Here's a funny thing. I wrote a newsletter a couple of weeks ago for my clients about luck, serendipity and how those thing apply in life and in investing. You can read it here, if you are interested. And then, in a serendipitous fashion, the word serendipity popped up everywhere - I keep reading about it....people keep using the word...it just seems to be EVERYWHERE. In my newsletter I question luck in our lives and I talk about the difference between luck and serendipity (I just love the word - the more I write it the more I love it!). I gave a story of my life which had many elements of luck in it (the way I got my first job and then how I met my now husband on my first day) but looking back at it now, it was really a series of occurrences that I created through hard work, so it was definitely more serendipity than luck.
So what is the difference between the two? I like a definition I heard recently on a podcast (I am obsessed with podcasts). Jason Zweig, personal finance columnist for the Wall Street Journal, described luck as something that happens to you, whilst serendipity is something that you can influence and shape. It’s the ‘creating your own luck’ thing.
As I discuss in my newsletter, one element of luck is the chance encounters we have with people in our lives. Some people are better than others at creating the opportunity for chance encounters. People that do the same thing every day, take the same route, speak to the same people, go to the same places - they limit serendipity in their lives. People who travel to new places, mix things up, speak to different sorts of people - they have the right mindset and they increase the opportunities for those 'change your life' encounters. They create their own luck, or maximise their serendipity.
A fascinating study into luck was done by Richard Wiseman, an experimental psychologist. He spent an entire decade looking at what makes some people 'lucky' and others not so lucky. His conclusion was that lucky people generate their own good fortune via four basic principles:
- They are skilled at creating and noticing chance opportunities
- The make lucky decisions by listening to their intuition
- They create self-fulfilling prophesies via positive expectations
- They adopt a resilient attitude that transforms bad luck into good.
It's all about mindset.
Today during my weekend catch-up on reading I came across a blog titled 'how to maximise serendipity'. The author writes:
Serendipity is a state of mind. Serendipity births unexpected opportunities which fuel progress and push us in fruitful directions. By maximizing serendipity, you’ll accelerate your progress.
Serendipity is a skill, which means it can be learned.
I like the idea that it is a skill and can be learned - he is right I am sure. The author lists a whole bunch of ways in which you can create more serendipity in your life. It's a great read (read it here). I like all his ideas...build a serendipity vehicle (this blog is mine), be a connector, prioritize your health, zig and zag....they are just a few of them. This one is particularly fun:
THE HOTEL BATHROOM PRINCIPLE
Whenever I'm in a city and I need to use the bathroom, I walk into a fancy hotel.
Fancy hotels always have nice bathrooms. And if you're dressed well and walk confidently, you won’t be hassled for using the bathroom.
The world is becoming more casual. But if you dress too casually, it looks sloppy and careless.
When you want to cultivate serendipity, stick to the "Hotel Bathroom" dress code. Always dress well enough to walk into a bathroom at a hotel you’re not staying at and get away with it.
If you remember the "Hotel Bathroom Principle" you’ll always look sharp enough to capitalize on a serendipitous encounter.
This week my friend Tom McCallum also wrote about serendipity, and I quote from his blog (read it here):
“Serendipity is a word that some may call luck or coincidence. Perhaps, but I don’t believe in luck, I don’t believe in coincidence. I believe in serendipity. Perhaps it is a combination of clarity of purpose and creating the environment (both in structure and in belief and energy) to both allow serendipities to emerge and for you to see them in front of you and choose to make them part of your journey.”
What a wonderful way to think about it. You have to 'see them in front of you and choose to make them part of your journey'. Serendipity is there for us all, of that I am sure.