Four years before baby Jesus was born, Seneca the Younger, filled his lungs with air for the first time and, I assume, let out a long, loud scream. Over the next 69 years, a long life during those times, Seneca became one of the eminent philosophers and statesmen in the Roman Empire. Seneca gave us, among many other insights, one of my favorite quotes — an illumination of what luck is really all about:
Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.
And, as so often, this quote is a distorted version of something Seneca actually said, which was:
“The best wrestler,” he would say, “is not he who has learned thoroughly all the tricks and twists of the art, which are seldom met with in actual wrestling, but he who has well and carefully trained himself in one or two of them, and watches keenly for an opportunity of practising them.” — Seneca, On Benefits, vii. 1
Regardless, the point remains: You might consider serendipity to be passive luck that just happens to you, when actually it’s an active process of spotting and connecting the dots.
Once you acknowledge this, being lucky becomes something you do — by keeping your eyes peeled for the things which surprise you, becoming curious about them, and cataloging your insights (either inside your brain or whatever system you trust).
Nearly a decade ago, Guy Kawasaki, Apple’s first evangelist and bestselling book author, gave me the gift of a question to ask of the world whenever you encounter something new, unique, different: Isn’t that interesting?
The question stops you in your tracks, makes you observe and think. Do this (only) once every day, and you will have 365 new dots on your map. Even if 90% of them don’t turn out to be anything useful at all – you still will have 36 new, valuable dots to connect within a short year.
Isn’t that interesting?