The first time I joined a meetup was in 2014. I remember spending an entire afternoon agonising over whether I should join the event. — I was young, unexperienced, didn’t know anyone and had an odd yet natural preoccupation with how a group of strangers would perceive me. — I showed up dressed in the most formal and uncomfortable attire I could find. Back then I still thought appearances mattered more than actions. People who are great at what they do, don’t need to signal they are smart or competent by wearing preppy clothes or throwing around their titles.
That’s when I met David Dias. David is currently working on improving the internet with distributed systems at Protocol Labs (YC S14). Meeting him was a pivotal moment in my life as he taught me the value of action, ownership and pragmatism over fancy words, titles and good intentions.
Every time I came to him with my reluctance to join an event, start a new project or speak with someone he would tell me “one is greater than zero”. What he was trying to say is that we gain considerably more by doing something than by not doing it, provided there is no better alternative in our agenda. This holds especially true for high school and college students who are just getting started. Back then my other options were staying home pretending to study for an exam I did not really care about or playing a video game.
I carried on with David’s words on my mind. Going to events, inviting people I admire for coffee, emailing conference organisers to let me in for free provided I helped as a volunteer. This path eventually led me to build Upframe and the Startup Playground, a place where young makers could go to learn more about how to build products and start companies with mentors like David.
Upframe brought me a moderate amount of attention and looking back, I know it was mainly luck, not merit or knowledge that got me there in the first place. What took some time and introspection to realize was that I inadvertently created part of that luck. By putting myself in situations that increased my chances of attaining good outcomes.
The cardboard boxes
Picture two cardboard boxes. One contains a single marble. The other has a handful of them. If we were to shake both boxes, the latter would naturally produce more collisions. — In the real world, collisions generate opportunities. — Some of them can produce dramatic results like the ones that led me to accidentally start a company or move to Berlin.
Entropy attracts opportunity. Alone in a room vs Part of a community.
Spending most of our days entangled in a work-home routine is akin to the first cardboard box. We have more to gain when we put ourselves out there. When we decide to leave our comfort zone.
Looking at the future we cannot tell when life changing events will take place. A couple of years ago, I would not believe anyone if they told me I would be living in Berlin. Having that in mind, we can put ourselves in situations that enable serendipity to take place. Join communities. Read books. Let people know what you’re working on. Talk to strangers. Go to parties where you don't know most people. Send a letter to someone you admire. Install a dating app. Move to a city that has more things going on. Create your own luck.
|Ways to create your own luck|
|Join a meetup group in your city.|
|Install a dating app.|
|Host a dinner where every guest has to bring a plus one.|
|Go to a hackathon. With friends. Or alone.|
|Share your ideas publicly. On social media. With your friends.|
|Ask for help in public. Share your challanges.|
|Email or tweet someone you admire.|
|Go to dinner parties. From friends. From acquiantances.|
|Grab a coffee with someone new every week.|
|Join a community.|
|Create your own community.|
|Take classes unrelated with your major.|
|Walk into a random college class and sit in.|
|Work or study from different places. Cafés. Coworking places. Public libraries.|
|Start a hacksunday challange.|
|Create and maintain a Twitter account.|
|Keep your direct/private messages open on social media.|
|Add a location to your Instagram posts.|
|Take public transports.|
|Use stickers on your laptop.|
|Take the most crowded path to work.|
|Move to a city that has more things going on in your industry.|