When Opportunity Knocks, Be Prepared to Answer

by Onyeka Nchege on March 5, 2017

I recently had an opportunity to learn directly from the great John C. Maxwell. I was attending a partner forum in Atlanta and was fortunate enough to be among the select few invited to listen to, learn from and engage with one of the most influential leaders in the world. And I jumped at the opportunity, because I recognized the value of learning directly from an internationally respected, “been there done that” (BTDT) leader.

But there once was a time I may have missed out on the opportunity altogether. One thing I picked up from this partner forum was how to truly recognize the value of an opportunity like this; the value of listening to and learning from someone who has proven, time and time again, to accomplish the things I continually strive to accomplish; someone who has the wisdom, experience and “battle scars” to accompany the trophies and the medals – all of the figurative indicators of success.

These opportunities are few and far between, so it’s absolutely crucial that we capitalize on them if and when they present themselves. But how can you prepare for those moments? What do you do when opportunity knocks and you have the opportunity to connect with a BTDT leader? The following represents what I believe are the six most important points to consider the next time opportunity knocks on your door:

What’s with the Sensi? – Before opportunity knocks, you must absolutely recognize the need to seek counsel and wisdom from others. My father always stressed that “no man is an island.” And while I may not have always understood that piece of wisdom, it’s clear to me now that he was reminding me that in order to be successful, others have to play a role and more importantly, you have to be willing and open to let others in to help. 

Ask the question – There’s a famous saying that reads, “a closed mouth never gets fed.” If you have an opportunity to get in front of a BTDT leader, you have to leverage your network to extend your reach to those who may be able to help you in your journey. Get in the habit of asking this one question of those you are connected with: “Who do you know that I should know?” Opportunity may knock on your door, but you have to find it first. 

Prep for success – When opportunity knocks on your door and you are moments away, days away, or months away from meeting with that BTDT leader, take the time to find out everything you can about that individual. Invest in your preparedness by asking yourself why you want to meet this person in the first place. What do you hope to get out of the meeting? And most importantly, think through and write down an exhaustive list of questions to ask the person. If your intention is to learn from someone who has achieved what you aspire to achieve, then you should come prepared to ask questions – it shows your level of seriousness

Respect the time/protect the time – This one is simple. Early is on-time, on-time is late, and late is unacceptable. And be sure to honor the time. One way to do this is to be fully engaged in the discussion and be mindful of not running over the allotted time without permission. Remove all distractions to avoid something stealing your attention away from the discussion. Your level of attention might be the difference maker in having a second meeting

Be a sponge – Soak in everything and leave nothing to chance. Take notes because you want no conversation to escape you. There’s always learning in every conversation. It’s amazing what you can forget when you don’t write things down. Don’t be that person that says “I don’t need to take notes, I’ve got a photographic memory. I will remember everything we talk about.”

Ready set go – Act on what you learned. Let nothing become stale, allow nothing to collect dust on your “mind shelf.” Put action to the plan. Squander no opportunity that comes from the conversation.

Coming out of my session with John C Maxwell, I was able to put all six points into action. Recognizing the need to connect with someone who has ”been there, done that” I scheduled a meeting with a former CIO who has led several business technology capability transformations and currently runs a successful technology solutions consulting organization. I walked away with several pages of valuable notes of DOs and DON’Ts that are already serving me well. I can’t wait to continue striving to achieve.

Take action: What are you waiting for? No man is an island. Ask the question today and prepare for when opportunity knocks.

Leadership on the GO…..It’s O.N



Real Talk: I Survived an Avalanche

by Onyeka Nchege on February 5, 2017

I have always been fascinated by avalanches, though I know they can be deadly. I absolutely love the way the snow rushes down the mountain, oblivious to anything and everything in its path – they always look so incredibly beautiful, yet still so eerily scary. 

In life, when you take a step back and look at things from afar – knowing you’re not in immediate danger – it’s easy to think about how beautiful something looks, for instance, how captivating an avalanche is when watching from afar. However, this is only true until you find yourself in its direct path and eventually stuck inside the relentless rush of snow and ice rushing down the mountain. At that point in time, nothing and nobody can save you because the force of an avalanche is superior to all it comes in contact with. 

Frustration can seep into our lives when we least expect it. And the truth is, frustration is quite similar to an avalanche in that it can wreak havoc on our lives if we are not careful to stand clear of its path. I would venture to say that most of us have dealt with this very circumstance (frustration) at some point in our lives.  And recently, that’s where I found myself at a recent breakfast meeting.

