Monday, July 8, 2024




Serendipity is the fortunate discovery of something valuable or privileged that you weren’t actively seeking. While it is unpredictable there are ways to nudge yourself in the direction of more frequent and impactful happy serendipity encounters.

Through this paper I tell how I use the Pareto Principle to invoke Engineered Serendipity encounters.

The Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 principle, states that roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.  Stated otherwise, 80% of results come from 20% of the efforts.  The 20% are known as the “vital Few”.  Hence, I apply this principle to identify areas of my life where a little effort (20%) can yield a high chance (80%) of serendipitous encounters and outcomes.

Eighty percent of our achievements come from 20% of our time.

The 80/20 rule is regarded as a general framework, and the specific applications may vary (70/30 or 90/10) depending on any person’s areas of interests and goals.

Let’s assume that you have 10 pairs of shoes. (Not uncommon). But we know that out of these you most frequently wear only 2 or 3 pairs. The other 7 or 8 are lying in your closet unused, accumulating dust.  If you live in a house of 10 rooms, you’re most likely to inhabit 2 or 3 of them. (20% used, 80% mostly unused). 

The 80/20 principle is pervasive in every area of our lives.

Engineered Serendipity is the concept of creating circumstances that increase the likelihood of encountering fortunate discoveries or happy accidents.   For example, you, a literary type, go out for a walk, not looking for anything, when you stumble on a hidden gem of a bookstore you never knew existed. That's kind of the vibe of engineered serendipity.

The key is to identify areas in our lives where a small investment of effort (20%, “vital few”), can yield a high chance of serendipity encounter. By being intentionally expectant, open, persistent and selective we significantly increase the likelihood of encountering positive surprises and unexpected fortunate opportunities in our life.

Serendipity is a mindset.

The Serendipity Engineer is a Professional.

The mission of the serendipity engineer is to enhance serendipity encounters in our lives.

A serendipity engineer is a master of maximizing unexpected opportunities. They leverage the 80/20 principle, (focusing on 20% of actions that bring 80% of results), and their diverse skills to create a fertile ground for probability encounters that lead to innovation and fruitful serendipitous successful events.

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The three top promising areas in our lives are conducive to bring about valued and fortunate serendipity encounters.


1)       Social Interactions and Social Networking.

The quality of our lives comes down to the quality of the people that surround us and the experiences that fill it.

    * The 20% Effort.   In my social life I seek to develop relationships with a curated group - the vital few – (20%) of friends, colleagues, acquaintances who teach, challenge, and inspire me.  I attend events they recommend, introduce them to my network, and seek to schedule more one-on-one time with them for lunch or coffee. 

I favor the company of super-connectors. They are the ultimate social connectors.  The ones who know everyone and remember their favorite band. That's a super-connector! They have a rolodex bursting with people from all walks of life; but it's not just a list of names. They genuinely care about their network and love playing matchmaker. 

Super-connector is the glue that holds awesome social groups together. They build a vibrant network where people can share ideas, find opportunities, and even discover a new best friend along the way.

    * The 80% Serendipitous Social Encounters.   This focused effort with a select smaller group of people increases the chance of unexpected wider social connections, project collaborators, or enhanced new introductions to new people within their circles of friends and colleagues.

Fact of Life - most everything we have come to us from other people.


2)       My Mind is Open to Continuous Learning and Study.

  * My 20% Effort:  I identify and select 1-2 topics or areas that truly pique my curiosity and enhance my professional skills. I try to continuously upgrade my insights and sagacity talents. I expand my knowledge by reading books and learning a foreign language. Attending public talks, seminars, or joining online communities and classes are common modes of continuing education.

I seek second and third opinions from medical doctors. So should you.

Albert Einstein said that “Curiosity is more important than knowledge.”

    * My 80% Serendipity gain:   By immersing myself in these areas of interest, I've encountered related content, events, and teachers that I may have otherwise missed. This leads to unexpected learning opportunities or collaborations. I acquire new skills, participate in projects all of which scales and enhance the quality of my serendipity encounters.


3)       I Seek Adventures and Exposure to New Environments.

    * The 20% Effort:   I give fraction of my time to travel and exploration of new places (countries, museums, parks, university campuses).

Travel to foreign countries is an educational enrichment venture.  I always keep my passport updated and valid – ready to go.

I try new and different activities (volunteering, joining a club).

    * The 80% Serendipitous Rewards:   Stepping outside my local comfort zone increases my chance of encountering unexpected new people, ideas, and opportunities that may not have come my way otherwise.

Say it Loud – the quality of my life comes down to the quality of people and experiences that I surround myself.

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Personal Habits, Activities and Methods to Engineer Serendipity.

My advice - become a curator of your time.

The most precious asset we have is the time of our life.

Our challenge is using our time productively.

Consider this – 80% of our results and enjoyment of life comes from 20% of the time we used.  Twenty percent (20%), is the flashing moment of inspired  sagacity – the “Aha” moment - when we recognize the serendipitous encounter for what it is – Serendipity.

