Serendipity, so what?

(Note: This is last piece of a larger exploration I’ve been working on around serendipity. You can find all the articles here.)

So, I think this will be the last post about serendipity (for a bit anyway.) I looked, and I’ve written more on Serendipity in this blog over the last few weeks than I wrote most of last year. It’s been fun to write and explore ideas again. I hope/plan to keep this cadence up. Exploring ideas through writing is good for me; I’m too easily distracted otherwise. But enough about that. 

So after reading and writing about serendipity for the better part of 5 months (obviously a lot more reading than writing), I was left to wonder where it’s taken me.  Serendipity is this ethereal concept, and you can’t really plan or program for it. You can position and prepare for things, but there’s no assurance. I was wondering about all this a few nights ago. At the outset, I was excited about this magical nature of luck, but now that I know much, much more what changes? Sure it’s good dinner conversation, but what could anyone take from this? 

I think I’ve decided that serendipity is probably more about the journey than the spoils it might reward. Adopting a lot of the practices to move you closer to serendipity probably leads you to a more interesting, fulfilling, waking life. If we all found inspiration at the edges of our network, or worked toward a beginners mind, or built our world our passions, or were generous with everything we had to offer we would shake off a lot of the cynicism and weariness we earn with age and experience. And after prying these barnacles off our mental bow, we might see new waters.

I’ve also noticed that the principles behind serendipity have huge parallels with the processes of creativity and design; learning through making, finding inspiration anywhere, provoking thought through action. In this same way, serendipity is more of a means than an end. Because of your creative process you see and create new things. You won’t know where you’ll end up, but the process helps your mind move through things. (I’m left wondering is you can sharpen and tune your process for serendipity in the same way you your creative process.)

As a process, serendipity lays out some principles for a life best lived. It’s not a quid pro quo existence. It requires a faith in something bigger; faith in people, faith in the greater human potential. This for me is probably the big idea. If serendipity only occurs in 1% of our lives, its principles set us up brilliantly to experience the other 99%. The idea invites you to be more open, more curious, more engaged, and more generous. And we can’t encounter serendipity alone, we need each other to stir our thoughts. We have to trigger each other’s soft machines.

So, if we’re pursuing serendipity, we’re better together. This more networked and messy process flies in the face of some of the capitalistic and objectivist tenants infused in our culture. I’m sort of excited to see serendipity popping up so much in the zeitgeist. Hopefully we’re moving beyond the selfish idea of luck and the collective concept of potential.

2 comments

  1. Love the post! Following these simple ideas of being more open, curious, engaged, and generous really improve everything about our lives, both individually and collectively. Interestingly I’ve also notices these strong parallels of serendipity and creativity. I believe the type of creativity that leads to innovative ideas and good design feeds off of a series of serendipitous events taking place in a process such as design thinking. Best, Julius

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