I’m not a big fan of words like “destiny” and “fate” and “luck.” They all seem like creative attempts to disown our decisions—as though we are mere victims of circumstance, powerless to effect change. But I understand the allure of those words and the ideas they express, because while the freedom of choice is what we have, the freedom from choice is often what we want. I tend to agree with Benjamin Franklin, who wrote, “God helps those who help themselves.” Or put another way, “Luck is the residue of design,” as the pioneering baseball executive Branch Rickey opined.

And something tells me that the iconic face staring back at you on this issue’s cover would agree. Sam Zell didn’t sit around twiddling his thumbs waiting for that fabled lucky break: He made his own luck, and built an empire in the process.

The other four figures profiled in our cover story—Shaun Donovan, George Marcus, Bob Faith, and the co-chairs of Fortress Investment—followed a similar narrative. Though they represent wildly diverse corners of our industry, from public service to financial engineering, these individuals all started from a place of great ideas.

Yet, great ideas and a dollar will only buy you a cup of coffee (and most likely a bad cup, at that). If it weren’t for the sheer force of their will, these five agents of change never would have altered the shape of the multifamily industry to the extent that they have, and continue to do.

And as we face the next great upturn—and your company finishes budgeting for next year—it’s never been more important to craft your next power play. The opportunities presented to multifamily developers, owners, and managers today are vast and present a choose-your-own-adventure array of options to accelerate your company’s growth.

Still, opportunities often don’t announce themselves; you have to go out and find them. And a great place to start looking is at the Aria Resort in Las Vegas, Oct. 8–10, during the 2012 Multifamily Executive Conference. The theme of this year’s conference is “Excel to Accelerate,” and the central question is, “Are you ready for liftoff?”

At the conference, you’ll have many chances to pick the brains of the industry’s best and brightest on how to break into business lines such as seniors housing, student housing, and affordable housing.

We’ll also feature dedicated sessions on proven strategies to boost NOI; the nation’s hottest secondary markets; the single-family rental business; how to win construction financing; finding your next equity investor; and successful approaches to value-add deals, among many others. Check out the program and our lineup of speakers and register today at www.mfeconference.com.

Attending educational sessions and networking with your peers are a perfect way to get the ball rolling on your company’s next great deal. But finding opportunities is just the first step—a little intestinal fortitude is also required, as Sam Zell can attest.

So I’ll end by, once again, citing the great Branch Rickey, who once said, “A great ballplayer is a player who will take a chance.”