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How To Engineer Serendipity – The Coaching Room

In the summer of 2016, at an evening dinner of the Global Technology Symposium, I happened to be sat next to a fellow named Nasser Sagheb – and before long, we began chatting about the concept of Serendipity.

If you want to become more fortunate, to have ‘wonderful things’ happen, you need to put yourself out there, but you also need to ‘be in the right room’.

This article looks at what this means for you, and how you can position yourself even better to be in the right place at the right time. If you are looking for ‘magic’, this is what it looks like.


What then is serendipity?



This is a traditional view of serendipity, driven by ‘chance’. And yet the world we live in increasingly has less to do with chance. Some would say that events are even being engineered.


Technology is creating interconnectedness

As a species we have already taken a leap into a digital world. Social Networks are being together people who relate, but at a deeper level the platforms themselves are performing their own form of magic – they surface content through Search, or Suggested Stories in Social, and every trending topic that grabs our attention leads us down one path or another.


Action This Day – Eric Schmidt, Zeitgeist Europe 2013


Watch this clip from the Chairman of Alphabet (including Google), Eric Schmidt from about the 30 minute mark for the next few minutes to get the point.

The world has become ‘inner’ in a new and different way. Online and offline have become one flow of information, and it is quite possible for the digital world to begin to influence real world events that change your future.

Think about the movie the Adjustment Bureau if you want a sci-fi twist:


‘The Adjustment Bureau’ Trailer HD


It doesn’t quite need to be ‘traffic lights changing’ to re-route your vehicle, or a phone call coming in ‘out of the blue’ that leads to a change of course, it could be as simple as the nature of information appearing in your newsfeed that alters the decisions you are making. Digital Marketers have access to these tools already, and we use them effectively.

But I know you don’t want to be ‘marketed to’ most of the time, so how about we jump back to straightforward magic again – that things you like can happen. To do this, there is something that needs to be in place…


Become one identity

You may not have noticed it, but one of the greatest conceptual leaps we’ve all taken in the past few years is a move toward ‘one identity’ across the web.

Have you noticed how interconnected the Google eco-system has become? You log in to one app once e.g. Chrome, and you are logged into an array of Google’s products and services. You’ll find a very similar principle with Facebook, Instragram and What’s App. In brief, you are now the same person on a desktop and mobile, and what your digital presence leaves is reflected in your real world footprints too.

Leaving aside the tech nuances that have allowed this to happen in both cases, what we have is the ability to ‘be the same person’ in all places.

But often we remain fractured selves online.

As my buddy and NY Times Best Selling author Chris Brogan says,

“Look for the clutter in your life, your business, your plans, your approach. Everywhere there’s clutter, there’s an opportunity to pare it back to what matters most. Is your identity all over the place? Find a way to make it one identity. Are you trying too many projects at once? Do just one.”

As such, if you are looking to engineer serendipity on and offline, here are a load of tips:

  1. Set up your Social Profiles using a consistent approach to naming – I am @MartinSherv or @MartinShervington across every platform, but know it took me a week to juggle account names to achieve this.

  2. On those platforms look to use the same, or similar, recognisable profile photo so that people can ‘see that it is you’.

  3. Know that a ‘Facebook is for friends’ mentality will restrict the opportunities you may experience – the more digital you get, the more the walls will tend to come down.

  4. Spend time with people who are better than you at what you want to learn – this usually means you’ll need to connect up with one or two people first who will act as a gateway in, but could be that you land in the right community off the bat.

  5. Find communities within platforms that you enjoy using. Putting it simply, if you hate the tech, you will never turn up.

  6. Suspend trying to ‘make money’, until you are known and trusted within that space. Recommendations are serendipitous, and come out of emptiness of intent much easier than trying to force an outcome.

  7. Find people who share the same sense of humour – if they don’t like you at your funniest, maybe you are not in the right place.

  8. Blog, create videos, do a podcast, share your art/music etc and see who relates to it. Content that spreads builds your own personal brand, and once you are ‘known for something’ you will find opportunities come to you.

  9. Ask yourself, “What if you treated everybody in a way that they already know you? And what if they knew everything about you? How ‘you’ could you be?”
    Being free to be you is what many people want, after all.


10. Once you’ve done all of this, stop trying to engineer serendipity! Instead, simply sustain attention on the task at hand, then move to the next task without the mind ‘kicking in’ and distracting you. 

For many people who have learned NLP, there will be an ingrained approach to thinking in terms of OUTCOMES – and this is excellent. The thing I’ve found though is that when it comes to online activities, outcomes will get your from A to ‘B’, but you may not be able to allow in X or Y or Z when the moment presenting itself to you  doesn’t look like a ‘B’.

Magic happens when you let the world into your senses, and to do this you need to get out of your head.

We’ve started down the road of the weird and the wonderful now; knowing you seek to understand how the world works, the next article is going to look at the view of the world shapers – the mind of the tech moguls – and what we can learn from them too.


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