Serendipity literally means “happy accident,” but my favorite definition is “looking for a needle in the haystack and finding a farmer’s daughter.” On Friday of last week, I gave a talk to an energy company headquartered close to Velociteach. I told a story about serendipity that connected with some of the people, and I want to recount it here.
The story was about how I wrote a novel in 1997–1999 titled The Gift of Fire. Writing a novel was a dream of mine, and it took much more time and energy than I anticipated. In the end, however, I only papered the walls with rejection letters from publishers, and eventually it was locked away in a drawer. Probably only a dozen or so people have ever read it.
In hindsight, The Gift of Fire did not need to be published. It simply was not ready for prime time, but that’s where serendipity kicked in. It turned out that the value was not in the words on the paper. The real value was that I learned I could write a 400 page book. I had never done anything like that before, but after I finished I knew I could eat an elephant one spoonful at a time.
The newest edition of my book, The PMP Exam: How To Pass On Your First Try is over 600 pages, and I feel incredibly blessed at the success it has had, but there is an important point: I don’t think I could have written that book if I hadn’t written that ill-fated novel first. One of the participants at Friday’s talk gave me a great quote by Winston Churchill to carry away: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
What “happy accidents” await you? Believe me: it takes courage to fail, but that failure may well provide the keys to your success.