, founder and CEO of League, a digital benefits platform which serves hundreds of corporate customers across the U.S. and Canada including KPMG, Unilever, Shopify, Mogo, Intelex Technologies and L'Occitane en Provence
21. Say no.
"It is difficult to say no. Our brains are wired in order to please other people so whenever someone asks us anything we instinctively say yes. This is a mistake. By saying no you have more time to read, learn, think, work, and ask questions, contact friends, exercise, and sleep. People may think of you as rude but in the long run they will appreciate your honesty."
--Juan Margenat, COO of Marfeel which runs adtech for over 200 publishers worldwide
22. Be Relentless.
"I honestly think that no one can really tell why and how a business succeeds, and there are many aspects which contribute to it, but the journey was, is, and will probably always be hard. Very hard. The one secret to success which you cannot do without, is to simply never give up. This is actually something my dad taught me way back as a kid, whatever you set your mind to and start, you see through and finish, no matter what changes along the way."
--Guy Avigdor, COO of Klear, an influencer marketing technology company that took seven years to go from $0 to $10 million in revenue
23. Create your own rules.
"George Bernard Shaw already said that 'Life isn't about finding yourself, it's about creating yourself.' Trying to fit into somebody else's box is one option, but making your own rules might make others create an opportunity for you. When I left my corporate job, I had chances to become a CEO at a single company but it just wasn't the kind of job I wanted to take. So I decided to reinvent myself as a leader of multiple automotive startups, a position that is perfectly tailored around my strengths and preferences."
--Alon Atsmon, executive chairman of Cognata and Guardian Optical Technologies who has led the companies to achieve a total of $34.2 million in funding combined
24. Have conviction.
"Resilient conviction against the odds is a very powerful tool to make new things happen out of the unexpected. That's the best inner motivator I know: the permanent conviction of the goal you want to accomplish. Of course, it doesn't mean you can get everything you want, but protects yourself against the thousand failures you will commit along the way. You keep going without losing enthusiasm, no matter how many rejections or problems you face. In between the thousands of paths you can take, where one door closes, three more open when you connect new dots. Visualizing your particular milestone, and being convinced, is the best way to find new options and get back to the entropy of uncertainty with fresh ideas."
--Karen Marquez, CEO of Robbie.AI, which has developed a technology that does facial/emotion recognition on millions of people in retail stores around the world to predict consumer behavior
25. Always help others.
"Having a state of mind for giving is immensely useful. It opens up your eyes to look at everyone around you and really connect. It could be fellow entrepreneurs, potential employee candidates or even someone who needs an extra dollar in the street. These connections may only happen once but they may still find you down the road someday. People whom you helped will want to pay it forward and sometimes reciprocate. The larger your network is, the more opportunities you will have. When you are positive, other people react to it. Besides, it feels great and it's good karma."
--Gil Dotan, CEO of Guardian Optical Technologies, a developer of advanced sensing technology for in-cabin monitoring of next generation vehicles which has raised $10.7 million in funding in one year
26. Listen more and talk less.
"The first step of creating more opportunities in life has to do with learning, absorbing and making sure that you have a good understanding of who you are and the space you are operating in and therefore I believe in focusing on listening over talking. Not only do you better understand the opportunities that surround you, but you create better relationships that lead eventually to better opportunities."
--Israel Duanis, cofounder and CEO of Fleetonomy, creator of a technology that manages the fleets of some of the largest automotive companies