‘Serendipity’ is one of my favorite English words. It characterises joy, living in the moment, karma and happy coincidences.

In 1754 Thomas Walpole, a British diarist, coined the word “serendipity”. He wrote about the Persian story of The Three Princes of Serendip (now Sri Lanka). As the story goes, the three princes went on a journey “making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of…”

In our lifetime, we come across many serendipitous moments. In 2019, I was walking down the road in Sydney looking for a shop that specialised in accessories for pets. I kept walking but was unable to locate any shop. From the corner of my eye I saw a local woman coming from the other side. I don’t know what made me stop and ask her for the location. I don’t think either of us will ever forget the expression on our faces when she said astonishingly that she was the owner of that shop! To me, it was such a serendipitous meeting. Fancy stopping a stranger who turns out to be just the person I was searching for!

Way back in 2004 while I was traveling from Chandigarh to Delhi, I just said hello to the person sitting across the aisle. The conversation that followed changed the direction of my life – the stranger later became my mentor and guided me to recognise my strengths and identify the right job profiles that would excite me. What else can one call this interaction, if not, but, serendipity?

What if we were to cultivate serendipity at our workplace? How would creativity and innovation spin if we were to put our faith out in the open for happy coincidences to occur? In my quest to understand what made these fortuitous moments fruitful for me, a few things do stand out that I would like to share with you.

  • Be open to adventures in life

We often have a tunnel vision of what lays ahead and refuse to budge from our comfort zones. Alas, challenges and comfort do not go together. Embrace the new that comes your way. Take that leap forward to experience something that is unknown and momentarily leaves you completely in the dark. Trust yourself to find a way around. Accept that invitation to a party where you don’t know the others. You don’t know whom you will meet! Go for that speed mentoring session – it would very well change your life.

  • Good news comes from unexpected corners

One summery evening in 2001 I was chatting with a friend and sharing that while I had zeroed on to a good hostel for my son, I would not be able to admit him there. ‘Why not’, she asked. ‘I don’t have the resources to arrange for the hefty deposit’, I said. What she said next has always stayed with me – ‘Don’t you know our office gives interest free loans and the same can be deducted from your salary?’ That one sentence opened the door for me to help my son begin a new chapter in his life. What if I had not shared this with her? There was no way would have I known of the low hanging fruit!

  • Say hello to strangers

How many of us turn around to say ‘Hello’ to those sitting next to us in the plane or train? When was the last you struck a conversation with a total stranger? Have you ever thought what stops you? Let go of that hesitancy and communicate.

  • Network, network, network

Diversity really matters. I am not talking of gender here. But diversity of different minds, meeting people with varied occupations and from different cultures and countries. This is the kind of network that can lead to happy coincidences. We tend to stay within our own circle of friends/people who have similar thought processes and possibly, similar vocation as well. Try forging a different path when it comes to networking.

Serendipity isn’t just luck. You have to be alert to the unexpected coming your way. The best thing is that you can train yourself to be receptive and open to embrace the ‘new’. Good luck!

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Sarita Bahl
Country Group Head CSR at Bayer - South Asia
Sarita Bahl leads the Corporate Social Responsibility function for Bayer South Asia and is also the Director – Bayer Prayas Association. Prior to this, she successfully oversaw the communications and public affairs function for Bayer South Asia. Over her three decades of professional experience, Sarita has held multiple roles across diverse industries, public sector, trade associations, MNCs and the Not-for-profit sector. An alumnus of Tata Institute of Social Science and the Swedish Institute of Management Program, Sarita specializes in stakeholder engagement, sustainability and communications. She is passionate about animals (is mother to a female cat), books and movies.

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