Last weekend, when I pulled into the parking lot of my gym, I couldn’t help but notice the neighborhood street festival that had overtaken the surrounding city blocks. While not necessarily my optimum way of passing the time, I decided to go for a little walk through it as a reward for two hours of grunting and groaning (or “The Sunday Schlepp and Schvitz” as I am apt to describe it to my older friends).
And here’s why.
I didn’t need anything.
And I didn’t buy anything other than a fresh David's Tea iced tea.
But I happened to run into a friend and his wife and set up dinner plans.
I bumped into an artist friend who offered to custom-paint a white shirt…as long as I supply the shirt.
And I bumped into an old high school girlfriend and reminisced with much laughter.
Totally random. Nothing planned out. Yet what emerged from the 15-minute walk was immensely satisfying; not just for what happened “in the moment” (ex-girlfriend, thrash band) but for future plans made (artist and dinner).
As I made my way back to my car, my first thought was that that the Internet has kind of eradicated this type of occurrence…but on second thought, I realized that I had just lived through a pseudo-Live Internet experience. Stay with me on this for a second. The walk was my destination/starting point, sort of like a blog post, news story or search item. But everyone I met, or the things I saw, were the highlighted links that took me in different directions.
Whether online or offline, digital or brick-and-mortar, the discovery offered by random links are important…perhaps even imperative. Knowing where we are going is not necessarily an asset; it is often a lie. Being open to random discoveries, directions, sights and encounters are what make life, and the Internet, so damn interesting. You can’t believe the amount of people I meet, and the opportunities that have arisen, just from my nightly walks down Sherbrooke street with my two dogs.
One of the pearls (yeah, “pearls” he says pompously) of wisdom I’ve offered over the past few years when speaking to students, artists and young entrepreneurs is to “Get off the floor and out the door”; in other words, let yourself be inspired by chance encounters that can only happen outside closed doors. I cite this example all the time:
I love to read, and when I’m on the road is one of the few opportunities I have to spend some quality time with a book.
I could do this reading in the privacy and sanctity of my hotel room, but other than an incremental increase in knowledge, nothing special can evolve from it. Nothing. Nobody’s going to knock on my door and say: “Andy, here’s an opportunity!”
However, if I do this reading in a hotel lobby, or restaurant, or bar, there’s a chance—albeit a slight chance, but a chance nonetheless—of something “linked” happening.
It might be a serendipitous encounter with an old friend or acquaintance passing through. Maybe someone has read the same book and starts to talk about it. Maybe I’ll notice something that sparks an idea. Maybe something incredible will happen that I would’ve never noticed behind the barricades of my room.
Yeah, there are no guarantees, but the point here is that given the busyness of our lives and the jam-packed natures of our schedules, we are giving ourselves fewer and fewer opportunities to exploit the random.
So the lesson this week?
Nothing happens if you don’t give things a chance to happen. Take that walk, try that new restaurant, take the subway instead of the car, read on a park bench…bring links to life.
Make things random,
and you’ll make