welcome everyone to The Garden. It's great to see you here today. My name is Sophie Edelman and I'll be your guide for today's Garden talk. So being here in The Garden is all about being able to sort of scratch that curiosity you have about different topics. Hopefully you're coming in with lots of questions about serendipity and that you'll leave with even more. And if you do have a question there is a question box at the bottom of your screen you can ask your questions and we'll answer it at the end and if you said question that somebody else has wants it asked that you want to have answered then you can actually vote in real time.
Now as you know, we're really early in our journey this is our beta version of The Garden. Um and so we really appreciate you being on this journey with us and we know everything is not gonna go perfectly but we are going to learn along the way and we welcome your feedback and your ideas because we want to build something really special for you as members of The Garden. Now, I'm delighted to welcome to The Garden today Dr christian Bush who is an entrepreneur and academic, soon to be father. He's a very busy guy.
Um so christian is the director of the C. G. A Global economy program at new york University and also a visiting faculty member at the London School of Economics and he was previously an entrepreneur. He's also published a best selling book on the serendipity mindset which he's going to expand upon today. So and he's delighted to welcome to The Garden dr christian bush christian Welcome to The Garden, it's great to see you great. Well before we start, where in the world are you Right now? I'm here in new york right next to Washington Square park.
Amazing. Well we have so many people from all over the world here with us in The Garden today who are looking forward to hearing you speak before we kick off though. I'm just curious, you need to be an entrepreneur then you're an academic. So where did this idea about studying serendipity come from? Well, it was very certain about is indeed, I mean I, you know on this journey as community builder, entrepreneur, social entrepreneur and later academic, it seems like the most inspiring, purpose driven people around me that seemed to have something in common which is that somehow intuitively cultivate serendipity, they see something the unexpected and turned the positive outcomes.
So I got really excited about this as both the philosophy of life, but also a science based approach to life that we can all somehow take on as life skills Perfect. Well, I've just finished reading the 73 mindset and so I know that everyone is going to be in for a treat today, I think it's now time to hand over to christian to everyone, make yourselves comfortable to hear his Garden talk on, rethinking serendipity Yeah. Hello everyone, it's wonderful to be here with you today. Thanks so much for joining and thank you so much.
Sophie for bringing us here together. It's such a joy to be here and to talk about something that has influenced me a lot in my life, but I know everyone in this room probably has had a lot of serendipity or you know, hopefully after this session today will have a lot of serendipity happen in their life. So to give you a bit of context, I'd love to take you on a journey. A journey of the question of how do we cultivate serendipity? This beautiful, unexpected good luck in our life and how do we make that a key part of our life in our own home life, in our life and companies and you know, wherever we are in the world and I'd love to take you on that journey starting with you know, I used to be the teenager back in Heidelberg where I grew up in Germany Sophie and I were talking about how, you know, we grew up with this kind of let's put someone into a box and and and somehow kind of in a way planned life and try to figure out life and you know, real life happens and you're like, oh my God, what's going on and you try to scramble and I used to be that kid, you know who didn't really feel like fit into those boxes.
I was kicked out of high school, I had to repeat a year, transferred a certain reckless lifestyle to my driving style? Probably helped the unofficial world record of how many trash cans and dust bins you can knock over on your way to school when you're driving. And then one day I wasn't so lucky anymore and I crashed into four parked cars, all cars completely destroyed, including my own. And I won't forget the policeman who came to the scene and he was like, oh my God, he's still alive. And you know, it was that realization, Oh wow, I could have been dead.
Oh wow, Like, you know, life is not a given. And so I asked myself all these weird questions, you know, if I would have been killed, who would have come to my funeral, who would have actually cared, was it all worth it? And you know, I only had depressing answers at that point. And so it took me on this intense search for meaning, trying to figure out what is life all about. And I started reading this wonderful book, Viktor Frankl's Man's search for meaning, which is all about the idea that we can find meaning in the most unexpected of crises and the most unexpected of places.
And what I realized is what I enjoy doing the most is connecting ideas connecting people, seeing how that fits all together and you know, on that journey then of building organizations that helped innovators connect the ideas of doing research on purpose driven leadership, I realized, wow, there's all these people out there that seem to intuitively do something? And the question was is there a science based framework for actually putting that all together? And so that's what I'd love to take you on in this journey.
