The Magic of Coincidence

Peter Morgan Kash writes about tactics for success, which he claims are never being taught at business schools. The first chapter in his book is titled “The Magic of Coincidence” and it strikes a cord with me. Here is a paragraph from it, translated back to English, from the Hebrew edition:

Throughout my life I have been enjoying the fruits of moments which we consider as moments of coincidence. Therefore, it is important to emphasize the art of identifying an opportunity when it crosses our path and acting in ways that nourish it until it bears fruit. If you give it some thought, you may realise that most of the important relationships that we form throughout our lives, were actually formed coincidentally (remember how you met your spouse? How did you end up in your current job?). The next encounter is one such example:

One evening in the summer of ’91 I hurried to leave my hotel room in Seoul, South Korea, and I hardly managed to catch the elevator, before its doors closed. Without giving it much notice, I pushed the first floor button, which was already pressed. A handsome Korean man in his 50’s, wearing a business suit, stood at the other side of the elevator. He looked at me, smiled, and in perfect English asked if I am an American. “Yes,” I replied, explaining that I’m in Seoul for business. I barely finished the sentence and the man already asked if I was willing to have dinner with him the next evening. “I’m sorry,” I said, “But I am going back to New-York tomorrow and soon after that I fly to Israel.”  “Israel?” he asked, “I have never been there. Do you mind if I join you?”

I know what you must be thinking, but I felt the man’s honesty. In the hotel’s lobby we exchanged cards. His name was Bruce Lee (I stopped myself from making the related jokes) and he was a lawyer who studied in America. I told Mr Lee I would be travelling to Israel with my wife, but that I would be happy if he joined us.

We parted and I never expected to hear from him again. But a couple of weeks later Mr. Lee called. He and his wife were in N.Y and were ready to join us on our trip to Israel. In Tel- Aviv we met Mr. and Mrs. Lee for a drink at the hotel. Mrs. Lee did not speak any English. At a certain point I asked Mr. Lee what his wife was doing in Korea.

“She coordinates consulate parties in Korea,” he replied.

This is a strange job, I thought, and before I stopped to censure myself, I fired: “and what does her father do?”

“He’s the president” Mr. Lee replied. Not believing what I had just heard, I asked: “president of which company?” “Not company – The president of Korea,” he said.

A friend of mine arranged for us a meeting with the, back then, General Manager of the Israeli Ministry of treasury (Mr. Zinger). Lee asked to visit the Korean embassy in Israel. There is no Korean embassy in Israel, he was told. When he heard it, Mr. Lee frowned. One year since that meeting, a Korean embassy was established in Israel, and the two countries entered a completely new phase in their relations. Trading levels with Korea reach billions of dollars today. And it all started from a coincidental encounter of two people in an elevator, at the other side of the world.

The ability to make life act for “our favour” depends upon our openness to the possibility that lurks behind coincidence. Don’t get me wrong, I do not advice you to ignore your judgement or to jump without any discrimination into situations. You must, at each and every situation, listen to your gut feeling. But notice, when golden opportunities come your way, they excite and enliven you to the possibility that lies ahead. At that moment, the only thing that stops us is fear that shrinks our imagination and obscures our ability to see the good in a person or the potential that a certain event carries with it.

(“Make your own luck” by Peter Morgan Cash with Tom Monte – copyright 2004)  

And I identify with these words wholeheartedly. I know that many of us believe in a divine force and that everything happens “for a reason”, but still. While there is a lot of significance in planning ahead (I’m a finance person, to remind you), it is also important to leave room for the unexpected. Be open to your surrounding; create conversations; talk with people who sit next to you on the plane, or share a table with you at a wedding. Who knows where these kinds of encounters may lead. And anyway, it makes life much more interesting….

Fireworks (7)
Shuka, Thursday, June 26, 2008

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