Serendipity

Definition: finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for

Last weekend, I asked my family a question: “what is your favourite word?”

My wife had 3 favourites. One of those words is “serendipity”.

Side note: My 6 year old had one favourite word. “Love”. She is a genius IMHO.

This week several events occurred where I found that the word serendipity was the clearest expression of how the important people and important opportunities have come into my life.

I’m on the train to Madrid this morning, and stopped to reflect on why this word came up and why it is so relevant.

What is the difference between serendipity and luck?

…from the Merriam Webster dictionary

“There is considerable similarity between luck and serendipity, but there are also settings in which one word might be more apt than the other. Serendipity has a fairly narrow meaning, one that is concerned with finding pleasing things that one had not been looking for, while luck has a somewhat broader range (with meanings such as “a force that brings good fortune or adversity,” “success,” and “the events or circumstances that operate for or against an individual”). One might easily be said to have luck that is bad, which one would not say of serendipity.”

Serendipitous Opportunities

I didn’t have it on my bucket list to do an MBA, it was someone else’s dream and they brought me along. Teaching was not something I ever imagined doing, and Brian Leggett opened that door for me. IESE now plays a huge part in my life and a huge contribution to my feeling of belonging in Spain, to contributing to society, and to developing my own reputation. Serendipity.

Vistage was not something I was looking for. I had no strategic plan that was looking for Vistage 10 years ago… I had a coffee with a friend, Verne Harnish, and he said “I think I have something for you”… and he gently pushed and encouraged me until I made a concerted effort to look at what the opportunity might mean for me. He did not just say “check this out.” He pushed me. I will always appreciate his encouragement.

EO was not something that I was looking for – I went to a lunch with a VC to get them to invest in my business… and Christopher invited me to a learning event… which led me to a 17 year participation as a member and a leader in EO.

How to Maximize Serendipity

Human relationships are the foundation of serendipity.

The more people that know who you are and what you stand for, the better.

Writing this blog and sharing my weekly youtube videos are my most powerful tools to let the world know what I stand for.

Publish content (blogs, podcasts, videos, articles) regularly. Don’t try to be an expert, publish what you are learning. Let people know what you are building, what is important to you, what sort of future you are looking to create.

People will discover you. They get a sense of what interests you. They become a global radar guidance system for you that raises your Serendipity Quotient.

How to find Opportunities (increase your Luck)

“Every opportunity is attached to a person. Opportunities do not float like clouds in the sky. They’re attached to people. If you’re looking for an opportunity — including one that has a financial payoff — you’re really looking for a person.”

Entrepreneur and investor Ben Casnocha, Source: James Clear’s (excellent!) weekly newsletter
meeting Verne Harnish 😉

My life is an example of this quote in action. The most transformational opportunities in my life have come to me through people. I would not be teaching at IESE without Brian Leggett opening the door for me… not just to teaching, but even to the idea that I might be able to teach. I would not be involved with Vistage without Verne Harnish.

In both of these cases, I didn’t even know that the opportunity even existed. I was not looking for the opportunity. It took the vision of the other person to see a path for me that I would never have seen myself.

The power of people luck is that others can often see an opportunity that you cannot see yourself.

Return on Luck (especially People luck)

meeting Jim Collins 😉

I had the privilege to meet Jim Collins a few years back in San Diego. A powerful idea that Jim has shared is “Return on Luck”. Over several years, Jim and his team investigated the hypothesis that “successful people/companies are just luckier”. They defined what it would mean for a life event to be considered “luck”:

A luck event is one that meets 3 criteria:

  1. not predictable
  2. has consequences
  3. outside of my control

Jim and his team looked at successful and unsuccessful companies, and leaders, and identified every luck event that had occurred.  They found no difference in the absolute number of luck events.

Successful People & Companies are not Luckier

There is no difference in the absolute number of luck events in the lives of successful or unsuccessful companies or leaders.

However, Jim and his team did find a difference in what happened after the luck event… Once luck happens… how do you respond?

Jim calls this “Return on luck”. Once a “luck event” has happened, there is a big difference in how successful and unsuccessful companies and leaders respond.

The luck event happens… then what?  You meet the girl of your dreams and say “Nice to meet you” or you say “I want a coffee, will you join me?”  You meet a key person in the company you dream of working for… what do you do with this moment?

When something lucky happens in your life, do you seize it and take action?  Are consistently getting prepared for future luck events in your life?

Dwight Eisenhower taught military strategy for years at West Point… when he accidentally got the chance to present his ideas to General Patton after Pearl Harbour, he had been practicing for years how to present a military strategy. He turned a chance meeting into a promotion to general, and then on to President of the United States.

Jim says that the most valuable type of luck is People luck… and knowing how to create a Return on People Luck is transformative.

How to be open to people luck? How to create a return on People luck? These are my questions…

Ingredients to increasing people luck:

  • Meet more people
  • make a better first impression
  • share your life vision in a way that others wish to help
  • bring opportunities into other people’s lives (introduce them to others, think about who and what you know that could help others, ask good questions to find out what they are seeking)
  • thank anyone that helps you (written note better than an email)
  • have a blog, youtube channel, articles, posts on linkedin that consistently clarify who you are and where you are going
  • join organisations where great people bring interesting opportunities (business schools, Vistage, EO, YPO, Rotary)
  • speak on stages at conferences
  • what else?

Ingredients to increase return on people luck:

  • learn who they are – ask better questions – become deeply curious
  • be trustworthy (the trust equation)
  • become better at demonstrating your appreciation
  • create more opportunities that you can offer to others
  • what else?

3 Recommendations from Jim Collins:

  1. Seek clarity. Clarity of speaking comes from consistently writing your ideas down
  2. Choose Excellence. Excellence is the fruit of a conscious decision and commitment to long term disciplines (that are not easy for anybody)
  3. Seek Evidence. Evidence matters (especially in living our own lives)

If you liked this post, you will also like Stand in the Traffic and Fully Committed: Success comes from Putting 20x More behind your Opportunities.

How to Be Lucky (4 Ways to Improve your Luck in Life)

This video is about 4 ways to bring more luck into your life.

We Make our own Luck. 

Why do some people lead happy successful lives whilst other face repeated failure and sadness? What enables some people to have successful careers whilst others find themselves stuck in jobs they hate? Can unlucky people do anything to improve their luck?

In the book The Luck Factor, Professor Richard Wiseman (good name for a professor!) shares his research into luck. He has spent over a decade investigating the beliefs and experiences of lucky and unlucky people.

If you think you’re unlucky, that bad luck may be the direct result of you believing you’re unlucky.

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