A Chance Encounter; The Next Adventure

Tuesday, December 4, 2018 - 08:19
Three person holding beverage cups.

One thing in life that never ceases to amaze me is how (seemingly) small, chance encounters can open up doors to significant, life-altering events. I love telling the story of how I met my wife to illustrate this point. A Google search about meditation led me to a book, which led to a workshop in Virginia, which led to Katherine Thomas, who then set me up on a blind date with Emily. At the time we lived 2,000 miles apart, and yet a single email sent to her inbox set in motion our beautiful relationship, marriage, and child.

How crazy is that?

When we hear such stories, it can be easy to scoff this off as merely random chance or luck or fate. Maybe. Maybe it’s all confirmation bias or our brains desperately trying to find or add meaning where it was just a coincidence. However, what I find fascinating is that some people have a knack for consistently creating their own luck and generating friendships or business opportunities out of thin air. Even more intriguing, these individuals are not necessarily the ones with the highest IQ or natural beauty or charisma.

So, how do they do it?

Are they simply a lucky, one in a billion statistical outlier that always manages to be in the right place at the right time? Or do they have psychic abilities and can just sense/know where to be? Neither? Both? Or something else at play?

“I Was Minding My Own Business at the Coffee Shop…”

When I overheard people getting into an argument about whether Google could track you. While most would downplay this as conspiracy theory mumbo-jumbo, I’ve spent the last decade in web tech and know of all the ways companies are mining our data. So rather than keep my mouth shut, I chimed in to attempt to settle the argument and then I went back to work.

Little did I know who I just bumped into! Tom Chenault immediately started asking me questions, and I was more than happy to talk about work, about family, etc. At one point I mentioned I was from MIT and his jaw dropped. Paraphrasing his next comment: “What would an MIT Ph.D. be sitting in some random coffee shop couch in Colorado?” A few minutes later he came back and asked me if I knew Brad Feld. This time, my jaw dropped. Paraphrasing my thoughts: “My company has been looking for a way to connect with Brad Feld as a potential investor for the past six months, how in holy hell does this guy know Brad?”

It turns out that Tom was one of those rare individuals that had found a way to generate his luck and had systematized it into a philosophy of life that he called Contact Mapping and The Coffee Shop Interview. By the time he was done telling me, my immediate thought was that this made perfect sense. It immediately brought up a mental image of my mother, who had been applying many of these same principles over her 30-year career to become the most influential person in the K-12 school even though she was (“just”) the elementary school secretary. I joked that she somehow managed to know everyone because she did. She took the time to learn about people and what mattered to them so that she could make them feel seen and important.

It wasn’t just my mom. There were others in my life (My brother Dan, Papa Luft, Ron, etc) that had this uncanny ability to make and sustain friendships with anyone. And I mean EVERYONE. I still remember my brother coming back from skateboarding trip to the city, and he had befriended a few homeless men and spent time learning about them, their life story, their struggles, etc. This wasn’t just a one-time experience. This is how he lived his life.

Hidden in Plain Sight: People & Relationships

As a technologist, it’s easy for myself and others to fall into the trap of making the world a better place ONLY through technology. That’s part of the equation, but it’s missing a HUGE piece. As we’ve become more connected than ever through the internet and social media, we’ve seen lots of people become more isolated and disconnected. We keep trying to solve some problems by inserting more screens in front of us, but in a way, those panes of glass become the walls around us.

What I love about Contact Mapping as a philosophy is that it reminds us that people matter and should remain a top (if not, the highest) priority. In our crazy busy lives, people get pushed to the bottom or off our lists of priorities. And while we are all busy automating how quickly Amazon can send drones to deliver boxes to our house in one hour, some of the greatest opportunities in our personal and professional lives cannot be automated (yet, or ever) because they come from our relationships.

Not convinced? This results from the LinkedIn Global Survey Results jumped out at me. Almost 80 percent of professionals consider professional networking to be important to career success. Not only that, but 70 percent of people in 2016 were hired at a company where they had a connection. Can you believe that we live in an era where anyone with an internet connection can create an upload a resume at virtually no cost, and yet the most likely way of getting hired is through a personal connection?

Untapped Potential; A Fantastic Opportunity

It’s long been said that humans only use but a fraction of their brain’s full potential. I wholeheartedly agree. I would also suggest the same is true for the potential in ourselves and our relationships. We are more connected than ever, and yet only a few are accessing a fraction of that potential. In this rapidly changing world with an increasing number of distractions, those that continue to make us a priority will stand out and result in more meaningful, heartfelt connections that will enrich our lives. I see Contact Mapping as a means of achieving this, and not only for the world as it is today but for the next few decades.

To that end, I’m excited to join Contact Mapping as a Co-founder CTO. If you’d like to know more, I would encourage you to sign up for our newsletter on our website.

Onward!

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

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About Rick Manelius

Quick Stats: Chief Product Officer of DRUD Tech. Author of Winning the Lottery Within. Graduated from MIT in '03 (BS) and '09 (PhD). Life hacker and peak performance enthusiast. This blog is my experiment in creative writing, self-expression, and sharing what I've learned along my journey. For more information, read my full bio here or contact me.