Serendipity

Have you ever wondered about serendipity?

No?

I wonder about it all the time. The reason I’m mentioning it now is TV.

Sorry, I should be more business like, but I watch tv 😀

I just checked the channels on my Sky system and there are two shows on different channels. One is about Peter Pan and the other is about, erm…. Peter Pan.

Odd that they should be showing at the exact same time.

But they each take a hugely different approach to a classic story. What’s interesting to me is that there is so much variation in a well known story.

Have you ever wondered how you could bring something fresh to a sales pitch everyone else is doing? You could do worse than copying TV shows. They seem to know how to take a 100 year old story and reinvent it over and over.

I’ve often noticed that things seem to happen not long after I’ve been thinking about a topic.

Is it magical? Is it fate? No.

What is it? Simple, quite honestly. My attention is on that idea/topic. It’s not exactly a big surprise. It’s like noticing how many cars of YOUR model are on the road just after you buy a new car. You just didn’t notice them before, that’s all.

So I think that serendipitiy exists, but it’s not a supernatural force.

I think it’s just paying attention to what is around you.

So it happens for me at least every week. Often every day. And the reason for that is simple. I pay attention to what is going on around me. I’m not special because I do that.

We can all do that.

But I wonder if you choose to do that consciously? I’ve learned to chose to do it. It’s taken me a lifetime so far.

Let’s see if we can turn this somewhat rambling post into something you can put into practice.

In fact, in another example of serendipity I just read a post on bbc.co.uk that talks about noticing what is in front of you. That’s really the direction I’ll be taking in this post – how’s that for some serendipitous freakiness?

When you ‘see, but do not observe’, it’s a waste of all the information that is going on around you all the time. In the Sherlock Holmes stories that phrase of ‘see, but do not observe’ is explained in a simple way.

Answer me this

I’ll assume you have stairs where you live, or work. You see them every day and most likely use them every day.

Exactly how many steps are there from top to bottom?

If you ask 100 people that question you might get 1 or 2 people who can answer. That’s because they do not pay attention to what is in front of them. They see, but they do not observe

As a distinction, it’s critical.

You cannot make use of information unless you know about it.

And you cannot know about it unless you pay attention to it, consciously.

My own preference for forcing myself to do that is to ask the question ‘why’ a lot. I don’t say it out loud – that would be too weird!

But I think it.

When I read an email I ask myself ‘why is it structured that way, why did they use that phrase, why are they sending it at all’.

The more questions you can ask that start with why, the better. Then throw in some ‘what’ and ‘how’ questions. What font did they use and why? How did they layout the email. And on and on it goes.

If that sounds like a lot of work, yes it is. But here’s the thing.

It generates a lot of results.

And it means you will never be short of an idea.

At first it can be exhausting to do this kind of thing. Mental exercise can be physically exhausting. It’s tempting not to do it. After time though, well, it becomes a habit that you don’t even notice you’re doing.

So how do I use serendipity?

Or more accurately, how do I use my observation of one fact when I see another, apparentely unrelated? Hopefully that’s the question you were already asking yourself.

The first thing I do is ask myself a ‘how’ question. How might these two things be related? What do they have in common? How are they different?

Remember ‘compare and contrast’ at school? It’s like that.

I can take almost any two topics that are totally separate and find some way to link them. But it takes a lot of thinking. Over the years I’ve become pretty fast at it, but it’s something everyone can do at their own speed.

It’s something you can do and get better at if you practise.

What’s the benefit of doing it? For me the benefit is that I’m never short of ideas. I can churn them out so fast I cannot keep up with them, either as content or as a product.

For you the benefit should be the same. I know from what people tell me that coming up with ideas is sometimes harder work than you’d like. It’s likely to remain as work – it is work after all – but it doesn’t have to be impossibly hard. When you allow serendipity to come in by consciously observing, good things happen.

Ideas seem to fall at your feet, just when you need them.

What’s really happening is that your brain is noticing them. They’re falling at your feet all the time, but you’re not looking down!

What’s your view? Am I talking bunkum, or does this resonate with you? Is it making sense? Do you already do this? I’d love to hear your point of view so let’s have a conversation. Let me know by using the comment form below!

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