If you watched yesterday's Indy 500, you witnessed a dramatic finish that was literally determined in the last corner of the last turn of the race. Rookie driver J.R. Hildebrand, who looked to have the race in the bag, took the final corner hot, got into the marbles (tire remnants that are left behind during a race that are very slippery) and crashed. Dan Wheldon quickly swooped in under Hildebrand, hit the gas, and took the checkered flag. A couple seconds changed everything for both drivers.
For Hildebrand, my heart sank. I remember yelling "NO!" at the TV, and couldn't believe how fast his fate was determined by pushing just a little too much on the throttle, or missing a line by an inch or two...oh well, that's racing.
Wheldon, on the other hand, quickly took advantage of the situation, steadied his line, and moved from second place to champion. Just like that.
I kept thinking about the importance of being prepared and aware of your surroundings so you can act quickly when you need to. The same can apply to being successful at work, art or building a career. What can easily be written off as someone being lucky is usually a case where someone was openly looking for opportunity, and when it presented itself, they were ready, and they acted. Purely an active vs. a passive action.
While most of us don't have crashing competitors of whom to take advantage, there are cues to opportunities that could benefit from your talent if you purposefully keep your eyes open and look for them. I think the active pursuit of opportunity combined with preparation for the moment is what makes the difference. Plus, there are plenty of prepared drivers behind you waiting to take advantage of your situation...they are prepared and looking to beat you to the finish line. There is no time to be passive, so get on it!
Watch the dramatic finish: