By Younas Chaudhary
It was a warm weekend in the early eighties as I visited a small town called Blackwell, Oklahoma, to meet a local pastor who was also a small oil well operator and had oil wells for sale. He was friendly and invited me to his home. We discussed religion, the oil business in general, his stripper oil wells for sale, and other events of that time.
Later, he offered me coffee, and while sitting on his living room sofa, I noticed on his coffee table a blue manila envelope, around five inches thick, with several pages overflowing. I saw a name written on it that read “Sun Exploration and Production Company.”
I was curious and asked the pastor what those open documents in an envelope were. “This is an oil company from Dallas that sends me their oil and gas well production packages for sale that I can bid on at various due dates. Frankly, I don’t have any time or use for it,” he said to me. “Can I take it?” I asked him. The pastor said: “Absolutely, for sure, it’s yours to take,” and he happily handed over the entire envelope to me. “Feel free to call them and bid …as I have no use for it,” he said.
I thanked the pastor and left his home, and as soon as I got into my car, I started flipping the pages of the documents and saw several opportunities to bid for oil and gas wells for sale in Texas by Sun. This was the first time I had seen a resource like this even though I had been in the oil business for a while. I was suddenly busy reading well information and data. The Monday after the weekend, I immediately called Sun’s office in Dallas and registered my company for bidding rights for that sale package and future packages. Without wasting any time, I started learning the package data, devoted lots of time understanding the bid process, and started bidding aggressively to buy oil wells in different parts of the country.
I vividly recall that one of my initial bids was to buy a gas well in the Corpus Christi Bay area. I came in as the second-highest bidder, but the winning bidder had to exit, so I bought that gas well. When I purchased this gas well, it was a low producer. I ran a wireline to clean debris in the tubing string, fixed the wellhead, lubricated choke and made this well into a good producer. I had the good fortune to pay off that investment in just three months. Thereafter, I made several purchases from the Sun Exploration and Production bid packages.
My innate curiosity and zeal to succeed helped me take advantage of this resource, which I grabbed in a chance meeting with a pastor, and it ended up being a goldmine. I was quick to use that information without any delay and started bidding for several packages, as I firmly believed even during that time of my life that having data without taking action on it is foolish.
This valuable incident taught me the value of curiosity and the role it can play in changing our lives, though it is also essential to take timely actions, not waiting for the weekend to be over, not saying “I am on vacation” or making other excuses.
By asking questions without concerns, fear or shyness, chance encounters like these can turn the trajectory of our lives. Always keep your eyes and ears open. It is entirely possible that a casual meeting like the one I had in the early 1980s can become a turning point in your own life.
In business and in life, being curious has its advantages, as it opens up your mind to new possibilities, ventures, and ideas. You become curious by asking questions and being relentlessly passionate about a particular topic or industry. When I began my career in the oil and gas industry in Chanute, Kansas in the late ’70s, I had never seen an oil well in my life, and I didn’t have a degree in petroleum engineering or any allied field either.
But I observed, I kept my mind open, I was not afraid of asking questions and learned more by investing my own time. The field pumpers were my favorite people, and I still believe that they are the heart and soul of the oil and gas industry. Most of them were quiet people, and being in their company made me bolder and more confident and encouraged me to take risks.
It’s important to be curious at work. “Encouraging people to be curious generates workplace improvements,” says an article titled “The Business Case of Curiosity” in the Harvard Business Review. “When we are curious, we view tough situations more creatively,” the article adds. Faced with tough situations at work, I use curiosity to find multiple creative solutions and to take calculated risks that have paid off well. So, be curious, ask questions, and have an open mind…
The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this article are my own and do not represent the opinions of any entity with which I have been, am now, or will be affiliated. Further, I make no warranty regarding the accuracy or effectiveness of my recommendations, and readers are advised to consult other advisors as well as their own judgments in making business decisions.