Serendipity: An unsought, unintended, and/or unexpected, but fortunate, discovery and/or learning experience that happens by accident.
I’ve always been a massive believer of the power of serendipity. Let’s face it, life is full of serendipitous moments, or ‘happy accidents’, that provide us with twists and turns that keep things interesting and moving forward. For example:
- a chance encounter with someone who becomes a lifelong friend or impacts your life in some way,
- you attend an event and the presenter tells a story that has a profound effect on the way you think about your career,
- a colleague tells you in passing about a new book that they’re reading; you go and buy it, and in turn it motivates you to take action on an opportunity you’ve been dragging your feet on,
- or it might simply be a case of wandering down to your local pub (remember those days?) and the band playing that night blows you away, instantly turning you into a lifelong fan of their music.
The role serendipity plays in our professional life
These sorts of things happen all the time, but I’m not sure we stop to appreciate the awesomeness of such moments. Indeed, given they’re serendipitous and therefore, by default, unexpected, can we actively seek out and create such moments? It feels counter-intuitive, doesn’t it? Kinda like ‘planned spontaneity’ 🙂
Okay, let’s set aside the personal side of serendipity for a moment and focus on the role it plays in our professional lives, and I include personal branding in this.
“… serendipity is a combination of things: actively setting up opportunities, a willingness to go with the flow of events, the ability to see the thing that arises by chance, and finally, being prepared to seize the opportunity-prepared both in the sense of being open to the possibility and ready to take advantage of it.”
Social media: the serendipity engine
I love Heaton’s explanation of serendipity as it shows the multidimensional nature of phenomenon, and the importance of being aware of it when it does occur.
I remember launching head-first into social media in the early days: I was blown away at the connections I was making with random people from all walks of life, many of whom have since become good friends.
With these connections came ideas and stories and introductions and relationships and opportunities, which in turn led to more connections, ideas, stories, relationships and opportunities.
In my case, these serendipitous encounters changed my life in countless ways, and in part took me down numerous new professional paths as opportunities opened up like chasms in an earthquake.
You could say social media — particularly Twitter — represents serendipity ‘on steroids’ as it speeds everything up i.e. connections and relationships, the sharing of knowledge, ideas and insights etc.
So how can we accelerate the power of serendipity? Here are some ideas -
- The more you help people, the more you’ll get back in the way of connections, ideas, relationships and opportunities (often these will come to you as a result of serendipitous moments, or chance encounters).
- The more genuinely active you are on social media, the more connections you’ll make with people who in all likelihood you wouldn’t get to meet in real life. What you’re doing is building a positive online presence that in turn will attract attention, and with attention, comes favourable circumstances and opportunities.
- The more ideas you share (by publishing original content), debates you ignite and public conversations you participate in, the greater the potential of developing a growing base of fans and advocates of you — your personal brand, what it is you do and stand for — who in turn will promote you and share your ideas with their professional networks. This activity has the potential to lead to all sorts of meetings, introductions and opportunities that probably wouldn’t come your way if you remained a hermit, professionally speaking.
I’ll leave you with this: The next time you’re invited to a meetup or networking event — it’s the end of a long work day, you’re knackered and all you want to do is go home and wind down with a frothy … think about the possibility that if you do go, you may just meet a really cool person — a chance encounter with someone of like-mind; a productive conversation ensues, a relationship develops, all of which leads to something bigger: this person might just end up playing an influential role in your life, business or career.
BUT IT WILL ONLY HAPPEN IF YOU GO TO THAT EVENT, AND IF YOU’RE WILLING TO ‘GO WITH THE FLOW’.