Serendipity Doesn’t Happen By Being Passive

People talk about serendipity happening to them.  When it happens, it’s not because people were simply in the right place at the right time.  They usually are out in the world trying to make things happen.

People often guard their ideas closely.  They think that they are the only ones that might have this particular idea, or this particular version of it.  Unless you go out and share your idea, serendipity will never happen to you.

Professor Ron Burt at Chicago Booth told me once that you have to be open and willing to take risk.  This means when you are standing in line somewhere, you open up a conversation with someone even though there is no reason to.  It may go totally badly.   Or, something interesting might happen.

The best way to get serendipity to happen is to ask questions of other people.  By getting them to talk about what they are doing, you will learn if there is any way for you to help them.  If you can help them, then it’s more likely good things will come out of it.  Brad Feld likes to talk about “Give Before You Get”.  I want to change the way that’s viewed because it feels too quid pro quo to me.  The “getting” might come back to you in different ways other than money.

You might end up with a really great relationship with someone.  Or, you might not make any money by giving, but you might better your reputation which allows you more opportunities.

Too often, people try to program networking.  You can be strategic about it, but if you are too strategic you are simply social climbing and people see through it.