The Science of Surprises

By Brad Fregger

It is important to remember that everything revolves around the goal of
"getting things done." The effective leader and the ineffective manager
have the same ultimate goal: get done what needs to get done.

This is true for every organization on Earth, from the street gangs of Los Angeles, to the board rooms of New York City, from the revolutionaries in Africa, to the floor of Parliament in England. An Enlightened Organization recognizes Effective Leadership and creates the environment in which it can excel so that the organization's goals may be achieved.

This essay is part of a special series on Being an Effective Leader. The essays were originally published in Beyneynu, an Austin, Texas based newsletter published by Barry Silverberg.

Brad Fregger is the CEO of Groundbreaking Press.

This series of essays has been devoted to the concept of Effective Leadership and Enlightened Companies. Earlier I defined the effective leader as someone who, "gets the job done in ways that increases the competence, confidence and potential of the individual team members, while building a team that can accomplish the seemingly impossible (at least the extremely difficult); all to the long-term benefit of the organization."

Likewise I listed sixteen characteristics of individuals who are, or have the potential to be, effective leaders. Of those sixteen characteristics, five relate directly to the ability to take advantage of surprises, to use unexpected events to accomplish what needs to get done even more fact, making it seem almost easy and therefore appearing to be, "just lucky." The five characteristics are:

  • Highly intuitive and not afraid to trust those feelings.
  • Genuinely curious about how others think and the ideas/opinions they have.
  • Sensitive to cues concerning potential problems and opportunities.
  • Willing to embrace the unexpected and the resulting possibilities.
  • Use of centering techniques for relaxation and heightened awareness.

In other essays on Effective Leadership I've discussed the importance of coincidence, synchronicity, and serendipity. Now it's time to tell you how the above characteristics make it possible to take advantage of these unexpected events, how the effective leader seems to accomplish the impossible, creates the "luck" that makes doing difficult things seem easy. I call this the "Science of Surprises." This is not some esoteric concept dependent on faith and/or belief to work. This is how things really work, how they have worked for me over the years and how they can work for you.

Let's start by defining these three terms:

Coincidence: Related events that happen by accident, the coming together of which usually results in a positive outcome for the involved individual or group.

Synchronicity: Related events that could not conceivably have happened by accident, but which cannot be explained logically, the coming together of which usually results in a positive outcome for the involved individual or group.

Serendipity: The achieving of a significant goal that was different from the one originally planned for.

While we all understand what is meant by the term coincidence, there is less understanding of its sibling, synchronicity. Maybe an example will help.

I was doing a term paper on Astral Projection for an Eastern Philosophy class I was taking at San Jose State University back in 1971. I was attending San Jose State part-time, getting my BA, while working full-time managing a retail store in Mountain View, California. Most of the books I was able to obtain on the subject referred to four books that appeared to be the foundation for the modern study of the

phenomena. I could find none of these books in any library in the San Jose Metropolitan area (the Silicon Valley). This included the Stanford Library, which is one of the most complete in the nation in psychology and parapsychology (Stanford was originally founded as a University dedicated to the study of these two areas of knowledge).

After doing all I could to find the books, I released it to the "higher forces" and forgot about it.

The very next day, while at work, I had a strong feeling that I should to go to the Los Altos library and obtain a library card. I tend to honor these intuitive feelings whenever possible, and this day was no exception. Fifteen minutes later, I was seated next to one of the librarians and she was filling out my library card application. I happened to notice a young man enter the library and then proceed to each of the Los Altos librarians and show them a piece of paper that he was carrying. He seemed very proud of something and I was curious to know what it was. When he approached us, I said, "Something pretty good must have just happened."

"I got a letter from the Dali Lama! See," and he handed it to me.

It was a letter from the Dali Lama all right. It was essentially affirming the course that he had planned for this life and the success with which he was achieving his goals, and encouraged him to continue with his plans.

"Wow! This is real neat." I said. He smiled happily and took his letter back. I continued, "Do you study eastern philosophy?"

"Yes, I've studied it for years," he replied.

"Does your family study it too?" I asked.

"Oh yes, my dad has a great library with tons of books on everything to do with Eastern Philosophy."

"I've been looking for four books that I can't find you think your dad would let me check out his library?" I asked.

"No problem, just give him a call," he replied.

I got his phone number and called his dad as soon as I got back to work. He was a true gentleman, not only offering me a look at his library, but inviting me to have a bowl of soup with them that night after work.

"But, I don't get off until after the store closes...I wouldn't be to your home until ten o'clock or later," I said.

"That'll work out fine. See you then." And that was that.

Later that night after a nice conversation over a bowl of lentil soup, he said, "Well let's see if I've got those books you're looking for."

We got up from the table and went to another room with bookcases on every wall. Like a moth to the flame, I immediately walked across the room, and there, directly in front of me, were the four books I had been looking for, all together on the same shelf.


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