“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” —T. S. Eliot
Remember that time you lost your keys, but found a handful of change in the couch looking for them? Or when you missed your bus, but ran into an old friend on the next bus. I took a different route to work one time and found a baby bird abandoned on the sidewalk. What would have been a typical day at the office turned into a morning of mothering, pigeon salvation. And a great story!
These are all fortunate accidents. We can never predict their existence, but they just show up and create connections we never would have made on our own. Robert Greene, author of Mastery, writes about allowing serendipity to take a role in your work as a method for finding your breakthrough in your work. Some of the most brilliant thinkers had their epiphanies when they stopped thinking of the problem. Think of Isaac Newton and the falling apple. Thomas Edison was grappling with a haunting whirring noise on his telegraph when he realized that he could use similar technology to record human voice; thus the phonograph was born.
So what does serendipity do?
Imagine these dots represent chance opportunities, a meeting with a friend or a stranger, conferences, books we read; all the encounters we expose ourselves to, outside of our most regular routines. There are so many ways for these dots to connect and create something.
We never know how the dots are going to connect, only that they have the potential to generate their own organic paths. The more doors we open, the more gateways to greatness. And if not greatness, a great experience or story.
When we open ourselves up to more opportunities to meet people, attend events, talk to strangers, try a new restaurant, commute on a different route, break routines, something happens: doors appear where before there were only walls. Make bigger moves: join a Meetup group with people that have the same interests, email someone you admire, ask a professional out to coffee to pick their brain, or start an internship.
Generating opportunities opens up more ways for us to discover what we’re good at, also known as discovering our aptitudes. We may never uncover them if we are not presented with an opportunity to try.
The world has a way of making these paths for us in unexpected (and sometimes delightful) patterns. Getting out of the everyday routines allows for these random connections to find one another. Change one aspect of your routine at a time, and you may be surprised what opens up to you. Control the uncontrollable. Plan the unplannable. And you’ll begin to manufacture your own serendipity.