Positive Outliers

Serendipity of Friendship

Out of a chance pattern of coincidences from different sources, I stumbled upon related views on friendship. This was serendipity. Could serendipity be a key to creativity?

I sometimes think that we need to value serendipity. Here is a definition of ‘serendipity’:

The faculty of making fortunate discoveries by accident.

Because experiencing serendipity is accidental, it makes us curious. And curiosity leads to curiosity, and maybe to more serendipity. This can become like a virtuous cycle.

For example, I listened to two different podcasts last week. Both of these podcasts explored friendship from different angles. This made me reflect on an online meeting I had the night before. I had argued with the host, a good friend, about which of us benefited more from our friendship. It was clearly me, but my host argued otherwise. This was an honouring disagreement. 

Jim Collins & Bill Lazier

Then, the next day of these podcasts featured an interview with Jim Collins. He commented on his old mentor and friend Bill Lazier, from Collins’ Stanford University days. Lazier was an older and wiser man and a mentor to Collins at the time. Lazier believed that great friendships are where both parties believe they benefit more from the relationship than the other person.

“Could this possibly be true?” Collins had asked. Lazier assured Collins that he, Lazier, believed he benefitted more from their relationship. Whilst Collins, of course, believed the opposite. It seems that this solution to a good relationship is illogical, but it was evidently true in this case.

Is Serendipity Training to Tell Us Something?

So, in 24 hours, one online meeting and two podcasts had gripped my attention, each reinforcing the other. These events grabbed my attention, making me think more deeply about what it means to be a friend.

Now this is just one example of serendipity. How many ovether do we have in our lives that we ignore? Perhaps we just shrug our shoulders and move on. Is someone trying to tell us something?

The Serendipity Engine

This serendipity experience is helpful for the current book I’m writing. Its subject is the writer’s process, and a central part of it is what I have come to call the Serendipity Engine. This ‘engine’ is a system of notes I make that link together and begin to generate emergent ideas. (If you want to know more and maybe have an early peek at a manuscript, just email me at If you do email, please also let me know why this interests you.)

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