And when you think about your own life, there's so much serendipity but also so much uncertainty, right? And there's so much uncertainty in terms of how do I, in a world that has been redefined, organized my life, my work. How do when you think about maybe how you found the love of your life or your co founders, really thinking about what was there, that kind of serendipity involved? And just to make sure we're on on the same page, a couple of examples of serendipity that I found exciting. Of course, the one that, you know, has been around for a while is a couple of decades ago, where you had some researchers who gave people medication against angina and there was some kind of movement happening in male participants trousers.
And you know, usually what we would probably say is, oh my God, that is embarrassing, right? There's something happening in male participants trousers, and, you know, we might then think, oh, how do we somehow avoid this kind of movement from happening? How do we find a better way to treat in china? Well, you know what they did, the opposite, they said, that is unexpected, but why don't we somehow develop medication around and that is how unexpectedly serendipity evolved unexpectedly Viagra evolved as one of the kind of the most successful medications in that arena.
Another example is a company in china. I've been working with, they produce refrigerators, washing machines, you name it and they received calls from farmers and the farmers told them, hey, your crappy washing machine is always breaking down. Well, why is the washing machine breaking down while we're trying to wash our potatoes in it and it just doesn't seem to work? So, you know, what would we usually do in that kind of unexpected moment? Will probably say, well, don't wash your potatoes in the washing machine, right? It's not made for that.
Well they did the opposite. They said, you know what, that's unexpected, but why don't we build in the dirt filter and make it a potato washing machine? And that's how unexpectedly the potato washing machine became one of their major products. But now, you know, imagine even in your own lives when you're in a coffee shop or you know, in a supermarket and you have erratic hand movements. Like I do imagine you kind of splash coffee over someone and you know, they look at you slightly annoyed, but you're like, okay, but you sense there might be something there in that situation, you sense, there might be something and so now you have a couple of options, right option number one is, you just say, I'm so sorry, here's a napkin, you walk outside and you think what could have happened? Had I spoken with that person.
And then option number two is you know, you essentially um you know, start a conversation and that leads you to the love of your life, your co founder, you name it. The point is our reaction to the unexpected the way how we actually connected the dots in that unexpected moment shaped the outcome. And especially during covid, right? Where breweries turned into hand sanitizer companies and when we had a lot of kind of these unexpected innovations and inventions happen, that's really what serendipity is all about.
And so you know what I found curious and exciting about this is that center body we always perceived as something that just happens to us, right? But actually when you think about it, there's that kind of passive luck right? Being born into a loving family. That's the kind of things we can't really pick. But serendipity when you really distill all these different examples and and and kind of reflect on on those examples. It's always the same process. It's always a process of some kind of serendipity trigger happening, right? So there's coffee being spill theirs, you know, some kind of movement happening in male participants trousers.
There's um, you know, kind of farmers calling and saying a washing machine is breaking down. So that's an unexpected serendipity trigger. But now we have to do something with it, but we have to connect the dots, we have to turn it into an actual positive out. And so then actually serendipity is about spotting and connecting dots and what that means is it's actually something we can actively influence. We can create more meaningful accidents, we can create more serendipity triggers and we can make accidents more meaningful.
We can somehow see the meaning in an unexpected moment. And that's really what I want to talk about today to really reflect on how can we create more of these meaningful coincidences, but also how can we make those kind of, you know, incidences more meaningful and so essentially, you know, when you, there's a wonderful experiments that a colleague of mine has been doing where he essentially took people who considered themselves to be lucky and the idea was to be, hey, how much does the way we perceive the world play a role in what actually happens in our lives? And you know, there's this huge role of alertness right of framing the way we look at the world in a way over a lot of times pre defining how much luck we actually have in the, in the long run.
And so in this experiment, they took someone who's extremely lucky, so or who considered themselves to be very lucky. So, you know, someone who says good things tend to happen to me and someone who considers themselves to be very unlucky, someone who says bad things tend to happen to me. I'm always an accident. And you know, we all know people like this in our lives, right? And so he tells those people walk down the street, go into a coffee shop, sit down, then we'll have another coffee. What he doesn't tell them is that there's hidden cameras along the street, There's a £5 note in front of the coffee shop and inside the coffee shop there's the seed that's empty is next to this extremely successful businessman who can make big ideas happen.
Now, the lucky person walks down the street sees the £5 note, picks it up, goes inside the shop, orders the coffee sits next to the businessman has a nice conversation. They exchanged business cards, potential opportunity coming out of it. We don't know that part. Now the unlucky person walks down the street steps over the £5 note, so it doesn't see it goes inside the shop, sits next to the businessman, ignores the businessman and that's that. Now at the end of the day, they asked both people, how was your day today? And so the lucky person says, well, it was amazing.