The first step is to become aware of how we spend our time currently. Track your activities for a week.  Identify areas where you can free up even a small amount of time (the “vital 20%”) for centered engineered serendipity efforts. The unspoken corollary to the 80/20 principle is that little of what we spend our time on, actually counts.

By concentrating on those things that do count, we can unlock the enormous potential of the magic 20%. This doesn't have to be a drastic change; even a reallocation of an hour a week can make a significant difference.

Ingenious – there is no shortage of time when we use our time productively.


I Set Myself Loose Intentions.

I do it before venturing into a new environment or activity.  I carry a loose intention in my mind. This can be something as simple as "meet someone new in this field" or "learn something unexpected today."

Having a hovering guiding intention in my mind helps me, flexibly, to be open to relevant opportunities while remaining adaptable and receptive of the unexpected.


I Embrace the Power of an Open Mind:

An open mind runs at a higher gear.

Nowadays I keep an open mind more than I ever did before.  The key ingredient to engineered serendipity is an open mind of receptivity. I’m willing to try new things.  Being mindful of the present keeps me open to unexpected conversations, invitations, flirtations or detours from my old routines. Oftentimes the most serendipitous encounters happen when we least expect them.

Shonda Rhimes (creator of Grey’s Anatomy TV series) taught me to embrace the power of “Yes”. 

Embrace the Power of "Yes, and…".    When presented with an invitation, especially one outside your comfort zone, respond with a positive "Yes, and..."  This opens you up to new experiences, opportunities and the connections that will flow from them.

Strike up a conversation with folks who appear interesting.  Explore unexpected exhibits at the trade show, museum, and public fairground.

I’m trying to be the first to introduce yourself to new people. It was hard for me to break out of my incarcerating comfort zone.  It’s still not easy, but now I introduce myself and shake hands with everyone seated around my lunch table. 

I introduce myself using the James Bond style: “Lender. Mandy Lender.”  

As I project this confident self-introductory style, the other party is left to wonder: ‘How did I miss him until now?’

Expect novel connections or opportunities that might arise. Anywhere.


Nurturing the Seeds of Serendipity.

Having been introduced I don't let chance social encounters fizzle out. I exchange contact information with people I meet. I follow up on interesting discussions and take initiative to nurture on the new connections. This involves attendance at social, cultural and commercial events that others recommend.  I may simply send a follow-up email to express my continued interest.

Have you read the ‘Never Eat Alone’ textbook?  Go study it!

Problem-Solving and Creativity.

Master Core Creativity Techniques (investing 20% Effort).  

This equips you with a solid toolkit of problem-solving framework, and tools for brainstorming techniques.  Having a strong foundation in these core productivity methods allows you to approach challenges strategically.  Doing that yields 80% of solutions in later life challenges.

Let Your Mind Wander (that is yielding 80% Serendipity).

Sometimes the best solutions come when we step away from the problem entirely. I take breaks to recharge or engage in hobbies that stimulate different parts of my brain. I do yard work around my farmhouse or spend time outdoors.    I do physical work around my farmhouse and spend time outside in nature.  I take a refreshing nap if I feel like it.  This intentional downtime allows my subconscious to make unexpected connections between seemingly unrelated ideas, fostering a creative breakthrough when I least expect it.

By taking these steps, we increase the likelihood of serendipitous encounters to blossom into long-term friendships, friendly collaborations, or encounter new career or business opportunities.

The ideal balance between focused effort and serendipitous exploration will vary depending on your specific goals and personality.

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1. Learning and Exploration

Focus on High-Quality Resources (20% Effort).   I dedicate time to curate topics from a selection of reliable sources (books, courses, podcasts, AI agents), tailored to my interests. This intellectual core collection provides for a strong foundation of knowledge and sagacity.

I rely on and trust the Power of Randomness (that is 80% Serendipity).    Here's where the magic happens.  I step outside my comfort zone and actively seek out experiences that expose me to a wider range of ideas and people. I attend conferences on unfamiliar topics, join online communities with diverse perspectives, or participate in workshops that pique my curiosity. is one example of a serendipity-based site. This deliberate "randomness" may spark unexpected connections between seemingly disparate concepts, igniting an impulse for enhanced creativity or lead me down a fascinating intellectual rabbit hole.

2. Networking and Relationships

I Cultivate Meaningful Social Connections (20% Effort).   I invest time, money and energy in building social relationships with select groups of individuals who inspire and support me. These core connections provide a foundation of trust and reciprocity.

I Expand My Social Network Through Serendipity (80% Serendipity).  

I place myself and enter situations where I can meet new people from various backgrounds. I seek to attend events with a diverse guest list, such as charity dinners and business lunch meetings. There I strike up conversations with strangers.

I’m a Conversationalist.    I open conversations with people from different backgrounds. Ask open-ended questions and actively listen to their stories. You never know what unexpected gem you might uncover.

 I consider volunteering for causes I care about.  These interactions lead me to serendipitous connections and collaborations I never anticipated. Doors open  to new opportunities or just enrich my life with fresh perspectives.

