#17: Some wriggle room for luck
Making the unpredictable our friend
Like most humans, I find comfort in certainty and organisation, and most of my life has been about trying to chase these this duo. But there's a third factor: the unexpected. It's a constant awareness that something might go awry, someone might say something bad, someplace might be dangerous when we're there at the wrong time. This alertness radar is on in every single one of us, subconsciously evaluating every circumstance for the unforeseen and preparing for all the outcomes we see. In me, that radar has been kicked into overdrive this past year.
But then again, not all unexpected circumstances are bad. Archimedes may have prepared for many things in the bath, but displacing water and having a 'Eureka' moment probably wasn't one of them. The serendipitous combination of 3M's weak adhesive and a chemical engineer's choir hymnal bookmarks to make Post-Its was unexpected, and ingenious. Potato chips came into existence thanks to an annoying customer and a fed-up chef in a stroke of good ol' luck.
Rock the damn boat
When we think of the 'unexpected', ten to one we're probably perceiving it as a negative. We're constantly on the alert, preparing for something that might rock the boat. But maybe the boat needed to be rocked. Maybe it needed to be rocked so hard that we fell over, swam to the nearest island, and discovered utopia. If we stopped at rocking the boat, we'd call it a disaster. If we took it to finding utopia, we'd call it a stroke of luck. If we discovered that utopia was a few breaststrokes away, we'd name it a missed opportunity.
What we're missing is the choice that was made to swim the distance and get to that random piece of floating land in the middle of nowhere. So was it really luck?
A serendipity mindset is all about making luck for ourselves. Luck isn't passive in many cases. It's as active as subconsciously connecting the dots and making something out of nothing — or even out of a negative. So yeah, it's very possible to create this thing that's been veiled in mystery and unpredictability all this time. But boy, does it take work.
Christian Busch, the author of The Serendipity Mindset, paints unpredictability and unforeseen circumstances as gaps in the system worth taking advantage of. But to find those gaps, we'll need a couple things:
An open mind
Being open means being prepared for and accepting of anything that comes one's way. When we're going along a single path with blinkers on, we aren't seeing the wormholes on the left and right that might take you someplace better. Obviously, all that starts with evaluating where you are, challenging your mindsets, and going past the functional fixedness that prevents us from improvising and being resourceful.
We speak of time in different ways. We steal it from our work, we carve it out of our otherwise full calendars. Therefore, intentional time doesn't mean leftovers from another task or forceful breaks after a mind-numbing day. It means time devoted to doing whatever calls us and appeals to our sense of curiosity and joy. Without the constraints of a timer or the pressure of a task list to get back to, we're more likely to bring our mind back to its original state: clear and free to roam the plains of opportunity.
A lucky mindset
To see the good stuff, we have to go in prepared. That means forgoing the "I'm not a lucky person" refrain, and building ourselves up, like a fighter being hyped up before a fight. If that means we have to say "I am lucky" to ourselves in the mirror a hundred times every morning, so be it. The more we believe we're worthy of attracting the good stuff, the more likely we are to see it all around us.
We might use luck to refer to unpredictable wins. But 'smart' luck, Dr Busch says, is made by looking keenly at the ordinary, challenging what we know, and looking beyond the routine and organisation we cling so desperately to.
So yeah. When plotting out our life's roadmap in bullet journals and Notion and whatnot, let's try to leave some wiggle room for luck, shall we?
Illustration by Supriya Bhonsle
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