A question that I'm quite obsessed with asking successful entrepreneurs these days is: "Has your success been more about Serendipity or Strategy?" The responses have been fascinating. I'd estimate that 90 percent of the people I've asked have said that Serendipity was a bigger part of their initial success than Strategy.
The definition of Serendipity – The occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way: "a fortunate stroke of serendipity." Often referred to as a "happy accident."
Now, this result could be skewed by the type of people I find around me. But I suspect it represents the experience of many successful people. I'm not saying Strategy never plays a part, although normally when I hear people answer this they say Serendipity came first and Strategy often followed.
OK. So, if Serendipity seems to play a part in success, is success more about " chance" or " luck" than anything else, or are some people more prone to these serendipitous experiences?
I've been pondering this a lot of late. And my suspicion is that while chance plays a part and some people seem to get lucky, there are probably things you could do to put yourself into Serendipity's path!
A few that come to mind:
Experiment. Many of the people I meet who have success are prolific experimenters. They're always trying new things, pushing boundaries and asking "what if" questions. If you're always trying new things, you're more likely to try something that clicks.
Step out of the comfort zone. I'm not a big fan of this one myself, as I love my comfort zone, but I know the power of stepping outside of it on a personal level. Many of my own personal successes started with something or someone agitating me to get out of my comfort zone and to do something that was a little "left field" for me.
Know what you want. Dream. Many of the people whom I speak with who have these serendipitous moments happen to them are people who, at least on some level, have identified the things they want to happen in their lives. They may not have planned everything out. But they often have some general views on what they want to do and have a strong grasp of what their values are, so when opportunities happen to them, they see them as "dream come true" moments that they leap at—rather than let slip by.
I wonder: How many people don't have "dream come true" moments, because they don't really have any dreams?
*Tell others your dreams.* This one is key. Having a dream is fantastic, but telling other people exponentially increases the chances of it coming to be.
If you know your dream, you'll be on the look out for opportunity for it to happen. But if another person knows your dream, they'll notice opportunities for you, too. Tell ten people and you've suddenly got a mini army of supporters who could help you!
Many of the serendipitous moments that I've had over the years have happened because someone saw something in his or her day-to-day life, and saw it as something I might like to know about—because they'd heard me talk about that thing.
Do things that matter to you. Another trend I've noticed in talking to people is that the things that become successful to people are often things that they started because they had a problem and wanted to solve it.
Solve your own problems and you might just stumble upon a solution that others are likely to want, too.
The other part of this: When you're doing something that matters to you, I have observed you tend to draw others into it more easily than when you're doing something for more "strategic" reasons.
There's something about people who are doing things that are important to them that is infectious. This relates to ...
Be Passionate about what you do. The common advice we hear when it comes to careers or success is: "Find what you're passionate about, and do that."
The problem with this is that most of us not really passionate about too many things that lend themselves to a career/business. There are certainly cases of people who do fit this approach, but my guess is that most peoples' passions don't really translate to a business or job.
What I notice about many successful people is that they bring passion to what they do—rather than letting passion determine what they do.
I'm still thinking this one through, as in some ways it doesn't completely sit with #5 (above) and I can think of exceptions to the rule. I'd love to hear your thoughts on it.
Be happy. Another common thing I hear people speak of is their quest for finding happiness through what they do.
"If I just land this job ... I'll be happy!"
"If I could just be successful ... I'll be happy!"
"If I just find a partner ... I'll be happy!"
The reality is probably the other way around, in my experience. I've had a hunch, over the years, that I have the most success (in my business and personal life) when I'm happy.
I recently stumbled upon The Happiness Advantage, a book by Shawn Achor. The author put into words for me what I'd been feeling for years. Here's just a snippet of what it is about:
"Happiness fuels success, not the other way around. When we are positive, our brains become more engaged, creative, motivated, energetic, resilient, and productive at work. This isn't just an empty mantra. This discovery has been repeatedly borne out by rigorous research in psychology and neuroscience, management studies, and the bottom lines of organizations around the globe."
Source: Darren Rowse, editor, author and speaker, is the founder of ProBlogger and Digital Photography School Digital Photography School, Melbourne, Australia.