On Serendipity

And How To Apply It In Real Life

If you ask me, serendipity is one of those buzzwords that has become convoluted and meaningless, much like the word synergy (you can read my thoughts on that word here).

When you stop and think about it, what does serendipity actually mean?

ser·en·dip·i·ty (n.) The faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for; also : an instance of this.

Ugh. Why do we always have to overcomplicate things?

Let me translate:

ser·en·dip·i·ty (n.) A favorable event that happens by chance.

Better? I thought so.

Why put so much effort into simplifying such a seemingly useless word?

I’ll tell you why; this word is not as useless as you may think.

When grounded in reality, it actually becomes extremely helpful, especially when looking for new opportunities. Instead of tiptoeing around my point, let me share an insightful tidbit from Louis Pasteur, discoverer of Immunology:

“Chance favors only the prepared mind.”

That’s right.

Serendipity has a funny way of benefiting those of us who proactively prepare for new experiences and opportunities.

Let me give you a personal example of serendipity at work:

Around three years ago, I was standing in line at a local coffee shop, baffled by the endless choices of lattes. Amidst my confusion, I overheard a conversation between two women behind me. Two sisters were catching up after not seeing each other for a while, and one happened to mention how much she was enjoying her online program in Interaction Design.

It was at this very moment I felt compelled to turn around and introduce myself. It just so happened I was considering continuing my education with a master’s degree in Interaction Design.

We all sat down with our overpriced coffee and they proceeded to share valuable insight into pursuing a master’s degree, alternative opportunities (like online courses), and the field of Interaction Design in general.

After leaving that coffee shop, my mind was buzzing with caffeine and a newfound sense of determination. I wondered:

“Why can’t every day be like this; full of serendipitous events that move the needle forward?”

This question put me on the path I’m currently on; helping others connect over shared ideas. Because I was proactively looking for personal growth, I had an open mindset that was receptive to new opportunities.

Thanks to this mindset, my “spidey sense” went off as soon as I heard someone else mention my topic of interest and I naturally felt compelled to say something.

The thing is, on the overall scale, I’m fairly extroverted.

I refuel my energy by talking with others and sharing ideas. For me, saying something in this serendipitous moment felt right. I wasn’t worried about breaking the ice because the insight I could gain was worth much more than a few awkward seconds.

If you find yourself in a similar situation as an introvert, try being honest. Tell that person why you felt compelled to say something and ask if they have a few minutes to sit down and talk. You might be surprised at how far honesty can take you.

This is just one example of serendipity in real life. In order to increase your chances of benefitting from other serendipitous events, try two simple steps:

  1. Expand your search for opportunity outside of your current bubble. Try connecting with others using social media and other methods online. Even better, take it a step further and focus on traveling more. I guarantee you will never regret money spent on travel.
  2. Maintain a flexible attitude. By keeping an open mind, you will start to connect dots where there once weren’t any. During these moments, you will find opportunities you didn’t even know existed. Take each one and see where it leads you. You won’t be sorry.

In the grand scheme of things, life is far too short not to create and take advantage of new opportunities. Call it serendipity. Call it luck. Call it whatever you want.

Just make sure you are prepared whenever it calls you.

Are you open to serendipity? How are you making your own opportunities? Share your thoughts in the comments below or on Twitter at @williamfrazr.

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