I found money in the street. I made a new friend and, you know, potential opportunity coming out. The unlikely person just says, well, nothing really happened. And you know, that kind of idea that we have to be alert to these unexpected things right on the way to work. Like do we look into the window and see this book in the, in the screen that gives us an idea for a podcast unexpectedly. So right. Do we, are we alert to all these unexpected beautiful triggers that are out there? That is really kind of how we um look at life.
That redefines a little bit how life actually can happen. And so what I'd love to do, um you know, over the next kind of couple of minutes is to really dive in a little bit. How can we do more of programming ourselves towards that alertness? But also what are some of the practices that can really help us in our lives to have more of that. Now, the biggest problem of course is we all tend to have biases, right? We all tend to have biases that hold us back from having more serendipity happens. And one of the biggest ones really is that we consistently underestimate how probable the unexpected is, right? There's so many things out there we can't understand, we can't control.
Right, and I want you to think about, what do you think in a room of 23 people? How many birthday pairs would be there? So essentially, you know, imagine you're sitting in this room now and you have 23 people and what do you think is the likelihood that two people have the same birthday, January 22? My case February 22. What do you think is the probability. So, you know, obviously we got trained in this idea. Hey look, 23 people 365 days. We divide them and then essentially we come up with an extremely low probability, right? But actually the probability is 50% and you know, in a room of 70 and more people, the probability is over 99%.
So the point is that it's almost impossible in a room of 70 people to not have to people who have the same birthday. And that's crazy, isn't it? Like we assumed that it's extremely unlikely that it happens, but actually it is extremely likely. And you know that for those of you interested, that's the birthday paradox where the idea is that we think about life usually in a very short, unquote linear way, right? We think about dividing this by this, we think we know the variables. But actually in this case, you know, there's 23 people.
So number 23, let's say that Sophie Has 22 people in the room, right? Who could have her birthday. But then there's the 22nd person still has 21 other people who could have the same birthday and then the 20th person says 19 people and so on. So the point is it's an exponential function where it's actually getting more and more and more likely that this happens up to a threshold. But the point is life in itself also is exponential and the likelihood of the unexpected is extremely high? We saw that again, right with everything.
You go to a conference and we always think, oh my God, how could they mess up this one thing that didn't work? And you're like, well, you know what, you can plan for everything, but then there will always be something that probably will happen. So the long story short here is we consistently underestimate how likely the unexpected is and so we don't see it because we don't think is there and that's really what we talked about earlier. If you don't believe that the £5 note could be there, it's very likely that you will not see it when it is actually now another one is really self centering, right? A lot of people, including myself, we might self centered and imagine you're in a meeting and you have this kind of idea and unexpectedly pops up and then you're like, yeah, but you know, I don't feel ready maybe or maybe it's not mature enough.
And so essentially we don't raise it. And so even if serendipity could have happened, it doesn't because we hold ourselves back and I'm actually a big fan of making a serendipity journal where we write down, you know, what were the incidences in our lives, where we felt something could have happened, but it didn't and what was it that held us back? What is the kind of self limiting belief for the, the constraint that held us back? Is it imposter syndrome? Is it fear of rejection and then really working on these underlying things that a lot of times hold us back from having those serendipitous beautiful moments happen even though we know they could have happened.
And then the third one, third bias that that really is a big one is the whole idea of post rationalization. You know, imagine you apply for a new job and you go to that new company and you know, I bet you will probably say something along the lines of and then I did this and then I wanted to do this and I always wanted to work here, right? So you tell a story that is step by step by step by step. Yeah. But you know, realistically it might have been a little bit more like this, right? That you're kind of like, oh yeah, and then this happened and I ran into this person at the conference and and and things like this.
And so of course, that's a lot of times what happens in boardrooms as well, right, That Ceo would give us a strategy. Then real life happens. And then the plan is already narrated again like this. So we tell life as if it is a straight line, but actually it's a bit more like it's quicker. And so the problem with this is of course, we consistently airbrushed serendipity out of our lives. And so in a way we completely discounted, even though it is one of the most important things that happens. We recently did a study with over 40 of the world's leading ceos of companies like Mastercard and others and we set them down, and we said.
what is it that makes you really successful? And one of the key patterns that came out of it is that they're extremely good at appreciating the importance of the unexpected and to make it part of their plan. So instead of saying, here's an exact timeline and exact strategy and this is exactly what has to happen. And then the unexpected happening and they look as if the authority is being questioned or they have to hide data that comes in. They do the opposite. They say, let me give you a sense of direction, let me give you a certain idea of where we're going.
