Which is the most important commodity of modern life? To me, it is electricity. Who was the father of electricity? To me, it was Michael Faraday. Apart from his contributions to the field of electricity, Faraday discovered several organic compounds including benzene; he was the first to liquify a permanent gas; and he achieved all of this without any formal education. Here is a little story about how he became a prominent scientist out of literally nothing.
Born to a blacksmith near London, Michael Faraday was too poor to be formally educated. When he turned fourteen, he started working as an apprentice to a book binder. At the binder’s shop, his job was to bind books. However, the boy would read every book that came to him for binding. He found a special interest in the science of electricity.
When he was twenty, Faraday got an opportunity to attend lectures of Sir Humphry Davy—the inventor of laughing gas and the most eminent British chemist of his time. He was fascinated by the lectures and kept taking notes as Davy addressed. Subsequently, he compiled a three hundred pages book and sent it to Davy, who was fairly impressed by the youngster’s zeal towards science.
Not long afterwards, upon recommendation of one of his influential customers, Michael Faraday was able to join Sir Humphry Davy as an assistant. Initially he was assigned with menial jobs such as cleaning the lab equipment. However, he took keen interest in Davy’s experiments and gradually became a master experimentalist himself.
In 1821, at the age of thirty, Faraday got his first major breakthrough: the first electric motor, the first device to use electric current to make a shaft rotate. Though primitive in form, this motor was the ancestor of all the electric motors being used in the world today, so whenever you use a vacuum cleaner or a dishwasher, you can thank Michael Faraday.
The invention of an electric motor and the discovery of the governing principles of electromagnetic induction was a momentous achievement by a nearly illiterate outcast, purely by dint of his sheer diligence towards scientific pursuit. Faraday’s life is a perfect example of creating an opportunity when it didn’t seem to exist. Here are a few tips for you to imitate him and create opportunities for yourself.
Lesson One: Identify Your Passion
The first step in creating an opportunity for you is to identify what kind of opportunities you would like to have. In simple words, you must identify your passion. If there is an activity that makes you forget your lunch, it may well be your passion. You may have various passions, but it is important to narrow down to a few; it is important to choose a career niche for yourself.
Having numerous interests is okay but all of your interests cannot be transformed into a career. Besides, you have limited time and energy. Focus on your real passion and convert it into a career rather than swaying between various completely unrelated pursuits.
Lesson Two: Be Mindful to Recognize Your Opportunities
Sometimes, opportunities exist around us. But we fail to recognize them. Faraday’s passion was science, so he recognized a learning opportunity in the books he was supposed to bind. He converted the book binder’s shop into an alma mater that equipped him with the scientific knowledge that no school could offer.
If you want to train yourself in spotting opportunities, be mindful. Being mindful means to be able to notice and understand the things happening in your surroundings. Take some time out to reflect upon the activities you have been involved lately, and the people you have met recently. Ask yourself if any of those activities and people can be relevant to the opportunities you are passionate about.
Lesson Three: Recognize Your Strengths and Weaknesses
Imagine you have spotted an excellent opportunity. It perfectly matches your passions. But are you ready to take it? Before saying yes or no, analyze your strengths and weaknesses. An unbiased analysis of your skills and shortcomings will give you an idea of your areas for improvement. Work on some basic skills and keep improving as you take on the opportunity.
Lesson Four: Express Your Passion to the Right People
Following the previous lessons, you have identified your passion, you have spotted the perfect opportunity, and you may have acquired the background knowledge as well. But it may not be enough. It is equally important to express your passion to the right people. Find the relevant people and build a rapport with them.
Faraday was passionate about learning science. His customers at the binding shop were aware of his passion. Moreover, he expressed his knowledge to Humphry Davy who was quite impressed and subsequently accepted him as an assistant. Had Faraday not expressed his interests to his customers, had he not sent his notebook to Davy, he might not have got the opportunity to work with the great scientist.
Lesson Five: Even Mistakes Are Opportunities
All of us make mistakes. That often frustrates us. But even mistakes can be turned into opportunities— opportunities for learning and growth. Do you think that all experiments Faraday or other scientists performed were successful? Not really. However, each mistake, each failed attempt took them closer to success. So change your perception about mistakes— take them as development opportunities.
Lesson Six: Use Your Contacts Positively
Through Faraday was just an assistant at the book binder’s shop, some of his customers were influential aristocrats. Upon recommendation of one such distinguished customer, Faraday was able to get his job with Humphry Davy. It is not much different from the way we use LinkedIn recommendations these days. Impartial recommendations or references are not a bad tool for enhancing your chances; use them positively and fairly.
Lesson Seven: Do Not Expect Immediate Results
While some people do identify their passions and recognize related opportunities, they fail to recognize that success takes time. Don’t forget that it took Faraday seven years of book reading at binder’s shop before being accepted as Davy’s assistant. You may be brilliant at something but still you would need perseverance and persistence to reach the summit; and if you are not ready to persevere, don’t even look for an opportunity.