Circles within circles; serendipity is a good sign in this business

April 21st, 2010 § 5

This month I gave a speech at the Photographic Society national conference.  I chose to talk about how photography can add to an exceptional life.

Partly I talked about how I’ve learnt that serendipity is a very important index to monitor in life and business.  True to form a nice bit of coincidence appeared while researching my speech.  It’s this that I want to tell you about, and why I’ve found it so vital to have.

Rob Suisted at Photo Soc. National Conf 2010
What is serendipity?  I know it’s fortuitous coincidence, but what is it really? And why do some people have more of it than others? I’m very interested.

My speech was titled: ‘Shooting from the Heart – seeking an exceptional life via photography’.  Of course, photography is my income, but it pays me richly in many better ways;  I’ve been lucky to meet some amazing people, wildlife, visit some special places, and share great experiences so far in my life.  The ‘juice of life’ is what I call it now, and it’s something that should ideally be enjoyed and sought in a pure sense, not driven by necessity or ego.

I’ve found that the more I try to discover this in a pure sense, without selfish interest, the more serendipity or coincidence appears.  It might sound a bit flaky or woolly perhaps, but I can assure you that there is a sensible reason for it, and here in lies what I have learnt so far, and wish to share.

Creative professionals know that creativity comes from an open still mind.  A mind that contains stress or fears becomes closed and creativity suffers.  Same with opportunity, same with serendipity.  I think that we all have similar portions of coincidence in our lives, but an open mind simply sees more of it.  I have the confidence now to use serendipity as a powerful defacto indicator that my mind is more open, and therefore probably more receptive to opportunity and creativity.  Make sense?  Watch out for it and tell me what you think.  Does it happen to you also?  I’m very keen to know more. 

A nice piece of historical serendipity to share

By happy coincidence, while researching my speech, I discovered a little bit more about an ancestor Laura Jane Suisted (1840 – 1903), and an unexpectedly fascinating link between us that spans the globe, and a century, appeared……

Laura Jane SuistedLaura Jane Suisted (1840-1903), NZ’s first woman journalist, & friend of Nordenskjöld. A fascinating link for me. Laura was New Zealand’s (and one of the world’s?) first woman journalist and political reporter (NZ was the first country to allow woman to vote in 1893 I’m proud to remind you), and in 1894 she travelled solo to Scandinavia and wrote a book of her travels called ‘From New Zealand to Norway’. More can be read of her in the Dictionary of New Zealand. I discovered a nice piece of serendipity arising from her travels: in Scandanavia, she became friends with Baron Otto Nordenskjöld, a famous Swedish polar explorer. 

I didn’t know this, and it’s exciting to discover that not only have I been to Lake Nordenskjöld in Chile, and visited Otto Nordenskjöld’s Antarctic hut remains from his ill fated Antarctic expedition (1901-04), but the zodiac boat that I drove in my Arctic trip last year, was named after Nordenskjöld.  That felt great and become a great way to reinforce part of my speech. 

To think that Otto Nordenskjöld has played a part in my life, and to later find that my ancestor had known him in a link that spaned the globe over 100 years earlier felt rather good.  Circles within cirles – serendipity of the first order.

Nordenskjöld hut remains, 1901-1904 Swedish Antarctic Expedition, Weddell Sea, Antarctica

Visited Nordenskjöld hut remains (1901-1904 Swedish Antarctic Expedition, Weddell Sea, Antarctica) in 2009. ©Rob Suisted

The Cordillera del Paine in Torres del Paine National Park, with Nordenskjöld Lake. Chilean Patagonia, Puerto Natales, Chile

Visited Cordillera del Paine in Torres del Paine National Park & Nordenskjöld Lake. Patagonia, Puerto Natales, Chile, in 2008 ©Rob Suisted

The zodiac boat that I drove in the Arctic this year, named for Nordenskjöld. Nice coincidence.

The zodiac boat that I drove in the Arctic this year, named for Nordenskjöld. Nice coincidence.

Further, while in Greenland I met a very colourful chap, Prof Robert Apte, from UC Berkeley, who turned out to be the neighbour and collaborator of a teenage mentor/inspiration of mine Galen Rowell, & who had also visited Nordenskjöld’s hut. A small world indeed, linking even smaller connecting circles together in my life.

And just to top off the last layer of serendipity in this story, the word ‘Serendipity’ itself has a nice personal piece of serendipity. I was sitting in a small hotel in a ‘small’ town of Shimoga in Karnartaka, India. By chance, beside my bed matturwas a small tattered leaflet explaining that the only town (90 families) in the world to speak Sanskrit was close by; and back home I’d been learning a little Sanskrit. What was the chance of that – I was a long way from the tourist routes, and had no idea of Mattur. So, I had to follow this coincidence and visit.

After much effort I found Mattur, and spent a beautiful morning there with locals (none of whom spoke English). You can read about this exciting motorcycle adventure I had in India here. Well, the nice thing about this is that the word ‘serendipity’ has a Sanskrit origin: viz: “The word derives from Serendip, the Persian name for Sri Lanka. The Persian word itself has been derived from Sanskrit name for Sri Lanka viz. Swarnadweep (Swarna meaning golden and Dweep meaning island)”. Another circle within a circle within a circle.

Some day I’ll blog about the day my roof blew off my house in a southerly gale, when the very next email was from a US based magazine doing an article on Windy Wellington.  The payment from that photo job as more than it cost the insurance company to repair my house – go figure!  Big serendipity – how lucky was that? 

What do you think? Does Serendipity tell us something? Does it reinforce that we’re on the right track? Does it indicate when we’re open? Would love to hear your comments.

Thanks to Neil Gordon (@tehoro via twitter) for the PSNZ photo above.

Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

§ 5 Responses to “Circles within circles; serendipity is a good sign in this business”

  • Elizabeth says:

    Hi Rob

    That was an awesome speech you did at the PSNZ Convention. In answer to your question… ‘Does it reinforce that we’re on the right track?’… definitely! It’s like a confirmation that ‘this was meant to be’.


  • Kitty says:

    Hi Rob,

    Serendipity is a very fascinating subject. Coincidence surely tells us something, it has a purpose.
    I have learned to recognize this and use as a guideline, or possibility.
    The nice thing about the “coincidence” is that there is trust.
    Ultimately you know that the “coincidence” comes, you know that somewhere something will happen that you can use.
    You’re right when you say that creativity requires an open mind and the same applies to chance, as I have experienced.
    It is remarkable to discover that the more your mind is open, the more “coincidence” will appear, sometimes it’s like a sluice that opens.
    There are still many questions on this subject, I think we get the answers by “coincidence”?


  • Rob says:

    Hi there
    Thanks, I’m pleased you made it along and enjoyed it. Cheers, Rob

  • Rob says:

    Hi Kitty. Nice to get a Dutch perspective on my serendipity thoughts! Hope things are going well and you’re enjoying the G11. Regards, Rob

  • BOB APTE says:

    Hi Rob: By serendipity I found this by googling myself, a vain activity to say the least. I had thought by now we would had met again.
    I am still active, but not walking too well. Never-the-less Evelyn and I have continued to enjoy planet earth. There is alway new additions to my website.
    I wonder what you are up to nowadays. Any trips to this half of the hemisphere.
    It would be great if we could meet again. How is your book selling? I bought a copy and have it on my coffee table waiting for you to be here to sign it.

    All my very best, Bob

  • § Leave a Reply

What's this?

You're reading Circles within circles; serendipity is a good sign in this business at Nature’s Pic Images Blog.