And then here is an approximate strategy. And I tell you already, now let us adjust this strategy based on the ideas that are coming in and that is part of my plan. Now when you are part of this company, you know that you can come up with new ideas because that actually doesn't threaten leadership. It is part of the leaderships plan. And so you create a culture for serendipity to happen, which is actually more truthful to actual lift experience, which also then builds a bit more trust right? Because people feel they can talk about how ideas actually emerge rather than about how they pretend they emerge Now.
We talked a lot about those kind of biases now and what I'd love to do as a, as the last step is to really talk about some of the practices, what can we really do to have more of serendipity happen in our lives And one of my favorite practices and strategies here is the hook strategy and hook strategy really is all about this idea that usually you know, imagine you go to a conference or meeting people tend to ask you this dreaded question, what do you do? Right? What do you do? And then they put you into a box And so there's this wonderful entrepreneur in London, Ali Barrett who has inspired me a lot in that regard.
And if you would ask him, ali, what do you do? He wouldn't just say I'm a technology entrepreneur, he would say something like I'm a technology entrepreneur recently started reading into the philosophy of science, but what I'm really excited about playing the piano and so what he's doing here is he's giving you three potential hooks where you could be like, oh my God, such a coincidence. I recently started hosting piano martinis, you should stop by, oh my God, such a coincidence. My sister is teaching on the philosophy of science.
You should come and give a guest lecture. The point is we can use every interaction, every conversation to somehow engage people around those things that we are most excited about without pushing it on them so we can seed it into a side sentence and then see, you know, some people might pick something up, some people might not, but we essentially put some potential dots out there that other people could connect for us. And so that is really something every interaction, every conversation, we can see the couple of these hooks and cast them so that someone else can connect the dots for us.
That's of course also the, you know the way we ask questions, do we just asked, what do you do? Type questions and you know, put people into boxes and get them into autopilots or do we ask them questions, you know, what are you spending time on at the moment, what is it that you're most interested in? Whatever it is, something that opens up the potential opportunity space, so that actually the real dots could connect and we can really, you know connect about our community nominators rather than about the things that tend to set us apart.
Another thing that I'm a big fan of, especially in organizational context is the project funeral or the postmortem and so the idea here is and that usually works better in companies that already have a relatively okay culture, so where collaboration is that before, but so the project funeral is all about saying how do we get people to also share the things that don't work because a lot of times in companies there's an incentive right to only talk about success and you don't want to be the loser, the failure who messed something up, right? So you don't want to be the one who who share something that didn't work.
So there's a complete disincentive to do that. But actually that's where we learned the most, right? And that's where we built the most trust. And so essentially here the key idea is to say let's set up a practice that allows people to share with each other the things that didn't work and it's not about celebrating failure, it's about celebrating what didn't work and what we learn from it. And so it's really about this kind of insight that comes from it. And so in this one example of the company that I've been collaborating with, they have this window glass.
And so the idea is the light wouldn't reflect, right? So the idea is great. You know, the sun comes in and it's a wonderful non reflection. Now they laid it to rest the project manager, he said, look, we learned that, you know, the market wasn't as big as we thought. And so next time we'll think more about this and you know, now we're putting it to rest for a month now project managers from other divisions that were invited like that's always the key idea that you have the person who presents they present in front of people from other divisions, so to kind of overcome those siloed structures and so you know, he said, look we're putting the stress now now someone, the audience goes like, hey hey hey, have you considered what this could mean for solar? Have you considered if you take that technology and you put it into a solar context, how effective a solution that could be and that is how quote unquote, coincidentally part of their solar division emerged now nobody saw it coming.
People would say, oh he was just in the right place at the right time. Yeah, but you know what they created a practice that made it more likely that that would actually be the case by definition, you couldn't know what exactly it will be, you can't know what the outcome will be, but you can facilitate the process that makes it more likely that people connect the dots for each other. So that's really about this kind of project funeral postmortem idea um that there is now three other practices before we dive into the wonderful conversation with Sophie and and really doing a beautiful Q and a session and I hope also that we will get the opportunity to interact.
