No, really. I’ve had endless tuition sessions as a kid, I took my AO-level Chinese exam twice, but when people talk to me in Mandarin today, I still end up looking like this:
So when the girlfriend asked me to go for a play entirely in Mandarin last week, I was like, “Naaaahhh I think I’ll skip this one out.” Unfortunately, my girlfriend is also the toughest negotiator in the world, so I ended up going in the end (I know right, totally standing my ground here). The play was titled Fat Hope and the description said, “Inspired by a Chet Lam song, this Chinese language play is a light take on self-criticism and social issues.” I settled into my seat and prepared for 1.5 hours of boredom.
But you know what? I ended up having a great time.
Miraculously, I managed to understand enough to appreciate about 80% of the story, and I got my girlfriend’s help to fill in the gaps. The plot and the acting were actually really, really, good. By the end of the night, I was grinning like a jackass and feeling immensely proud of myself.
Thing is, if I’d stayed home watching a good ol’ American movie, I’d never have gotten that awesome feeling that comes with accomplishing something seemingly impossible.
Big Wins Come From Serendipity
How many times do we turn ourselves down from great opportunities because we’re afraid to get out of our comfort zone? When a new experience presents itself, we’ll give excuses like “No, I’m kind of tired” or “No, I think I’m busy that day”, when it’s actually because we don’t want to get out of our comfort zones.
But by doing that, we may unknowingly be shutting ourselves out from a much richer life.
Think about the all the Big Wins that have ever happened in your life: your job, your salary raise, your scholarship, your marriage, etc. In all likelihood, quite a number of them probably happened as a result of serendipity: If you hadn’t accidentally done X, Y wouldn’t have happened.
The play I said yes to was just a one-time event. But it could have just as easily been a business idea, a job offer, or an influential contact. Was I really going to disqualify myself from these opportunities just because of my (perceived) limitations?
Whenever we hear about a Mark Zuckerberg or a Tony Hsieh, we tend to think, “Oh, they’re just really lucky; they were in the right place at the right time.” What we don’t see though, is the opportunities that they said yes to.
Lucky breaks happen to everyone – the only difference is how open you are to receive them, and how willing you are to take action when they present themselves.
Step 1: Start By Saying YES
All of us have a little guy sitting on our shoulders. His name is Comfort Zone. Every time we get invited to a lunch, a Turkish massage or a Medieval poetry book reading, he’ll whisper in our ears, “Are you sure you wanna go for that? That just sounds weird and you’ll be so bored!!”
He’ll encourage us to stay with what we’re comfortable with: Watching movies, going to cafes, or spending our weekends mindlessly strolling through shopping malls.
It’s time to destroy that little son of a bitch.
The next time you get an opportunity to go for a new experience and you feel like saying no, stop yourself for a second.
Honestly ask yourself why you feel like saying no. If it’s because you think that you won’t enjoy yourself, that’s probably your Comfort Zone speaking. Then tell him to shut up, and say YES to the invitation. In fact, try saying YES to everything that happens to you for 7 days (With good judgment, of course).
What’s the worst that could happen? That you spend all night being painfully rubbed by smelly, burly Turkish men? At least you’ll have a good story to tell.
But what if you end up having a good conversation with your masseuse, and he introduces you to your future spouse/job/house/multi-million dollar business opportunity? Hey, it could happen.
Step 2: Start A Serendipity Fund
Another excuse your Comfort Zone will use to dissuade you from having new experiences is to give the age-old excuse: You can’t afford it.
That’s B.S. Most experiences don’t cost all that much relative to what they could offer you. If you had the opportunity to take Warren Buffet out to coffee, are you really going to feel bad about paying for a $5 cup of coffee?
A surprisingly large number of lucky breaks I’ve had in my life were the result of having coffee or meals with people. For example, I had dinner with a friend whom I hadn’t seen in years, and months later she randomly introduced me to the awesome guys behind MoneySmart. They generously agreed to let me guest post on their site, which gave a huge boost to my blog’s readership.
I never expect anything in return when I buy someone coffee or dinner, but I’ve found that good things tend to happen when I get out there and meet people.
That’s why I have a “serendipity fund”: A small amount of cash that I set aside every month specifically for opportunities and experiences like this. It’s cash that I use to take people out to coffee, buy tickets for a friend’s performance, or pay for a burly Turkish massage. That way, “I can’t afford it” is never an excuse for me to pass up a great opportunity.
I’m not saying that you should just hope for lucky breaks – Most of your success will still come from good ol’ sweat and hard work.
But you’d be surprised at how often good things happen when you say YES to opportunities and keep yourself financially prepared. Try it – you never know what might happen 🙂