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The True Power of Timing: Serendipity and the Hail Mary Email

Written by on 14 Jan 2014

If you’re reading this story and following this blog, then I’m guessing you’re as big of a soul-searching dork as I am.

Let me guess…

You know one too many quotable quotes. Your residence displays several sayings you found on Pinterest, preferably in the kitchen, preferably referencing the necessity for wine in daily life. You frequently use the phrase, “relatively speaking,” even in random, mundane settings, like at the grocery store or while watching Monday Night Football.

Yes, it’s creepy how well I know you.

Even if that’s not the case, but most especially if it is, then you’re probably familiar with one of my favorite clichés of all time:

In life, timing is everything.

Wait!

Before your mind jumps right to the last failed relationship, unsuccessful job, or other disastrous attempt at awesomeness that you reasoned away with, “I guess the timing wasn’t right,” just hear me out. I’d like to talk about timing in a much more positive light. I’d like to take things one step further and talk about serendipity.

In life, timing is not just everything, it’s the only thing—life only gives us what we are ready for in the exact moment we are ready for it.

This story of serendipity begins with my first big-girl job after college. Just how I landed this job is not within the scope of this story, but will definitely warrant its own tale-telling at some point.

Without knowing what else to do with myself at the time, I decided to accept a role as an analyst working on the trading floor of a large, international investment bank.

Yes, going to Wall Street was very ‘Yale’ of me. Thank you for noticing.

Regardless of how it happened, this job was the first time in my life when I truly felt like a proverbial fish out of water. Sure, I had built up my fair share of personal skills and expertise, and theoretically, I got the job for some good reason. But honestly, nothing about my degree in social and behavioral psychology had mentally prepared me for working in high yield and distressed credit sales. Well, nothing other than the fact that managing the relationships between my traders and my clients was eerily reminiscent of working with the babies on which I based my senior thesis.

Lots of encouragement and ego-stroking to say the least.

It wasn’t long before the weight of disconnection and binge-drinking brought me to my knees. One year of personal misery had come and gone, with no end in sight. Surely, someone somewhere had gone through this before me, and figured out a way to handle the madness. I became determined to find that person and shake him violently until he gave me the answers to success.

Turns out, that person was actually a she.

It was right around this time that I discovered a book that would come to change my life. The book was called Suits: A Woman on Wall Street written by, you guessed it, a woman who used to work on Wall Street. Truth be told, I only picked up the book because a coworker mentioned that his brother’s wife had written a best-selling, tell-all about the inner musings of Wall Street women. Turns out, I actually picked up the wrong book entirely, which completely nullified my effort to suck up to my more-senior colleague.

Total fail.

But in a gesture of good faith to the gods of bad book purchases, I read the thing anyway.

It’s true what they say about timing…

In Suits, the author writes about her two years working at another equally prestigious banking institution in an even more cut-throat group than mine. She had gone from Texas, to college, to Wall Street, and found herself floundering among the excess and debauchery that she experienced on a daily basis. The book culminated in her sitting in front of an open refrigerator at 3am fumbling through old baby pictures and wondering where it all went wrong.

I was reading my own story, written by someone else.

This realization made me feel slightly better.

Momentarily.

Then it scared the living crap out of me.

In a moment of ignorant pride and fear-driven defiance, I vowed to change everything about the way I approached my job. I wasn’t going to let things get to me like she did. I wasn’t going to lose it like she did.

And I sure as hell wasn’t going to quit like she did.

But one year later, after one devastating round of lay-offs, two questionable management hires, three unwelcome sexual advances, and enough bottles of Ny-quil to keep my local pharmacy in business, nothing had really changed. And one night, in a red wine-induced haze, I stumbled over something in the darkness of my room on my way to the medicine cabinet.

It was the book.

In a very poetic moment where life literally imitated art, I found myself sitting on the kitchen floor at 3am flipping through the book on which I had based my previous year. It wasn’t until then that I saw a deeper message on the back cover that I had conveniently missed the first time around.

It’s true what they say about timing…

Not only had this woman lived the life I had lived, but she was now living the life I wished I was living.

After her time in banking, she had continued her career at a few other large corporations. In between each job move, she had taken time to go back to school and earn more degrees, which included a master of creative writing and an MBA. At the height of her corporate career, she took some time off to complete and publish her book, which then quickly became a best-seller. She leveraged the popularity of the book into a speaking career which then evolved into her founding and running her own leadership training business. And she had a family and children to boot.

No big deal.

But how had she done it?

I could see where she came from and where she ended up, but I just couldn’t see how she got there. Once again, I was determined to figure that out. Somehow, someway, I was going to get in touch with this woman and pick her brain on life, or at the very least, have her fill in some of the holes. I got out my computer, poured my heart into words, and sent it.

The Hail Mary Email.

And I got just what you might imagine.

Crickets!

Nothing. Zero. Not a word. Not a peep. Not a smoke signal. Nothing.

Anticlimactic, I know. But I never said life’s timing was convenient. It’s just right.

After a couple weeks, and a couple more bottles of Ny-quil, I ended up completely forgetting about my night on the kitchen floor and my Hail Mary Email.

At the end of that year, I left my job in banking. I traded in my seat on the trading floor for a seat on the lido deck of Semester at Sea. I learned more in those four months than I had in the previous three years. But as they say, all good things must come to an end, and after a month of backpacking in Europe and delaying the inevitable, I came back to the United States.

At that point, I was still embracing my newly nurtured inner nomad. I spent a few weeks in New York, a few weeks in Connecticut, a few weeks in Dallas, and then found myself in Southern California en route to San Francisco for some job opportunities. Unfortunately, the opportunity I was most excited about had turned out to be a non-starter, and I found myself questioning my entire year of vagabond decision-making and wondering whether or not my old job might want me back.

Seriously.

Shit was dire.

But then, one quiet Friday night, serendipity surprised me once again.

Guess who finally answered my Hail Mary Email…

One. Year. Later.

As it turns out, this woman had given birth to her second child just days before I had written her that email. In the hustle and bustle of a newborn, she had understandably missed an entire section of emails, and was just now responding to them.

Not only that, but in the previous year her business had grown exponentially. She wanted to know how my year had gone and if I was still at my old job. If not, her business might be able to use someone with my experience and willingness to do bold things like send out emails at 3am to total strangers.

And now, I work for her.

It’s true what they say about timing…

I got what I was ready for in the exact moment I was ready for it.

Every step of the way.

I got encouraged to battle on during my first year of work by someone who had shared the trenches. I got assurance that there was life after my first job when I was afraid to let it go. I got to see the possibility of living the life I’d always dreamed of through the example of another. I got a job I never knew existed just as the one I had hoped for had vanished.

And had any of these tiny moments gone differently, had the timing been off in any way, my story would be completely different.

But as serendipity would have it, I got what I was ready for, instead of what I wanted.

That is the true power of timing.

Relatively speaking, that is awesome.

**********

How has serendipitous timing worked its magic in your life? What Hail Mary Email should you be writing?

I believe that every greatness we enjoy right now can be traced back to one person, conversation, or observation that provided a turning point in our lives. I’d love to hear if you believe this, too.

Did this story resonate with you? Or did it make you think of a story of your own? Share your story in the comments below.

Because sharing stories an instinctual, powerful way to touch the hearts of others and change the world around us.


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