12 Ways Big Career Breakthrough Moments Happen


Career breakthroughs have been my obsession since last year. I wanted to crack the secret why, in every society, only a handful number of people achieve big breaks in various fields. I have read countless profiles of people who had broken through in big ways, with the intention of finding any activity that can be replicated and will produce similar result. I have concluded that what helps someone breakthrough may not do the same for another. I have also realised that simply because it happened in the past, it cannot work now. There is no formula for breaking through, because everybody would have cut to the chase and orchestrated his own rise in society. It is important to differentiate between what comes to us because of luck and what we get because we planned for it. However, I have summed up the circumstances in which this pivotal and transformative moments happen for different people, with the hope that it will aid in the understanding of this mystery.

1-  The Fateful Encounter

Just one encounter with another person can be consequential in many ways. A simple information provided to you by someone can radically change the direction of your life. A career advice or a useful connection can have a dramatic impact on your life. Meeting that person can make you take a transformative and decisive step, which can positively alter your life. Where and when to meet such person is hardly planned. It is a simple one, but the consequences are beyond your wildest imagination. Some people may simply call it a lucky encounter instead of a fateful one. It is consequential nonetheless.

2- Spotted and Promoted

I believe the most under-appreciated talent is the talent to spot another talent. Some people are incredibly good at recognising talent at its early stage when most of us don’t see it or somehow choose to overlook it. However, spotting is not enough. To breakthrough, you have to be spotted, platformed, promoted, financed, and given a real shot. ‘Opportunities do not float like clouds in the sky. They are attached to people.’’ Entrepreneur and investor Ben Casnocha said. A talented person will most likely fall to obscurity if he is not spotted or given the space to thrive.

3- You Put Your Product Out There and It Gets Noticed

Put a product out in the market and you may get noticed. In other words, your talent and ideas to be discovered, you have to be discoverable. And to be discovered, you have to show your talent to the world in some way or the other. The easiest way is to have a physical product of your own out there e.g. a book, a video, a device, an artwork, etc. And should such product get noticed by someone who appreciates it, it can launch you to a level you never expected. The reason that many of our talents are not discovered is because we have nothing to show for it. It simply remains an innate talent. In other words, we have produced nothing. Are you passionate about producing a product that can change people’s lives or entertain people better than other products? Then let the world see it, and now. This might be the one thing standing between you and fame and fortune.

4- Meeting the Destiny Partner

This is not in the romantic sense but a professional one.  Two people meet and both of their lives change radically. It is a like a missing piece in the jigsaw puzzle of the other’s life as neither had made much of himself alone, but together they have sensed the potential to go far. The destiny pairing expands their possibilities. This is why we always hear about two start-up business partners building an industry-altering billion-dollar company and toppling corporations in the process. It is very likely that one of them couldn’t do it alone. It is the partnership that does trick.

5- The ‘Replace and Step Up’ Effect

This is a literally a talent sitting on the bench, and suddenly the chance to shine comes because the other person in the position either fails spectacularly, blunders, or something beyond his control happens e.g. death, injury, etc. The spare springs to action, steps up and performs well, and surprises everybody. Now, he is no longer a spare. He is permanent and the preferred. His moment has arrived, not just displaying a flush of brilliance but a genuine quality and a consistently superb performance.

6- The Move to the Big City/Centre of Action

Big cities come with bigger opportunities. Small towns can limit your possibilities and ambition. There can be tremendous values in living in a big cosmopolitan city and being around countless number of other professionals. While someone can come to a big city with a dream, not every dream comes true. However, for some people, cities being mostly more liberal than smaller towns and being centres of major economic activities, it can provide greater opportunity to creatively reveal oneself and access greater resources and forge useful connections. Your environment can either accelerate or diminish your chances of professional success. The early realisation that environment can shape and define your life is probably what drives many ambitious people out of their small hometowns.

