Horace Walpole coined the word serendipity in 1754 after reading the Three Princes of Serendip. The princes “were always making discoveries, by accident and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of.” Today, we have tools at our disposal that allow us to manage serendipity or, at least, place ourselves strategically so that serendipity is possible.
What is serendipity? The traditionally accepted definition of serendipity is “the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.” Well then, if events are by chance, how is it possible to place ourselves in a position in which serendipity is likely?
In their book, The Power of Pull: How Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Set Big Things in Motion, Hagel, Brown, and Davison relate the value of social networking. They specifically mention Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter as points of connection to friends and friends of friends. Through these connections we discover others’ have and can share tacit knowledge that we may benefit from.
Through the same connection, others can grow from connecting with us gaining our tacit knowledge. It not a contest to see how many friends we have in our network, rather it is about how we manage our network of friends.
Imagine a chance reading of friends’ Facebook wall posts that result in an opportunity to connect with another with whom we share an interest. In this situation, we’ve experienced a “chance event in a happy and beneficial way.” What is the likelihood of this event happening had we not had a Facebook profile, not been linked to our friend, and not been able to read that wall post?
Serendipity allows chance meetings for planting seeds of learning and growing if we manage opportunities for chance meetings. Wisdom of the East tells the story of a man, “I have nothing to teach and so much to learn.” In reply, “Oh dear! Haven’t we all something to teach and something to learn?”
We are not Princes of Serendip making discoveries by accident. We can create opportunities for serendipitous events to evolve. Do not wait for opportunities to come, seek them, manage them, and benefit from them. Grow in learning; grow in teaching.
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ABOUT THE BLOGGER
Dr. Paul Hoffman holds a Doctor of Strategic Leadership from Regent University, a Master of Arts in Leadership and Bachelor of Science in Organizational Communication from Bellevue University. Doctor Hoffman is an adjunct professor at Bellevue University and Metropolitan Community College in Communications Arts, English, and Communication and Humanities.
Before his teaching role, Dr. Hoffman was a graduate enrollment counselor at Bellevue University and enrollment representative to the University’s Quality Council. Dr. Hoffman came to the academic arena after ten years in retail management. During this period he managed in speciality mall stores, and multimillion dollar warehouse style stores. Dr. Hoffman owned a small business and was an insurance agent for a fraternal insurance provider.
Dr. Hoffman was a U.S. Air Force active duty noncommissioned officer retiring in 1990 as a Master Sergeant. During over 21 years of active duty, Dr. Hoffman was a Security Police sentry assigned to guard aircraft, missiles, and nuclear weapons on alert and in storage. For three years he held the speciality of Military Training Instructor while supervising an installation correctional custody facility. In the concluding seven-plus years, Dr. Hoffman worked as an installation human relations and equal opportunity treatment NCO and finally as Superintendent of Social Actions overseeing both human relations and substance abuse prevention activities for an installation.
Military assignments saw Dr. Hoffman stationed at major Air Force Bases of the Strategic Air Command, U.S. Air Force Europe, and Pacific Air Force. During the Vietnam era, Dr. Hoffman had one assignment in support of major air operations over Vietnam. Dr. Hoffman is married to Su Yun and they have two adult children. Son, Leslie Donald, is the oldest formerly a Captain in the U.S. Marine Corps. Les has two combat tours in Iraq. Daughter, Theresa Ann, was a member of the U.S. Peace Corps serving on the island of Carricaou, the Grenades; her Peace Corps specialty was Community Health focusing on AIDS awareness and prevention and presently studying to become a physical therapy assistant.