It's you know, I'm a big believer that a lot of the knowledge always is in the room rather than in the head of the presenter and another practice here. So is the refrain and the reframing really is it comes from a lot of my work is in extreme resource constrained environments so that settings, you know, where people are trying to survive in some way. They you know, especially in this case in the Cape flats in Cape Town, which is a very impoverished area um that has high crime rates and and and and it's a tough environment to grow up.
And so in this setting there is this amazing organization called reconstructed living labs and you know, a couple of years ago they said, look, people in this context don't have access to education, they don't have access to jobs to opportunities. And so why don't we developed a low cost education methodology, You know, something like 10 steps to build your business to then essentially go into local communities and help people, you know, in a very easy way learn quick skills around social media and so on so that they can build their own businesses so that they can do their own thing.
And what's beautiful about what they're doing is they go into a new context and instead of saying what do you need? Instead of saying what resources do we need in this context, they do the opposite. They say what is already here and how can we make the best of this? They reframe the situation away from the situation of resource constraints of budget constraints which usually kind of shuts people down, right? And makes people very uncreative to a situation of there's always something here. The former drug dealer wonderful If we can, you know, leverage their creativity, their social capital.
If we can turn them into a teacher, it becomes cool to to to have education. Right? And so, so so that former drug dealer might as well be a teacher or we look at an old garage and that could be a training center. Right? And so they took that approach and also transferred it to big banks consultancies, others and saying, look, whatever you're doing, especially during the current times, right? Where everyone's having some kind of budget constraints and so on. They're saying, okay, let's say you're a bank.
And the usual reaction if you have to somehow survive in covid type times is to cut costs. Right? So you, you somehow now the cashier who was working there for 10 years is not needed anymore because you have an A. T. M. Machine. Right? So the usual reflects is you just kind of, you know, like let that person go the reconstructed living labs approaches to say, well, that person is probably really good at financial skills or as something that kind of like, you know, they probably have some kind of skills that developed during that time being around, you know, money and things like that.
So why don't we turn them into financial trainer and why don't we use the old office as a recording center for our financial courses, whatever it is, The point is to reframe the situation away from a resource constraint to the idea that there is something in every moment and the way they do that is they have a couple of practices and the one that I've always liked is the way they budget, because the way their budget is, if you hand in the budget item, It will ask you the question, well, do you really need this item or can you use something else? Like if you're organizing events and you need 50 chairs, do you really need the chairs or would it be even better if people stand and you do kind of like a really nice thing where people can mingle and walk around if you really need the chair, Can you get that chair from somewhere, does the restaurant next door? Do they have 50 chairs and they're closed at that time? So they could borrow them, you could borrow them from them.
The point is that there's always more in the moment than we actually might see at first glance. And that approach incentivize us to look for that before we asked for money before we ask for resources. And the fascinating thing is, you know, a lot of our work has been comparing when they, for example, do do this in some units or hubs and in other hubs, people were more resource focused. Usually the real innovation happens in those hubs that make this kind of reframing happen versus and hubs that have focused on, let's get this grand and let's, you know, focus every effort on this one grand.
Those become extremely ineffective because the only focus now is to get the grants, satisfy the grant and then apply for the follow up grant, right? And that usually is extremely unsalable and it doesn't lead anywhere. So the point here is by building the context into what they're doing, reframing resources and people into actual assets. That is how they developed a sustainable model over time. But now scale to hundreds of thousands of people in extreme low cost context with essentially almost no resources.
Now, a second practice that that I wanted to mention before we go into our conversation is really around serendipity spotting. And you know, when you think about the example I mentioned earlier around the potato washing machine, the potato washing machine example is a lot about saying if I am an old school leader and I hear that there's unexpectedly a new potential use for my product. I'm like, yeah, but this wasn't in our marketing plan, let's first kind of go with like what we planned and then we'll do everything else later.
The new type of leadership skill and the serendipity mindset in itself is to say, you know what I actually want to incentivize people to look out for these unexpected users because that's probably where the magic will happen in the future. And so one small tweak that I'm always a big fan of his too in meetings ask very simple questions like what surprised you last week. Was there anything that went against our assumptions? We always assumed that our product is so great for clothes, but Hey, anything else? And then someone might say in the meeting, hey, you know, I got this call from a farmer and, and they told me they wash their potatoes in the washing machine and then essentially we would say this is not a threat to our marketing plan.
