Random Connections

Many of the most important aspects of life are dependent on chance. For example, on the way out of a party, you meet this girl who is going to be your wife. Or, you feel tired from yesterday’s party and you go for a coffee and accidentally meet your future boss. Or, you get your first mortgage because the guy next to you on the plane agrees with you that your bank is ridiculous – and he is one of the top officers of that bank

These are three events that happened to me. I am sure most of our friends have stories like that to tell. In fact, I could tell you many more stories that led to life-changing contacts and events, such as totaling my car in front of Bob Lutz’s house. In fact, most of my key decisions in life came from almost random connections to somebody or from random events.

Talking with many of my successful friends, I have become a great believer that this is not just the case for me, but is a common feature of many lives and careers. I am therefore increasingly convinced of the importance of such events and in developing the state of mind to take advantage of it. I watch out for them every day.

Contrast that with the way many traditionalists live their lives. They do their job. They have a small circle of friends and family. They live in that circle and all or most connections become pretty much predictable. They may meet other people, but they never get interested in them. In fact, they stop learning from other people.

Sometimes, this isolation shows as pride. The directors are too proud to learn from their mailmen, even though they know more about the social behavior of their company than most people. People are proud that they are of a certain origin or even race, and they miss the many lessons that come from sitting down and listening to others. In fact, one can become blind to opportunity. You could put a gold-bar in the pathway of such a person and he would never even look down. In fact, gold-bars are safer in the pathways of such traditionalists than in banks!  Nobody will ever touch them – ever!

Not only are opportunities coming from random events, they also often originates from networks outside of the “regular crowd”. This is one of the joys of travel many people don’t recognize. You meet people you would never meet! This, to me, is one of the major reasons to join the Michigan Alumni Society. You have almost nothing in common with most people, but, you know exactly where to start the first discussion. It’s like a dream come true in “random connection land”. I also got many connections from playing sports, my military service or even from church.

There is another side to this story. The only way to take advantage of these random connections and random events is to be ready for them and willing to take risks dealing with them. Career success comes from a random encounter of a great opportunity with a professional who is ready to take advantage of it! She has a solid foundation to understand the space this decision is in; she has worked hard to get experience and demonstratse a track-record of follow-through and commitment to success. She has not stopped learning. She has talked to people about her goals and knows how to formulate them. And, now – finally –opportunity knocks at the door. All she needs to do is open and get ready to move out.

Thus, although careers look random when you look at them in reverse, they are much more predictable if you look at them forward. Random opportunities can only be advantageous to people working to get ready for them, and people who are willing to take chances to take advantage of them. You have total control of how you prepare for these random game-changers: learn, listen, and communicate. And, when the time comes – jump!

One final thought: It’s a lot easier to get to know people outside of your network if you know more than your small little world. Pick up an economics book, or a history novel. Learn about AIDS, about hunger on Earth – try to help and affect change. Learn about arts, about music. Don’t just listen to it, learn! Your opportunity person may be a fan of Rigoletto’s “La donna e mobile” or of Freddie Mercury’s “We will rock you!”.  In my case, a recent connection was about videos for the deaf. But, you can listen to that story of random encounter elsewhere.

Life is fun if you are ready when opportunity knocks!

Comments (1)
  • Tatiana

    December 19, 2008

    Very useful post. where can i find more articles about this issue?

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