Connect the Dots for Eureka Moments
You’ve likely heard this saying before:
The harder I work, the luckier I get.
It’s often attributed as a paraphrase of something Thomas Jefferson wrote. That apparently isn’t true, but Hollywood mogul Samuel Goldwyn did in fact say the pithy eight words above.
Entrepreneurship and self-employment certainly involve luck. Sometimes things completely outside our control end up causing things to go right, or wrong.
But the kind of luck that comes from doing the work is a different breed. Serendipity is not the passive kind of luck that just happens to you. It happens because you put yourself in a position to benefit from it.
Now, before you think that I’m advocating some “law of attraction” nonsense, let me define what we’re talking about. There’s a growing body of scientific evidence that demonstrates that serendipity is more of a beneficial cognitive process than some “woo woo” magic.
One of the reasons people in general (not just entrepreneurs) try to forecast the future is because we find comfort in certainty. This helps us maintain a sense of control that provides mental well-being.
Ironically, it’s coming across something unexpected or uncertain that sparks serendipity and true breakthrough thinking. It’s an active process of encountering something new and different, and then connecting the dots back to what you already know.
In this way, two people can look at the exact same technological development, for example, and one experiences confusion while the other arrives at a brilliant idea. Serendipity is the difference.
The Serendipity Life
Serendipity happens to me so often that I now have complete faith that the answers I need will arrive somehow, even when I feel stuck. When you pay attention and think deeply about your particular area of expertise, you open yourself up to unexpected new ideas from sources that you wouldn’t consciously think to explore for inspiration.
For example, while writing this Future Freedom email course, I needed ways to explain how the personal enterprise works through examples and analogies. Rather than tearing my hair out looking for them, things like the Tesla analogy and the story of how Walt Disney lost Oswald the Rabbit showed up while I wasn’t working.
I instantly saw how they worked to illustrate the points I needed to make. So I took a second to jot them down, and later incorporated them into the content.
This isn’t limited to writing or other forms of content creation. Every successful business I’ve started began with some form of serendipity. Something I already knew met up with an unexpected new piece of information, and the light bulb immediately flipped on.
Compared with dumb luck, seredipity requires you to do the work, pay attention, and keep yourself open to the unexpected. The key is to relax and let the process work.
Often people “try too hard” to spark inspiration or discover concrete answers, and that’s why they stay stuck. You’re fixating your attention too intensely on actively “finding” something when a better solution may already be right in front of you.
The Science of Serendipity
Let’s dive into the science a bit. Christian Busch teaches at the London School of Economics and at New York University, and he spends his time focused on the scientific study of serendipity.
His book The Serendipity Mindset: The Art and Science of Creating Good Luck is fascinating, but you likely don’t have to read the whole thing to open yourself up to greater serendipity. Busch’s research identifies three core characteristics:
- First, there’s a trigger, which is the moment when you encounter something unusual or unexpected.
- Next, you connect the dots. You observe the trigger and link it to something seemingly unrelated that you already know, thus realising the potential value within the chance event that others fail to see (eureka!).
- Finally, you follow through and take action to create an unexpected positive outcome.
In many ways, this really does come down to your mindset. Busch says to be lucky in this way, it’s often essential to be open and alert to the unexpected. Many people are lost in their own personal fog of wishful thinking, bias, and regret, while a world of opportunity surrounds them, completely unnoticed.
Being alert to the unexpected is vital for serendipity to work, you also have to be prepared. Again, this is insight that comes from doing the work and paying attention, which means you have to actively create the time and space for unexpected insights to arrive.
Filling your days with busy work, constant meetings, and rigidly sticking to your regular routine will hinder serendipity. On the other hand, exposing yourself to new information, people, and situations will accelerate insight. As Busch puts it:
An unprepared mind often discards unusual encounters, thereby missing the opportunities for smart luck. But this is a learned behaviour. Preparation is about developing the capacity to accelerate and harness the positive coincidences that show up in life.
One of the key aspects of preparation is to recognize and challenge your biases. Put another way that we’ve touched on, it’s unlearning conventional ways of thinking that no longer serve you. That’s why I kicked off this Future Freedom email course with thinking differently about what it means to have a career in the coming years.
An Environment for the Dots to Connect
Once you get into the Future Freedom member area, your chances for serendipity go way up. The realm of emerging technology alone will expose you to unexpected — and seemingly unbelievable — advances that will lead to new ways of thinking and serving your chosen audience.
Plus, the monthly business ideas are designed to get you thinking even beyond that specific opportunity. These are actual business ideas that you can run with, but they’re also crafted to get your own “connect the dots” mechanism rolling in areas that you already have expertise or interest in.
And most unexpected of all is the fascinating realm of international business, travel, and living. Even if you currently have no intention of becoming a “digital nomad,” you may find yourself intrigued in ways you’ve never imagined. It’s a great big world of opportunity and adventure out there.
I hope you’ll come on this particular adventure with me. We’ll be a small group of unique people who share a common aspiration, each by connecting our own set of dots in these coming years of unprecedented change. Sign up here and let’s get started!