This is not questioning our leadership. This is part of our leadership that we actually now can go into that direction because we incentivize people to actually look out for what this kind of current period has taken away a little bit from us are these water cooler moments, right? Where you just bump into someone in the office and you know, especially as a younger person, like every day you could bump into the boss of your boss and then this unexpected opportunity comes from it and that has been taken away from us, right? That's, that's just not there anymore.
And so, um, what I'm a big fan of his approaches, such as random coffee trials, where the idea is to say everyone in the company or in a community club or whatever it is, gives a couple of times when they're free and then they get randomly matched with people from other divisions, from other levels, hierarchy and they get matched up and then they go for a half an hour digital coffee and, you know, ideally with an inspiring prompt, you know, related to what the organization faces at the moment. So it could be something like, oh, hey, you know, what's the court challenge you're facing and how can I help you? Whatever it is, it doesn't matter what matters is that we're bringing people together who essentially could somehow figure out, you know, some kind of serendipity replicating the water cooler effect.
And so that's really the idea of how we design these virtual spaces. And then of course, that's something that at the moment is really something that simple now. Um, you know, in terms of physical spaces, I've always been a big fan, how Pixar steve jobs when he was still at Pixar. Um, you know, he's, he wanted the new headquarters and his architects came to him and they said, look, let's build a new Building here for the management team, one for developers, one for creatives. And he said, that's a terrible idea.
That's a terrible idea because you're now separating exactly those people that should be. So, he was like, look, build one building in that one building, let's make a big stadium, let's put the mailboxes of the developer right next to the mailbox, of the creative of the management, so that they have to bump into each other and so you're incentivizing these kind of water cooler moments in a physical space where people bump into each other off so long story short, these are a couple of the practices, right? Which are all about saying questions and hooks, project funerals and postmortems, reframing serendipity spotting and then really this kind of technology and space design and those five practices in a way can help us to have more serendipity in our lives happen.
What's important, of course is that we have a filter, right? So it's not about just kind of getting all these exciting things. I mean I've been culprit right to having so much serendipity happened that that at some point you just got to say, hey, wow, I need to focus now. And so in terms of filters, um, you know, companies like Pixar used brain trusts, where they say informally, a couple of people evaluate ideas and then say, okay, this is great, this is on the parking lot. A parking lot in general is a great idea right? Where you just put things and say later, we'll talk about this later.
It's not forgotten, but it's, it's for later. And then really a sense of direction helps us to focus a little bit now to wrap this up. I wouldn't be doing justice to my german roots, especially to my Heidelberg routes where we have this beautiful philosophers way without closing on a philosophical note. Um and so I've been a big fan of goethe and go to, you know, he had this beautiful idea that if you take someone as they are, you make them worse. But if you take them as who they could be, you make them capable of becoming who they can.
And that's what serendipity is all about. Right. Serendipity is about potentiality, it's about what could be, it's about seeing a little bit more in person than than there is at this point. It's about seeing a little bit more in the situation than there is right in in an old garage. You see this training center, you just see a little bit more of this. And by doing this, we essentially can turn consistently all these unexpected things that happen all the time into beautiful positive outcomes and make accidents meaningful, but more importantly, also create more meaningful accidents with this.
Thank you so much for joining the session and I'm looking forward to our conversation. That was wonderful christian, Thank you so much for sharing all the amazing insights about serendipity, this idea of potentiality and it's creating more opportunities and through uncertainty and you answer lots of questions I had, I can see there are lots of questions from the members. So we're gonna do it straight away. The first question comes from julie, which is how much is gratitude linked to serendipity.
Thanks so much for the great question and I think, you know, it's very close to my heart. One of my favorite writers is Adam Grant who writes a lot about giving exposes takers and and and the idea of how can we in the world be grateful for each other, help each other out and do that in an authentic way. That actually then actually in a beautiful kind of enlightened self interest tends to lead to more kind of positive outcomes. And something that I've, I've seen with serendipity, is that a lot of times? Because serendipity is so much about appreciating a moment and trying to find meaning in a moment, gratefulness is actually very linked it because gratefulness a lot of times is about trying to figure out, right, what is it that in this particular moment somehow added value to someone's life.
Right? And in a way that is what we're trying to do with the serendipity mindset. We're trying to say, hey, like if you have a car crash um is there something in there that could still be meaningful if you have a Viagra type accident happening? Hey, this really is bad for our current study. But you know what, maybe there is more in that moment than than there could be. And so there's actually a couple of studies around how gratefulness in itself, right? You might have a gratefulness Journal or something which is actually really effective, right? Because primes us more to it, the more we are aware of it, the more we actually go into it, that's very similar with serendipity that if we are grateful for these kind of moments that somehow shaped our life, we reflect on them that actually then primes us more towards it as well.
