June 4, 2013

140 Characters Can Change Your Life

Three years ago I received an email from a former co-worker who had left the company three months prior. He was inviting me and four other coworkers to catch up over dinner while he was in town. I gladly accepted. Little did I know, that tiny decision would lead to my next career and move to beautiful San Francisco.

Serendipity is powerful and by definition, unpredictable. Yet, these delightful surprises often have the largest impact on our life.

Serendipity has certainly shaped my life and led to several unexpected opportunities.

Here are a few:

A Meetup

During my junior year in college, I felt obliged to engage more with my university community. One night I attended an American Marketing Association meetup (it was conveniently located in the same building after my last class of the day).

That decision eventually led to me joining AMA and landing an internship at a startup in the video game space. This internship graduated to a full-time (paid) role, a career in startupland.

An Email

As a long-time reader of Nir Eyal’s blog, I casually sent him an email to see if he wanted to meetup. He generously responded and a week later we met up at The Counter in Palo Alto for dinner.

We connected, sharing anecdotes and thoughts on startups. Unexpectedly (to us both), Nir asked if I wanted to help him with his book, Hooked[1]. I gladly accepted the challenge and it all started with a harmless email.

A Tweet

Last month this tweet caught my eye:

Today I read this post by @dburka the-pastry-box-project.net/daniel-burka/2… and then this one by @cap blog.capwatkins.com/be-kind and now the world feels much nicer

— Nathan Bashaw (@nbashaw)

April 21, 2013

I responded with:

@nbashaw @dburka @cap Hrm, maybe we /should/ coordinate blog posts around specific topics. :)

— Ryan Hoover (@rrhoover)

April 21, 2013

That brief exchange led to Startup Edition. Since it’s launch just a few weeks ago, we’ve brought together dozens of reputable, kickass bloggers in the startup community to share their stories and knowledge. And it all started from a tweet.

In reality, life-changing events are rarely planned. Although uncontrollable, you can increase the chances of encountering serendipity.

Here’s what I do to increase these unexpected opportunities:

  • Tweet - Twitter may be perceived as a distraction but it’s the best place to connect with likeminded people and learn from articles shared. Pro tip: use Buffer to share interesting, useful articles and include the author’s @username as attribution.
  • Blog - Blogging is one of the best mediums to connect with people at scale. Pro tip: write naturally. Those that blog with honesty and vulnerability are more personable and approachable by readers.
  • Hang Around the Right Crowd - It’s often said that the people around you, help shape who you are. Those people are also instrumental in creating unexpected opportunities. Pro tip: join Quibb, an invite-only network of accomplished individuals in the startup community.
  • Email - Email is one of the most personal forms of communication and sometimes a great way to cut through the noise on Twitter. Pro tip: email those you respect and admire and give thanks (more on that here).
  • Meet IRL - Coffee meetings are often discounted as inefficient, but in reality, they are far superior for forming lasting relationships than online interactions. Pro tip: when soliciting a meetup, always suggest at least three specific times and a location.

What will instigate my next life changing opportunity? I don’t know - and that’s the point. You cannot manufacture serendipity but you can increase the chances of encountering it.

With the connectedness of the internet, the butterfly effect is stronger today, more than ever.

One meetup. One email. One tweet. Can change your life.

More Writing by Ryan