Holding On To Circumstance

Amidst our constant connection to others, we’re missing out on the present.

Personally, I’ve always been a huge fan of the power of coincidence. Running into a long lost friend in the airport; or passing an old teacher from grade school on the street - these circumstantial interactions have worked wonders for me.

In one case, I am especially indebted to a circumstantial conversation between two women in a nail salon, both of whom consequently still use old flip cell phones and neither of whom are on Facebook. They had nothing to do while waiting for their nails to dry, and so they started talking.

One mentions she knows a “nice young man” in NYC who had recently graduated from Cornell - and is single. The other woman mentions her daughter, a woman who had also recently graduated from Cornell - and is also single. So, they decided to fix them up.

I’m especially fortunate for this, because I was the young man, and that’s how I met my wife, Erica. I wonder: If these women had smartphones and iPads, would they have been talking as their nails were drying? Circumstantial interactions offer enormous potential for our lives.

This realization is especially true when it comes to our careers. Some of the greatest deals and partnerships are the result of chance conversations during the breaks at conferences or cocktail receptions - the moments when we usually dive into our email. The value of any experience is often found in the seams.

The problem is, despite how valuable of a role circumstance plays in our lives, we can’t plan for it. As we become more connected - we become less open to circumstance. We stop noticing what is going on around us.

Stay open.

Things to think about:

  1. The 21st century challenge is to keep your focus and preserve the sanctity of mind that is required to create and ultimately make an impact in what matters most to you. Imagination happens when your mind has the freedom to run rampant. Unfortunately, in the modern day, our minds are usually busy reacting and digesting tons of information. We need to be aware of the cost of constant connection.
  2. Value the circumstantial. Recognize how powerful it is. And then mine the circumstantial with more intention.
  3. In a world of twitter, email, endless texts, internet wonder (and now Medium!), create windows of non-stimulation in your day and life - whether through habits or rituals, when you can tune out of everything else and tune into yourself. Periods of time to focus on making meaningful progress on your own projects - time spent being open to what’s around us and creating. Don't rely on a flight oversees or some other means of being forced to disconnect through circumstance (they’re rapidly disappearing!), force yourself.
  4. Recognize the stuff you do out of insecurity or the need for constant stimulation, then compartmentalize it. Browsing analytics for your website, checking how many “likes” or “followers” you have. Don’t spend too much time doing it. You cannot imagine what will be if you’re constantly concerned about what already is.