The Secret to Career Success Is Cultivating Serendipity
It’s time for us to get back out there and make some happy accidents happen
486 calendar days or 330 workdays — that’s how long it’s been since I’ve stepped foot in an office. In that time, I’ve done around 3–5 Zoom/Team calls a day and countless online conferences and seminars in between. That’s over 1400 virtual meetings on a flat, lifeless screen, watching just the upper third of human bodies. And, as a consequence, not one happy accident has come into my life over the last 69 weeks.
That’s the downside of remote work. We get so focused (or complacent) with the task at hand we forget to lift our heads to see all the possibilities and opportunities that lie “out there.”
With all this technology demanding our attention, it’s easy to forget that humans have been coming together as strangers at the public markets for thousands of years — whether it was the ancient agora and bazaars or today’s modern conferences, seminars, and meet-ups. While people are there to trade goods and services on one level, they also hope to exchange ideas, business cards, and the possibility to work together. Of course, we can do this online, but it doesn’t offer the same chance encounters that real-life convening does.
As a business owner and consultant, I can’t tell you the number of life-changing relationships I’ve established in the past from attending business events and industry conferences over the last 30 years.
A history of happy accidents
I was standing at a concession counter at a conference in San Francisco, waiting for my drink and pretzel. I made a bad joke to the guy next to me about the quality of the mustard condiments. Over the next few minutes, our mustard talk turned into business talk. It turned out that the guy was the dean at a top university. After exchanging cards, he suggested I do a lecture at the university on my area of expertise. That initial presentation turned into an invitation to do a guest lecture series, which opened many new doors for our firm.
All because of some conference-grade mustard.