I set up a meeting with a local leader who I felt compelled to connect with. The night before, I began writing down the questions that I wanted answered. When I woke up the next morning, I had no idea an avalanche was forming and that I was standing directly in its projected path. Just as I was preparing my fountain pen ready for my meeting, I spilled ink all over my fingers and on the paper that I had labored over the night before. After trying – unsuccessfully – to wash off the ink, I rushed out the door. Naturally, there was a ton of traffic. The frustration continued to mount. I realized I forgot my phone at home. I am a routine-oriented person, and having not followed a number of my morning routines, I was simply adding to the fuel to the fire of frustration. The snow and ice of frustration was barreling towards me at breakneck speed.

Somehow, I arrived at the restaurant only five minutes late and, to my surprise, my guest had yet to arrive – talk about a lucky break. I thought that I was safely out of the path of the avalanche. A couple of minutes later, I called my guest to make sure I was in the right place. As it turns out, there had been a fatal car accident nearby and my guest was stuck in standstill traffic and wasn’t going to make it to the breakfast. Totally understandable, but alas, more frustration. 

As I begin to drive to the office, I too fell victim to the traffic jam. There was a 90-minute delay in travel time as a result. In that instant, I passed the horrific scene of the accident and I was reminded that all of my frustrations pale in comparison to what’s going on there. I was reminded that what seems personally frustrating is no comparison to what the driver(s) and their families must be going through. I thought to myself, “If I’m going to have a great day – and since I already have a green thumb (and green hands) – I might as well use that green thumb to grow and blossom, my day.” I always try to learn from my experiences. And that morning, when all was said and done, five things came to mind following that avalanche of frustration:

  1. Take a two-minute pause: Often times, in the midst of an avalanche of frustration, it’s great to just take a step back and recalibrate. Part of that process for me includes just taking two minutes to breathe and relax. That may be listening to music for you.
  2. Acceptance: When you’re consumed by an avalanche of frustration, to keep from continuing to slide down the mountain in frustration, it’s best to simply accept that “stuff happens”. In hindsight, I should have accepted that there are things beyond my control, like traffic, and I should have just kept it moving.
  3. Drop Anchor: When you’re running down the frustration mountain, it’s always best to anchor yourself on things that you know work. In my case, once I realized that it could’ve been me across the highway, I pulled over and anchored myself with gratitude and thankfulness to be where I was. I also took the time to think of others more than myself and prayed for the individuals across the highway.
  4. Overcome by testimony: A surefire way to avoid falling further into your frustration is to overcome by testimony. What that means is in my situation, I called an accountability partner to share what I was going through, which forced me to stop sliding and concentrate on sharing. It allowed me to get centered and not make decisions that would exacerbate the situation.
  5. Run Forward: Sometimes you just have to outrun your frustration, which just means to outpace it and leave it behind you. I needed to simply acknowledge and accept that ink on my hands was not the end of the world. In essence, acknowledge where I was and make a decision to go forward and go forward fast, leaving my green fingers behind me.

At the end of the day, I survived the avalanche of frustration. Even though I should not have let each one of the issues snowball into a bigger frustration, I learned that I have the power to stop an avalanche. I realized in that instance that the power of the avalanche was not superior to me if I only take the time to follow the 5 steps above.

Take Action: When you are in the middle of your avalanche of frustration, decide on which of the five actions above would serve you well and simply act. 

Leadership on the GO…..It’s O.N



5 Critical Questions for Effective Decision Making

February 2, 2017

Great leaders know how to balance emotion with reason, which is why – as leaders – we are looked upon to make decisions that may heavily impact our business, our employees and a slew of outside stakeholders, for better or for worse. Simply put, we are the “decision makers.”  Most leaders abide by a set […]

Read the full article →

A Man, His Wife, And His Family – #Legacy

January 19, 2017

Grateful and thankful for a great man, his wonderful wife and his beautiful family for serving as an exemplary First Family. These last eight years, me and my family have been inspired to dream bigger and to put actions to those dreams. Thank you, President Barack Obama, First Lady Michele Obama, and the First Family, […]

Read the full article →

Seeing Red

November 15, 2016

A multitude of thoughts and emotions are evoked when we see the color red. Seeing the color red can evoke energy, excitement, and even, fear, depending on its context. Red alerts us to danger ahead and influences us to take corrective action before meeting with an unfavorable demise. It can create the perception of a […]

Read the full article →