How to make your own serendipity.
One of my favorite new podcasts is No Stupid Questions with Angela Duckworth, author of Grit, and Stephen Dubner of Freakanomics. They ask seemingly simple questions like “What Matters More, a First or Last Impression?” and “Is Optimism a Luxury Good?” Not only do you get to listen in on delightful banter between what are good friends, but the entire episode is chock full of interesting anecdotes and ideas. The other week Duckworth talked about the concept of Agentic Optimism. As someone who tends to lean towards the optimistic side of the spectrum, I was intrigued. Agentic optimism – what is that?
I’ll save you some time, and I’m guessing you’ve figured it out by now, but the top line is agentic optimists believe that a positive outcome happens because of their actions.
I like this idea. I like it a whole lot.
Why? Because when I look back at all the serendipity moments, they all started with an optimistic action on my part.
When asked if I wanted to move across the country to do a job with no description, no title, and no negotiated salary, I went anyway. It didn’t initially work out (I moved back less than three weeks later), but the career pivot ultimately led me to an entirely new career. The new, fantastic path would not have manifested without the detour.
I’ve got hundreds of stories where I’ve said, “Why not?” and blazed a trail down an unknown path. Paths that eventually had me saying, “Well, who knew THAT would happen? Awesome!”
I know I’ve talked about this before, but this was the conversation topic with one of my Executive Ambition clients this week. She’s right on the precipice of what I call a “corner.” Professional corners are those moments in your career when you realize you CAN keep going forward but forward is just not enough. The path you’re on doesn’t seem like the path you want to be on the long term. You have pauses in your day when you have an image of something different, but it seems just out of reach, just around the corner. Except you can’t exactly see how to get around the corner, letting go of the path you’re on seems, frankly, terrifying if not insane. The Future You seems vague and uncertain, and the answer to “What are you ambitious for?” comes back with a shrug.
THIS is precisely the time I start encouraging people to manifest their magic and start making serendipity. I challenged this brilliant woman to take fifteen minutes out of each day to focus on the possible. We built a personalized strategy to help her be optimistic about what could be around the corner and agentic in her approach.
And you know what’s happened? Magic.
While the path ahead still seems a bit daunting, she shared she was more excited than worried about her future. While she still isn’t 100% clear about what “around her professional corner” looks like, the act of actively peeking has manifested some serendipitous moments. Her internal magic – an approach powered by agentic optimism – is manifesting serendipity for the Future Her. We’re both pretty excited to learn what’s going to happen next.
I’m not surprised it’s working for her. This approach has worked over and over again for me and others I’ve nudged in this direction. It’s how we all grow.
This brings me to this week’s question. Are you on the professional path you want to be on, or are you facing a corner? Could you use a little serendipity in your life? Do you want to make your magic happen? We’re going to be talking about this idea and how to make your serendipity at the weekly live show I host on Friday’s at noon PST. We’re hosting this one on February 26th. It’s the “Serendipity requires courage. Are you an Agentic Optimist? You should be.” event. You can find out about and register for this show and all the shows here. Or if you can’t make the noon hour, you can always watch the show on your own time here on YouTube. We also launched Learning Guides to go along with every performance. For $9.95, you get a toolkit, challenges, and some of my amplification magic along the way. You can start checking them out here.
Serendipity is magic, and it happens because of you, not TO you. You have to act first; heck, even the Fairy Godmother said, “Bibbidi-bobbidi-boo.”
Off to sprinkle some magic on others. I look forward to seeing yours…