Chance Encounters

Carolyn Davidson was sitting outside of class talking to friends.  She was bemoaning the fact that she didn’t have the money to take a class she wanted to take.  Phil, a part-time accounting professor, overheard her and asked if she would do some work for him.  He offered her $2/hour to do some graphics work for him.  This was 1971.

At first, Carolyn developed presentations, flyers, and other graphic designs for Phil.  As the relationship grew, Phil asked Carolyn to do a logo design for him.  Phil didn’t have much time because he had a product being produced that needed the logo added to it.

Carolyn came up with a half dozen logo options.  Phil and two of his colleagues selected the one they would go with.  At first, Phil was indifferent about the design:  “I don’t love it, but I think it will grow on me.”  Carolyn was paid $35 for the logo (17.5 hours of work).

The Nike Swoosh has become one of the most recognizable logos of any company in the world.  Carolyn Davidson was later rewarded for her efforts.  When Nike went public, Phil Knight gave her stock that is valued at well over $1,000,000 today.  He also gave her a Swoosh ring with an embedded diamond.  Carolyn continued to work for Nike for a few years before she decided to do freelance design work.

Many great collaborations arise from chance encounters.  Chance sounds like a random, luck of the draw event.  But taking advantage of every chance is a skill that can be developed.  In a world where it seems as if everything needs to be planned, it’s refreshing to think that there are still things that develop organically.  Planning, if it occurs at all, is short term.  The popular phrase:  “Go with the flow” is perhaps the best way to describe the process of turning chance encounters into life changing moments.

How do you increase the odds of turning chance encounters into opportunities?  There are two answers.  One, increase the available encounters by moving outside of your comfort zone.  Two, make the most of every encounter by having a follow-up plan that takes the encounter to the next step.

How often do chance encounters have a result that is life changing?  When you talk with any highly successful person, they will quickly recall one or more of these chance encounters.  Chance encounters aren’t that rare.  Making the most of them is what is a less frequent occurrence.

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“I believe that I am guided by chance encounters.  I believe in the miracle of chance encounters.” – Paulo Coelho (songwriter and novelist)

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