Serendipity means making pleasant discoveries by accident. It is a lovely word that can serve as a catch-all for so many experiences. Becoming reacquainted with a friend from high school, finding the favorite watch you lost in the pocket of an old coat, or sitting next to a stranger on an airplane who inspires you with their enthusiastic optimism are examples of serendipity. These can either be dismissed as lucky happenstance, or as a mysterious, enchanting event out of our control.
If you believe in the latter, then acting on these incidents of good fortune becomes second nature. The old adage about the man who drowned after the flood waters rose around his home, and repeatedly dismissed all attempts by emergency boats and helicopters to save him as he sat praying on his roof, reminds me of my own stubborn will. After he drowns and faces Saint Peter at the gates of heaven, he asks, “Why didn’t you save me? I prayed for your deliverance from my situation.” Peter reminded him of the boats and the helicopters sent to answer the man’s prayers.
Sometimes serendipity comes in the form of a quiet whisper – and occasionally it resembles the force of a sledgehammer – but in either case, we must be prepared to hear and react to the message. One seemingly small idea can become your new specialty if you are motivated to flesh out the details, learn about the subject, and be willing to fail.
That last part becomes the greatest stumbling block for many of us. How many times have you heard someone explain how a great idea revealed itself in a magazine, in casual conversation, or during particularly unpleasant times in their lives? When pressed, they will also tell you about how many times they fumbled around, nearly to the point of giving up, when suddenly the real break-through happened? If we are to at least stay even with the changing world around us, then we must be willing to adapt to change.
Charles Darwin, the man behind the theory of evolution, wrote, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, not the most intelligent. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”
Be willing to embrace the unknown, remain open to new ideas, and listen closely, serendipity might just change your business or, better yet, your life.