Urban ScotlandWhat is opportunity

In my line of work, I often get asked to explain opportunity. A little creativity is essential. My stories may or may not lend themselves to creative license, all that matters is the point. It really is up to you if you chose to believe if what I am about to tell you is true or not. I know what I believe. 

Coatbridge has a  town center  built around a chronically ugly supermarket , in fact most roads lead directly to said supermarket,   I will, however, declare that for this story and to save myself from being sued I shall change the name of the chronically ugly supermarket to “Coats Supermarket” owned by the extremely wealthy Bridges family from “Gotland” in Sweden. I will also declare that any similarity between “Coats Supermarket” and any other supermarket is nothing more than purely coincidental 🙂

Seeking Opportunity

The year is 1995, a glorious year, I remember it well. Rednex “Cotton Eye Joe”, was number 1 in the UK charts, (for this I can’t accept responsibility, but feel the need to apologise anyway, so sorry,  an apology also for the song now playing in your head as a result of reading this).

We begin the story in the overground car park which is connected to the bridge of eternal stench of pish (every town has one), which runs adjacent to the”Coats Supermarket”  and connects Coatbridge to, well,  other parts of Coatbridge. I remember seeing a young disheveled fella, walking toward me, about 15 years of age at the time. Now, this isn’t a rare sight in the suburban paradise of Coatbridge.

The disheveled fella asked me if he could return my trolley to the trolley point, I must admit to being slightly intrigued at this point, why on earth would this young unkempt fella ask for my trolley. I managed to get his name “Micheal” or “Mick” for short, just the sort of abbreviated name you immediately identify with Coatbridge.

Mick advised me in his Coatbridge accent that he wanted to keep the quid as reward for him returning my trolley, I remember looking at my trolley and the 30 yards that the trolley point was from me, I was immediately curious further to this-this bold young gentleman asking for my trolley, especially as I could literally turn the trolley to the left and it was back in the trolley point with zero effort. I could, however, sense that the young man, “Mick” looked hopeful, not desperate, but hopeful, that I would succumb to his Coatbridge etiquette and grant him permission to keep the pound from my trolley. 


I’m not going to lie, I was about to tell him in my equally sharp Coatbridge accent that I was going to decline his kind offer, when a group of Coatbridge NEDS (Non Educated Delinquents or Hooligans)  started shouting from the bridge of eternal stench of pish “hahaha Mick, the trolley boy, you wee skanky bastard, trolley boy” along with a few other choice words that clearly cut deep into the very soul of Mick. Seeing how hurt Mick was I relented, and happily handed over my trolley for Mick to return, a warm feeling spread through my body when I seen how delighted Mick was to assist me with my dilemma of not being able to return the trolley myself,  off Mick skipped into the abyss of the overground car park of “Coats Supermarket”.

For a few months, Mick assisted me in returning my trolley, I resisted the urge to judge this wee fella, even though my sparkly mind had already created 15 different stories on this wee guy, I decided to ask him why he was doing what he was doing. Micks reply was honest, “for money!” he said, I had more questions, how much did he earn?, Why was he doing it? to cut what is going to become a very long story. Mick was the oldest brother of 6, his mum and Dad were both addicts, he was shown zero love, and was the sole provider of love and care for his siblings, he was collecting money to feed and care for his brothers and sisters. Yes, my heart burst also. On a bad night, Mick earned £20 for returning trolleys and round about Christmas time he could earn anything up to £100.


Wow, that was pretty decent returns for this wee guy,  he could earn considerable amounts of money for using his initiative, tax free, over time Mick invested in himself, smart shirt and shoes, hair groomed, and eventually he became the norm , he was accepted, people looked for him, of course in the background the negative wizards were still shouting abuse and mentally bullying him. Mick didn’t care, he had a goal, a purpose and not even the sound of crushing taunts of ridicule form his peers could divert him from his purpose.