7- Successful Pitch

Basically, a pitch is verbally persuading an audience to buy into your venture, idea, mission; or commission your project; or give you their vote, faith, and support. And should they give you the green light, your life changes and you may change theirs as well. This is not limited to a young creative entrepreneur pitching to investors for a promising business venture. I think pitching has a much wider meaning and significance. It is also when a politician on the ballot presents his agenda to the electorate. It is simply saying that I have the ideas and the energy to make it happen, but you have the money and the power to authorise it. It is a give-and-take situation. Most of the great ideas that we know now have successfully been pitched at some point in their early stages.

8- The Surprise and Unexpected Standout Physical Performance

We love a fresh face with fresh content that confounds us. It is like when a not well-known player scores a surprise goal in a crucial match; or an emerging singer’s voice surprises everybody; or an upstart politician gives a historic and eloquent speech; or a participant in a public debate gives a persuasive and fiery speech, winning audience and outperforming his opponents, and perhaps the debate going viral in our social media – dominated era. This brief but remarkable performance by someone previously unknown to the public is always the turning point in their career. Equally significant is that the performer himself is surprised of the quality and positive public reaction of the event. However, from that moment onwards, he understands his life has changed for good.

9- The Rare Will to Resist and Agitate

It is when a lone activist decides that enough is enough. Unencumbered by fear nor the loss of life and livelihood, a political or community activist faces down oppression and brutality. He irritates the regime or the establishment, but wins the respect, support, and loyalty of the oppressed masses. The showdown can turn bloody, but should he survive initial brutal response by those in power, and the society evolves to a free one, the activist is most likely to be the future political leader of the erstwhile oppressed nation. Historically, most activists have evolved into politicians. This why the first leaders of most post-colonial nations were the leaders who first resisted colonial rule. In other words, the first to resist is the first to lead once freedom arrives. But not every political activist becomes the future leader. It comes down to first surviving the brutal reaction and carefully managing the transition to freedom without losing popular or party support.

10- Revolutionary Writing with Distinctive Voice

It is a new way of writing and expressing ideas that we didn’t see before. It is an original work that gives us an insight into the ambiguities, inconsistencies, immoralities of society’s political, social, and economic structures. It is a reaction to the worst and best of the human condition. It is voicing our frustrations in a language that is so fresh, so pure, but so brutally honest.  The essence is achieving social justice, but the exact writing hardly clearly states so. For the less intellectual masterpieces, like literary writing, the uniqueness is in the beauty of the words, the craft of storytelling, and often using characters that we would normally avoid to use. However, both of these unique intellectual and literary writing share two main things: fearlessly pushing boundaries and setting the next social stage.

11- Turning Point Following Tragedy

Let’s not wish for a personal adversity to befall us in order to breakthrough. However, this has been a fact of life. Some people have to undergo a trying moment to achieve a big career break. The personal pain or the very experience of hitting rock bottom in life changes one’s focus and attitude about life in general, about people, and what’s really important. The strong desire to bounce back from adversity is the driving force for many to achieve incredible things in life. Sometimes the sheer experience of living in turbulent time or societal rupture is enough to enable others come up with great ideas. The Gilded Age of America – which followed the American civil war in the mid 19th century – led to the emergence of America’s first ultra-wealthy individuals e.g. Rockefellers, Vanderbilt, Ford, Carnegie, etc.

12- Receiving Elite Education Despite Humble Background

Receiving first-grade education at an institution of elite standing is a big leg up for any person from a humble background. However, you can breakthrough without going to a prestigious school. However, for some people, this opportunity is a turning point in their life. We often hear about inspirational stories of, for example, a young black girl born into poverty in south central Los Angeles making to Harvard; a young boy who grew up in a social housing estate in east London getting accepted to Cambridge university; a poor boy from rural village in Uganda or India, who had worked hard in school and showed brilliance in tech and engineering, landing at Stanford university. All these stories share one main thing: a young promising person with humble beginning ending up in one of the planet’s most elite seats of learning. The opportunity is significant and often transformative. It is no coincidence that most world leaders attended top colleges and elite military academies, despite many of them coming from genuine poverty and tough environment. Elite institutions of learning draw the most ambitious people. In other words, for some of us to be the best, they have to be taught by the best.



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