In Wednesday’s post, I introduced the Money magazine interview of Clayton Christensen, the Kim B. Clark Professor of Business Administration with the Harvard Business School (“How Should You Measure Success?: Clayton Christensen Says to Total Up Your Relationships, Not Your Paychecks” Money October 2012, pp. 96–100).  In addition to his hardcore business knowledge, Christensen has spoken to the deeper truths of personal and professional happiness in life and in business.

Serendipity means a happy accident or a pleasant surprise.  In 2004, a British translation company voted it one of the ten most difficult words to translate.  Definitions, like happiness, are sometimes elusive.

Christensen reminds us we must not be so structured and driven we miss the blessing of serendipity.  Serendipity can’t be planned.  If it was, it would no longer be serendipity now would it?  Although serendipity cannot be planned or created, we can cultivate a mindset that prepares us to be open to it.  That is important.

Sometimes in our careers we feel we must plan and control everything.  I definitely believe in planning and control.  Nevertheless, we can have too much of a good thing.  Christensen sets us straight on finding the balance:

“The things that really make our careers are almost always the opportunities that inadvertently arise.  We need to have a better balance between a deliberate strategy and staying open.” (p. 98)

I love this approach because it speaks to two characteristics from which we always benefit—humility and openness.  When we are willing to be humble and open, the restrictions on our path tend to disappear, and that leads to happiness.

“The opportunities that inadvertently arise”—Now that is serendipity!  And that is so often the gateway to a splendid new experience that immensely adds to our happiness and fulfillment.  In my own life and career, I cannot begin to count the ways in which simply being open and flexible serendipitously led to times of tremendous significance, happiness, and growth.

Deliberate strategies, planning, control—yeah, they are all good.  Just remember they cannot replace serendipity, nor would we want them to.

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About James Meadows

Currently I serve as a training team manager for Tyco Integrated Security at a customer-care center in Kansas City. Additionally, I am a business consultant, a freelance corporate writer, an Assembly of God ordained minister, a Civil Air Patrol chaplain, and a blogger. I believe we are living in the most fascinating times of human history. To maximize the opportunities these times present, I have a passionate interest in leadership development and organizational success, both of which I view as inextricably linked.

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