[C]oincidences are happening all around us, all the time, but most of them don't catch our attention and we just let them go by. It's like fireworks in the daytime. You might hear a faint sound, but even if you look up at the sky you can't see a thing. But if we're really hoping something may come true, it may become visible, like a message rising to the surface. - Haruki Murakami*
Frank was on his way to a career transition. He had already attended the right conferences, made good contacts and done some paid work for a research company. A man eminent in Frank's target field was speaking to a local networking group, so off Frank went to the meeting. After the program he chatted with the speaker who was gracious and accessible. They exchanged cards. While driving home Frank thought, "I should call and invite him to lunch."
The next day, Frank's negative thinking took charge. "He won't return my call," he thought. "If he does, he won't remember me or won't accept my invitation."
We'll never know if Frank was right or wrong because he didn't make that call.
Barb's events planning business had been going great until the dot-com collapse. Now she needed some part-time work to keep her afloat until business picked up again. Her experience was wide-ranging, and she was open to just about anything that offered flexible hours so her few continuing clients would get the care and attention they expected.
She decided what hourly wage she wanted. Actually, she thought the number might be a bit high, but - what the heck - Barb has always aimed high. She made a wish list:
1. 10 to 20 hours per week.
2. Working from home or short commute.
3. Flexible schedule.
She started cruising the job boards and telling everyone she knew what she wanted. She noticed a post on a community bulletin board web site. The job was quite close to her home and specified 10 to15 hours a week. Excellent. It was clerical and phone work. No problem. And then she made her first mistake. "Nah," she thought, "it probably wouldn't pay enough."
She dismissed it and kept looking.
Two weeks later the ad was still there. Hesitating, she thought, "Maybe...?" But she quickly shut down that maybe and told herself, "It must be filled by now. They just haven't removed the post yet."
Again, she rejected the possibility.
After doing everything right, Barb's only (and big) mistake was not paying attention, not pursuing the message that rose to the surface. But she was lucky: the gods of serendipity refused to be ignored.
Fast forward a month. Barb's phone rang. The caller was the woman who had posted that sparks-producing ad. Through a mutual friend, she had heard about Barb's need for a part-time job. The interview went well, the work (expanded to take advantage of Barb's many talents) could be done around Barb's shifting schedule and the salary exceeded her wish list amount by $10 an hour.
Add this to your to-do list: listen for fireworks and pick up messages!
*from Haruki Murakami's short story, Chance Traveler, translated from the Japanese by Philip Gabriel.