Sep 23, 2010

Maximizing Serendipity

The title of this online space is "Maximizing the serendipity around you" which comes from Nassim Nicholas Taleb's The Black Swan, and is as much of a universal business rule I've ever heard and followed.

To me it means that you have to increase the chances of something random happening to you, you have to increase your chances of being lucky. It fits in with another theory I have, which is that it takes alot of skill to be lucky. It takes alot of effort to get yourself into the right place so that when luck, or randomness, or serendipity strikes, you capitalize on it.

I suppose that means there is no such thing as luck, and we should all start instead adding "Good serendipity" to our salutations.

Adherence to this principle means you have to not only embrace randomness, but you have to increase your chances of randomness happening to you. But this is hard to do because it implies a lack of structure and form, and formlessness can be lethal. In another context Peter Coyote once wrote:
“When you live without the limits of law or convention, you must supply your own. If you don’t, or can’t, formlessness becomes terminal.”

So how do you maximize serendipity?

I believe there are two main qualities that define a successful entrepreneur or investor. The first is p
attern recognition. The ability to use experience or insight from past patterns to have a viewpoint on future markets. "I know how this movie ends."

The second quality is conviction. The gut, visceral belief that what you are doing is right regardless of what anyone else thinks (and indeed opposition often increases levels of conviction). "I don't care what anyone else thinks."

These two qualities are in tension and inconsistent with each other. But that's what makes the combination so powerful. Indeed that very tension can be the boundary line between success or failure, and it's a tightrope.

But if you get that balance right, you are in the best position to maximize serendipity. Which means you are in the best position to be successful.

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