“A wise man will make more opportunities than he finds.”

It’s something that’s been told to us time and time again. We’ve heard it from teachers, philosophers, career coaches and even entertainers. If you want to maximize your chances at success, you should seize every opportunity. Sometimes you may just stumble across a lucky break and it could mean all the difference in your career. However, if all you’re doing is sitting around and waiting for that chance happening to arise, you could be waiting a very long time.

Indeed, it’s not so much about finding those opportunities, though an active search is certainly advisable. Instead, real success oftentimes only comes when you make the opportunity for yourself. As Milton Berle once said, “If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.” Let’s say, for instance, that you want to make it as a Hollywood movie actor. You have to pound the pavement, actively seek out auditions, work with an acting coach to improve your craft, and network with other actors and managers. You have to be willing to take that “two-bit” role in the beginning, if it means it gives you the chance to put your foot in the door. You make that opportunity. You don’t find it.

And opportunities have a habit of building upon themselves. They pick up momentum, building on previous achievements to unlock new doors for you. When I committed myself to freelance writing full-time, I started with just a single client. That was my “lucky break,” so to speak, but it allowed me to gain valuable experience and quickly expand my professional portfolio. Those writing samples and some networking that followed allowed me to build on that early success, securely more clients and more projects. If I didn’t take that first “gig,” none of this would have been possible.

It is fascinating how the quote at the top comes from Sir Francis Bacon, though. He was a philosopher and statesman in 16th and 17th century England. He held such prestigious roles as Attorney General, Queen’s Counsel and Lord Chancellor. While his political career ended in disgrace, it is said that he may have written all of Shakespeare’s plays, effectively using the William Shakespeare we know as the public figure for his work. That’s disputed, to be sure, but it does demonstrate that Bacon may have seen an opportunity to write plays for the public, something that he couldn’t have done under his own name if he wanted to achieve great things in political office.

At the end of the day, life is what you make of it. You may be dealt a random hand, for better or for worse, but it is completely up to you how you choose to play it.