Currently reading: The Real Work by Adam Gopnik 📚

The Real Work is what magicians call ‘the accumulated craft that makes for a great trick’, and the enigmatic S.W.Erdnase was a master. Adam Gopnik’s book on the nature of mastery devotes a whole chapter to him, so I was amused to find him also mentioned on the new series of Good Omens. This is a great example of the chance happening that people often confuse with serendipity. But as Mark De Rond claims serendipity isn’t luck alone. It’s really the relationship between good fortune and the prepared mind:

“serendipity results from identifying ‘matching pairs’ of events that are put to practical or strategic use.”

On this account it’s not luck or chance that matters, but the human agency that does something with it. From two chance encounters with S.W. Erdnase that seemed to match, I’ve constructed this short post. In his 2014 article, ‘The structure of serendipity’, De Rond identifies some examples of much more significant serendipity in the field of scientific innovation.

It strikes me that one significant feature of mastery is to be able to spot a lucky opportunity and then make something of it. The expert can’t help but see it. Everyone else would miss this chance moment, or else be unable to execute the essential implementation.

Reference: De Rond, Mark. “The structure of serendipity.” Culture and Organization 20, no. 5 (2014): 342-358.