So long story short, the way I look at it is almost like Ben diagrams and gratitude is like one of these kind of bubbles that are, there are circles that are there, that has a small one. You can have a lot of serendipity without without it, but you tend to have more when you have it. Okay, so we all need to prime for gratitude and serendipity. It's great, great to know. Um and and asked a question which is something I've been thinking a lot about, which is, there's a general view in business that luck equals opportunity.
Times preparedness, so that it's a, it's an outcome of opportunity and preparedness. Do you agree? Yeah, I mean, you know that's, it's very louis Pasteur um that luck favors the prepared mind and I think that's a great point, right? That in a way by definition a lot of times we can't know what exactly will happen, but once an opportunity presents itself, we want to be ready for it, right? And I think to your point that's really about building that muscle for the unexpected, being prepared for the unexpected opportunity and then being able to act on it.
So yes, I definitely agree. And I think that's actually one of the core premises of this work to say, hey, at the end of the day, you know, we have to build that muscle and we have to do it similar to how we would go to the gym, like it's not enough to just work out like one of the muscles and then feel that's it, like you've got to kind of build these different areas being that around, you know, how we learn how to connect the dots more right, and get ourselves more into that idea of, oh, when there's an unexpected moment for every time there's something unexpected, can always try to find one meaningful outcome out of this or, or things like this, where we can train ourselves and then actually that prepares us for the next thing that happens because now again, we try to attend the we see the opportunity in those unexpected moments, so long story story.
Yes, that's great. So it sounds like serendipity tends to come out of negative moments, but have there been some happy moments that have led to serendipity and that kind of leads into steve's question, which is about what have been your happiest moments of serendipity that you personally have had. That's a great question, I love this and I would, I would answer it in two ways. Probably. So the one way. First that yes, sir, it comes a lot of times out of, you know, positive or negative, like regular moments, right? It's kind of the thing in the coffee shop where you bump into that person and that person becomes the love of your life, right? I bet that some of you in the room, um that might have been how you met the person you love.
So it's certainly been a lot of times. It's this kind of beautiful, meaningful addition to our life, right? That comes out of regular moments in the day to day. That's why I'm such a big fan of the solidarity approach of casting hooks because then every conversation with the old uncle, right? Here we go. I really didn't want to talk about all the old, like the aunts and we're like, ah, I really don't want to talk with her now, but by slightly asking slightly different questions, putting a couple of hooks.
It's surprising how, especially with people where we didn't expect anything to happen. Like we have this surprising new things. We have surprisingly new meaningful connections with them and you know, that was one of the beautiful things over the last months. Also to see for example, how many parents reached out and said, hey, I now have another way to connect with my autistic son or my autistic daughter and this is a way to meaningfully engage with them. And then serendipitously I didn't even realize that they had exercised that skill and now we're really focusing on this and putting it into a school that focuses more on this.
It's really about this idea that a lot of times it comes out of beautiful moments to your second question around the most kind of meaningful, beautiful serendipity. Um in my case, it has been very recent actually, around a year ago, a bit more than a year. And so I had a severe form of covid, I almost died from it, kind of, you know, in a way, and an individual near death experience in addition to the collective one that we all had. And um, you know, I had a severe form of it and I was alone in my apartment in new york and it was a depressing environment, right? You had all these, you might remember it was a very depressing environment in new york especially, and um I kind of had that and I was stuck alone in this apartment and, you know, it took me on this intense search for meaning again, where I was like, look, I focused so much on passion and creating impact and those kind of things and have completely neglected thinking about who are the people now, I want to be within this room, like who is what is the kind of meaningful relationship, like, in terms of love that, that I should actually probably prioritize more and, and look for more and the family here.
And so that kind of opened my mind to, hey, look, I'm ready for, like, a very serious commitment. And so, you know, I went out there and reconnected with an old friend of mine serendipitously, so we did that and she's now my wife, we have a baby together and um it was kind of somehow full circle. She also came out of an interesting period. So long story short, I think the way my wife and our family now are coming together to me was the most beautiful serendipity recently. Oh, that's wonderful. It's so lovely to hear about the moment, but also really glad to hear that you're so much better, because that sounds like a very scary moment that you experienced.
