Cultivating (your) serendipity (surface)

    I used to have a quotation on the wall as a History teacher that said “opportunity is missed by most people because it’s dressed in overalls and looks like work”. It’s been attributed to several people, but it’s the point that’s important: opportunities arrive in life, but you have to be looking for them.

    Previously, I’ve called this (on my now defunct blog) increasing your serendipity surface. In this post, Rob Miller breaks it down into three parts, which is interesting.

    But if serendipity is the result of chance, does that mean it’s out of our control? Are we just at the whims of fate? Can we organise our lives to be more conducive to these serendipitous benefits?

    Three factors govern the supply of serendipity in our lives and the extent to which we notice and benefit from that serendipity:

    1. Supply – how many opportunities we encounter
    2. Response – whether we notice those opportunities and how we respond to them
    3. Growth – whether and how we internalise the result of our encounters with serendipity
    Our supply of interesting opportunities is certainly within our control. Most straightforwardly, we could deliberately put ourselves into situations of extreme novelty: travelling, for example, or seeking out new people to meet, or reading unfamiliar materials. It’s also possible to introduce randomness into what might otherwise be routine, as the writer Robin Sloan has described in his own writing process. However you do it, putting yourself in front of a steady stream of new things – increasing your supply of novelty – will increase the chances of encountering unexpected benefits.

    But we’re also surrounded at all times by unnoticed novelty, which links to the second factor: the extent to which we notice and respond positively to novel situations. There are countless ways to respond poorly to novelty. We can ignore it; we can notice it but greet it with indifference; we can fear it; we can attack it, as we might if it runs counter to our existing beliefs. All of these responses ensure the snuffing out of serendipity. The only response that allows for serendipity is improvisation: embracing novelty and making it a part of what you do.

    Source: Cultivating serendipity | Roblog, the blog of Rob Miller

    Art gallery mode

    I love this post by David Cain so much. He talks about how every weekend during the summer he goes on a bike ride. Using an app to randomise his destination, he always finds something worth discovering. Why? Because he’s in what he calls ‘art gallery mode’.

    To select a destination, I use an obscure app called Randonautica, which creates an X-marker somewhere on a map of the city. The app’s “About” section says it chooses this location through “theoretical mind-matter interaction paired with quantum entropy to test the strange entanglement of consciousness with observable reality.” It says the app’s users, when they arrive at their prescribed locations, often find “serendipitous experiences that seemingly align with their thoughts.”


    The first time it sent me to a creekside clearing, where I saw a strange black glob in the water that turned out to be a mass of tadpoles. Another time it sent me to a gravel back lane near where I used to live, at a spot where someone had written “DAD!” on the fence in some kind of white resin. Another day it took me to a book-exchange box containing only children’s books and Stephen King’s Tommyknockers.

    Wherever it sends you, there’s always something there that seems charged with a small amount of cosmic significance, even if it’s just a particularly charismatic patch of dappled sunlight, an abandoned shopping list with unusual items on it, or some other superordinary sight akin to the twirling plastic bag in American Beauty.

    The trick here is that there’s always something significant, poignant, or poetic everywhere you look, if your mind is in that certain mode – so rare for adults — of just looking at what’s there, without reflexively evaluating or explaining the scene. A mystery co-ordinate in an unfamiliar neighborhood gives you few preconceptions about what you’re going to find there, so the mind naturally flips into this receptive, curious state that’s so natural for children.

    I sometimes call this state “art gallery mode,” because of a trick I learned from an art history major. We were at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, browsing famous abstract paintings by Pollock, Kandinsky, Mondrian, and other artists whose swirls, rectangles, and blobs are regarded as masterpieces.

    Source: How to Get the Magic Back | Raptitude

    Microcast #095 — Rewilding your serendipity surface

    Attention, Big Tech, and choosing to curate rather than be curated.

    Show notes

    See also: Fraidycat and Rewilding Your Attention (Read Write Collect)

    Image: Pexels

    Background music: Shimmers by Synth Soundscapes (aka Mentat)