For me serendipity arises more when you’re open to new ideas, open with your thoughts & ideas and open with your time. A closed hand can’t receive anything.
About a month later I was given a couple hours notice to attend a “HackTheBarbican” planning meeting by the amazing guys at Somewhereto_. I had signed up to the Somewhereto_ website site on a whim, had been inducted and had spoken extensively to a few random people about Stemettes. Fast forward a couple of months and Stemettes will be holding our first girl’s hackathon as part of the wider brilliant experimental Art-meets-Tech-meets-Entrepreneurship hack at London’s Barbican centre.
About a month after that the lovely Berlin Geekette ladies randomly asked me to keynote at the GeekGirlMeetup in Berlin. In addition to enjoying a new city and meeting excellent women in Technology I also got through my first adult keynote and have since been asked to do some more.
What’s my point? Just say ‘Yes’
When asked I often say that my biggest weakness is a seeming inability to say no. I live life in 10 day cycles which end with me having extremely low energy ebbs or sometimes in hospital. I’m motivated to continue despite these cycles with the fact that I enjoy what I’ve set out to do and have a certain drive to achieve things. I’m also driven by the belief that despite my best efforts I can’t always know what’s round the corner, so shouldn’t give up or let up.
And thus, for me having the patience to see things through isn’t a virtue I cling to. Promoting, seeding and following through on serendipitous opportunities is. That’s how I’ve also had a second guardian.co.uk article published, accepted trusteeship of a local charity and why – despite not having a whole load of experience in front of audiences – rarely say no to speaking engagements. With each go, I’m getting better and having spotted the excellent 300seconds at Opentech I’m enthused to add this into the Stemettes mix somehow. Anytime I yes to someone, I end up gaining as much (sometimes more) than they do.
You need to be open: ignore your fears
Of course, opportunities like the above don’t just come and find you. You need to give opportunity a chance. Work out loud. Be open. Go to events. Join online & offline communities and networks around your interests and expertise – then get stuck in. Really get stuck – contribute, post, host, talk. Try Twitter, try LinkedIn, try networking events. Share your ideas, share your dreams, share your expertise, share your network.
Last week I connected a fellow OpenTech panellist to a new contact on the Stemettes project. The week before I referred a youth worker to the Somewhereto_ guys. Shortly I’ll be repeating my Berlin keynote to a local women’s group. Throughout all of this, I’m being open and honest about the ideas I currently have (especially around the Stemettes project), my personal dreams and the knowledge I have. Sure there’s an element of risk with being so open – the risk of failure came up in discussions after my keynote and the risk of someone stealing ideas always comes up. For me, the upside fair outweighs the downside. I’m rewarded far too much for the risks I take in being open.
Have balance: don’t be too exposed
I hasten to add: there is a difference between openness & exposure.
I tweet all the time, but never anything personal. If you’re one of my followers, you’ll have noticed that you never know what I’ve eaten, but you do know what I’m reading. You don’t always know exactly where I am, but you do have an idea of who I ‘know’ and admire enough to follow.
You might learn I know someone you need, or that there is someone I don’t know that I should (and haven’t already discovered in a #ff).
I believe that being able to be open is beneficial and, somewhat powerful. Being this kind of open begets serendipity. It’s a much better virtue than simply being patient. It was also one of the strong themes in my keynote. Being a giver can help you achieve great things – as is highlighted by Organizational Psychologist Adam Grant in this video produced by the New York Times (here’s a link to the accompanying article too).
Give it a try:
- Eventbritesurf. Take one evening out a month to head to an event you find on Eventbrite, in a place you’ve never been to, hosted by a company/organisation you’ve never heard of. Go with a friend (if you must) and speak to 3 people you’ve not met before. If you’re unlucky you’ll leave with some networking practice and people who you may be able to refer friends to/help friends meet. If you’re lucky, you’ll meet one person who will change your life in someway by making a crazy @hackthebarbican type hookup.
- Develop one online habit. Blog more, Tweet more (livetweet the conference you attend), Flickr more, Tumblr more, Youtube/Keek/Vine more. I went for a toughie (and have ended up with this semi-occasional blog). The Internet makes things discoverable. Having an online habit makes you discoverable. You never know who is reading your blog or your tweets, or which country might view your video next. Few opportunities will come and knock on your door, help them find you.
- Attend an unconference/skillshare/barcamp/storyhack/tradeschool on a topic of your liking. Sometimes you have to see something to believe it. Spend a day at an ‘open event’ related to you – your hobby, your passion, your career or your business. Watch serendipity and openness in action. Give it a try – assume a fake name for the day, if that will be what it takes for you to participate wholly. I spent a brilliant day at #barcampnfp (a London BarCamp for people interesting in Not-for-profit organisations) earlier this year and am a self-confessed hackathon junkie. When you’ve been to an unconference, seen an agenda spontaneously formed before your eyes and actually benefited from a session/connection made on the day, you’ll wonder how you ever survived in a closed pre-defined learning environment.
Forget patience – give serendipity a try.