Opportunity. It comes in many shapes and forms, often appearing without warning when we least expect it. I have had a lot of time to contemplate the topic of opportunity over the last two years. I dug deep into my past in order to better understand the missteps I made, with the intention of using that knowledge to improve.
Two men, both named Jerry, had a big hand in shaping my views during my younger years. They both left a lasting impression that ultimately impacted my actions.
One was Jerry the Cop. He was not the kind of law enforcement officer that you would want coming to the rescue. Jerry and I spent a lot of time hitting nightclubs and bars. He urged me to go into a place radiating confidence. He taught me to convince myself and everyone else I was “the man.” His approach worked great for attracting a superficial crowd. That was what I was looking for at the time, so I embraced it. I was a criminal on the rise, and I wanted to get bigger.
Jerry Z. was the other man instilling life lessons on an impressionable young Kenji. Imagine that at the age of twenty you are standing in the office of a six-foot-eight-inch Jewish gangster, well known for running with a Colombo crime family crew. In fact, Jerry Z had just stolen a couple hundred million dollars in gas tax from the government, and he was about to take me under his wing.
He is sitting behind the desk schooling me on how to meet guys who can make me the big bucks. He says, “Listen, kid, you have to relax. Let ‘em come to you. You got to act as if ‘I am the man,’ and you got to plant the Greed Seed.” He was telling me to keep my mouth shut. Let people see what I capable of, let them see I am earning, because nobody wants to work with a bust out.
Jerry Z. and Jerry the Cop had that same philosophy about working with others. You let people think they can make cash with you and you let them come to you. Make them feel like it is their idea.
That worked for me to a point, just as hard work and determination work, but something was missing.
When I moved to Illinois, I was really starting over.I didn’t know anybody. I thought of Jerry Z. He used to say, “You can drop me in place in the country. As long as I got a place to hang my hat, I’ll make money.” This time, for me, the money was not the main goal. I had recently placed my faith in God, and this time, I was building my life on a different foundation.
It hit me one day that yes, hard work is part of what I need to do to realize new opportunities, but I would be selling myself short if that was all I did. I needed to change the way I approach life. Instead of the old days, where my dark past was an asset, I had to change my character to match my foundation, so that the right opportunities would come.
I had worked for twenty years to have a bad reputation, so I knew I could not expect to build a good one in just a few years.
I needed to surround myself with people who had the type of character I wanted, and those who are successful in the fields I wished to work in. If I could not physically be around the people who helped me excel in certain areas I was working on, then I could contact them and keep up the friendships. I could also immerse myself in books about other people who had successfully embarked on a similar path.
I needed to change my life by doing new and different activities. If I kept doing what I always did, then the results would ultimately be the same, as the old saying goes. We are what we think about and do on a daily basis. I needed to change up my familiar daily patterns and be prepared when the right opportunity came into my life.
I began dedicating time every day to reading the Bible and at least one other book that I could learn something from. I love reading, but I can also admit that I had become lazy, reading only fun books for entertainment.
Regardless of your beliefs, the Bible is full of wisdom and important life lessons.
I also kept focused on my health. If you exercise and feel good, everyone can see. With a healthy body and mind, you are ready for anything that comes your way.
But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.