Reading Wikipedia’s notes on Serendipity are interesting,
Various thoughts describing ‘A pleasant surprise’
This was an experience I had in February in Havana, Cuba which I could only describe as Serendipitous, after only a couple hours of arriving, and 5 minutes after meeting 2 men with a guitar and a bottle of rum on the street, the following happened, and trigger finger Louis caught it on camera.
No sooner had we started our first impromptu salsa lesson and singing our first song did a choir of 8 other random people arrive all singing and dancing at the exact right time! – I get the goosies when I think about it.
Now you could call this random, it’s random that a guy had a guitar, it’s random that people knew the song, it’s random that louis had his camera on at that moment…or is it?
Sometimes the stars align and these are the moments we crave for. We certainly cannot control or manufacture them but we sure can optimise for them, internally and externally.
Think about fishing, finding a partner or playing poker. All of these activities sure need a special unexpected ‘pleasant surprise’ but the fact is, if you are fishing in a bathtub, looking to find a wife on grindr or playing poker with your eyes shut you are minimising the chances for serendipity.
The reality is that certain spaces are designed for certain behaviours and activities, and our decisions are far more conditioned by our environments than we would like to admit.
Cuba’s communist economy means that my 30 minute taxi ride to the airport cost more than the driver earns in a day and more than his wife earns being a teacher in a month! This along with government controls and the US trade embargo means that people are not addicted to consumerism and the mutant form of capitalism we have come to accept as somewhat normal. This means people don’t work too hard which means they have time to create, which means I found it to be the most culturally rich place I have ever been on the planet. With dancing, music and art coming out of every corner of the city.
I had never heard the spanish song our guy was playing but I now know it is called ‘Bailando’ by Enrique Inglesias which means dance in spanish. In the last year on youtube this song has had 900,385,902 people watch it! Almost a billion views, and Its narrative plays straight to the core of the dominant culture in the spanish speaking land of Cuba.
When the economic system, the cultural narrative and the social consciousness are all aligned you have the external conditions for a serendipitous moment to occur. Combine that with camera ready, travelling content makers, Louis, Raya and Myself, ready to say yes to opportunity and conditions are perfect for magic to happen.
Was this a random event? or was it to be expected?
I would say it is in the air, this was Cuba making moments it has been designed to make, and everyone enjoyed playing their part naturally and beautifully.
I could bore you with many stories of why I think that the culture of your environment matters a lot in creating serendipity to lead to something special but instead I just want to tell you about the awesome day I had yesterday that I think is a fair example of the dominant themes in San Francisco.
I started the day on the 45 minute caltrain journey writing the full lyrics to a track a producer friend had sent me the day before. My first meeting was with @12_fps studio discussing a project that Louis and I are planning in a couple of weeks, this awesome conversation with Dwight led in 5 different directions, with loads of connections from accommodation to startup advice to showing him the track and lyrics, it also led him to giving me a lift to my next meetings at Salesforce.com. A completely different space yet with the energy he gave me I was feeling good and it turns out that the exec I was meeting is married to a musician so was happy to hear about my creative projects as well as discussing some seriously awesome ideas to scale Givey in the US and UK. Leaving this meeting even more pumped with momentum I text Dwight saying ‘hey do you happen to be around tonight to record the track?
He said yes! He pulled in @trapexoid and a few beers and we made something happen, it was difficult, the first time I have tried laying words to a track in a studio but they are pro’s and we wiggled through, and it felt amazing to get this whole thing done in a day, AND it made me better in my business meetings!!!
(The track is done but I can’t show you as the original hasn’t even come out yet – I will update the blog when I can show you for sure)
For me, this is serendipity.
Being able to explore my creative side, and develop our business with the right partners in the right place. It is a beautiful thing when every part of who you are helps you make progress and build momentum rather than feeling if I am doing anything other than obvious business then I am being lazy or distracted.
It seems to me that the optimum conditions for serendipity, are firstly ‘internally’ when we pursue our passions, and relationships and put ourselves on the line for the things we care about and secondly, ‘externally’ when we place ourselves in an environment that is designed to produce things we are aiming towards.
This is not the first goosebump day I have had in SF and I am doubtful it is the last as it is not random or even a pleasant surprise that amazing productive things are happening as I am lucky enough to be currently experiencing optimum conditions both internally and externally for serendipity.
Long may it continue
Thanks for reading this long ass piece!