Serendipity’s Role in Your Career 

By Pepper de Callier defines serendipity as: “The faculty of making fortunate discoveries by accident.”

This was a trait possessed by the heroes of the ancient Persian fairytale The Three Princes of Serendip.  The three princes became legendary for their ability to seemingly “discover” things or situations of great value without even consciously looking for them.  Everything from hidden treasure to new kingdoms to rescuing beautiful princesses whose grateful fathers offered them in marriage along with vast wealth as a reward. Thus the word serendipity entered the world lexicon to describe something of good fortune that “just happens” to someone.

What would it be worth to you if you could harness the power of serendipity—the ability to uncover situations of great value?  A lot, you say?  Read on.  I’ll show you how to do it for just the price of today’s paper.

What I have learned from successful people with whom I’ve spoken over the years about serendipity is three things: 1) serendipity can be truly powerful; 2) just about everyone I’ve asked can relate to a serendipitous situation that had a significant impact on their lives, careers, relationships, or something very important to them; and finally, 3) there’s a certain degree of awareness needed in order for it to happen.

Before I go any further, let me clarify the definition given above by as it relates to your career.  My clarification has to do with one word—accident.

While the concept of serendipity as outlined in this fairytale -- finding things of value by accident -- is attractive to us all, I do not believe in accidents when it comes to opportunity as it relates to long-term, sustainable success or happiness in one’s life.

I’ve had some very interesting conversations over the years about this topic, and I’ve heard some great stories about how someone just “happened to bump into someone” or an opportunity just presented itself from “out-of-the-blue”, which changed someone’s direction in life for the better.  However, upon closer examination, I have found that the following quote from Polish-born, nineteenth century scientist and Nobel Laureate, Madame Marie Curie, better describes what really happened in the vast majority of instances that dealt with credible, worthwhile situations or opportunities:

“Opportunity is when chance meets the prepared mind.”

What Madame Curie’s quote so eloquently describes is the requirement of preparation and awareness.  Serendipity is not winning the Lotto.  Winning the Lotto is a mathematical aberration.  Serendipity occurs when you’re consciously or, as important, subconsciously looking for something and you know enough about what you’re looking for to realize when you’ve found it or something that will lead to it.

Bumping into someone means very little outside the realm of physics.  But, “bumping” into someone who you realize can play a part in something you’re trying to accomplish at a time when you can use their expertise/influence/capital, etc., and you ask them to help and they agree and everything works out—now that’s serendipity.

Now, how do you get it to work for you?  Looking for serendipity is like looking for radioactivity—it’s impossible to find without the right instrument.  When scientists look for radioactivity they use a Geiger counter.  When they get close to something radioactive, the Geiger counter starts clicking, just like we’ve all seen in movies.  Now, here’s how you create your own “Geiger counter” to look for serendipity in your life.

First, you must bring into clear focus exactly what it is you want, whether it’s a physical object, an introduction to someone, or a job.  The more specific you are about exactly what it is you want, and the more you know about it, the more sensitive your Geiger counter, or mind, will be.

Now, you’re preparing yourself; you’re collecting information and gaining knowledge about what you want.  You actually form a mental image of it your mind.  The next thing to do is to be alert and aware.  As you move through the day, as you talk to people, as you listen to the radio, watch television, or read the newspaper, as you board your next flight, or walk through a shopping mall, your Geiger counter will be working.  Listen to it as you go about your day and I think you’ll be surprised how “lucky” you can become.  This is how serendipity works—by creating an awareness from combining focus, intelligence, wisdom, and reasoning.  This is how you create opportunity.  I have personally used this technique for many years.  For those of you who grasp the wisdom and power of its simplicity and put it to work in your lives and careers, many wonderful “discoveries” await you.

I’ll close with a favorite quote of mine from the brilliant 19th century French scientist, Louis Pasteur, “Chance favors the prepared mind.”

Good luck on your way up. 

About the Author: Pepper de Callier is one of the most respected senior executive coaches and authorities on leadership in Europe. Learn more about him at

*These are reprints from Pepper de Callier‘s newspaper column in Hospodarske noviny.  

Common Sense Wisdom: Thoughts to Live By

From beginning September 3rd, 2012, you will be able to start your week with an insight, or new perspective that will help you move closer to your goals as a professional and a personally fulfilling life as one of today’s most respected coaches, authors and leadership authorities, Pepper de Callier, shares his thoughts with you in a short inspirational video of two to four minutes every Monday morning on YouTube in a series titled Common Sense Wisdom: Thoughts to Live By

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