As time went past, I classed Mick as a friend, I then began asking what he planned in life, all Mick wanted to do was work, like have a proper job. A few occasions past when I finished my shopping and never saw Mick waiting to collect my trolley, I thought he had maybe been ill or something and thought nothing more of it. Until one day I was venturing down the dairy aisle of Coats supermarket and to my surprise there was Mick stacking the shelves, his face filled with pride. I congratulated Mick on his first ever legally paid job, diligently and enthusiastically for months he stacked shelves, it was a pleasure to witness. As the years went past Mick went from stock replenisher to till operator, to till supervisor and his enthusiasm never dipped, Mick was absolutely loving his life. The bullying he experienced has subsided slightly although he was always an easy target.

Sweet Threads

Mick eventually vanished from Coats supermarket, and sadly from my mind until about 7 or 8 years after our first initial introduction just off the bridge of eternal stench of pish in the overground car park. I randomly happened to meet Mick in the Main street,  dressed in the finest suit I had ever seen, with the same enthusiastic and friendly glint in his eye. I welcomed him with warmth and curiosity and asked what had become of him.

His story is remarkable. We went for a coffee. Mick told me that from day one of stock replenishing in Coats Supermarket, he sat in the staff canteen and noticed a poster that just said “Would you like to experience the Bridge experience” at first he thought it was nothing more than an HR pointless propaganda poster. He Knew the successful Bridges family owned this supermarket and others throughout the world, and they were one of the wealthiest and most successful family dynasties ever. From his countless promotions through the ranks in Coats Supermarket this poster never moved, it was always there and when he eventually became the assistant manager of the store his curiosity eventually took over, and he asked the store manager what the poster was and it’s point. Mick never expected what would happen next.

The Bridge experience

The manager explained that Mick was the first person to ever in all his years of working in the supermarket to ask about this poster.  The Store Manager told Mick to expect a phone call. A few days past and when Mick was getting ready for work the telephone rang, on the other side was a call from Sweden the head office of the Bridges family inviting him to their head office. Delighted off he went. On arriving in Gotland; Sweden he was ushered into the most luxurious boardroom he had ever seen, in it were members of the Bridges family all keen to meet Mick. They curiously asked about him.

Mick told the Bridges family his story, he started off collecting trolleys in their overground car park and ached for a job in the superstore, his wish finally came true and he started replenishing stock, and eventually worked his way quickly through the ranks.

Mrs. Bridges Snr the CEO asked Mick why he didn’t stop after achieving  his goal of getting a paid job in the store, to which Mick gave a full  detailed reply,  had he only wanted to be a stock replenish assistant then he would have, but he seen the stock replenishing job as an opportunity to venture onto bigger and more rewarding things, he stated he could have stopped when he became cash supervisor, but again this was only an opportunity to move onto more rewarding and bigger opportunities.

Mrs. Bridges asked why he inquired about the poster in the staff canteen and explained to Mick that although they own stores all over the world, and each store/supermarket was given this poster to hang in the staff canteens, that he alone was the only person to ever inquire about the poster. Mick explained that he studied this poster daily for years, and eventually his desire to know more took over and he had to ask about it.

The Bridges were all delighted with Mick and explained to him, that he was the sort of opportunity seeking individual they were looking for to join the international management team. He was immediately hired on a six-figure salary and traveled the world representing the Bridges brand, assisting it to remain one of the worlds biggest supermarkets. Not bad for a wee disheveled trolley collector seeking a pound to return a trolley so he could take care of his young siblings,  and from Coatbridge too. I asked Mick what was next for him, he replied: “I will wait and see what opportunities present themselves to me”.

Moral Epilogue

Mick is the perfect example of seeking and never accepting, he remained committed and focused by keeping his options firmly focused on opportunity,  and believed that opportunity presented itself to him, that it was everywhere. By being so positive, Mick found opportunity in everything,  from casually walking through an overground car park and seeing potential in returning trolleys, to knowing that by stacking shelves in the local supermarket he could progress to having a great career rather than a job. Of course, there is nothing wrong with returning trolleys or even stacking shelves if that is what your goal is and your only goal.

You can apply this to any job or walk in life, if you are happy just to stack shelves then great this is what you will do, but if you want opportunity you need to think like  Mick, if you channel your thoughts into seeing opportunity and progression you will find it, even if it is on a poster hidden in the staff canteen. Never stagnate or settle, look for every opportunity imaginable to find opportunity, and then watch it find you.