People find comfort in certainty. We form organisations; we structure our activities and strategies around the idea of certainty; we find satisfaction knowing that planning will bring fruition. But the unforeseen makes the greatest difference to our futures.
We look out for the unexpected every day - for example, when we use a pedestrian crossing, we still look out for the unexpected driver who might race through the red light. That awareness of the unexpected is at the core of understanding the science of smart luck that we can use to our benefit.
Many of the world's leading minds have developed a capacity to use the unexpected in a positive way.
You can develop a serendipity mindset in yourself. Serendipity is not a passive luck that just happens to you. It is an active process of seeing and connecting the dots. It is about seeing bridges where others see gaps, then taking the initiative to create smart luck.
It is vital to be open and alert to the unexpected.
In one experiment, two people were chosen. The one saw themselves as 'lucky,' the other as 'unlucky.' Both participants were taking separate trips to a coffee shop. On the pavement was a £5 note, and inside sat someone posing as a successful businessman.
This experiment shows that your mindset, and how you think about the possibility, can affect your ability to find opportunities in the moment.
Preparation is the main factor for creating smart luck. It is mostly about removing the mental and physical barriers to serendipity. These include overloaded schedules, pointless meetings, and inefficiencies throughout your day.
An unprepared mind often discards unusual encounters and misses the opportunities for smart luck. Preparation is about developing the ability to employ the positive coincidences that come up in life.
Our habits and preconceptions can prevent us from spotting serendipity. Three major biases stand in the way:
Beginners can set a timer for two minutes, then list in two columns the parts of your day that led to positive outcomes and parts that did not. Examine what parts worked really well, and what was inefficient, stressful or unfulfilling.
You might notice patterns that stand out for good or bad. Sometimes, it's the smaller things that deplete your energy and alertness.
Serendipity often requires an incubation period. Some efforts result in an immediate spark, while others are like planting seeds that will produce fruit in the future.
Respect your time. Diarise this time like you would a business meeting. Give yourself space to manage your focus, interests and creative energies.
There are simple tools that can further help you exploit serendipity.