Get more kismet, or making your own opportunity

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Getting more opportunities to change your destiny might seem to be a dangerous choice if you are focused on loss aversion. But making more decisions (and creating additional ways to succeed and to fail) is another way of increasing your learning, opening more doors, and what Rand Fishkin calls “manufacturing serendipity.”

To folks worried about losing their time, the process of spending “at least 30% of my days filled with coffees, calls, and communication to folks outside the company from whom I’m seeking absolutely nothing and where my goal is merely to be helpful” might be ludicrous. But think of it this way: meeting new people ensures new opportunities. New opportunities beget other opportunities. And you can always choose whether to act upon (or merely think about) those opportunities.

My small contribution to this idea of manufacturing serendipity is to make a practice of introducing people in my contact universe. How does it work? Easy – every day I think either about questions people have asked me (“Do you know someone who is an expert in the non-profit world in Seattle”) or people who should know each other (“I’m new in town, and I’m wondering who would be some great people to meet”), or friends who are seeking new team members (“I need a professional Yak Herder who also knows Ruby on Rails.”)

The resullt? Between two and five personal introductions a day that have the following components:

  • The who – who are you meeting?
  • The why – why would this person be interesting to know?
  • The what – what is something that they are likely to be able to do for you?

The feedback that I’ve gotten from people who’ve been introduced this way is that this technique provides them with a great opportunity to connect, relevant context to make a better connection, and more opportunities to meet cool people.

What is an example of this sort of introduction?

An example might look like “Mary, meet John – he’s a Product Manager in Seattle who gets things done with a smile and is a great resource for learning more about Agile techniques. You should know John because he’s been a part of several small companies in the space and because he recently published an article in Fast Company – here’s a link.” I’d write a similar paragraph to introduce “Mary” to “John” and then step away and let them meet.

The goal of facilitating this introduction is just that – starting the conversation. I believe in manufacturing serendipity by connecting some of the amazing people I’ve met and making more of these connections every day. Is it work? A little, and it also increases the chance of meeting people who will enlighten and enhance your life (who you just haven’t met yet.)

Postscript – you should also read Fred Wilson’s excellent piece on the Double-Opt-In introduction, which as Dan Shapiro points out in the comments is an even more effective way to introduce people by making sure that they both want to be introduced – thanks, Dan, for the suggestion!

The Power of a Pause

At first glance, it seems like any other beach scene you’ve ever noticed. And then – right when you’re not expecting it – there is a strange and wonderful pattern in the water right in front of you. You only see it when you’ve unfocused a bit, and it’s only there for a minute – and then it’s gone.

What do you get when you breathe?

Alex Bard, one of the founders of Assistly, talks about the importance of taking time off from work as key to his success at finding the parts of his business that provide the most value, and of his success in maintaining his family. Whether your definition of success is building a successful company or simply finding marvelous, unexpected images like the one above, what are you doing to pause, wait, and see what happens?

It’s Ok, Work Will Be There When You Return

It’s easy to think that the world will fall down if you’re not there to do your job. And it’s true that if that happens when people are expecting you to excel, you might not succeed. But you can’t succeed without also taking more than a few moments (on a regular basis) to unplug, look around you, and see what you’ve got.

This photo is a good metaphor for that ability that Alex describes to identify and capture great moments – the current was the result of a number of forces coming together (only for a moment) and I happened to be lucky enough to be there at that moment and skilled and practiced enough to take a shot that turned out like I wanted it to resolve. There’s one in a row.



I Recommend Raspberries

I recommend Raspberries.  No, not the kind that you can get at the store.  The kind that grow in your backyard (or perhaps, a friend’s backyard), taste best when eaten straight off the cane (warm from the sun) and can be enjoyed for a few short weeks in July before they’re gone for another year.  You can freeze them and enjoy them in baked goods, on cereal, or remember a little frozen bit of summer, but it’s not quite the same.

Make hay while the sun shines

This old saying really hits home when you’re considering picking a perishable fruit or identifying an activity that you can only do for certain times during the year.  It’s really important in July when it’s hot outside and the berries are ripe … to pick the berries then.  Because you can get a poor facsimile of that thing from the supermarket almost any time of the year, but it’s a bland, hybridized, picked-to-be-shelf-stable version of that raspberry that you could have had from your garden, and the time to pick it is … now.

Do your work, but don’t be your work (unless you want to be)

I work in a business where I could be working at almost any hour of the day, any day of the week, and I enjoy that freedom.  I also need to remember that there are only certain times of the year when I could be picking raspberries, and that if I miss that opportunity, I won’t get that experience for a whole other year.  You can always still support your team and your responsibilities and stop what you’re doing to take a walk outside and pick raspberries.  You might lose some sleep later, but it’s worth it.  If you don’t have raspberries nearby, you should make sure you know where the equivalent is and make sure that you take a break when it’s important so that the once-a-year opportunities don’t pass you by.

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