I’m sometimes told that I published a piece of work at exactly the right time. A new book, blog post, or newsletter arrived at the very moment a reader was thinking about the same topic, and I helped provide the right words, insight, or even just a kick out the door to motivate them toward their next step.
I love when this happens. Not because I think I had much to do with them taking those next steps — I might help strike a spark, but they provide the fuel and stoke it into a fire — but because it’s an example of how we can perform what seem to be feats of magic just by approaching communication in a certain way.
‘Serendipity’ refers to a chance circumstance or happening that bears positive results. A blog post about minimalism published at the exact moment you’re thinking of simplifying your life can seem serendipitous, as if the world is trying to tell you something, maybe trying to help you make some kind of decision.
There’s nothing mystical about such an alignment, though. It is perhaps practical magic in that you can calibrate yourself to catalyze more fortuitous flukes, and to garner more of your own. It’s all a matter of how you communicate and how you listen.
I try to stack the deck for serendipity by reaching out to people in myriad ways, though most people will only ever see one or two of these communication channels; the ones that apply to them. But by spreading messages in which I believe via different media, and even revamping the messages to be expressed at different lengths (a book and a tweet are very different delivery systems, but can achieve similar ends), I’m able to plant far more seeds in far more places, increasing the chance that some of them will grow.
Similarly, I work hard to follow and connect with people who I believe have something to offer me in terms of knowledge, life experience, perspective, or even just entertainment. The result is that I find myself benefiting from seemingly serendipitous moments all the time. And again, there’s nothing magical about it: when I’m thinking hard about a particular topic, chances are someone in my carefully cultivated network has thoughts on the subject that can help me break through to some new inspiration or revelation.
That serendipity is not magic means we can stack the deck if we like, and benefit from such moments more frequently. It’s not something you can control in an absolute way — sometimes inspiration never comes, and sometimes it only arrives at the wrong moments — but you can adjust the odds so that the right ideas end up in the right places at the right time more often than seems likely.
Consider how you might stack for serendipity, and then make the investment. Not only will you hear the words you need to hear more frequently, but you’ll more often say the words someone else needs to hear when they need to hear them, as well.
Update: April 19, 2017
I later learned there’s a name for that tendency to see more of the model of car you just bought or to see more of what seem to be vital messages relevant to your concerns and considerations: the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon.