Good Work: Serendipity

I’ve been fortunate to be able to spend a good deal of my time visiting schools. I am never sure what I will find and often go simply hoping to wander into something wonderful.  The coincidence of connection is always at work.  While visiting schools in Korea a few years ago, we picked one school in a city of 18 million, and one classroom in a school of 850 students to visit.  I spotted a student in a Federal Way Soccer Association T-shirt and stepped into his classroom.  He ran up to me and shouted, “Mr. Vander Ark!” and gave me a big hug.  The chances must have been one in ten million—that’s serendipity.
Coincidence and connections are a constant source of joy and amusement. You’ll have more serendipity in your life if you keep your eyes open and create routines in your life that will result in more serendipity. In June-October I prepare a ‘shabby chic’ bouquet of roses for my wife on Saturday morning.  It forces me to check out each of the 30 rose bushes in the yard every week.  Baseball players that get more at bats tend to get more hits.  If you get out of the house in the morning and run or walk you’ll increase your connections with the world and find more serendipity.
It’s ironic that routines may increase serendipity but it’s all about increasing sample size of your life.  Another way to increase your ‘n’ size is social networking.  Facebook allows us to live connected to a wider circle of friends and has increased the serendipity in our lives.
[Good Work is a Sunday series that started as journal entries while serving as a public school superintendent in the 90s]
Keep your eyes open, increase your sample size, enjoy some serendipity in your life.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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