“We’re sitting outside. If you’re not busy, come join us.”
I looked at the older gentleman in front of me; then I thought about the pile of work that was waiting for me. In a moment that would unexpectedly change my stars, I said to myself, “Screw it, let’s get some sun.”
After all, it was my first time visiting Denver. I was there for a week-long trip and stopped by a cafe to grab coffee and finish some work projects, when I started a random conversation with a man next to me. Just as a throwaway line, I said I was traveling from LA.
“My wife’s from there too,” he said before warmly inviting me to join them on the sunny patio.
For the next hour, we talked, laughed, and swapped stories like old friends. I admired their energy and positivity and even mentioned I could see myself living in Denver someday.
“We’re visiting LA in October. Let’s exchange information and you could meet us when we’re in town,” they suggested.
“Absolutely,” I said.
“We’re traveling for two weeks in November and need someone to look after our place,” they told me when I met my new-found friends for brunch. “If you still want to move to Denver, you could house-sit for us so you can look for apartments without staying at a hotel.”
My heart skipped a beat. I didn’t really believe in omens at that point, but that was an omen if I ever saw one.
It was one of the most generous offers I had ever received in my life. Me? An almost complete stranger? In their home? I was moved by their kindness, but doubts started flooding my mind. It meant I only had three weeks to pack everything and say goodbye to my home since birth. I also wasn’t sure if it was the right time to relocate.
But sometimes, life isn’t about waiting for the “perfect time” — it’s about acting in spite of imperfections and making the best of each moment.
So I went.
Being a typical Los Angeleno, I’ve never driven through a blizzard in my life—mountains covered in powdery white, twisting roads barely visible, and snow coming at you like in The Shining.
My knuckles were white from hanging onto my steering wheel, but thankfully, I survived the trek across the Rocky Mountains and made it to Denver to start my new chapter.
I didn’t, however, end up looking for apartments. As luck would have it, there was a place for rent in the same building as my new friends — and I ended up living there for the next 5 years.
Over that half-decade, I met countless amazing people, found new passions, and reinvented my life. And those two people became more than friends: They became my family. They cared for me, gave me life advice, and listened to me through good times and bad—and I loved them for that.
All because of one random conversation.
How to Create More Serendipity in Your Life
I’ve learned that life is rarely a linear path: It’s more like the Butterfly Effect where a butterfly flaps its wings and—voilà—you start a new career, move cities, or find the person you’ll spend the rest of your life with.
When people asked me why I moved to Denver, I usually joked that I came for Chipotle. (Fun fact: The restaurant chain originated there.) But the real reason I moved, had new experiences, and found a new family was far from it:
It's because I embraced serendipity.
I could've gone to that cafe and not started a conversation with a random stranger almost three-times my age.
When they invited me to sit outside with them, I could've declined and did the work that I “should’ve” done.
And when they invited me to housesit, I could've said the timing wasn’t right, I shouldn’t drive through a blizzard, or I shouldn’t trust two random strangers, and let the chance go by.
But I didn't.
I took advantage of every opportunity that life put in front of me and went after each risk. And while there’s no guaranteed recipe for success, I’m pretty damn sure that's why I had the experiences that I did.
To create more serendipity in your life, I’ve found the best way is a simple, two-step approach: (1) Open yourself to more opportunities, and (2) take advantage of more of those opportunities.
For the first step, push yourself beyond your normal range of experiences. (It’s going to be hard to create serendipity if you don’t do much besides work and sleep, right?) Spend more time outside of your home and around other people. Attend different events — in-person or virtually — to expand your network. Connect with people you admire online and send them a thank-you note. That way, you unlock far more possibilities than ever before and “cast a wider net.”
For the second step, make the most of all the opportunities you get. After all, you can’t control what life puts in front of you, but you can control whether or not you make the most of it. It’s almost like a role-playing game: You step outside of your door and there’s an infinite number of possibilities that await you; what are you going to do with them?
Say “Hi” to the people you pass by daily and introduce yourself. When a random stranger asks you a question, don’t just answer it and leave — start chatting with them and have a conversation. When someone invites you to do something (and you’re not 100% interested), give it a shot, have fun, and see what happens.
It’s a recipe that has never failed to create spectacular results in my life. Because to me, the best way to live life is to grab it “by the horns,” listen to your heart, follow the omens, and let it take you to places you could’ve never imagined.
Rather than trying to just “get by” or hold onto routines, the only way to truly live life is to be changed by life.
It’s to have a friendly and warm attitude toward it — and everyone in it — and to trust that the universe is always working in your favor.
It’s to open yourself to new possibilities, be vulnerable, and be willing to let life break your heart if that’s what it thinks is best. Because even when I followed my heart and things didn’t work out, I’m still grateful I took action and went after what I believed in.
And that’s how to create more serendipity in your life.
“When I have been truly searching for my treasure, I’ve discovered things along the way that I never would have seen had I not had the courage to try things that seemed impossible for a shepherd to achieve.”
— Paulo Coelho, “The Alchemist”
Even now, due to the pandemic, a lot of my plans and goals have been altered drastically. But I just have to take everything one step at a time, keep laying down dots in my life, and hope that — eventually — all of them will connect again.
In the meantime, I'll keep pushing myself beyond my current reach and taking advantage of my opportunities.
And I’ll keep reminding myself that one random conversation has the power to change everything.
Thank goodness for serendipity.
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