3. Adventurous Activities Are a Mind Opener.

Make Room for the Unexpected. Here are some actionable things to do.

I Schedule Dedicated Time for Serendipity. (This doesn't mean aimlessly scrolling through social media).   

I’m intentional about exploration.  I visited a curiosity shop.   I surround yourself with a diverse array of objects and let them lead the imagination. Who knows what mental connections you might make?

I Go on Field Trips.  Conferences outside my field.  Expose yourself to new sights, ideas and communities you might not normally meet.

Engage in Micro-Adventures.   Oh, I like these.

I call it regenerative serendipity. We all need to escape the routines of life with small, unplanned outings. Exploring a new neighborhood park, I tried different routes for my commute.  I visit local museums I've never been to. I visit periodically the big upscale malls.

Take Online Courses on Random Topics.

Learning platforms offer a vast array of subjects. Have you visited The Great Courses web site? Pick something unfamiliar and see where it takes you.

Big Time Adventure Travel.

Have you visited Alaska? Did you consider going to the Amazon area? The South Sea Islands? (I’ve been to the Galapagos Islands).  When did you last been to Paris? Have you been to the bottom of the awesome Boulder Dam structure and watched the turbines humming?

One doesn’t need to travel far to make serendipitous discoveries.  Enters Galileo Galilei. Galileo discovered the four moons of Jupiter from the porch of his house.  This story is worth telling with some details.

Galileo Galilei wasn't exactly the first guy on the block with the telescope. It was chilling around as a Dutch invention when Galileo heard about it in 1609. But here's the thing: Galileo wasn't one to just settle for something okay. He tinkered with the design, figured out how to make the magnification way stronger – we're talking up to 30 times better than the earlier versions! That’s 20% of his project.  Well, maybe only 1% of it…

This wasn't just some party trick, though. Galileo was the first person to really point this souped-up telescope gazing at the dark sky gazing.  In 1610, he serendipitously stumbled on something of an interplanetary scale that changed everything: four moons orbiting Jupiter!

This was a huge deal because, according to popular thinking at that time, everything revolved around Earth.  Moons around another planet?  That threw a wrench on those plans! 

Galileo's serendipitous discoveries yielded 99% of cosmology science in the 17th century.   He paved the way for a whole new understanding of the Universe, with the Sun, not Earth, at the center.  99/1 - wild, right?

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Why these areas?

The areas described above are fertile ground for Engineered Serendipity because they all share a common thread:

They thrive on a delicate balance between intentionality and openness to chance encounters.

By focusing our initial effort on building a solid foundation (a 20% investment) - we open up mental space (for 80% result) to be receptive to the unexpected opportunities that serendipity encounters bring on us. The "80% Serendipity" activities in turn open a larger pool of potential connections, options and ideas, increasing the likelihood of a surprising and more positive outcome.

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Bonus Actionable Tool.   Track your serendipitous experiences!  Keep a journal or use a note-taking app to jot down unexpected encounters, interesting ideas, or helpful connections.  Reviewing these notes regularly helps you identify patterns and refine your approach to engineered serendipity over time.

Become a Collector of Experiences.

Document your life experiences. 

Take photographs frequently and in large volume.  My smart phone has a camera!   

You’re the curator of your life experiences. Actively seek out a diverse range of encounters. This goes beyond just traveling to new places (though that certainly helps!).    By consciously generating opportunities for serendipity and reflecting on the results, increase we significantly the likelihood of experiencing those moments of fortune where surprise and inspiration collide.

The Magical Realism of Harry Potter.   The key here is to gain a bunch of cool stuff lying around (“the 80%”) and then sprinkle in a few surprises (the 20%) to turn things exciting. That's how you create a world that feels real and magical. Just like Diagon Alley or Hogwarts.  Next time you're out and about, keep your eyes peeled for those unexpected moments of wonder. You never know what you might find!

J.K. Rowling used this formula.  The point is, these unexpected things, even the small stuff, can make your trip way more interesting. You could meet a new friend, learn a cool spell, or maybe find a secret passageway (hopefully not one that leads to trouble). That's the magic of serendipity, and it happens all the time in our wizarding world.


Richard Koch re-invented the 21th century 80/20 Principle. He says that,

” Successful people typically don't plan their success.  Instead, they develop a unique philosophy or attitude that works for them. They stumble across strategies which are shortcuts to success, and latch onto them. Events hand them opportunities they could not have anticipated.”

This last statement is another way of defining Engineered Serendipity.


Photo credit to Richard Koch back cover book.


Marshall Perry has shown the asymptotic nature of the 80/20 Principle. That means the relation behaves in such a way as to approach a given value, or a point, or a level, continuously without ever reaching it. It can in certain situations reach 99/1 relation or even 99.9/0.01 and so on.

There are endless additional empirical observations to support the Serendipity Engineer.  We’ll continue presenting them in future papers.



© Mandy Lender, MD  2024


Tags: #serendipity  #80/20rule  #engineeredserendipity #paretoprinciple  #sagacity  #adventurous #socialnetworking #continuingeducation #chatgpt

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