In 1967, a young architect set up a new firm. Starting from scratch in a London bedsit, they had no clients and just one lead - to design a toilet block for a dockyard.

He scheduled a meeting with the lone prospect, arriving well in advance with a camera and notepad. Observing the workers, he realized that relocating the block closer to the warehouses could improve productivity. Unfortunately this was impossible, he was told. The plan was already approved.

Undeterred, he secretly revisited the site several more times to come up with a workable solution; eventually realizing that a structure could be built on stilts between the warehouses. This would allow trucks to pass underneath, minimizing disruption.

At subsequent meetings, his impassioned, well-reasoned argument not only convinced the client to support the project, but to expand it into a full amenity center. The result was such a success that IBM commissioned him to design their new head office.

The man in question is now Sir Norman Foster — perhaps the most successful architect in the world.

The moral of the story: there are no boring, menial projects. With enough energy, curiosity and commitment, any piece of work can become a showcase for your skills that leads to new opportunities.

Matt Watkinson