Serendipity. According to the Oxford Languages Dictionary, “serendipity” is “the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.”
What if it was possible to harness the power of serendipity rather than leave it all up to chance?
Finding Serendipity in Our Own Story
If we’re honest, many of the most pivotal moments of our lives are unscripted, unplanned, and unforeseen. Even if those moments exist within the context of a plan we conceived, they are never just the result of the linear unfolding of that plan according to our conscious input at every turn.
If we’re honest, the most pivotal moments rarely appear pivotal at the moment. We only see their significance clearly with the benefit of hindsight. We see in hindsight how one moment led to another and another and another, and how each of those moments led to THIS one.
They are what we call moments of serendipity.
Most importantly, if we’re honest, many of our most pivotal moments of serendipity include the unique and often unsolicited contributions of other people.
We know this to be true in movies and books. The main character encounters other characters, and that encounter alters the course of the main character’s journey. Of course the main character does things on their own that alter the course of their story, and mishaps befall them that don’t involve other people. But the storyline is influenced and advanced most profoundly because of the main characters’ interaction with other characters.
We often fail to see that the same is true in our own Story.
Serendipity in My Story
In the early 2000s–2003 to be exact, I think–I was in a season of profound personal and professional dissatisfaction and confusion. My parents were in the loop on my condition. Unsolicited, they gave me the opportunity to take an assessment called the Natural Ability Battery–a key tool I use in the work I do with 1-1 coaching clients today–so I could better understand the innate abilities that I could bring to the table in life. I took the assessment, and the results were enlightening, but I didn’t have the will or the wherewithal to operationalize the results in my life at that point. I didn’t yet have the ears to hear.
Fast forward to 2011 or thereabouts, and I was in another season of personal and professional dissatisfaction and confusion. Desperate for insights that would help me get unstuck, I dusted off my Natural Ability Battery report. But I needed a refresher on how to use the results, so I called Leslie, who first administered and interpreted the assessment for me back in 2003. I got the refresher I needed, but I got much more than that.
Unsolicited, Leslie offered to introduce me to her husband, Matt, who was a coach with a particular interest in young men like me–i.e. young men in ministry and in formation. Long-story short, Matt became my first coach. That partnership transformed my confidence and competency at home and at work, guided me through the difficult years surrounding our senior leader’s departure, and helped me and my wife Charis summon the clarity and courage to close that chapter back East and start writing a new one here in Colorado in 2014.
Fast forward a couple more years and a lot of water under the bridge, I had decided to give this coaching thing a go–-based in no small part on my experience of being coached but also on my deepening insight about the kind of human I am and the kind of work I’m meant to do in the world. Coaching seemed like a good fit.
I cast a pretty wide net at first, coaching just about anybody and everybody who was willing to be a guinea pig. Thankfully, no guinea pigs weren’t harmed in the making of this coach.
Then, again unsolicited, Leslie called to ask if I was interested in doing some leadership development work with a consulting company she’d been involved with for many years. She thought I’d be a good fit for the work, and she offered to recommend me to the company. I succeeded in securing work as an independent contractor with the company and learned a TON in the four years that I partnered with them. I also made some great professional connections with fellow independent contractors.
In fact, one of those connections, Beth Romano, tuned in to this podcast in 2021 and got inspired to live with no regrets and help others do the same. She reached out, and it soon became apparent that Beth was a great fit to spearhead the development of The Graveyard Group for women.
Suddenly, my original dream of making Graveyard Groups available to everyone–a dream that frankly had dimmed for a year or so–was brought back to life.
The Golden Thread
A shimmering golden thread of serendipity that spans almost 20 years–starting with my parents in 2003 and culminating with Beth’s installment as the first facilitator for women’s Graveyard Groups. A series of unique and unsolicited contributions from people in my life were the catalysts that made it all possible.
There’s much more to the story between the moments of serendipity that stand out like luminous blips on the timeline of my life, of course. As the main character in my story, I was living and learning, succeeding and failing, responding and reacting along the way. But the golden thread of serendipity was connecting my action in the world with others’ sovereign input into my life in ways that neither I nor anyone else could ever have scripted.
There’s something wonderfully spooky going on here, with this whole serendipity thing. As you may already know if you’ve tuned in before, I see God’s hand in what we call serendipity. But you don’t have to see it the way I do to still find threads of serendipity in your own life and recognize their importance.
Pause and reflect. Where do you see a thread of serendipity in the tapestry of your Story?
How to Harness Serendipity’s Power
A very valid question at this point, however, is something like this: If serendipity can’t be scripted or planned, then how can we develop a “serendipity strategy”? How can we harness the power of serendipity rather than leave it all up to chance?
Our answer lies in the anatomy of serendipity, to spin up another metaphor. When we see more clearly that people are the primary agents of serendipity’s activity in our lives, then we can simply resolve to put people first–to prioritize time with people more highly than before.
Accept the invitation for coffee with the new neighbor. EXTEND an invitation for coffee with the new neighbor. Get involved in a civic project in your community. Join a book club.
In short, cross paths with more people on purpose, with purpose.
You probably know by now that I’m a big proponent of solitude, and plenty of it. So I don’t mean to suggest that we should frantically fill our days with people all the time. But I DO mean to suggest that if we want to tap into serendipity’s benefits even more, then intentionally putting people first on our list of priorities is the way to go.
As you put people first, do so not with a mercenary mindset–merely to get something out of it for yourself–but rather simply with the knowledge that when you put people first, you tap into serendipity’s wonderfully spooky workings in ways that can benefit both you and the other person in the days and years to come. Be as fully present with each person as you can be, bringing your best to each magically mundane moment of engagement between two people. There’s really no telling what may come of it. Cultivate that sense of wonder and anticipation.
And that, my friends, is the “serendipity strategy.”
Remember: You ARE going to die. But you’re not dead yet. So harness the power of the serendipity strategy rather than leave it all up to chance, and hang on for the ride!
Harness Serendipity’s Power in a Graveyard Group
The Graveyard Group is a one-of-a-kind way to cross paths with more people on purpose, with purpose.
In a small group setting, motivated by the reality of your Mortality, you and your very own confidential board of advisors spur one another on to live with guts, gusto, and abandon, fulfill your destinies, and die with no regrets.
New groups for men and women are forming now.
I’m so glad you tuned in today. Don’t forget to follow this show, and I’ll see you next time on Andrew Petty is Dying.