It actually brings me onto one of the other questions that was asked about whether Covid has actually produced some positive serendipitous moments sounds like it did for you, but more generally, do you think that Covid has opened up people to see positive uncertainty? Well, it's interesting, right? Because I think, um Covid has reinforced a lot of societal issues, right? When you think about something like inequality. Um, so when I look at my students, right, when Covid happened last year, you would have the students who tunes in from the florida mention and it's fine, right? Um and then you have the kids somewhere sitting with 20 people in the household where the uncle goes to work.
The odd goes to work and everyone infects each other. Um and, you know, you have two very, very different kind of lives and um that that people live. And so in a way it exacerbated, I think a lot of societal inequality, so I think that that is definitely something that hopefully, you know, some people realized, wow, there's there's a lot there that has to be done. And then on the other side, I think, yes, there's there's been a lot of necessity based serendipity, right? And I think as someone who has been very involved in in kind of resource constrained environments, whether negatively unexpected happens all the time where people die from one day to the other and have to somehow figure out like, what do we do now with the business and things like this? We've seen this a lot, right, during the last months and years where breweries turned into hand sanitizer companies or fashion labels turned into kind of mass producers, like you have a lot of kind of serendipity happening there, but to me, the most important thing really was I feel with my students especially and more broadly, that there's been a bit of a questioning of, hey, what is life really about? And I think that's what these kind of near death experience type situations do with us, right? It's like a disorienting dilemma where we're like, oh my God, hey, life can be short, so I might as well do something meaningful with it.
And so I do hope that this will be the biggest effect of covid to say, what is it here, that I can my own life reevaluate knowing that life can be really assured what is really important to me and how can I take first steps now and I'm actually a big fan of not changing everything right if you're in a secure job but you feel it's not that meaningful, it's not about changing everything from, you know, and going to the alps and opening a hotel there, but it's about saying, hey how can I like place a couple of small bets, can I do one small project on the side where I essentially spend a little bit of time and if that works out, I can go full time there, whatever it is, but really kind of building that opportunity space now.
I think that's probably one of the beautiful effects that came out of it. Okay, well, final question, it's a quick one, what's the opposite of a serendipity mindset? And that comes from laura, I think that's a beautiful question, there's actually Zambia entity which is the, you know, the the attracting kind of negative incidences all the time and um you know, I think it's interesting because that comes back to the lucky versus unlucky example at the beginning that I do feel when you think about what makes a serendipity mindset work, it is a lot of times that actually you have and I'm very sorry for that.
Um that is actually the unexpected happening in real time here because my wife is pregnant, so I have to keep the phone on. So um I'm, it was just coming here, but the point being that essentially, you know, the negatively unexpected happens because we, in a way a lot of times might even have expected it to happen, right? There was the lucky, unlucky example I mentioned at the beginning. If you believe that you're not lucky, you tend to focus on the things that are bad and there's this wonderful um you know, to, to wrap this part up and there's this wonderful um example of like a bank robber where they put people into a simulation, they say, imagine there's a bank robber running into a bank and shooting people and imagine you're the only one being shot into the shoulder, right? Um what do you think now, Do you think a lucky person would say, my God, thank you that I survived.
Right? So it's kind of to the point also earlier to the gratefulness, like, I'm grateful that it could have been worse versus the unlucky person will say something like, oh my God, it's so unfair that I was the only one who was being shot here. Right? And so I think it's really that thing where when you don't have that kind of serendipity mindset that tries to find meaning in every situation that tries to then turn the deposit outcomes, what you're consistently doing is that you're reinforcing the negative things that happen in everyone's life, right? Life by definition has the positive and the negative and the way we prime ourselves in a way it becomes almost a self fulfilling prophecy.
So yes, there's definitely the opposite of it and I think that's the beauty of it, right, that we can all work on it, especially those who maybe haven't been that lucky in their lives. I think the beautiful thing is we can do something, but as I mentioned earlier, we can never blame anyone for bad luck because bad luck happens to everyone. Um and I think it's important to also appreciate that some people have a much higher potential based level of serendipity based on their background and where they are in the world.
Well, that's totally fascinating. I think there's gonna be a lot of us doing some reframing this afternoon and thinking about, you know what we, how we can create that serendipity mindset you talk about? I want to thank christian for joining us in The Garden today. Absolutely fascinating talk. I feel like I've got 100 questions I want to ask you, but we need to finish here. Unfortunately, thank you all for joining us in The Garden.