Serendipity is a concept I think about a lot and massively impacts how I do business and how I live my life.
Wikipedia describes it as “the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way”. Or in other words: being in the right place at the right time.
Almost nothing in my life matches up with my previous five or ten year plans. I didn’t foresee my businesses, where I live, or my hobbies. And I am not going to be able to foresee the next five or ten years.
That’s the thing. I don’t know what the future holds. But I do know it will contain ups and down. And it will contain opportunities. And I am sure I want to be in the best possible position to grab those opportunities with both hands.
How Do You Prepare For The Unexpected?
Serendipity is not sitting around playing video games all day hoping that the phone will ring with a great business opportunity.
Serendipity is active. It’s about positioning yourself purposefully and making sure you are ready, prepared and on the lookout for opportunity.
It’s about having the time, money and mindset to act.
Being Ready With Time
Having the free time to grab opportunity isn’t about having empty time, but about having flexible time. Spending your time either looking for opportunity or on productive stuff that isn’t a commitment. Stuff that is worth doing but where there are little to no consequences for dropping at a moments notice.
I find that a lot of people who are in business are 100% in the thick of it and don’t have any spare time at all. In fact they often go beyond that, where they don’t have time for the stuff they need to be doing. Which is bad for business and bad for serendipity.
The same with people working a full-time job. They fill their non-work time with social engagements, admin and holidays. There is no flexible time set aside on the lookout for opportunities.
I personally spend about 2/3rds of my waking time on flexible time.
That is time spent actively researching or looking for the next thing. But also time spent on personal development (such as learning Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, listening to podcasts or studying) or on building relationships and friendships. That time isn’t wasted. It is improving me and improving my life. But it is also time that I can easily allocate to a new opportunity.
You need to have the flexibility to work on something that just appears. Flexibility to fly out to for that once in a lifetime opportunity. To meet that connection. To say yes to that meeting.
Being Ready With Money
Most opportunities require a bit of money and traditional investing advice encourages you to tie up your money for as long as possible.
Whether that be property, retirement funds, stocks and shares. They are all illiquid investments and cannot be used to make make the most of serendipity.
I have some money locked into long-term funds. But I also have a large amount in short term investments that I can withdraw when needed. Because I believe that by seizing serendipity I can get a much larger return on investment.
You can read more about my strategy in investing in the light of Brexit. But in short, I put my money in P2P loans that have 30 day or less withdrawal terms. Earning around 5% at Assetz Capital or Ratesetter.
Opportunities that need money can range, from a super cheap investment opportunity, such as a cheap property or some cheap stock you can easily resell. Or a business opportunity. Something you have dabbled in that takes off and needs some extra cash – the next fidget spinner.
Be Ready With Mindset
It is all well and good having the time and money, but if you are not in the right mindset and looking out for opportunities you won’t recognise them. You need to be willing to experiment and dabble.
I spend a lot of my time, thinking, brainstorming and researching new opportunities.
Most things I look at don’t go anywhere or just stay at the thought experiment stage. But sometimes they turn out to be great and turn into the next big business.
But it goes beyond that. It’s about mindset, always being on the lookout regardless of what you are doing. Whatever I am doing I will have in my mind that there might be an opportunity there.
I’m a big fan of history, but when I’m listening to a history podcast I’ll often be struck by something I can directly relate to my business. I recently finished reading Narcomics – a book about the economics of the drug trade. Bing! New ideas.
Some Examples Of Serendipity
So you’re probably thinking that all the theory above is all well and good, but what does serendipity actually look like in real life? Here are some examples from different parts of my life
When I sold my tech startup I was left with an office that I still had a lease on. It was a 6 person office with just little old me there. Instead of leaving it empty I invited some friends to come and work from there with the hope we’d find a new opportunity.
Ben Larcombe was working full time as a table tennis coach but cut down and came into the office 2 days a week. He gave serendipity a chance. If it worked out he’d have a new career. If not he could always go back to coaching.
I had an idea at the time, it was a Groupon style website for casino bonuses. Very random. And quickly turned out to be a terrible idea that didn’t work. But instead of going back to work he kept coming into the office trying out ideas and encouraging serendipity.
Eventually, we discovered an opportunity to start a table tennis business. A business that is still going now six years later and makes him far more than table tennis coaching ever did.
We had the time. Ben dedicated 2 days a week to flexible time. Giving up his coaching income but opening the potential for something new. I kept going into the office even though my business had been sold and I didn’t have any ‘work’ to do.
We had the money. An initial investment of £3,000 on stock to test the waters. Then a larger investment once the concept had been proven.
We had the mindset. We were actively looking for opportunities and experimenting. From bitcoin, to gambling sites, to table tennis businesses.
When my businesses started to make a lot of money back in 2011 we approached a few estate agents with an offer. We were cash investors with money free and willing to do immediate deals if a great opportunity appeared.
If they had any customers who needed to sell immediately we would buy the property. We approached a lot of people and mostly got nowhere. But we did manage three deals. All of which were well below market value.
After buying the property we could then worry about getting financing, free up our money and once again be ready for the next opportunity.
It was a win win. We wanted to build our property portfolio. And the sellers needed a quick sell.
We had the money, the time and the mindset to explore such opportunities.
Those two are in the past and kind of out of the blue. But nowadays my businesses are set up to benefit from serendipity.
Pipehouse Gin is my craft gin brand. We make gin. A very popular and on-trend beverage. And one of the most common questions is “what spirit is going to be the next big thing?” or “what are you going to do when the gin craze dies down?”.
The answer to both is I don’t know. But we have the licenses, experiences and contacts to be able to pivot and take advantage of whatever that is.
Emma’s Nomad Kitchen is a supper club founded and run by my wife Emma. She has paying guests over to our home every couple of weeks and cooks a meal for them.
Why does she do it? She’s never going to earn a full-time income from 10 guests paying £30 each every two weeks. No of course not. But food and drink is her passion. And the supper clubs give her the experience, contacts and confidence for whatever opportunity comes next.
We don’t know what that will be (recipe book, YouTube channel, restaurant, podcast, catering company, meal plan box). But we know there will be something and she is on the right path.
I could go on and on. From business to hobbies. Travel to friendships. But you get the idea.
Be ready with your time. Actively search for opportunities and chalk out flexible time that you can use when needed.
Be ready with your money. Just because you can’t foresee needing available money doesn’t mean something unexpected won’t come along. Often the best investments are to invest in yourself or your own business.
And be ready with mindset. Opportunity and inspiration can come from any angle. Prepare for it. Identify it. And benefit from it.
This post is a companion post to Episode #9 of the Lazy Entrepreneur Podcast.
Listen to episode 9 of the Lazy Entrepreneur Podcast: Serendipity. iTunes | Spotify | YouTube | Stitcher
* – A star represents a refer-a-friend link. Ratesetter has a £100 bonus if you invest £1,000 for a year. Zopa has a £50 bonus is you invest £2,000. Assetz Capital has a £50 bonus if you invest £1,000 for a year.