Have You Ever Experienced Serendipity?

· January 30, 2017

Have you ever had something happen in your life that you did not expect at all and that, in one form or another, was a lucky discovery for you? It is said that this is a serendipity because it comes without warning and by chance, but has all the power needed to at least get our attention.

“Fortune plays in favor of a prepared mind.”

-Louis Pasteur-

Given this, you might think that serendipity is a nicer way to define what happens at “random”, however, they are two different kinds of causes. The first occurs when we guide our steps towards one or the other or when they are ready to find something in it which we are not yet aware of and it is positive. The effects of chance, however, can also be negative and act the same, whether or not we are prepared  for the consequences.

The origin of the word serendipity

The term serendipity (the Arab Sarandib or Serendib) comes from an Eastern story entitled The Three Princes of Serendipi, the Persian name of the island of Ceylon (Sri Lanka). To some extent we owe the transmission of the concept to Horace Walpole, who adapted it into English in 1754.

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The story is a rather short story in which three princes with great power of reasoning are sent by their father to find new lands. During that trip they are denounced as thieves by a man who had lost his camel claiming that only someone with the information the princes were revealing could have stolen it.


At the end of the story, serendipity or coincidence saves them: the camel appears, showing that it was not a robbery and the three princes had the chance to explain themselves.

Some serendipities for our common world

So far we have been able to get an idea that serendipity is what Royston M. Roberts defined as the “discovery thanks to a combination of accidents and sagacity”, but it is much more interesting to see the practice of what we are discussing. Check out the following examples of things we all know and we discovered thanks to a serendipity:

  • Penicillin: Scotsman,  A. Fleming, discovered penicillin by a setback in his laboratory while researching the flu. Many of his crops had been contaminated and when showing one of his plates to a friend, he realized something had killed the staphylococcus bacteria.
  • The post-it: Although it does not have the same importance of penicillin, we cannot deny the usefulness of sticky notes that arose when its inventor, Spencer Silver, wanted to make a very strong glue for his aerospace industry. In 1968, beyond achieving it, what he created was a weak glue that did not leave residue and offered a good alternative to thumbtacks.

“We see life from a point of view.

When we change that point of view, our life changes. “

-Alejandro Jodorowsky-

colorful post it on the wall

  • Fries or ‘chips’: In 1953 the chef, George Crum, was filled with serendipity while trying to annoy a client of his who normally complained about the thickness of his potatoes. He decided to cut them finer and let them crunch but got a totally different result than he expected, and we all know: the client loved it and today it is one of the preferred side dishes for many people.
  • Viagra: Who would have thought that Viagra had emerged during research of medicine for chest pains? As it did, the product was launched for marketing to treat erectile dysfunction noting that in clinical trials it had only a slight effect on chest pains.

The reason for the attraction to serendipity

It is a concept that has been embraced in a loving and pleasant way, especially among young people, and it has served in movies with the same name, poetry books like that of David Sadness, tattoos and even the occasional musical lyric.

“The unexpected is what changes lives.”

-Anonymous-

horseshoe with a green flower

Serendipity arouses so much attraction precisely because it appears full of positive energy and it is as if some magic appeared in our lives to stay forever. It’s like a kind of halo of happiness at an opportune time that was there only for you: I did not believe in serendipity until I got caught by one. Since then, I pay attention to the little details around me and look for the essence of what they want me to convey.

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