According to former Senator Bob Dole, among many others, a key quality that draws luck to a career is carefully calculated patience. Jim Parker, CEO of Southwest Airlines, stated the flip side. "Impatience is a major factor in career downfalls," he noted.
Now when top professionals say that patience is essential to success, they are not talking about passivity. Rather, they recognize that, as a matter of pure professional science, time will present opportunity, so patience is a prerequisite to success. However, there is an important distinction to make here. Invincible executives are not patient people; they are people who are capable of being patient.
For example, I recently saw a young executive torpedo his career by taking on a boss whom he rightfully felt to be incompetent. This boss was less than two years away from retirement; the young executive had thirty-five years left in his career. Had the young executive simply bitten his tongue and waited the situation out, a major promotion would have opened up right in front of him like the parting of the Red Sea. The young man made a fatal career error when he chose not to wait for his boss's retirement to materialize—even when he had a good idea that the event was coming. The incompetent boss had enough friends at the company to get the junior executive fired. This story illustrates the point, gleaned from the careers of both successful and unsuccessful people alike, that the poor manipulation of a potentially lucky situation usually leads to a career flameout. Conversely, the tactical use of patience opens the door to opportunity.
Now you don't have to just sit there and wait around for something lucky to happen—although that can and has worked for many people. Invincible executives do create opportunities, and you can maximize your chance for a successful career by creating opportunities. However, "opportunity creation" is a delicate process. You can never force an opportunity. Let's discuss the difference between forcing an opportunity and creating an opportunity.