Last week I had two wildly random yet strangely connected experiences that got me thinking about the role that serendipity plays in our lives, our happiness, and our careers.
I decided on Friday morning that I wanted to get out of town for the weekend. Not having a car, a friend to go with, or a place to stay, I used Airbnb for lodging and Getaround, a marketplace to rent normal people’s cars, for a vehicle. Upon picking up my car for the weekend, the owner Pooran and I had a conversation about where I was going and what I was doing for the long weekend. I explained my desire to get out of town to have some me time to write and paint and reflect. I don’t know if I said I would meditate as well, but he mentioned that he often goes to the Zen Center, a spot that I frequent in San Francisco. I didn’t think much of it and we parted ways so I could drive out to the Yurt I rented for my retreat.
The next day I taught a trial yoga class at a studio I’ve never been in before. When I got to the Vespa to go home after the class, I realized I left my key inside. Upon returning to the studio I saw that the front desk was being manned by a friend I had made in my life coaching courses and hadn't seen for months! I hadn’t seen her when I originally left the class, but in forgetting my keys and serendipity brought us back together. We had an enthusiastic chat and have a coffee date scheduled for later this week.
These encounters seem to happen to me all the time. I bump into someone in a new context, befriend a person to later find out they may impact a job I’m applying for, or borrow something from someone and end up becoming friends. When these serendipitous moments happen, they are always positive or helpful and somehow they always seem to happen just at the right time.
“Serendipity. Look for something, find something else, and realize that what you’ve found is more suited to your needs than what you thought you were looking for.” Lawrence Block
So what is my trick for having so many serendipitous moments?
I am known to do a really wide, often random assortment of activities. From camping trips to museum events, intellectual dinners to dog charity events, it’s part of my makeup to constantly be amongst new people and in new situations.
This willingness to try anything gives me an advantage because I always have a traveler’s mindset. Imagine being on a trip on your own: you go to the bar by yourself, have dinner alone, go to museums and on tours on your own. In that aloneness, you have a certain vulnerability and that vulnerability makes you more open to outside interactions.
“Serendipity bomb...little packets of potential opportunity you create by acting.”
Putting yourself in places where you are a bit uncomfortable creates this vulnerability and makes you more open to chance encounters, but you have to say yes to those opportunities in order to have the chance to experience it and you need to be present when you arrive.
In San Francisco there are opportunities to learn at or activities to participate in that give you a chance to meet new people literally every day. Taking the time to plan to go to these activities and actually showing up to them expands your contexts for opportunities to arise.
“What is luck but the ability to exploit accidents.” –Jannett Winterson
Don’t be afraid to connect
Each of us want, so deeply, to have a human interaction instead of zoning out on social media. What if you’re the person that can compliment someone’s shoes and help them to feel more confident? Even a smile at someone walking down the sidewalk can have an impact on his or her day. I often notice myself walking along the street with a grin thinking about something in my life that is good and to see others light up around me just makes my smile grow larger.
This applies in your every day interactions. Can you imagine your normal day where, instead of being surrounded by strangers while commuting or having coffee you see it instead as being surrounded by friends just waiting to be made?
Use the opportunity to connect with people as much as you can. It can be over a shared situation or something you notice and like about the other person. If you have the courage to speak up, the benefits are large for your happiness, and have immense potential for lighting a spark for future serendipitous encounters.
“A great attitude does much more than turn on the lights in our worlds; it seems to magically connect us to all sorts of serendipitous opportunities that were somehow absent before the change.”